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Malachi 10

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Malachi 10.

This morning let us pick up the book of Malachi once again. We are nearing the end of the prophecy, and it has been a pretty bleak picture. Israel who has been graciously been brought back from exile and back to her God, has once again drifted from Him. For sure, they are still going through the motions, but יהוה is far from their hearts – they are going their own way and not His. He keeps trying to bring them back on the right track, but every time He addresses an issue they answer back! [P]

1. [Malachi 1:2 “I have loved you,” says יהוה. But you say, “How have You loved us?”]

2. [Malachi 1:6 says יהוה of armies to you, O priests who despise My name. But you say, ‘How have we despised Your Name?’]

3. [Malachi 1:7 “You are presenting defiled food upon My altar. But you say, ‘How have we defiled You?]

4. [Malachi 1:13 “You also say, ‘My, how tiresome it is!’]

5. [Malachi 2:13-14 יהוה no longer regards the offering or accepts it with favour from your hand. “Yet you say, ‘For what reason?]

6. [Malachi 2:17 You have wearied יהוה with your words. Yet you say, “How have we wearied Him?”]

7. [Malachi 2:17 “Where is the God of justice?”]

8. [Malachi 3:7 Return to Me, and I will return to you,” says יהוה of armies. “But you say, ‘How shall we return?’]

9. [Malachi 3:8 “Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing Me! But you say, ‘How have we robbed You?’]

10. [Malachi 3:13 “Your words have been arrogant against Me,” says יהוה. “Yet you say, ‘What have we spoken against You?’/]

