February 10, 2019

Epiphany Five, February 10, 2019 — Malachi 3:6-10 — Some Things Seem Never to Change

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Passage: Malachi 3:6-10
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Sermon for Epiphany Five – Sunday February 10, 2019

Calvary/Marquette ● Soli Deo Gloria

Grace be unto you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus, the Christ. Amen.

Malachi 3:6–10 (NKJV)

“For I am the LORD, I do not change; Therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob. Yet from the days of your fathers You have gone away from My ordinances And have not kept them. Return to Me, and I will return to you,” Says the LORD of hosts. “But you said, ‘In what way shall we return?’

 

“Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, For you have robbed Me, Even this whole nation. 10 Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, That there may be food in My house, And try Me now in this,” Says the LORD of hosts, “If I will not open for you the windows of heaven And pour out for you such blessing That there will not be room enough to receive it.

In the Name of Jesus, the Christ,

   Dear Fellow Redeemed in His Blood –

It’s a somewhat defeatist and sarcastic proverb, one attributed to Benjamin Franklin in the year 1789:

 

“Our new Constitution is now established, and has an appearance that promises permanency; but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”

 

We understand the sentiment, don’t we?  We live in a fallen, sinful world.  It seems sometimes that nothing changes, that only negative things recur…like death and taxes.  It seems that nothing is certain and reliable.  Some things seem never to change.

Now as Christians, we know that there is really just one constant, one unchanging thing, one truly unchanging person – that is the LORD God. It’s a good thing that He does not change, because that also means that His Promises, His Word, His Mercy and His Faithfulness do not change…we can count on them day by day.  It’s a good thing that He does not change, because in this world…Human sin and disobedience also seem never to change.

We hear this morning from the words given by God to the Prophet Malachi.  Malachi was the final prophet to speak before the Son of God entered the womb of the Virgin Mary and was born.  Malachi spoke 430 years before the Savior’s Epiphany or Appearance and more than 2,400 years before the present day.  However, we find that Malachi’s world was much the same as our own…for some things seem never to change.

Let us begin with prayer:

Gracious Lord Jesus, you have come that we may have life and live it to the full. It is because of your mercy that we have pardon for sin and eternal life. We are overwhelmed by the steady shower of spiritual and material blessings that flow to us from your great goodness and faithful love.  You have provided for our needs and, often, for our wants.  Grant us hearts so grateful that we are not content merely to enjoy your blessings but that as an expression of our thanks, we may share your gifts to enrich the lives of others and to help meet their needs. Amen.

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The ‘good old days’…we’ve all heard of them…maybe even talked about them. If you’ve ever pined for the ‘good old days’ then you probably longed for a time in the past, perhaps in your childhood or young adult years. It may be that the ‘good old days’ were when the children were young or when your spouse still lived. We all define the ‘good old days’ in different ways, for different reasons.

The truth is that the ‘good old days’ weren’t always so good.  One of the blessings of aging is that we forget or we choose to remember certain things and not others.  It wasn’t that there was no evil when we were children; we were largely oblivious of it. Some things were still hidden in the closet and behind closed doors, today it’s not so.

Human sin is constant from generation to generation.  It may be that certain sins become more prevalent, but when it comes to human sin and unfaithfulness to God’s Commands…some things seem never to change.  The people of Malachi’s day were deceiving themselves.  They convinced themselves that all was well with God.  When the LORD, through the Prophet revealed their sins…in disbelief they asked, “How have we sinned in this way?”

So, the LORD, through the Prophet Malachi, took off the lid of the golden garbage can of their lives…

 

Yet from the days of your fathers You have gone away from My ordinances and have not kept them. Return to Me, and I will return to you,” Says the LORD of hosts.

 

It wasn’t merely that they had recently slipped up and omitted an obscure commandment!  They, like their fathers, had turned aside, even abandoned the things that He had prescribed for them to do and not to do.  If the LORD had specified to them each and every sin of thought, word and action, they would have long died of old age before the list was complete!

It’s the same with us.  We sin daily.  In some cases, we are unaware of our sin or simply forget that passing moment of anger or hatred, that look of lust, that comment intended to put someone in a bad light.  In our heart of hearts, we may feel guilt, but we hardly dwell on it.  We move on to the next moment, the next sin.

Now after revealing to them that He was aware of every instance of their turning from his ordinances and not keeping them…notice what the LORD didn’t do…

 

ü  The LORD didn’t pat them on the back and say, “It’s OK, now you know…try and do better next time.”

 

They had rebelled against God.  They had defied His Commands.  It wasn’t a minor mistake. We are the ones whose first reaction is to minimize sin, to reduce its seriousness. Sin isn’t natural and, on some level, acceptable.  It changes our relationship with God, it turns Him away from us.

 

The LORD called upon them to return to Him and He promised to return to them.  When the LORD invites in this way, His Invitation is with power, it also enables the hearer to act.  The LORD also knew their immediate reaction to the crushing revelation of their sin:

“But you said, ‘In what way shall we return?’

Some things seem never to change; we not only sin we refuse to admit it, we refuse to own up to it.  The people of Malachi’s day didn’t accept the premise that they had turned away from the LORD and needed to return. They demanded an example.  What do you mean, ‘Return?’

