Summary: God takes notice of those who take notice of Him
When Mary and I were considering names for our children, there were a number of names that were immediately eliminated because of certain students that Mary had in her classes over the years that she just didn’t want to be reminded of. And even today, several decades later, there are certain names that bring to mind, even for me, and certainly even more for Mary, some of the most – shall we say – challenging students that she has had to deal with over the years.
But at the same time, I don’t know if I can remember the names of any of her students who just came to class regularly, who chose to do their work and who weren’t a distraction to other students. That’s because it seems that in most areas of life, whether it be in our families, our jobs, or anywhere else, those who do right often seem to go unnoticed.
So when someone who is attempting to live a righteous life does get noticed, it is often something of an anomaly. I can remember such an instance several years ago when I was officiating a high school volleyball match. At a crucial point in the match, there was a question as to whether one of the players had touched the ball before it landed out of bounds. This was a crucial determination, because if he had touched the ball the other team would get the point. If he hadn’t touched it, his team would get the point.
None of the 4 members of the officiating team had seen the touch, so I was just about to award the point when the player indicated to me that he had touched the ball. Because this was at a crucial point in the match, that admission made it much more likely that his team would lose the match. I’m sure that player didn’t really expect that anyone was going to notice this act of good sportsmanship and integrity.
But since this kind of sportsmanship is so rare, I wanted to make sure that this student athlete knew that his actions were noticed and that he was properly recognized. So I sent an email to the coach, athletic director, and principal commending this student for his actions.
A couple of weeks later, I happened to be back at that same school and we had another similar situation during that match. And this time, another player from that same team followed the example of his teammate and also admitted he had touched the ball even though none of the officials had seen it. After the match, his coach told me that he wanted to know if he could also expect an email.
Our relationship with God can be a lot like that, too. Living a life of obedience to Jesus is not always easy and sometimes I think we’re tempted to look around and see all the people who aren’t even making an effort to do that who seem to be prospering much more than us and to wonder whether God even notices our lives and question whether living for Jesus is really worth it. That’s the issue that Malachi addresses as we near the end of his prophecy.
In our English Bible, there are four chapters in Malachi, but in the Hebrew Bible there is no chapter break between chapter 3 and chapter 4. So, as we’ll see this morning, the first part of chapter 4 actually fits together with the end of chapter 3. So this morning we’ll begin in chapter 3, verse 13 and continue through verse 3 in chapter 4:
“Your words have been hard against me, says the LORD. But you say, ‘How have we spoken against you?’ You have said, ‘It is vain to serve God. What is the profit of our keeping his charge or of walking as in mourning before the LORD of hosts? And now we call the arrogant blessed. Evildoers not only prosper but they put God to the test and they escape.’”
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. “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. 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.
“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. 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. 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.