Sunday, January 29, 2012

Malachi 4:4-6 – Being prepared!

Malachi 4:4-6 – Being prepared!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
January 29, 2012 AM

Most of us on that Tuesday morning had not given much thought to what the day held. After all it was a pretty normal Tuesday. I was on my way to Morning Prayer and my thoughts were on what we would pray about when we met. I was not thinking about eternal things. This was true for most of those who boarded planes in Boston, went to work in New York City, or began their day behind a desk at the Pentagon. Few that day had any idea of what the next few hours would bring, yet with devastating swiftness we were all reminded just how quick death comes. Since 9-11, it has made me wonder how many folks are prepared for eternity.

We find that the Prophet Malachi was very concerned about the subject of preparedness. It was in his thoughts as he wrote to the Israelites. He wanted them to consider the eternal consequences of their lives. He knew that if they did not think about their actions and faith now, there would come a time of reckoning for his nation and for each individual. This morning, as we read the final few verses of Malachi, we will be forced to consider the matter of being prepared as well. Let’s discover how…

READ: Malachi 4:4-6

Whenever we decide to take a vacation trip, we begin to prepare for the trip by getting certain things together that we think we will need. Anyone who is about to take an important journey would be wise in doing such a thing, yet many of us never take the time to prepare ourselves appropriately for eternity. Malachi reminds us to…

I. Get ready right now! (v. 4:4)
1. God’s people are to remember their relationship with God!
1) To prepare ourselves for eternity, we need to reorient our hearts to the things of God. We are to “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness” (Matthew 6:33) because it is the spiritual compass for our lives. Far too often we forget to give it a glance for direction. In light of all that has been said about Malachi’s concern for his people’s lack of covenant faithfulness and obedience, this concluding exhortation was appropriately to the point. Malachi bluntly tells them, “Remember the law”, something in which they had totally disregarded. His command refers to the mental act of actually remembering the Law combined with appropriate actions (recalling and obeying) that it required. They needed to recall God’s law to mind and then do it! Dear child of the Lord, when was the last time you sought God’s kingdom and his righteousness for your life’s compass?
2) To prepare ourselves for the future we need to re-identify our connection to the past. This is what Malachi was doing with the Israelites. For them to remember the important moments of faith and Moses’ teachings would bring them out of the past and into the present. It would reestablish their spiritual foundation. Malachi told them, “Remember the law of my servant Moses, the decrees and laws I gave him at Horeb for all Israel.” (Malachi 4:4 NIV) Too often we forget the past, and when we do we are doomed to repeat it by making the same mistakes over and over again. Malachi attempted to correct the problem of forgetting the teachings of God by calling the Israelites back to those basic tenets of faith and practice. He wanted them to remember their relationship with God now.
EXAMPLE: Why do you think that so many politicians end their remarks with, “God bless America”? Some would say it is an attempt to misguided patriotism. It could be. I honestly believe it is because they are trying to connect themselves with God whom they have forgotten, hoping their listeners will think they are both patriotic and religious. Perhaps, they want to re-identify themselves with their country and the inherent ideals that were foundational in her formation, although I rather doubt it. Why am I so skeptical? God has always been at the center of our nation no matter how many try to say otherwise. God is to be the foundation of any nation. His law is where we get our notion of freedom and liberty, the idea that everyone has worth. Malachi knew that God’s people are to remember their relationship with God. They needed to get ready right now!

My ex-brother-in-law reminded us to “never forget these stories” his dad had shared with us concerning WWI. He was the second most decorated man in the Great War next to Sergeant York. The Israelites needed to remember their past in order to prepare themselves for the present situation. If they could not they would not be prepared to step into the future God had for them. The same is true for us and our nation as well. Malachi understood this and reminds us of…

