The Book of Malachi, Lesson XIII, Malachi 3:7-12
Malachi 3:7-12, Even from the days of your fathers ye are gone away from mine ordinances, and have not kept them. Return unto me, and I will return unto you, saith the Lord of hosts. But ye said, Wherein shall we return? 8 Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. 9 Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation. Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.11 And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the Lord of hosts. 12 And all nations shall call you blessed: for ye shall be a delightsome land, saith the Lord of hosts.
So the poignant question is asked, Will a man rob God?
Of course the answer is always yes, a man will rob God, for menís hearts are bent on doing evil and robbing God is a common ordinary daily occurrence.
And this occurrence is not confined to the outcasts of society for it is easy to observe that decent, law abiding people whose lives are centered on their religion often rob the God whom they claim to serve.
In our study passage this morning this charge of robbing God is leveled against the whole nation of Israel but in their self-satisfaction they were blind to the truth.
The Apostle Paul told Timothy in II Timothy 2:15 to: Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
The nation of Israel had failed to do this for they were blind to this truth that as far as God was concerned they were a nation of robbers, not robbing their neighbor but a far worse crime, that of robbing God.
They had failed at the task of seeing themselves as God saw them and by seeing themselves truly they would not have been blind to this truth of what they were.
Remember why we are here today.
We are here to study Godís word in order that the scales of the eyes are removed that we may see ourselves as God sees us and then allow Godís Spirit to work His way with us that we may be conformed to our Lord Jesus Christ and thereby be approved of God.
It is so easy to be self-satisfied with our comfortable place in Godís service but do we grave higher ground, do we grave a higher plane in Godís kingdom.
If we grave and long for such then the only thing that will elevate us to that higher ground is knowing Godís word and full obedience to it.
God in his grace sent the prophets to Israel that they may see themselves as God sees them and then do something about that which offends a Holy God.
God intervened to help them take higher ground!
Isnít that what we also are to take from our study of Malachi?
In this regard God, through Malachi, charges Israel with departing from His ordinances.
In this charge it is inferred that this drift away from Godís truth had taken years to occur.
Changes in culture take time and religion follows culture.
Abraham the father of the Jews is also called the Father of faith.
But instead of living by faith Israel had now become a nation whereby religion had blended into a culture convenient to its adherents.
This religion was largely outward and part of, if not all of the culture of the people.
It was a going through the motions religion that satisfied the natural heart but in truth it was not in any wise based upon the faith of Abraham.
Is this strange to us in this day?
Not at all for it is easy to see the modern church gradually adapting to the culture in which it exists, desiring a blending in instead of a standing out.
Jesus clearly taught by His words and his life that Godís children are to be different from the world and not to be blenders in, looking and acting like the world.
What does Matthew 5:16 mean if it doesnít mean this for it says:
Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
We are not to shine the culture but we are to shine the word of God!
So God asks the question, Will a man rob God?
And the answer comes back from this culture soaked Israel, this dumbfounded Israel, this Israel comfortable in their traditions, customs, and rituals, Wherein have we robbed thee?
Not a comeback of repentance, not a comeback based upon a question that demands a resounding answer of Yes we have robbed thee for all men are guilty of such sin for all men belong to this fallen race.
But a response of amazement a response that infers, how could God ask such a question of Israel, a nation who follows its traditions, customs and rituals so carefully and religiously?
Now it is easy to confine such thoughts to Israel but think about your own relationship with God.
It is wonderful to have a lifetime relationship with God and His word but it is also possible for that lifetime to become ritualistic and mechanical and simply religious.
How many families drift into a form of religion, a form followed by the family for years, a religious culture if you will, without the reality of a personal relationship with their Creator, who calls them to live by faith, simply trusting and obeying His word?
So God does not leave their question of: ďWherein have we robbed thee?Ē, unanswered.
For as they hear His answer most likely they wish that the question was never asked for now God gets personal and in essence He says, if I may say in modern vernacular, Whatís in your wallet?
I remember the story Dr. Hobbs told many times of the man who was impressed by the ministry and said, If I had a million dollars, Iíd give you half of it but Dr. Hobbs quickly responded, Well whatís in your wallet?
This is like the story of the Pastor who asked a farmer, a member of his church, If you had two farms would you give one to the Lord?
The farmer said, Certainly! I only wish I were in a position to do so.
The Pastor then said, If you had $50,000 dollars would you give $25,000 to the Lordís work?
The farmer quickly responded, Iíd love to be able to do that.
The Pastor did not let go but asked, If you had two pigs would you give one to the Lordís work?