11. [Malachi 3:14“You have said, ‘It is vain to serve God; and what profit is it that we have kept His charge, and that we have walked in mourning before the יהוה of armies?] No wonder יהוה said: [Malachi 2:17 You have wearied יהוה with your words.] Every time יהוה pointed out something wrong, they answered back. Why do we find it so hard to say: “I am wrong”?! Some years ago Elton John (not that he is a fount of great wisdom) sang a song “Sorry seems to be the hardest word”. It is pride, isn’t it? It takes a humble and contrite heart to say, “LORD, You are right, I am wrong, I have done wrong and sinned against You.” We find it hard to admit we are wrong to our fellow humans, and we find it hard with God. But in order to repent, and that is the prerequisite to coming to God; we must admit that I am wrong and He is right. But try as He might, יהוה could not bring Israel to repentance. And it was not just this generation, it had been consistent for hundreds of years! Israel was religious, but they were apostate! – and the same is true for much of the church. This is what יהוה said: [P] [Malachi 3:13-18 “Your words have been arrogant against Me,” says יהוה. “Yet you say, ‘What have we spoken against You?’ (still the answering back) “You have said, ‘It is vain to serve God; and what profit is it that we have kept His charge, and that we have walked in mourning before the יהוה of armies? (Do you see? The view is pragmatism and selfishness – “what is in it for me?” I remember witnessing to a guy who came to the door – he’d tried every religion under the sun. He said about Christianity: “It didn’t work for me.” Do you come to God for what He can do for you, to make your life smooth?; or do you worship Him because He is! And He is worthy?! They had tried mourning for their sins and it didn’t make any difference – their mourning wasn’t out of remorse but a formula to make things work. It is utilitarian religion; you serve God to make things go well for you! Is that why you serve God? It is selfishness and it is sin!) ‘So now we call the arrogant blessed; not only are the doers of wickedness built up but they also test God and escape.’ (They saw that those that ignored God, went their own way, did wickedly; actually prospered, they got away with it. So you just as well do as you like. The arrogant are blessed. It is the watch cry of today –“If you want to get ahead you have to assert yourself”! It is the arrogant, those that push who prosper, who are blessed!” Let me tell you plainly: that is not the way of Jesus! [Matthew 5:5 Blessed are the meek, because they will inherit the earth.] What a depressing picture. Here is יהוה’s final word to His people and they do not respond! He is silent for over 400 years. Sometimes you can look around at what is going on in the church and you can likewise be filled with despair. But it is not all! Hallelujah! There were some who FEARED יהוה!) Then those who feared יהוה spoke to one another, and יהוה gave attention and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear יהוה and who esteem His Name. “They will be Mine,” says the יהוה of armies, “on the day that I prepare My own possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his own son who serves him.” So you will again distinguish between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve Him.] Do you recall in the dark days of Ahab, Elijah seemed to be the only voice for God? He said: [1 Kings 19:10 “I have been very zealous for יהוה the God of armies, for the Israelites have forsaken Your covenant. They have demolished Your altars, and they have killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left over, and they seek to take my life.] But what did יהוה tell him?: [1 Kings 19:18 I will leave in Israel seven thousand, all of the knees that have not bowed down to Baal and all of the mouths that have not kissed him.”] There are always a few who remain true, a few who fear יהוה. יהוה keeps for Himself a remnant. And what did they do? They spoke to one another. They got together. They had one thing in common, the thing of the most importance to them: יהוה! The fear of יהוה! In the time of apostasy fellowship is all the more sweet and precious. I remember back along, I was at a fellowship that refused to take a stand on the truth of God’s Word; they had embraced a message of humanism and a cheap grace that tolerated all. I began to think I was a bit odd (well I knew I was!) I seemed to be the only one not jumping on the band wagon and rejoicing in what was going on. You feel isolated and alone. Then one day this guy came around to my place; he wanted to borrow our piano which I had offered. I had never met him before, and I never have since. But he came in, happened to see a book on the table by Andrew Murray and we started talking, maybe for an hour. It was one of the sweetest times of fellowship I have ever known – probably all the more sweet because I was starved for it. But it is a wonderful thing to talk together with those with whom you are one spiritually – not the weather, or politics or sport, “how’s your week been?”; but to talk the LORD! It was the same when I was at the Apostolic church in town, when every time the pastor opened his Bible to preach he dissolved into uncontrollable laughter, he never got to read it! The meeting would disintegrate into chaos, they would push all the seats back and the congregations would spend the rest of the evening lying on the floor, either laughing, shaking or in a state of unconsciousness. And this was meant to be the Holy Spirit! You know?: the Spirit of power, love and self-control! Again, I thought that I was the only one who thought that something screwy was going on, that I was resisting the Spirit of God. But again, I found one, then another – there was just a handful – people who feared God and were distressed at the travesty that was going on, grieved at the dishonour that was brought to the Name of the LORD – that esteemed the Name of יהוה. That was what it was like in Israel at the end of the Old Testament era – there was a remnant, small but they feared יהוה. And that is what it will be like at the end before Jesus comes. Some picture an end-time revival; but the Bible speaks of: [Matthew 24:12 “Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold. 1 Timothy 4:1 But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, 2 Timothy 4:3-4 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.] There will be deception, people will genuinely think that they are serving God, but they will not be. In fact the deception actually comes from God Himself on those who do not love the truth: [2 Thessalonians 2:10-12 