II. Our future formation! (Vv. 4:5-6)
1. Only those who have placed their faith and trust in Christ are prepared to meet their Maker!
1). God promised through Malachi that “the Prophet Elijah” would come “before” the day of the Lord. What Malachi speaks of here is the same as mentioned in v. 3:1. The Israelites thought that Elijah would come before the Messiah came. He would “turn the hearts” of those who were willing to listen. The work of this Elijah-like messenger was found in John the Baptist. Jesus said, “If you are willing to accept it, [John] is the Elijah who was to come.” (Matthew 11:14 NIV) Jesus understood the significance of John’s witness. He would be the final Old Testament prophet archetype to the people. Jesus said, “Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he… For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John.” (Matthew 11:11, 13 NIV) Malachi spoke of John, the Messiah’s herald, and John has come!
2) Notice also that the spiritual restoration of the family is at the heart of what God is all about. Malachi relates, “He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers.” There is no greater need in America today than fathers to be actively involved in the spiritual lives of their children. This is the idea here that fathers would be spiritually involved with their kids and the children would want to listen and learn again of the things of God! We face a paternal spiritual crisis where fathers are not involved in the spiritual preparation of their children and because of this we face a vacuum that is being filled by all other kinds of ungodly behavior.
3) This future formation must be heeded because unless God intervenes, the nation would be “cursed.” The last words of the Old Testament are Malachi’s ominous anticipation of the “great and dreadful day of the Lord.” For some this will be a happy time, but for others it will be dreadful! The nations God’s people had so long fought against for generations had been set aside to be destroyed because they had deliberately chosen to leave God and worship idols! This is why Joshua would declare that the city of Jericho “and all that is in it are to be devoted to the Lord.” (Joshua 6:17 NIV) It was devoted to destroyed, yet now Israel would be devoted to destruction if they did not “turn the hearts” back to God! The same holds true for any nation that says it follows God, yet deliberately turns away from obeying him! America included.
EXAMPLE: Stamped on our money are the words, “In God We Trust,” yet is this actually true? The stones that Joshua put in the Jordan have been washed away, the fire pit of Elijah is overgrown with weeds and forgotten, and the temple in Jerusalem is no more. No one knows for absolute certainty where the empty tomb of Christ is. The only monument that stands the test of time is the one made in the human heart by God’s handiwork through the blood of Christ. Will we remember the prayers we prayed and our conscious decision to follow and honor God again? Will the dust of those buildings become the soil of a renewed faith in America where “God Bless America,” really means what it says? The choice is ours to make this morning. Joel said that, “The day of the Lord is great; it is dreadful.” Then he asked, “Who can endure it?” (Joel 2:11 NIV) Are you prepared?

Conclusion:
This morning, more than ever before, we need to be prepared for Christ’s coming. Are you personally prepared? Paul said that, “the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly.” (1 Thessalonians 5:2-3 NIV) Malachi warned Israel. He told them to get ready now and for the future. It is a matter of being prepared, are you?
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Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 25 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2012 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Malachi 3:13-4:3 – Being fearful!

Malachi 3:13-4:3 – Being fearful!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
January 22, 2012 AM

I sat amazed at the pictures of passenger jets smashing into the twin towers in New York. At first I was shocked, horrified, and then angered. I even wondered why it had to happen. One young man who witnessed the planes smash into the World Trade Center related, “I wonder what it will take to wake America up?” During the following days, I remembered the words of Malachi to a nation that had turned its back on the Lord, a nation that had become so spiritually complacent that they no longer had time for God. I could not help but wonder if this was perhaps true for America.

The people of Malachi’s day had become spiritually indifferent to the Lord who had protected them and kept them as His very own. What would cause people who had been chosen to be God’s very own, change so dramatically? What was in store for this self-satisfied nation if they didn’t return to the God of Abraham, Jacob, and Isaac? They thought God didn’t care about them anymore. This was never true. Malachi had one more burden to share with his people. They had forgotten what it meant to fear the Lord. Now, he desperately tried to wake them up out of their stupor and to turn them back to the God who loved them so much.

READ: Malachi 3:13-4:3

Overconfidence can come from a self-satisfied spirit when we no longer think we need divine intervention, when we no longer have a fear of the Lord. A people can so push God out of their lives that they forget who he is and what he has done for them all along. Thomas Jefferson once quipped, “My God! How little do my countrymen know what precious blessings they are in possession of and which no other people on earth enjoy!” Is this true for our nation? Malachi said it was real for Israel of his day because they forgot their fear of the Lord. He relates…

