Let’s recap last week message. God will judge. He is the righteous and just God.
• Delayed judgement does not mean He is unjust. God is being patient and merciful, not wanting anyone to perish under His judgement (cf. 2 Pet 3:9).
• He will come as a refiner’s fire, not to burn and destroy His people but to purify and save them from sin.
• As a refiner and purifier of silver (3:3) He will do His sanctifying work in us until we become so pure He can see His image reflected in us.
And the work starts from within the household of God (1 Pet 4:17), from the Levites (3:3).
• God will purify them so that they can “bring offerings in righteousness, and the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will be acceptable to the Lord, as in days gone by, as in former years.” (cf. 3:3-4)
• Sinful men are found, not just outside the church, but also from within.
• We need to humble ourselves, heed God’s warning and allow Him to do His cleansing work in our lives.
• It’s not going to be a one-time thing but a lifetime of purifying and growing in His likeness, until the day we see Him face to face.
The Lord concluded with these words – 3:6 “I the Lord do not change. So you, O descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed.”
• This is the basis our hope, the character of God. He is faithful and true, and will judge His people justly, not to destroy them but to save them.
• The people can trust Him fully… IF they are seeing Him correctly.
But sadly for many in Malachi’s time, they were not seeing Him correctly.
• The Lord laid the charge: 3:7 "Ever since the time of your forefathers you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you," says the LORD Almighty.
• God has not changed but they had. They broke faith with the faithful God. They broke the covenant and turned from His decrees and ways.
This line itself is a warning to us. We are not immutable. We can stray from God’s Word and covenant if we are not careful. We are kept only by the grace of God.
• If we don’t turn wholeheartedly to God, we can end up in a very precarious state, just like these people in Malachi’s time.
• Therefore this call to RETURN TO ME, says the Lord Almighty. He longs for a relationship with His people. It’s a call to return to Him.
This call to RETURN TO ME is a recurring theme in the books of the prophets.
• We can see that if you search the phrase in a concordance.
• It’s repeated many times, particularly in the books of Isaiah, Jeremiah and Hosea.
Let me show you a few in Jeremiah 3 alone.
• Jer 3:12-13 "`Return, faithless Israel,' declares the LORD, `I will frown on you no longer, for I am merciful,' declares the LORD, `I will not be angry forever. 13 Only acknowledge your guilt…”
• Jer 3:14 "Return, faithless people," declares the LORD, "for I am your husband. I will choose you - one from a town and two from a clan - and bring you to Zion.
• Jer 3:22 "Return, faithless people; I will cure you of backsliding."
His door is OPEN. God wants us to RETURN. That’s the LONGING of His heart. He is not out to condemn but to redeem. Return to Him is what God wants.
• Yet I am reminded of the hymn lyric, “Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love.” (From ‘Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing’ by Robert Robinson in 1757.)
Look at the people’s response to God’s call. 3:7 “But you ask, ‘How are we to return?’”
• This is not an innocent query (from the context of the book, the many rebuttals).
• They were in denial. It was a mocking question. “What did we do wrong?”
• The NLT captures it best: “How can we return when we have never gone away?”
• What did we do wrong that we need to change? Where have we gone wrong that we need to return?
Be careful. We too can become numb to God’s Word, breaking faith with Him and yet not recognising it.
• The Lord stated the charge: “You rob me!” (3:8) and provided evidence, “Look at the storehouse.”
• “You rob me of tithes and offerings. Bring them into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house.” (3:10)
• Take a look at the storehouse in the Temple. It’s empty. There’s no food in there!
• It’s a charge that’s obvious, visible and undeniable. Where are the grain?
WHY THE TITHE
• Lev 27:30 "A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the LORD; it is holy to the LORD."
• Deut 14:22-23 "Be sure to set aside a tenth of all that your fields produce each year. 23Eat the tithe of your grain, new wine and oil, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks in the presence of the LORD your God at the place he will choose as a dwelling for his Name, so that you may learn to revere the LORD your God always."
• The tithe is a way to HONOUR God, as a recognition of His blessings and provisions for our lives. God provided everything we need.
And through the giving of the tithes, the Lord fulfils another purpose – the support of His servants - the Levites and priests, those working in the Temple.
• Num 18:21 "I give to the Levites all the tithes in Israel as their inheritance in return for the work they do while serving at the Tent of Meeting.