Oh, Oh, this was now getting personal and the farmer quickly exclaimed, Thatís not fair Pastor! You know Iíve got two pigs.
In both cases it was easy to see the heart of the impressed man and the farmer.
It is easy to give in the mind but it is hard to give with the hand.
It is easy to be a hearer of the word but to be a doer of the word is not the easy thing to do.
It is easier to think about obeying God tomorrow than actually obeying Him today.
So God gets to the nub, the crux or central point of the matter.
You have asked me, Wherein have we robbed thee and I tell you, in tithes and offerings.
How is you giving?
The nub! The protuberance, the knob, that which sticks out.
That which comes to God most quickly as He thinks of you and your honesty.
How is you giving?
When I see my doctor he says get on the examination table and lay down.
He comes with his stethoscope and listens and listens for what I do not know and then he prods my chest with his hands and waits for me to yell uncle, a response arising from pain.
He is looking for the nub, that which reveals an internal problem.
God does not have to prod and push for He knows your giving habits.
It is obvious that giving is one of the most foolproof tests of your relationship with God.
Remember Zaccheus, the wee little man of whom we sing, that old mean and greedy tax collector, who upon getting right with God through Jesus Christ, said unto the Lord in:
Luke 19:8, Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold.
Zaccheus was not careful to say this for he immediately knew as a babe in Christ that salvation had affected his pocketbook.
Salvation made a difference in how he thought of all that he had for it now belonged to God.
What did Jesus say in response to Zaccheusí promises?
This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham.
But the story was not so sweet with regard to the rich young ruler who asked Jesus, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?
We would have said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.
But Jesus knew this young manís heart and that was not the message for this time.
He did not have to poke and prod to find the problem for He knew the ruler had an idol who came before God.
And his idol concerned possessions, those things he could feel and touch and see and smell and hear and taste.
Those things revealed to him by the senses given to him to operate in this life.
It was a concentration upon this short time given to him and an ignoring of that realm in which God lived, the realm of eternity, a realm in which all those things upon which he depended were not allowed.
21 Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.
But instead of joy entering his heart, instead of a contemplation of that treasure in heaven replacing his treasure on earth he went away sad for he could not get the vision of the great possessions he coveted away from his mind.
23 And Jesus looked round about, and saith unto his disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! 24 And the disciples were astonished at his words. But Jesus answereth again, and saith unto them, Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God!
So we, based upon this warning of Christ are to contemplate in a serious way the connection between giving and salvation.
For when we are changed from dead to life all things become new and that is to include the matter of giving for we are to move into the realm of giving and leave the realm of taking.
When salvation occurs we become stewards of God and as stewards we are responsible for that which is owned by another.
This view of possessions changes everything for when we see ourselves as stewards of another we come to realize we own nothing and all belongs to God.
Jesus amplified this in Luke 16:10-12 when he spoke of the stewardship of money as a test toward gaining more important responsibilities.
He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much. 11 If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? 12 And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another man's, who shall give you that which is your own?
We know the cause of Christ is not the accumulation of money but we also know that supporting the cause of Christ requires money and God expects His children to be giving people of that which He has entrusted them as stewards.
God puts into our hands the unrighteous mammon, money, which puts us to the test as to our capability of being entrusted with the true riches.
God has a place for us in his kingdom and that place will be determined considering how faithful we were in that which is least for if we are faithful in that which is least He can expect us to be faithful in that which is much.
All of us manage money.
All of us make decisions as to where that money goes.
And all of us should remember daily as we make those decisions that all of those dollars belong to God.
He knows that we all need basic necessities to live but He also knows that we are to seek first the kingdom of God.
What are your priorities? Does the cause of Christ come first?
Do you consider yourself a giving person or do most of your money decisions involve taking for yourself?
God told the Israelites that they had robbed him in tithes and offerings.
They have taken that which should have gone to God and used it on themselves.
God did not confine their giving to the tithe but included offerings.
The tithe was required but the offerings were to be something they gave from the heart.
Needs were no doubt expressed but many needs were not being met because decisions were being made to use what should have been offerings to God for selfish reasons.
The needs of this work are many for there is a serious desire that the cause of Christ is paramount and this cause is first and all things are to follow.
Is this seriousness displayed in the offering plate?
Are the needs being met and should additional ministries be supported instead of funding things for self which have no eternal worth?
Godís word describes the Christian as a soldier of the cross and as a soldier we are to endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.
And in that endurance we are to be strong in the Grace that is in Christ Jesus remembering that God will always provide and give to the giver all his needs.