I. An arrogant question offered by an indifferent people! (Vv. 3:13-15)
1. Spiritual indifference occurs when people lose their fear of the Lord!
1) The Israelites were condescendingly asking, “What’s in it for me?” They contradicted God’s promises and sought only their own gain. They actually said “said harsh things against” God. We can do this when we question his fairness. The Israelites did this when they decided it was “futile to serve God.” They snidely ask, “What did we gain by carrying out his requirements and going about like mourners before the Lord Almighty?” Pagans served their gods in order to gain personal benefit. The Israelites were only looking for the momentary benefit of following God and what he could offer them.
2) The harshness of the people’s words lay in the same false notion of what they had accused God of earlier in 2:17 by saying “All who do evil are good in the eyes of the Lord, and he is pleased with them.” People who are caught up in the world often look at prosperity as a means of judging whether God is blessing them or not. If God’s supposed “chosen people” had reached this kind of convoluted thinking, what hope was there for the rest of mankind? Jesus would tell the woman at the well that “a time would come when the true worshipers would worship the Father in spirit and truth; they were the kind of worshipers God desired. (John 4:23 NIV) What kind of worshipper do you desire to be?
EXAMPLE: There exists arrogance in the religion of America today. We have a nation full of people who think they can believe whatever they want to about God and that God should not only be happy with that, he should bless them because of their “reasoned” and “moderate” approach. Middle of the road faith always gets run over in the end. People, who look for the personal profit in their worship of God, will find their pay is lacking. Jesus said, “They have their reward.” God is not interested in the pathetic platitudes of ecumenicalism. We have become a nation like Israel of old, arrogantly asking, “What can God do for me?” Has our arrogance caught up with us?

Noah Webster wrote that “The moral principles and precepts contained in the Scriptures ought to form the basis of all our civil constitutions and laws. All the miseries and evils which men suffer from vice, crime, ambition, injustice, oppression, slavery, and war, proceed from their neglecting the precepts contained in the Bible.” Malachi knew it was true that when men neglected their fear of God, they suffered the consequences. However, those who remember to fear God have…

II. God’s compassionate answer! (Vv. 3:16-18)
1. We appreciate God’s compassion when we comprehend our fear of the Lord!
1) “I will remember those who fear me.” Those who remember who God is and what their situation is are rewarded. The word “then” is emphatic, indicating that the action described in this verse was a consequence of the preceding confrontation. The people had actually told God, “the arrogant [are] blessed. Certainly the evildoers prosper, and even those who challenge God escape.” Their reasoning was, “Why should we bother to follow God who is no fun?” Matthew Henry noted that “Among the Jews at this time, some plainly discovered themselves to be children of the wicked one.” They would suffer the consequences of their affiliation.
2) People who fear God get their spiritual act together. We see that “those who feared the Lord talked with each other.” They encouraged one another to turn back to right thinking and a godly way of life. God “listened and heard” and “A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the Lord and honored his name.” What a wonderful thing! When people have a renewed perspective of God’s faithfulness, God blesses them! It is a permanent remembrance of our faithful and reverent response kept in heaven! Like Hebrews reminds us, “Encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin‘s deceitfulness.” (Hebrews 3:13 NIV) Israel had been hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. Dear child of God, have you?
3) Those who fear the Lord (v. 16) will become his in the day he makes up his treasured possession. We become God’s own treasure! In our day and age there is a deliberate blurring of what it means to follow God. We think that by being sincere, we are a follower or believer in God. Yet we know that Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 7:21 NIV) Malachi relates that the godly “will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not.” God’s will is to follow him. Trust him with all your heart. Jesus said, “Trust in God; trust also in me.” (John 14:1 NIV) We fear the Lord when we trust him.
EXAMPLE: It was heart wrenching to watch those looking for their lost loved ones among the rubble and debris after 9-11. Yet, in the midst of all the disaster and loss there was hope. President Bush related, “This world [God] created is of moral design. Grief and tragedy and hatred are only for a time. Goodness, remembrance and love have no end, and the Lord of life holds all who die and all who mourn….we’ve been assured, ‘neither death nor life nor angels nor principalities, nor powers nor things present nor things to come nor height nor depth can separate us from God’s love.’” God loves those fear him enough to trust him. God always remembers us, but often we do not remember him.

