The Book of Malachi, Lesson XV, Malachi 3:13-18
Malachi 3:13-18, Your words have been stout against me, saith the Lord. Yet ye say, What have we spoken so much against thee? 14 Ye have said, It is vain to serve God: and what profit is it that we have kept his ordinance, and that we have walked mournfully before the Lord of hosts? 15 And now we call the proud happy; yea, they that work wickedness are set up; yea, they that tempt God are even delivered. 16 Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another: and the Lord hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon his name. 17 And they shall be mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him. 18 Then shall ye return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not.
In our study of this wonderful prophetic book of Malachi we are given to witness a callous people, a disdainful people full of their own selves and their own ways.
We have seen a people who had become indifferent to God’s great love, a love that reached deep into their soul but a love cast aside in favor of a direction apart from loving and serving God.
We have seen God asking questions of them and instead of them bowing the heart in repentance, answers came showing an arrogant people, a proud people a people who did not see themselves in need of a spirit humbled by the Word of God.
They were a people of the world, a people of sight and not a people of faith, a people only of the temporal, and not of the eternal.
They were a people who looked at the prosperity of the wicked and the suffering of the godly and said to themselves:
It is vain to serve God: and what profit is it that we have kept his ordinance, and that we have walked mournfully before the Lord of hosts?
Take note that this thought had been expressed previously in Malachi 2:17 in a different way when God had reminded Israel that they had said:
Every one that doeth evil is good in the sight of the Lord, and he delighteth in them; or, Where is the God of judgment?
So this is a question that permeates the soul and comes up quite frequently to those who attempt to serve God and who ask themselves of the profit that comes in such service.
God knows our weakness and is careful to address this disheartening thought often for He knows our heart.
God sees our service and he tells us that all things work together, the difficult and the easy, the distressing and the calming, the heartbreaking and the inspiring, the deficiency and the bounty.
Serving God, regardless of the circumstance of life, is the best way to live life for it is always on the narrow way which is the eternal way of happiness and joy.
So in our passage today God chooses to address this question of the profit in serving God and in this he brings before our minds two groups.
The faithless and the faithful.
All God asks is for his creation to be faithful.
If you examine the whole of nature, the birds, the bees, the animals, the plants, it is easy to see that 99.99% of His creation is faithful but when God looks out upon this earth there is one glaring outstanding creature that refuses to be faithful and unfortunately we belong to that group.
But God is always faithful and out of that group he has called many to be faithful and in that faithfulness to bring forth service to him and to carry out His will upon the earth.
And in so doing they will be spared in the Day of Judgment and become a special part of the treasures of heaven.
But they are not of the group who complain about serving God.
They are not of the group whose words have been stout or harsh against God, words spoken amongst themselves, words whispered in dark places saying it is vain to serve God.
But are of the sort who remember not that God listens in on conversations in the dark, conversations whispered so God can’t hear.
But God always hears the grumbling, the griping, the complaining but without faith the grumblers, the gripers, and the complainers think that God sleeps and is deaf to their voices.
But as I have said before they were the “lookers around” people, the people who only saw that which was before them, the visible the detectible, the temporal.
They looked around and saw those who served God and saw people who were sorry for their sins and mourned in repentance and sought forgiveness and compared them to the arrogant and those doing evil who prospered and received no punishment.
So it was easy to say, It is foolish to worship God and obey him and in so doing their way of life became Eat, drink and be merry for what profit is it to keep the ordinances of God?
Now if we believe in God’s omnipotence and God’s omnipresence, we then believe that God’s will is supreme and as Romans 8:28 declares:
28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
God has called all things to work together.
But when we grumble and gripe and complain about our circumstances we are in effect telling God that His way of guiding all things is deficient and that we could do a much better job.
They ask: Why are the proud and arrogant happy, why are they that work wickedness so established, why are those delivered, who dare God to punish them?
Grumbling, and griping and complaining is always against God for God is in charge but that kind of bad-tempered spirit says God’s way is not the right way.
Remember how early this spirit was displayed by the children of Israel who filled the desert air with the grumbling and complaining against God when water and meat was lacking.
Forgotten was the miraculous deliverance from Egyptian slavery when they passed through the waters which God closed and calling on the water to cover and destroy their former masters.
But complaining against the provision of God in the wilderness brought on them, death in the wilderness, a harsh denial of passage into the Promised Land.
