God is Present | Malachi 3.16-4.3 (Snohomish)
November 3, 2013 Series: Malachi | Rhetorical God
Topic: Old Testament Passage: Malachi 3:16–4:3
Intro: Vain to Serve
Last week, our text ended with God recounting the HARSH words spoken against Him. Jesus taught that what comes out of the mouth reveals what is in the heart. In their hearts, a majority of unfaithful Israelites do not fear God. And because they do not fear God, they proclaim that “it is vain to serve God…that there is no profit in obedience…no fruitfulness from faithfulness.” Every act of worship is a result of duty, not devotion. They no longer enjoy worship because they no longer enjoy God. And they do not enjoy God because God hasn’t given them the fruit they want to enjoy. While the pagan world around them experiences material prosperity and peace, they experience poverty and pain.
In other words, their beliefs about God and His promises come as a result of a tension between their experience with God and their expectations of God. When your experience with God doesn't match your expectations of God, the problem does not lie with your experience. When expectations are not achieved, accusations abound. God is not loving. God is not worthy of our best. God is not just. God is not the owner of my stuff. God is not present and God is unreasonable to ask me to return—He is the one who left. If I cannot expect God to consistently give me what I want, then I won’t do what He wants.
God does not promise to never change what He does; He promises to never change who He is. We will always find ourselves accusing God if we expect Him to be, or become, someone different than who He says He is. What God is trying to reveal to His people, and to us, is that the problem of unbelief is internal—it’s a heart issue. In other words, more or less of something external will not truly help us. We know this because the Israelites have experienced God’s blessing in immeasurable ways (redemption, conquest, return, etc). They have not changed. They have also experienced God’s cursing in unbearable ways (slavery, plagues, exile, etc.). They did not change. Neither great prosperity nor great punishment changed their hearts. So, God ends His word to Malachi by declaring something He has already said—A DAY IS COMING when He will set all things right IN the hearts of His people and in the world.
This passage is a disturbing picture for some, and an assuring picture for others. The coming day will be a day of remembrance and a day of distinction. It will be a day of reward and a day of punishment. It will be a day of burning and a day of healing. It will be THE DAY when God finally separates His people from among all the people. This is not a separation of His covenant people marked by circumcised flesh from all the Gentiles who are not His covenant people. Romans 2.28-29 28 For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. 29 But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God. This separation is And all those who are Israel, are not truly faithful. This is will be a day of separation of the faithful in heart among all the unfaithful AND those who appear faithful.
V.16 The day of Remembrance After listening to the harsh words of the unfaithful Israelites, we hear the words of an faithful remnant among them—those who truly fear God. 16 Then those who feared the LORD spoke with one another. The LORD paid attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who feared the LORD and esteemed his name.
TWO Kinds of People and TWO Kinds of Words
There are two responses to God’s when he reveals sin—prideful defense OR humble fear. There are really only two kinds of people in the world. Those who fear God and those who do not fear Him, there is no third category. When Malachi spoke, there were many who argued with God and asked all kinds of “HOW” questions. God had no real regard for their complaints or accusations. Because they did not fear Him, there questions were expression of disdain, not devotion. But he heard and he paid careful attention to the words of those who feared Him. We are not told WHAT they spoke, though we can assume it was in contrast to what has been spoken by the unfaithful. Perhaps the words were: God is loving. God is worthy of our best. God is just. God is my owner. God is owed my life. God will return when we return. It is good to serve the Lord—it is meaningless to do anything else.
Those who fear God not only speak, but they speak to ONE ANOTHER. God reveals here the important connection between truth and community. Involvement in the wrong community, or isolation from the right community, will invariably lead to wrong views of and isolation from God. We need MORE than just community to foster relationships with men. We need God-fearing community to protect our relationship with God. In God-fearing community, the people speak the truth OF God to one another. In God-fearing community, the people spoke the truth ABOUT God to one another.
A Book to Remember All
In response to their words, God is said to write a book of remembrance. In the Middle East, books were often written by Kings to record the most important events. The Old Testament often references a the a record of the righteous or a book of life. In context, this book is written by God to REMEMBER the spoken words of the people. It includes all words, fearful and fearless, true and false, soft and harsh. These words are confessional words—declarations of belief from the speakers. This is not Santa Claus with his naughty and nice list, or record of you having said some perfect prayer. This is a record of a man’s true heart confession that will justify your salvation OR justify your condemnation. Jesus said in Matthew 12.33-38: 33 “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. 34 You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. 35 The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. 36 I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, 37 for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” God hears all, knows all, and never forgets all. Our confessions matter. The most important confession about God is who you declare Jesus to be? 9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. Our confessions matter. All of the words of this book are written FOR (NASB) those who fear Him—for it will only benefit them.
V. 17-18 The day of distinction The day of His coming will be a day of distinction. On the last day, God will open this book and make distinguish between people. . 17 “They shall be mine, says the LORD of hosts, in the day when I make up my treasured possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him. 18 Then once more you shall see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him.
