Summary: It says that God heard them. Well, of course He did. Doesn’t the Bible teach that He hears our prayers? But wait a minute! It doesn’t say they were praying. (Powerpoint available - #239)
MELVIN M. NEWLAND, MINISTER
RIDGE CHAPEL, KANSAS, OK
(PowerPoint slides used in this sermon are available at no charge. Just e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and request #239.)
(This is basically my adaptation of an excellent sermon by Bruce Howell entitled "The Day God Eavesdropped.")
A. This morning we’re going to look at a passage of Scripture found in the very last book in the O.T., the book of Malachi.
At the time of the writing of Malachi, the nation of Israel had once again strayed far from God. Evil abounded. Unbelief prevailed. The majority of people went their own sinful ways, giving little thought to the will or ways of God.
They laughed at the prophets & showed utter contempt for God & His Law. Does that sound a lot like today?
With that in mind, listen as God speaks to them through the prophet Malachi. Turn with me now to Malachi 3:13-15.
"You have said harsh things against me," says the Lord. "Yet you ask, ‘What have we said against you?’
'You have said, ‘It is futile to serve God. What did we gain by carrying out His requirements & going about like mourners before the Lord Almighty?
'But now we call the arrogant blessed. Certainly the evildoers prosper, & even those who challenge God escape.’"
SUM. To put it very bluntly, the people were saying that God was insignificant & irrelevant. In other words, they thought that God was absolutely powerless to do anything about anything, anymore. So, as a nation, they were ignoring Him. He was completely unimportant to them.
B. But, do you remember? Back in the beginning of their nation, as their forefathers were settling into the Promised Land, Joshua, their leader, had challenged them, & we find his challenge in Joshua 24:14-18,
“Now fear the Lord and serve Him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord.
'But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve... 'But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”
And the people had responded, “Far be it from us to forsake the Lord to serve other gods! It was the Lord our God Himself who brought us & our fathers up out of Egypt, from that land of slavery, & performed those great signs before our eyes.
"We too will serve the Lord, because He is our God.”
And that generation of Israelites was faithful to its vow, “Far be it from us to forsake the Lord … because He is our God.” They didn’t forget Him, or ignore Him!
SUM. So there is no question that their forefathers, the founders of the nation of Israel, had a deep & abiding faith & trust in God.
C. But by the time of Malachi it is painfully obvious that the nation of Israel, as a whole, had turned almost completely away from God. Listen again to what God was saying to them:
"You have said harsh things against me," says the Lord. … "You have said, ‘It is futile to serve God.
'What did we gain by carrying out his requirements…? … the evildoers prosper, & even those who challenge God escape.’"
Does this sound familiar? Is our nation going through the same pattern of behavior? I wonder? But let’s go on, for in the next few verses of Malachi there are some things that are rather intriguing. Listen as I read Malachi 3:16-18:
“Then those who feared the Lord talked with each other, & the Lord listened & heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in His presence concerning those who feared the Lord & honored His name.
'They will be my treasured possession,' says the Lord Almighty, 'n the day when I act.' (This is the alternate reading from the footnotes.) 'I will spare them, just as in compassion a man spares his son who serves him.'
'And you will again see the distinction between the righteous & the wicked, between those who serve God & those who do not.'
D. Wow! That is a rather powerful passage, & it contains a lot that I think we should notice.
1. First of all, it tells us that in the midst of an unfaithful nation, God still had a faithful remnant - a small group who remained faithful to Him!
Even though a majority of the people had turned their backs upon Him, God still had people who honored & worshiped Him, & sought to do His will.
There were not many of them in comparison to the nation as a whole. But they committed themselves to remain faithful to God, no matter what anyone else said or did.
And while surrounded by the spiritual darkness of their day, they drew closer & closer together to talk with each other, to support & encourage one another in serving God.