I do not believe that America happened just by chance. It is obvious to anyone who truly understands the unfolding saga of our history. The price we have paid for freedom’s cause and the price we are paying will continue as long as there are individuals who seek to enslave others. Jefferson once asked, “Can the liberties of a nation be secure, when we have removed the conviction that these liberties are the gift of God?” Israel or America, it does not matter. Any nation or individual who turns their back on the Lord will be judged. Malachi reminds us that those who fear the Lord should…

III. Remember both the deadly and delightful consequences! (Vv. 4:1-3)
1. Just as God’s promises are certain, so are his judgments!
1) “The ungodly will be judged.” There will come a day of reckoning for the ungodly and arrogant. “Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and that day that is coming will set them on fire,” God tells Malachi. In Israel, the people used twisted dried grass as fuel for their fires. Wood was a scarce commodity. Just as the grass that grew quickly, was gathered together then twisted into bunches, and then burned, so too would the judgment of God come quickly. It will leave the “arrogant and every evildoer” like “stubble…. Not a root or a branch will be left to them.”
2) The righteous will be rewarded. Those that “revere” (respect, honor, and uphold) God’s name will be rewarded in three wonderful ways: First, “the sun of righteousness will rise with healing (restoration) in its wings,” secondly, “you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall,” and finally, “you will trample down the wicked; they will be ashes under the soles of your feet .” In the kingdom of God, righteousness will saturate like sunlight and the shadow of wickedness will not be allowed through its doors. Jesus said that the unrighteous “will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” (Matthew 25:46 NIV) Dear child, do you know what your reward will be?
EXAMPLE: America can survive, but what will be the cost? Israel did not learn her lesson. She went back into slavery again under the Greeks and finally under the jack boot of Rome. What price will America be willing to pay? We have politicians more willing to go on tropical vacations, spend extravagant amounts on personal pleasures or feather their own nests than see America truly a great “city on a hill.” Will our nation, our people, and our community turn back to God? Or will we find comfort instead in our own effort, determination, and will and thereby return to our presumption and pride? Will we fear the Lord? The choice is ours and the consequences are either deadly or delightful.

Conclusion:

We learned about an arrogant question offered by an indifferent people, God’s compassionate answer, and both the deadly and delightful consequences of either fearing or not fearing God! Do you fear the Lord or are you walking in arrogance?
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Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 25 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2012 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Malachi 3:7-12 – Being obedient!

Malachi 3:7-12 – Being obedient!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
January 15, 2012 AM

At the turn of the century a young salesman approached a farmer and excitedly told him about a great new book he was selling. It had all the information needed to run a profitable farm: when to plant and harvest, how to predict the weather and care for livestock—everything that would make the farmer a success. The farmer patiently listened and then replied, “Young man, I know everything that’s in your book. My problem is doing it.” We may read our Bible, know how we are to live as Christians, yet find the hard part is to do what it tells us, why is that? It is a matter of obedience.

Why is it so hard for folks to do what they know they should do? Paul wrote that he would “not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God.” (Romans 15:18 NIV) Malachi begins with a blanket condemnation of Israel’s disobedience to God’s decrees throughout her history. Let’s discover this morning why Malachi saw obedience to God as so important for God’s people as we discover what being obedient means…

READ: Malachi 3:7-12

I have often wondered why one child will graciously share while another will display an Ebenezer Scrooge-like attitude. The other day at Play Group one young mother vainly tried to get her youngster to share. Instead he decided to defiantly declare that the toy he was using was, “Mine!” His self-centered attitude was kind of like the Israelites of Malachi’s day, what had been graciously given by God they saw as “Mine!” It was a…

I. Disobedient attitude of not trusting God! (Vv. 7-8)
1. Physical things can get in the way of our spiritual trust!
1) God reminds the Israelites of their stubborn attitude by reminding them, “Ever since the time of your forefathers you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them.” From the sandy shores of the Red Sea to the wild wadis of the wilderness the Israelites had whined, griped, and complained. If Israel would just return to him in faithful obedience, then he would respond and would return to her. “Return to me, and I will return to you,” God tells them. This promise was based on the covenant God made with Israel. When God promises to watch over our lives he follows through with his promise because he does “not change” (v.6).
2) The Israelites respond with a smirking adolescent attitude, “How are we to return?” They knew what their problem was—they were not trusting God! Only a person who willingly confesses their sin can repent, but Israel pretended to be unaware of her disobedience. They had the false premise that “If God truly loved me he would do this for me.” Just as God will not work in the life of someone who deliberately sins, he will not work in the life of someone who deliberately distrusts him. We are told to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight (Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV).”
3) The people’s distrust developed into stealing from God! Stealing from someone was bad enough, but only a fool would try to rob God. Israel robbed God in their “In tithes and offerings.” Not only was the quality of their sacrifices in question, they had deliberately brought “blind animals for sacrifice” (1:8), but the quantity was also the issue! The tithe was to be a tenth of all their crops, livestock, or goods. Meanwhile, offerings were that which was given above and beyond the required tithe. This was the real sacrifice, not the tithe! The tithe was expected and displayed obedient trust, while the offering displayed sacrifice! Jesus related, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Luke 6:38 NIV)
EXAMPLE: Every four years we enter into a period of accusation, condemnation, and self-acclamation known as election process. Pundits and politicians proclaim the political piety of their primary politician. Attack ads that focus on the other guy’s shortcomings are common place. No matter what we say concerning negative campaigning, showing your opponent lacks character garners votes. We are saddened when the people we trust prove untrustworthy. It is sadder still when they try to justify their wrongful actions just like Israel did. How about you, dear child of the Lord? Do you trust God with what you have or have you robbed God?