and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness.] Religious but apostate. [P] But always there will be a few who remain true. Look, it is with us now! Robin was telling me about a professor from Wheaton college – a renowned evangelical protestant college – she stated that the God of Islam is the same as the God of the Bible! I saw a video clip of Brian Houston, of the massive Hillsong church; he said exactly the same thing. My sister told me enthusiastically of Darlene Zschech, of Hillsong, visiting the pope to teach on Christian worship and reporting back that the pope is a Spirit-filled Christian. I am sorry, but salvation is through Christ alone! [Acts 4:12 “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”] Mary is not a co-redemptrix, grace and salvation are not in the sacraments. Mary was the mother of Jesus, but she is not the mother of God, nor the queen of heaven. Jesus is King! Mary was not sinless; she is not to be worshipped. Yet many protestant and evangelical churches join with Roman Catholics – “they love Jesus” – but not the Jesus of the Bible! The authority of Scripture has been abandoned. Man’s ideas are worshipped and placed as higher authority. We worship science – it is the fount of truth! My own father maintains that the stars took billions of years to form by random gravitational attraction of atoms that were scattered through the big bang – randomness and chance caused it all. They accept the speculation of man, who was not there, over the Word of the God who, not only was there, but actually made them – the work of His fingers, in one day. It may only be a theory of cosmology but if you reject the Bible’s record of that, where do you draw the line? What bits are true and what bits aren’t?! And who decides if it is true, what bits I accept?! Me?! That makes me the arbiter of truth! I am placing myself in the position of God! Look, this is no small thing! The truth of God’s Word has been undermined and rejected. Not overtly, they still claim to hold to the Word of God; but subtly, bit by bit, man’s opinion takes precedence over what the Scripture says. Beloved, we are in a time of apostasy! What do we do in such a time? [P] It is in such a time that we need to FEAR יהוה! [P] He is God! He is right! He is true! Our role is not to determine whether what He says is right or not, whether we like it or not; our role is to submit to Him. We take Him at His word; take His word as true because He is God! The fear of God causes you to bow the knee before His Word, it is a total absence of the fear of God that arrogantly thinks that we know better than what He says, or decides whether what the Bible says is right or relevant or applicable. This remnant esteemed His Name [P]. We must hold Him in high regard. Jesus is not one alongside others. יהוה is not the same as Allah! We do not compromise or conciliate for the sake of so-called unity. We are jealous for the Name above all names. It is יהוה that we serve [P]. “I will spare them as a man spares his own son who serves him. So you will again distinguish between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve Him.” Three times it mentions serving. There is a difference between those that serve יהוה and those that don’t. He will treat them differently, the difference will be seen – those that are righteous and those that are wicked. We fear יהוה and esteem His Name, we submit to Him. Our role is not to decide whether what He says is right or not, whether it applies to us, is relevant for today – we are servants! We simply accept what He says, submit to Him and obey – do what He says. Those that did these things spoke to one-another [P]. They encouraged each other and supported each other. Look, all around you hear it shouted that the world is billions of years old that we evolved by chance – you need to be hearing people who are speaking what is different, what is true. They spoke together – they had fellowship. The N.T. word for fellowship is κοινωνία, it means having things in common. These ones that remained faithful had these essential things in common: fear of יהוה, esteem of His Name, submission to Him, His Word and His will – humble servants. The world attempts to hold things together through compromise and conciliation – but true unity is based on κοινωνία – being together, having things in common. And in a time of apostasy fellowship is all the more vital. We need each other to keep strong when all around us the lies pervade. The pressure is to conform, why be different and difficult? Why do people hold to long ages in Genesis? Why do people cooperate with Roman Catholics or other religions? It is to please people, to not cause offense, to be like everyone else. The pressure is on to conform – ultimately to one world religion and one world government. We need to be supporting each other, speaking with those who hold to the truth, lest we be swept away in the overwhelming tide. Look, I have been attending this fellowship for 20 years, and all through that time the oversight has faced one issue, repeatedly, over and over again – it has presented in different forms but, bottom line, they have been challenged on the issue of holding to the truth of God’s Word. But praise God, in Malachi’s day and in our own, יהוה keeps a faithful remnant, true to Himself, who hold to the truth. There are these few that get together, united in their fear of יהוה and faithful service to His will – what of them? Are they a weak minority that will be overwhelmed by the pervasive apostasy? No! יהוה Himself acts on their behalf! [P] What does God do for these ones who are loyal to Him? He takes notice [P] – “יהוה gave attention and heard” He saw these ones who were genuine, who sought Him who feared Him. It is a wonderful thing when someone takes notice of you, I guess it appeals to our pride, but I guess Christine felt pretty good when Alex took notice of her. Look, I am pretty insignificant; the New Year’s honours list came out, and again I looked for my name in vain. I am no great sportsman, leader, business man, manager, intellect, artist – just an ordinary bloke. And that is what Christians are, by in large: [1 Corinthians 1:26 For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble;]. Yet the LORD of all creation, God who is from all eternity, who is control of the whole universe took note of me! Do you consider yourself “no great shakes”, just a little man? There is a story I love about a little man, a well known story: [Luke 19:1-10 Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. And there was a man called by the name of Zaccheus; he was a chief tax collector and he was rich. Zaccheus