Summary: A continuation of the service from the book of Malachi
The Fruit of Half-Hearted Service”
As we have made our journey through the book of Malachi, we have seen the Lord pile indictment upon indictment against the people. The nation of Israel has strayed far from God in both word and deed. Evil abounded in the land. Unbelief is the prevailing attitude. The majority of the people have gone their own sinful way, giving little thought to the will or ways of God. They have laughed at the prophets and showed utter contempt for God and His statutes. Their spiritual blindness has made them blind to their sin thus making them see the consequences they are living with as unjust. Now as we make our way into verse thirteen of chapter three, we see the Lord stating that the people have begun to speak strongly against Him. The people were saying that God was inconsequential, insignificant, and irrelevant. Basically the general consensus was they thought that God was absolutely powerless to do anything about anything, anymore. So, as a nation, they were ignoring Him. He was unimportant to them. Their situation as a nation has mistakenly led them to believe that there were no rewards for serving God and that it was pointless. All of us like to be rewarded for our efforts; it feels good to be recognized for our achievements. Reward makes all the hard work and effort worth it. When we work our tail off and no one seems to notice it is down right frustrating. However, this passage goes back to the very heart of the matter, “What is the motive behind what we are doing?” If our service is not the result of a devoted heart and a genuine faith it is worthless. Half-hearted service does nothing more than displease God and ultimately frustrate us. God’s people have griped and moaned along these lines for generations. Malachi offers us "Godly Insight for Today." We are not the only ones tempted to say, "What’s the use? Why should I serve Jesus?"
I. The people’s hardened hearts are reflected in their service of the Lord.
A. Once again Malachi presents evidence that the people had strayed far away from God.
1. The people had showed their contempt for God by speaking harshly against Him.
2. The Hebrew words here reveal that this is more than just a harsh tone; they have used offensive language as the Hebrew refers to slanderous and insulting words.
3. It is quite obvious that unbelief is common and the people pretty much did what they wanted rather than follow the will of God.
4. Once again their spiritual blindness is revealed as the people deny any wrong doing.
5. They thought they were mourning for their sin by their regular fasting and wearing of sackcloth and ashes, but God said they didn’t have a clue about what true repentance is.
B. Their spiritual blindness is evident in their self-righteous attitude.
1. Sure they avoided idolatry and did some fasting and busied themselves with religious activities surrounding the temple and the sacrifices.
2. They had begun to substitute serving God with a system of legalistic rituals that they felt could measure their own righteousness.
3. Once again the people are singing the same tune, serving God is too difficult and the return is much too small.
4. The people’s hearts were saying, “They saw no value in keeping the ordinances and ritual observances.”
5. The people had become satisfied with going through the motions of whatever works they chose to do--they ignored God’s true standard of inward righteousness.
6. The bottom line is: everything boils down to a lack of trust in God.
II. The desire for reward is the wrong motivation for service.
A. The people saw no value in keeping the ordinances and ritual observances God commanded.
1. The people attended to outward observances, not prompted by love for God, but done in the hope of being well paid in the form of outward prosperity.
2. The people here are missing the point of the nature of God’s service, converting it into merely a mercenary bargain.
3. They viewed God’s requirements as a way toward wisdom, success and personal prosperity.
4. The result of this view in Malachi’s day was disillusionment--they were bitterly disappointed and charged God with failing to keep His end of the bargain in terms of blessing and prosperity.
5. The people looked around and could not reason how they were any better off than their enemies.
B. Their view of serving God was clouded by the view that usually the righteous suffer and the wicked prosper.
1. Why do things seem to go better for the proud than those who earnestly seek to serve God?
2. The proud in the Old Testament are the self-willed, malicious, unprincipled, and turbulent; those who defied God by disregarding his precepts.