• Num 18:23-24 …They will receive no inheritance among the Israelites. 24Instead, I give to the Levites as their inheritance the tithes that the Israelites present as an offering to the LORD. That is why I said concerning them: ‘They will have no inheritance among the Israelites.’"
• Num 18:28 In this way you also will present an offering to the LORD from all the tithes you receive from the Israelites. From these tithes you must give the LORD's portion to Aaron the priest. So both Levites and priests are provided for.
But now, look at the storehouse! The grain or the food was missing. The people has kept the whole tithe to themselves.
• Firstly, they failed to revere the Lord, to honour God and acknowledge that He is the One who has blessed them with everything they need to survive.
• And with this neglect, they failed to honour the work of God in the Temple.
• The Temple ministry would be compromised because the Levites and priests would have to look for other means of support; they have no inheritance of their own.
And then the Lord added this line:
“Test me in this, and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.” (3:10)
• Clearly, the issue wasn’t logistical; let’s organise and get the people to bring back the tithe.
• The issue is one of TRUST. Can you trust me? Have I failed to provide for you? Are you trying to provide for yourselves?
• It’s a heart problem. The people couldn’t trust God. They were disobeying Him and trusting in their own ways.
• The people need to return to God. Not just returning the tithe but returning to God with all their heart.
We have the tendency of focusing on the tithe, the amount of grain to bring back; a tendency to look at the outward. But that’s not the real issue.
• We have debates over whether this tithing thing is of the old covenant (for those under the Law in the OT) or for us today as well (living under the new covenant, under grace).
• We are focusing on the wrong thing. We are hitting the symptoms, not the root cause. We are looking at the numbers, but the issue is with their heart.
• Do you have a heart to honour God? Do you have a heart to honour God’s work?
ABRAHAM tithed even before the Law was given, in Gen 14 when he paid homage to Melchizedek King of Salem, after his victory over the kings who took his nephew Lot captive.
• Gen 14:17-20 After Abram returned from defeating Kedorlaomer and the kings allied with him, the king of Sodom came out to meet him in the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King's Valley). 18 Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, 19 and he blessed Abram, saying, "Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth. 20 And blessed be God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand." Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything.
The King and the priest of God Most High blessed him and Abram responded by giving him a tenth of everything he received from the plunder (Gen 14:20).
• That’s how he paid homage. That’s how he honoured the King and priest of God.
• In Heb 7 Paul paints Melchizedek as a type of Christ, because of his unique identity. Some sees him as the pre-incarnate Christ. Abram honoured someone superior than him.
Another incident we have of someone giving a tenth was JACOB when he fled from his brother Esau, who wanted to kill him for stealing their father’s blessing.
• In Gen 28 Jacob came to a place where he slept and had a dream. The Lord spoke to him and he called the place BETHEL, meaning house of God, for having met Him.
• Gen 28:20-22 Then Jacob made a vow, saying, "If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear 21 so that I return safely to my father's house, then the LORD will be my God 22 and this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God's house, and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth." Jacob honoured God by giving Him a tenth.
In the NT Jesus made a comment about the tithe in Luke 11:42 (cf. Matt 23:23):
• 42"Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone.
• The Pharisees were taken to task, NOT because they did not tithe, but that they had become legalistic in tithing and not cared about people and God.
• Jesus says do the latter without leaving the former undone.
RETURN TO ME. Don’t rob me.
• The issue is with the heart, not the numbers. The one who truly honours God will find himself fulfilling the tithe and probably giving even more. And happily doing so.
• The one who focuses on the numbers will end up complaining and unhappy in giving anything.
The Lord says “Test me in this and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it. 11 I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not cast their fruit," says the LORD Almighty. (Mal 3:10c-11)
• I see this as the OT equivalent of NT Matt 6:33 “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Jesus says.
Tithing is a gauge of where our heart is. We honour God because He is the Giver of everything we need in life.
• Giving to God is a way of keeping our heart in tune with Him and His Kingdom concerns.
• Jesus says we are to store up treasures in heaven. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matt 6:21) The real issue is not money but where our heart is.
• Let us return to God with all our heart. Honour Him and remember His work.
In closing, I like to read from AMOS 4:6-13.
• When the Northern Kingdom of Israel was enjoying unparalleled success, God called a quiet shepherd/farmer AMOS from his home in the South (King Uzziah) to deliver a message to the North (King Jeroboam).
• It’s a call to return to God. [Read Amos 4:6-13]