was trying to see who Jesus was, and was unable because of the crowd, for he was small in stature (just a little man). So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree in order to see Him, (he wanted to see Jesus, was seeking Him) for He was about to pass through that way. When Jesus came to the place, He looked up and said to him, “Zaccheus, hurry and come down, for today I must stay at your house.” (Jesus noticed him! Knew his name! Everyone thought Zaccheus was a money-grubber, no one knew what was going on in his heart – he was seeking Jesus, and Jesus took notice) And he hurried and came down and received Him gladly. When they saw it, they all began to grumble, saying, “He has gone to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” Zaccheus stopped and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, half of my possessions I will give to the poor, and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will give back four times as much.” (a life transformed because Jesus took notice of him – and I testify that the same is true of me) And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he, too, is a son of Abraham. “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”] יהוה remembers and records: [P]a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear יהוה and who esteem His name” A few years before Nehemiah had found these returned exiles neglecting the service of the temple, desecrating the Sabbath, out to make a buck, marrying those outside the faith, taking their brothers into slavery. But he did not claim his rightful allowance, he provided for others, he took a stand against the defilement going on around him – 4 times Nehemiah asked God to remember him: [Nehemiah 5:19 Remember me, O my God, for good, according to all that I have done for this people. Nehemiah 13:14 Remember me for this, O my God, and do not blot out my loyal deeds which I have performed for the house of my God and its services.] God would not forget his standing out against the tide, his remaining faithful. Will יהוה forget those who have held true to His word in the face of pervading apostasy? Will God forget those who hold fast to His Word, who remain true to Him? No, He will surely remember them. When I want to remember something, I write it on my hand – see it says “belonging to יהוה”. Likewise God writes down those who are His on His hand: [Isaiah 49:15-16 “Can a woman forget her nursing child And have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you. “Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands;] But here it says the names of the faithful are written in a book – written in the book of life – [Revelation 13:8 speaks about those: whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain.] There is a book where the names of those who belong to יהוה are recorded. [Revelation 20:12 And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; Revelation 20:15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. And speaking of the New Jerusalem it says: Revelation 21:27 and nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.] Those whose names are recorded are spared in the time of judgement. It pays to remain loyal to יהוה! Another thing יהוה does for those loyal to Him is that He claims them as His own [P] [Malachi 3:17 “They will be Mine,” says יהוה of armies, “on the day that I prepare My own possession.] יהוה sees, He notices, He remembers, He records – those are loyal, faithful to Me, they hold fast to my Word, they serve Me, they fear and honour My Name – that’s My people! They are Mine! When John sees Danny on a surfboard or on a motorbike, he says, “That’s my boy! That’s my son!” – he is taking after his father. When we are remain loyal and true, serving יהוה, He says, “That’s My son, that’s my own” – because we are displaying His nature, we are His! Hallelujah! [Isaiah 43:1 But now, thus says יהוה, your Creator, O Jacob, and He who formed you, O Israel, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine! Isaiah 43:21 “The people whom I formed for Myself will declare My praise.] We belong to יהוה! No one else has any claim on them. What did Jesus say? [John 10:28 I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand.] He takes them as His own treasured possession (something that I hope to look at in more detail next time). We are precious to Him! How wonderful to be God’s own! “The King of love my Shepherd is, His goodness faileth never, I nothing lack when I am His, and He is mine forever.” And יהוה looks after His own; no one snatches them from His hand, He preserves them, He spares them. [P] He spares them from judgement. Bless His Name! Because, make no mistake, judgement is coming! The people of Malachi’s day had said in (v.14) that it made no difference to serve יהוה, in (v.15) they said that the arrogant and wicked prospered – what is the point of serving יהוה?! But יהוה says: [Malachi 3:18 So you will again distinguish between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve Him.] It does make a difference to serve יהוה. Read Psalm 73; the Psalmist struggled with this – he saw the wicked prospering, with no consequences for the evil they did: [Psalm 73:13 Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure and washed my hands in innocence; (then in v.15) Psalm 73:15-19 If I had said, “I will speak thus,” behold, I would have betrayed the generation of Your children. When I pondered to understand this, it was troublesome in my sight until I came into the sanctuary of God; then I perceived their end. Surely You set them in slippery places; You cast them down to destruction. How they are destroyed in a moment! They are utterly swept away by sudden terrors!] Judgment will come upon the arrogant and the wicked. Only those whose names are written in the book of life will be spared from the lake of fire. Praise God, יהוה spares those who are His own, those written in His book, those who He takes notice of because they fear and esteem His Name, they serve Him and hold fast together in the day of apostasy. These, us, who are His own say, with the Psalmist: [P] [Psalm 73:25-28 Whom have I in heaven but You? And besides You, I desire nothing on earth. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. For, behold, those who are far from You will perish; You have destroyed all those who are unfaithful to You. But as for me, the nearness of God is my good; I have made the Lord יהוה my refuge, that I may tell of all Your works.] All may forsake יהוה for the prevailing pervasive apostasy, but [Joshua 24:15 as for me and my house, we will serve יהוה].

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