Summary: A brief devotional type sermon from Malachi 3
In this running “dialogue” between God and the People, Malachi pictures God as
saying that the people had spoken harshly toward God. I particularly like the King James
wording “stout” because it conveys that the words were not only harsh, but also strong
words. The Amplified Bible says that the words were both strong and hard, so I feel as if I
am on solid ground with this interpretation.
How are are words sometimes against God? In Isaiah’s great revelation of God in
Isaiah 6, Isaiah mourned being a man of unclean lips and dwelling in the midst of a people
of unclean lips. This was because the people had just lost a great king and in losing that
king they probably mumbled against God. Sometimes our words about God’s justice, or
our complaints are “against God.”
As I read the story of Moses and the Hebrew’s during their wandering in the desert,
it seems as if God judged them over most frequently because of their words and attitudes
much more than actual misbehavior. The Bible speaks more about sins of the tongue and
lips than it does of drunken behavior, lewdness, sexual immorality, or just about any other
type of sin.
Malachi responds for the people. Their answer is full of disbelief and mock
innocence, “How have our words been so bad?” Malachi offers the answer. The people
were declaring that it did not pay to serve God. They claimed that they had walked
mournfully before God and wicked people were doing better than they were.
Two problems arise in their attitudes. First, their mournful walk is a problem.
While God wants us to mourn our sin, he does not want us to dwell on it. God does not
want us to mourn, but to be comforted as Jesus declared about those who mourn in the
Sermon on the mount (see Matthew 5).
When the people of God came together and heard God’s Word after the exile, they
mourned and wept. They were told to go and wash their faces and find the joy of the Lord,
which would be their strength. When Paul describes the filling of the Holy Spirit in
Ephesians 5:18 he describes a happiness that results (in the following verses) in a heart full
of gratitude, singing, and general happiness. God has never called for us to walk
mournfully before him, except during brief periods when we are truly sorrowful for our
sins. Our walk with God should bring joy, peace, and other positive attitudes, not sorrow.
The second part of their attitude is that they expected God to pay them. Their
attitudes are like Union workers preparing for a strike, they are unhappy and displeased
with their “pay.” The Jewish concept of wealth being a demonstration of God’s blessing
perhaps stems from the idea that God had blessed good and righteous men like Father
Abraham and Job. In fact, Satan, always the accuser, declares that the only reason Job
serves God is because God “bribes” Job with his goodness.
In my own life, whenever I begin to tell God what I think I deserve (or just think I
deserve something) that is when I am reminded of the cross. If I received my just desserts
God would consistently rain down his judgment on me. He would judge my attitudes, my
words, my thoughts, my lack of concern for others, my insensitive spirit, etc. etc. But
instead of giving me what I deserve, he works diligently to give me wealth that is spiritual
in nature. He works within me and deals with those very things that He should judge me
for. Serving God pays- as one author has stated, it pays eternal dividends. The problem
with the people Malachi was speaking to was that they wanted their “spiritual bonds” to
mature immediately in wordly terms.
The funny thing is, God had just promised to deal with their “wordly needs” in
earlier verses of this chapter. If the people would put God first in tithes and offerings he
would rebuke the devourer from their land. All the nations around them would see the
exact opposite of what they were saying, they would see that it DOES PAY to serve God
and that he does meet the needs of his people.
Recently, my son, Joshua, has gone through a period similar to that of Job. He was
laid off from one job and was having problems getting enough hours to make ends meet at
another. Then one night he came out and found his car stolen. It did not help that we had
just dropped the comprehensive coverage from the insurance. The car was found, but the
engine was ruined and it was a total loss. The Lord intervened and provided another car
for him. Then just before Christmas, when all was going well he loses his job. His attitude