The LORD gave them what they wanted…but didn’t really want.  He offered an example, a proof that they had turned their hearts from the LORD.

“Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, for you have robbed Me, Even this whole nation.

How can a man rob God?  It’s not difficult to see when we remember the lesson of Psalm 24, “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it.”  Everything belongs to the LORD God, the Creator, who made it.  He dispenses from His storehouse to us and then gives direction in His Word how we are to use the things He has given over into our care.  When we steal or rob our neighbor, we defy God, who gave it to them.

The LORD specified exactly how they were robbing Him.  They were no longer honoring Him with their tithes and offerings. In the Old Testament, the LORD specified how they were to use their possessions.  They were to give a ‘tithe’ or a ‘tenth’ of all that they possessed.  They didn’t only give 10% of their money but also 10% of their food, which went to feed the Levites, the family of Jacob who served as priests and carried out their worship.

The whole nation had done it.  They had stopped giving back in thanksgiving.  They had started to bring lame and sick animals to be sacrificed rather than give to the LORD of the best of the flock.

It wasn’t that the LORD needed the money.  It was what their gifts said about what they thought of Him.   They thought they could ‘get away’ with going through the motions, with giving something cheap rather than something of value.

What has this to do with us?  The LORD hasn’t commanded that we ‘tithe’ or ‘give a tenth’ in the New Testament.  The tithe is part of the Law of God given to the Jews.  The principle set down for us is simple, we give to the LORD first, out of our abundance, not out of what is left over.

So, it is written (1 Corinthians 16:2, NKJV):

 

On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come.

 

When we give, we are to give freely, liberally, cheerfully.  So, it is written (2 Corinthians 9:7, NKJV):

So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.

 

What you give is a matter between you and the LORD.  Honestly, only you know what you give.  I have no idea what you give and have no desire to know.  Still, this Scripture asks us to evaluate, to ask whether we are giving in faith, trusting the LORD to provide or grudgingly, of necessity.

What do your offerings say about your love for the LORD?  As the LORD has blessed you with more, have you given back in thanksgiving to Him?  Is your thanksgiving for what the Lord Jesus has done for you the same as it was 10 or 20 years ago?  It’s a question we each have to wrestle with.  When we do, let’s be honest with ourselves.  When it comes to giving back to the LORD…being liberal is a good thing…if you give in faith, trusting the LORD to provide.

The LORD called upon the people of Malachi’s day to make things right, to provide for those who provided them with service to the LORD.  In fact, He did one better.  He promised that their investment would bring a return.

10 Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, That there may be food in My house, And try Me now in this,” Says the LORD of hosts, “If I will not open for you the windows of heaven And pour out for you such blessing That there will not be room enough to receive it.

Investing is big business today…if the advertisements on the radio and television are any indication. Every investment banker promises to make your money work for you and to make sure that you can do what you want to do when you retire.  Then at the end of the ad they quickly say, “Investments are not guaranteed, accounts may lose value.”

We understand.  Very little in this life is guaranteed.

Still, the LORD does say that if we invest in His Work and give in faith, that He will use it to His Glory and will pour out blessing upon us.  This is one case where we get out of it what we put into it, for it is written (2 Corinthians 9:6, NKJV):

“He who plants sparingly will also reap sparingly. And he who plants bountifully will also reap bountifully.”

In fact, the LORD Jesus promises that if we seek first His Kingdom and His Righteousness, all our earthly needs will be provided (cf. Matthew 6:33). No one else can promise that kind of return…period. We can invest in and be about His Business knowing that he will bless it.

 

       He will bless our labors by increasing our faith. 

       He will bless our labors by giving opportunities to speak of Christ.  He will pour out such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it.

Why can we be confident of this?  It’s right there at the beginning.

 

“For I am the LORD, I do not change; Therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob.

 

Many things have changed in our country.  The Constitution and Bill of Rights remain the same, but the things that our grandfathers fought against 50 years go seem to be forgotten.  Our grandfathers fought against the ideas of Communism and Socialism; but today there are Senators and Congressmen who openly promote Socialism!  So many changes.

The LORD does not change…and that’s the best news of all.  Since the LORD does not change, neither does His Word or His promises of mercy and love.  People may burn bibles and scripture etched in stone may fade with the passage of time, but the LORD does not change and neither does his mercy and love and that’s why we are still here, that’s why we have not been consumed as a people and a nation.

This was in important message for the people of Malachi’s day.  Malachi was the last prophet to speak for 430 years.  The next man God raised up to speak was dressed in Camel’s hair and ate wild locust and honey…John the Baptist.  It was important that the people not forget during those 430 years that the LORD does not change, neither do his promises, his mercy or his love.

It is equally important for us.  When difficult days come, in sickness and sorrow we may wonder if the Lord’s promises to us have an expiration date.  We may, in weakness of faith, tremble at the direction our country is heading.  Our grandparents probably thought the same thing.

Some things seem never to change…like human sin and unfaithfulness.

One thing will never change…God is faithful to His Word of Promise.

We can count on it.

Amen!