Malachi 3:13-4:3 – Being fearful!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
January 22, 2012 AM
I sat amazed at the pictures of passenger jets smashing into the twin towers in New York. At first I was shocked, horrified, and then angered. I even wondered why it had to happen. One young man who witnessed the planes smash into the World Trade Center related, “I wonder what it will take to wake America up?” During the following days, I remembered the words of Malachi to a nation that had turned its back on the Lord, a nation that had become so spiritually complacent that they no longer had time for God. I could not help but wonder if this was perhaps true for America.
The people of Malachi’s day had become spiritually indifferent to the Lord who had protected them and kept them as His very own. What would cause people who had been chosen to be God’s very own, change so dramatically? What was in store for this self-satisfied nation if they didn’t return to the God of Abraham, Jacob, and Isaac? They thought God didn’t care about them anymore. This was never true. Malachi had one more burden to share with his people. They had forgotten what it meant to fear the Lord. Now, he desperately tried to wake them up out of their stupor and to turn them back to the God who loved them so much.
Overconfidence can come from a self-satisfied spirit when we no longer think we need divine intervention, when we no longer have a fear of the Lord. A people can so push God out of their lives that they forget who he is and what he has done for them all along. Thomas Jefferson once quipped, “My God! How little do my countrymen know what precious blessings they are in possession of and which no other people on earth enjoy!” Is this true for our nation? Malachi said it was real for Israel of his day because they forgot their fear of the Lord. He relates…
I. An arrogant question offered by an indifferent people! (Vv. 3:13-15)
1. Spiritual indifference occurs when people lose their fear of the Lord!
1) The Israelites were condescendingly asking, “What’s in it for me?” They contradicted God’s promises and sought only their own gain. They actually said “said harsh things against” God. We can do this when we question his fairness. The Israelites did this when they decided it was “futile to serve God.” They snidely ask, “What did we gain by carrying out his requirements and going about like mourners before the Lord Almighty?” Pagans served their gods in order to gain personal benefit. The Israelites were only looking for the momentary benefit of following God and what he could offer them.
2) The harshness of the people’s words lay in the same false notion of what they had accused God of earlier in 2:17 by saying “All who do evil are good in the eyes of the Lord, and he is pleased with them.” People who are caught up in the world often look at prosperity as a means of judging whether God is blessing them or not. If God’s supposed “chosen people” had reached this kind of convoluted thinking, what hope was there for the rest of mankind? Jesus would tell the woman at the well that “a time would come when the true worshipers would worship the Father in spirit and truth; they were the kind of worshipers God desired. (John 4:23 NIV) What kind of worshipper do you desire to be?
EXAMPLE: There exists arrogance in the religion of America today. We have a nation full of people who think they can believe whatever they want to about God and that God should not only be happy with that, he should bless them because of their “reasoned” and “moderate” approach. Middle of the road faith always gets run over in the end. People, who look for the personal profit in their worship of God, will find their pay is lacking. Jesus said, “They have their reward.” God is not interested in the pathetic platitudes of ecumenicalism. We have become a nation like Israel of old, arrogantly asking, “What can God do for me?” Has our arrogance caught up with us?
Noah Webster wrote that “The moral principles and precepts contained in the Scriptures ought to form the basis of all our civil constitutions and laws. All the miseries and evils which men suffer from vice, crime, ambition, injustice, oppression, slavery, and war, proceed from their neglecting the precepts contained in the Bible.” Malachi knew it was true that when men neglected their fear of God, they suffered the consequences. However, those who remember to fear God have…
II. God’s compassionate answer! (Vv. 3:16-18)
1. We appreciate God’s compassion when we comprehend our fear of the Lord!
1) “I will remember those who fear me.” Those who remember who God is and what their situation is are rewarded. The word “then” is emphatic, indicating that the action described in this verse was a consequence of the preceding confrontation. The people had actually told God, “the arrogant [are] blessed. Certainly the evildoers prosper, and even those who challenge God escape.” Their reasoning was, “Why should we bother to follow God who is no fun?” Matthew Henry noted that “Among the Jews at this time, some plainly discovered themselves to be children of the wicked one.” They would suffer the consequences of their affiliation.