It is curious that many of those who do not believe in God want the government to become the god-like entity that controls every area of their lives instead. It is because of the average American’s sinful aversion to live for the Lord that our nation has reaped what it has sown. A nation that gives God its leftovers should not expect great things from the Lord. In fact, Malachi goes on to relate for us…

II. The result of what disobedience brings! (v. 9)
1. The sowing of obedience is the only way of reaping God’s blessing!
1) When Gods’ people do not do the will of God, then the nation they live in suffers the consequences! The Israelites are bluntly told, “You are under a curse—the whole nation of you—because you are robbing me.” Since the temple was God’s house, failure to support its ministry was considered equal to personally robbing God! Sadly, many Christians today wrongly believe that our nation’s problems are due to non-believers. This is not the case. It is because Christians do not trust God as they should and it is displayed by their willingness to rob God of their tithes and offerings.
2) Jesus speaks to this issue of a believer’s disobedience. Jesus reminded his listeners that God will eventually come and judge. He asked, “Will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night?” And of course the answer is, “Yes.” Jesus continues to ask, “Will [God] keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:7 NIV) This teaching of Jesus follows his discourse on a persistent widow who continually bugged a judge asking him over and over for justice. If we continually come to God asking for justice, yet are disobedient, will he not judge us? When Jesus comes again dear child of God, will he find faith and trust in his children?
EXAMPLE: What would you do if your child lies to you? I remember when I lied to my father about where I had gone for the afternoon. I went to play in a field where I was not allowed to go. When he found out, he grounded me. We did not have TVs, computers, smart phones, tablets, or mp3 players in our rooms. Instead, my father made me take all of my toys and books and place them in a box on the back porch. Grounded meant grounded. I could not go play with the other kids, nor could I enjoy my room. I spent my time cleaning, dusting, and polishing the floor. After a few days, I had the cleanest room in Wenatchee! I learned a powerful lesson: disobedience always brings its own curse. The same is true for God’s people. Dear child of the Lord, what is your disobedience bringing you?

For the Israelites it brought about God’s curse. When we are obedient, we show God that we love him and have more faith in him than we do in ourselves. To obey God means to relinquish what we want and to choose to do what he asks. God requires the obedience of his followers. Jesus asked, “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46 NIV) And he challenged, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” (John 14:15 NIV) This is why Malachi reminds us that…

III. God’s answer to disobedience is to trust him! (Vv. 10-12)
1. Obedience to God is an expression of our love for God!
1) The promise made here is a reaffirmation of God’s word to the Israelites. God states in Deuteronomy 28:1 that if they “fully obey the Lord… and carefully follow all his commands… God will set you high above all the nations on earth.” He challenges the Israelites to “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house.” What the people of Israel were experiencing was a disobedience-curse relationship specified by God. Since the Word of God is sure, his promise would be carried out. In fact, Israel could attest to the truth that she was experiencing certain aspects of the curse because of her unwillingness to tithe! What about your life in God? Are you in disobedience to Him concerning your tithes and offerings?
2) Notice also that this is the only place where His people are specifically asked to “test” God. He is challenging Israel to bring their whole faith into action and to trust his promises, by bringing the “whole tithe into the storehouse.” By doing this, God would “pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.” Far too often we live by sight and not by faith. Here God tells us to test our faith and live by it. Faith is never found in what we see. It is found in how we trust God and sometimes that requires uncertainty. God always blesses those who are willing to trust Him.
EXAMPLE: I will never forget the answer that Ward Lawrence gave folks who asked him about his certain death. Dying from a very painful form of cancer, it was certain that he would not live much longer. They wondered what it was like or if he had any fear. He replied, “I only know the words of Job: ‘I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another.’” (Job 19:25-27 NIV) If you are trying to live your faith by sight, you will live a shallow weak faith. It will always be a mere shadow of what it could be. Dear child of God, he desires so much more for your life. As Paul would transliterate from Isaiah 64:4, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.” (I Corinthians 2:9 NIV) It comes only by trust.