God takes our attitude very seriously for trusting in God is anathema to its opposite, that of fear which brings forth complaining spirits which God hates.
But the “lookers around” brought up that which motivated the heart.
It was not the love of God toward them or their love of God but the motive of profit.
Serve God you say! What’s in it for me?
What is the benefit package for serving God?
What are the bonus plans and what is the pay scale?
How about the retirement age?
Let’s put it in writing and make it plain.
Seems like it was all about self and little about serving.
Isn’t this the world’s way?
Isn’t this the world system whose author is the nemesis of Jesus Christ, Satan, that old serpent, that old deceiver?
But the refrain of the world, is that if there is nothing in it for you why do it?
Let others see to their own needs and I will see to my needs without any thought of service to God or service to others.
This kind of thinking is so prevalent we even find it in the mind of Peter, the disciple of Christ, who began to say to Jesus Christ in Mark 10:28, Lo, we have left all, and have followed thee.
What was the inference of Peter in this statement but:
Lord, What is in it for me? What is the benefit package for following thee?
I’ve got bills to pay, employees in the fishing business to see to, a family to maintain.
How am I going to tend to these responsibilities?
Now immediately Jesus addressed Peter’s concern but He gave him the full story.
It was not a completely rosy picture for Jesus was careful to bring in that which would be hard for Peter to face.
29 And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel's, 30 But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life.
Sure sounded good to Peter until the word “persecutions” came from the mouth of Jesus.
So what is in it for us?
Well, Jesus promises abundant blessings, both in this life which as a Christian of almost 50 years I can attest to, and eternal life, of which I am already enjoying.
And to be absent from this body is to be present with the Lord.
But Jesus does not want Peter nor us to be uninformed for He adds here and through Paul in:
2 Timothy 3:12, Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.
Living godly is being God centered and not self-centered.
Living a God centered life is knowing that God will provide and that God will fill to overflowing any cup that is offered to him.
Your life is a cup and it can remain empty waiting for you to fill it yourself or you can offer it to God and He always promises to fill it to overflowing. For:
But this is not the motivation of those who ask what profit is there in serving God for it is evident in our passage that they had a religious life but that is all they had.
We have walked mournfully before the Lord of Hosts.
This is the sign of religion.
They saw their responsibility to God simply as going through the motions of fasting and humbling themselves before God but it was simply following the traditions of those who came before and those who ruled.
Where was a moving on their part because of their love of God and love of His word and love of his purpose on Earth?
Where was the heart of dedication, devotion and love for God?
There is no joy, there is no peace, there is no blessing in simply following a set of rules and regulations and traditions and in doing so it is natural to want out.
Only by receiving the love of God through Jesus Christ and being able to love God back can true joy and peace and blessing come.
What moves a person to serve is everything.
Think about cleaning your house.
Is it a drudgery or is it a joy?
It can be a joy if it is done out of love.
Anything can be a joy when love enters the picture.
Jesus, soon to be on the cross, told Peter, Before the cock crow thrice you shall deny me.
And so it was the cock did its duty, reminding Peter that he had indeed denied his Lord three times but Jesus loved Peter.
Later, Jesus asked of Peter, three times, Do you love Me and when the answer came back from Peter, Yes Lord I love you, Jesus said Feed my sheep.
Love is to be that which moves one to serve, otherwise it will soon be asked, What’s in it for me?
For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son.
Love moved God on our behalf at the expense of God, the giving of Jesus Christ to bear our sins on the cross.
What a lesson for us, a lesson that ought to banish the thought of profit as that which moves us to serve.
God will do right by His children, on that we can depend.
But love for our Lord Jesus Christ is that which will move the godly to serve.
But these who questioned God’s provision, these who asked “What’s in it for me?” came to the conclusion that there wasn’t enough in it for them for they came to call the proud that filled the land, they came to call them happy or blessed.
They looked around again, and came to the conclusion that those who defied God were prosperous and it was better to follow in their ways and seek their own wealth, by their own hands and forget any profit from God.
They could only look around with eyes of temporal sight for they had no eyes to see God’s eternal view for only eyes of faith have such power and those kind of eyes are given by God.
And those with eyes of faith are able to see the end from the beginning for to them God has revealed it.
And this is the second group coming in view and we, Lord willing, will see what God has planned for them in our next lesson.
I am, for certain, in that second group for I am in Christ Jesus.