2) People who fear God get their spiritual act together. We see that “those who feared the Lord talked with each other.” They encouraged one another to turn back to right thinking and a godly way of life. God “listened and heard” and “A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the Lord and honored his name.” What a wonderful thing! When people have a renewed perspective of God’s faithfulness, God blesses them! It is a permanent remembrance of our faithful and reverent response kept in heaven! Like Hebrews reminds us, “Encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin‘s deceitfulness.” (Hebrews 3:13 NIV) Israel had been hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. Dear child of God, have you?
3) Those who fear the Lord (v. 16) will become his in the day he makes up his treasured possession. We become God’s own treasure! In our day and age there is a deliberate blurring of what it means to follow God. We think that by being sincere, we are a follower or believer in God. Yet we know that Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 7:21 NIV) Malachi relates that the godly “will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not.” God’s will is to follow him. Trust him with all your heart. Jesus said, “Trust in God; trust also in me.” (John 14:1 NIV) We fear the Lord when we trust him.
EXAMPLE: It was heart wrenching to watch those looking for their lost loved ones among the rubble and debris after 9-11. Yet, in the midst of all the disaster and loss there was hope. President Bush related, “This world [God] created is of moral design. Grief and tragedy and hatred are only for a time. Goodness, remembrance and love have no end, and the Lord of life holds all who die and all who mourn….we’ve been assured, ‘neither death nor life nor angels nor principalities, nor powers nor things present nor things to come nor height nor depth can separate us from God’s love.’” God loves those fear him enough to trust him. God always remembers us, but often we do not remember him.
I do not believe that America happened just by chance. It is obvious to anyone who truly understands the unfolding saga of our history. The price we have paid for freedom’s cause and the price we are paying will continue as long as there are individuals who seek to enslave others. Jefferson once asked, “Can the liberties of a nation be secure, when we have removed the conviction that these liberties are the gift of God?” Israel or America, it does not matter. Any nation or individual who turns their back on the Lord will be judged. Malachi reminds us that those who fear the Lord should…
III. Remember both the deadly and delightful consequences! (Vv. 4:1-3)
1. Just as God’s promises are certain, so are his judgments!
1) “The ungodly will be judged.” There will come a day of reckoning for the ungodly and arrogant. “Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and that day that is coming will set them on fire,” God tells Malachi. In Israel, the people used twisted dried grass as fuel for their fires. Wood was a scarce commodity. Just as the grass that grew quickly, was gathered together then twisted into bunches, and then burned, so too would the judgment of God come quickly. It will leave the “arrogant and every evildoer” like “stubble…. Not a root or a branch will be left to them.”
2) The righteous will be rewarded. Those that “revere” (respect, honor, and uphold) God’s name will be rewarded in three wonderful ways: First, “the sun of righteousness will rise with healing (restoration) in its wings,” secondly, “you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall,” and finally, “you will trample down the wicked; they will be ashes under the soles of your feet .” In the kingdom of God, righteousness will saturate like sunlight and the shadow of wickedness will not be allowed through its doors. Jesus said that the unrighteous “will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” (Matthew 25:46 NIV) Dear child, do you know what your reward will be?
EXAMPLE: America can survive, but what will be the cost? Israel did not learn her lesson. She went back into slavery again under the Greeks and finally under the jack boot of Rome. What price will America be willing to pay? We have politicians more willing to go on tropical vacations, spend extravagant amounts on personal pleasures or feather their own nests than see America truly a great “city on a hill.” Will our nation, our people, and our community turn back to God? Or will we find comfort instead in our own effort, determination, and will and thereby return to our presumption and pride? Will we fear the Lord? The choice is ours and the consequences are either deadly or delightful.
We learned about an arrogant question offered by an indifferent people, God’s compassionate answer, and both the deadly and delightful consequences of either fearing or not fearing God! Do you fear the Lord or are you walking in arrogance?
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.
Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 25 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2012 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.