Those who serve God
ON THE FINAL DAY—those who truly fear God will be revealed. God will make known His covenant people, His treasured possession, and the children who love Him as Father and fear Him as Lord. Just as there was a distinction in Malachi’s day between the people of Israel and the people of Edom, there will be a people that God chooses to love and those God chooses to hate (does not love). Our flesh wants to make this distinction about what we do when, in truth, it is all about what our Holy God chooses to do.
Those who do not serve God
God declares that one of the distinguishing marks between the righteous and the wicked is that the righteous serve God and the wicked who do not serve God. This cannot be about religious service, as the majority of the people of Israel look religious, sound religious, and even feel religious. Through Malachi, God has shown that their worship is not faithful, not pleasing, and not obedient. Matthew 7.21-23 21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ And what is the will of the Father? Jesus told us. In John 6, after feeding the 5,000, Jesus hid away from the people. They chased Him down, not because they wanted Jesus—but because like good prosperity preachers, they wanted more bread. 25 When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” 26 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 27 Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” 28 Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”
V. 1-2 The day of burning or healing
Depending on what you confess and what you believe about Jesus, the day of His coming will either be a day of BURNING or a day of HEALING. “For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble. The day that is coming shall set them ablaze, says the LORD of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. 2 But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall.
The day of burning from a furnace
There will be a day of judgment when sin and evil will be conquered. Like much of Old Testament prophecy, this future prediction has progressive fulfillment. This judgment of sin and evil is centrally fulfilled in the first coming of Christ. On the cross, God unleashed his wrathful just judgment on His Son. And, through faith in His sacrifice for me, the guilt, shame, and power of sin is removed. This is why Paul can write in Colossians 2: 13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him. At the moment of his death Jesus can declare it is finished, not only because sin is now a powerless defeated enemy, but because the final annihilation of sin is certain. This is God’s response to those who do not fear Him and declare—it doesn’t matter what we do. What we confess and believe has eternal consequences.
On the day of Jesus Second Coming sin, evil, and the wicked will be completely destroyed. Perhaps you have heard the often quoted cliché’, “God hates sin but loves the sinner….an d so should we too.” As a description of how we should relate to people, that is good guide. But as a biblical description of how our Holy God relates to us, it is woefully inadequate. This passage declares that the day is coming when God will not only destroy evil, but He will destroy the arrogant evil-doers. God hates sinners. Whenever God’s hatred is expressed in Scripture, it is never separated from the sinner. Proverbs 6.16 -19 There are six things that the LORD hates, seven that are an abomination to him: 17 haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, 18 a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, 19 a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers. He hates the eyes of the sinner, the tongue fo the sinner, the hands of the sinner, the heart of the sinner, the feet of the sinner, the false witness of the sinner, and the lying sinner. I realize this is difficult for us to hear, at least I hope it is. For the sinner, not just the sin, the fire of God’s judgment will be devastating. God says it will be a like a fiery furnace. The fire of God’s furnace will be consuming. Right now, people experience some consequences for sin now, but then it will be fully realized. The fire of God’s furnace will be will be comprehensive. It will not only be external punishment, but something that is felt at a heart level—complete separation from God. The fire of God’s furnace will also be complete. It is not partial; there are no second chances at judgment.
The day of healing from the sun
The day of God’s judgment will be a day of burning for the SINFUL world, but it will be a day of healing for His SINFUL children. Have I just contradicted myself? The Bible teaches that God hates sin, that God hates the sinner AND that God loves the sinner. Our sins cannot be separated from us, but that means that Jesus didn’t just die for my sins, He died for me; he died for a people whom He has chosen as His treasured possession. What will the day of the Lord be like for the righteous?
God’s fire will be like a BURNING FURNACE for those who do not fear Him, but God’s fire will be a HEALING SUN for those who do. For those who are in Christ, the heat of God’s sun will be consuming. It will warm every cold, broken, and imperfect part of us. The heat of God’s sun will be comprehensive. It will not only heal our bodies, it will heal our souls in the deepest way. The heat of the God’s fire will be complete. It will not end, but will cause God’s glory to shine through us forever. God says that Jesus coming will so fill us with joy, that it will cause us to leap like newborn calves RELEASED from the captivity of a stall. We will finally be released from the broken world we still live in, and released to live in the freedom and fullness all that God made us to be! It will be a glorious day.
Conclusion: The ash stomp
In conclusion, if we’re not careful, we might misinterpret verse 3. 3 And you shall tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet, on the day when I act, says the LORD of hosts. Do not make the mistake of focusing on the actions of the righteous against wicked, rather, see the result of what happens on the day God acts. This is not some perverse death dance over the graves of the wicked. On the contrary, this is picture of final, total, and complete victory over the evil.
The same God who can take a man’s wicked life and one day make all into ash, is the same one who can take the wicked ashes of your life and make them beautiful. Jesus saves and Jesus judges. Jesus heals and Jesus crushes. I plead with you to confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in you heart that God raised him from the dead so that you will rejoice at His Second Coming! 1John 2.28-3.3 28 And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming. 29 If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him. 3 See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2 Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. 3 And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.