Conclusion:
We learned about a disobedient attitude of not trusting God, the result of what disobedience brings, and that God’s answer to disobedience is to trust him! Bring all your trust to his storehouse and test him in this and see if he will not pour out so much blessing you will not have room for it. In fact, it will most likely overflow into the lives of others around you. That’s the way God works.
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Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 25 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2012 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Malachi 2:17-3:6 – Being hopeful!

Malachi 2:17-3:6 – Being hopeful!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
January 8, 2012 AM

Being a parent is tough, but I cannot imagine being a single parent. When we were kids my mother, after a particularly hard day, would tell us, “You kids are going to wear your old mother out!” Looking back on this I find it kind of humorous since at the time she was only about 35 years old and she had the backup of my father! Perhaps it was the constant care she had to give to two young active little boys who were always on the go? Being a good parent can, at times, make one feel a little worn out.

I wonder how God feels when his constant care of his children wears on him. Not that God can be worn out, he is God after all. However, when his children continually distrust, disobey, and disrespect him, God tells us he becomes “weary.” Malachi tells the Israelites that God has grown weary of their endless spiritual platitudes. Who were they trying to fool? They did not trust God. We discover that Malachi’s message is just as valid today as it was when he first presented it! As God’s children we are to fully hope in God and not weary him! It’s a matter of being hopeful, let’s discover how…

READ: Malachi 2:17-3:6

God’s people can begin to think and act without faith. We can begin to blame God for the outcome of our own sinful choices. Israel did just that. God’s people need to remember that faith begins and ends in hope. In fact, we discover that in being hopeful…

I. Godly actions speak louder than empty words! (V. 2:17)
1. How we live says more about what we believe than all our empty words of praise!
1) The Israelites had no hope because they were spiritual beggars! They begged God for blessing without investing anything themselves. They are accused of wearing the Lord and ask, “How have we wearied him?” The implication was, “It’s not our fault, its God’s fault!” They were blinded to their sinful manipulation! The Psalmist related they “soon forgot what he had done and did not wait for his counsel. In the desert they gave in to their craving; in the wasteland they put God to the test. So he gave them what they asked for (Psalm 106:13-14 NIV)!” They were acting and talking as if they had no God to hope in! This world is a spiritual desert, a wasteland and Christians can give into their cravings when they beg God and then blame God for their choices!
2) The Israelites had no hope because they trusted in themselves, in their judgment, and in their own decisions of what was right or wrong. They had the gall to sarcastically declare, “All who do evil are good in the eyes of the Lord, and he is pleased with them.” Can you imagine a nation where God had blessed it and manifested himself daily, saying this? Christians can do this very thing when they question why God allows the ungodly to prosper and then question why God doesn’t make them prosper too! This is defining for God what sin should be according to our standards!
3) Finally, the Israelites had no hope because they wanted to know, “Where is the God of justice?” In other words they demanded, “If God is real, where is he when we need him?” And this was coming from God’s own people! WOW! Talk about audacity! They questioned God’s justice by saying that he delighted in evil people more than those he chose to love! Yet they were the guilty ones, they were the ones who were unfaithful! God was only God to them when they could see the benefits!
EXAMPLE: Have you ever known people who are always demanding attention, wanting more for themselves but never giving anything in return? What do we call children who act this way? Spoiled! This is what God’s people had become, Spiritually-spoiled brats! They had begun to think that they deserved being blessed because they were God’s chosen people and not because they were faithful. Their hope was not in the God of Jacob, Abraham and Isaac. Their hope was only in what they could get from God now! They had become like the pagan world around them, seeing God as a good luck charm, something to be manipulated for personal gain. We can weary God when we do the same thing. A God who is infinitely patient and loving was pushed to the point of judgment by those who should have been placing their hope in him.

It would be about 500 years before John the Baptist would be a voice crying out in the wilderness announcing the coming of the Messiah. The Israelites would be defeated again, taken into national captivity, and enter into a time of spiritual desperation. Through it all the Israelites had a reason to not despair and we discover that…

II. Malachi brings a message of hope! (Vv. 3:1-6)
1. “In his name the nations will put their hope.” (Matthew 12:21 NIV)
1) First, Malachi writes about the coming of God’s wonderful messenger! (V.3:1a) This title “the messenger of the covenant” occurs only here in the Bible. This is God’s messenger to our Messiah, Jesus. Many believe it points to John the Baptist, others believe it references Jesus. Malachi relates that “Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come.” Yet, what if they aren’t prepared and are still sinning? Jesus has come into his temple. Jesus “entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption” and that he “did not enter a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence.” (Hebrews 9:12 & 24 NIV) There is hope, the coming messenger has come and the Messiah has entered his temple!
2) Secondly, Malachi mentions God’s judgment! Malachi asks two questions, “But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears?” The answer is “No one.” The day of the Lord will be a day of judgment on the whole world, a day of disaster and death to those who do not know the Messiah, “For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver.” No one will escape Jesus’ judgment! In fact “he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver.” God tells them, “I will come near to you for judgment. I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive aliens of justice, but do not fear me.” No one will escape his judgment. God will judge what we believe and how we live!
3) Yet, in all of this there is the basis for hope! Will God’s people be totally destroyed or put to shame? God says, “No.” “I the Lord do not change!” We can trust in God to do what he says he promised, “So you, O descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed.” God has left a remnant in those who believe in Jesus his Messiah. Peter reminds us that we “are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (1 Peter 2:9 NIV) Those who trust in Christ are never put to shame. He is our real hope in this world!
EXAMPLE: Hope is a gift of God. It does not come wrapped in fancy packaging. In fact real hope came in the form of a very ordinary looking man. He wasn’t anyone you would notice or think of as a hero or a celebrity. Yet at just the perfect time he came to give us all hope, the greatest gift of all. This hope is a free gift as well. It isn’t a come on or a con. Although the hope offered by this one man, changes the con or the priest or the seeker of truth. He is God’s Messiah. He is the hope of the world. He is Jesus Christ. What the Israelites had a tough time understanding in Malachi’s day, we can have in hindsight this morning. Jesus has already come, proven his love for us in that “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” This is hope!

Conclusion:
Dave Franco talks about his young married life as a writer. He had lost his job, his apartment building evicted his family and was becoming a co-op. His wife was pregnant with their second child. In New York City, out of a job, in a place with high rent, and a new family--Dave was frantic. One day they were walking home and he could not stand the pressure of a silent God. “What is God doing?” he angrily demanded of his wife Nicole. Just then his three-year-old son Julian threw a fit because they had passed an ice cream truck and did not stop. “Not now,” they told him. That didn’t work. Finally, after all else failed, Dave told him, “Julian, you’re just going to have to wait!” Dave’s wife remarked, “You know, Julian’s doing exactly the same thing to us that we’re doing to God. God is saying, ‘Wait,’ and we’re telling him we want our ice cream and we want it now.” Israel had become spoiled and negligent spiritually. They failed to place their hope in the One who gives us hope. Dear child of God, have you? God offers you hope this morning.
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Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 25 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2012 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Being Faithful - Malachi 2:10-16

Being Faithful - Malachi 2:10-16
By Pastor Lee Hemen
January 1, 2012 AM

After learning to forcefully say, “No!” we quickly learn to ask the question, “Why?” I believe it is an innate thing with us as sinful human beings. It goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden when Eve rebelled and then asked the very same question! It exists in every preschooler and manifests itself in our adult life through our demand to be told the reason for everything that happens to us. We especially hate it when someone dares to tell us, “Because I said so, that’s why!” We want and expect an answer to our inquiry. But guess what? The simple truth is, we do not deserve an answer for every “Why?” we ask, nor should we expect one.

In God’s economy trust is manifested when we obey without asking “Why?” In this New Year, it would be good for us to learn again that God asks us to display complete confidence in him and thereby display it through our obedience. When we do, we reap the blessings of righteousness. Yet, all too often we demand responses from God that we already know the answers to! We pridefully think God should justify himself to us. God constantly reminds us that his ways are not our ways, nor are his thoughts our thoughts. He desires his children to live by faith and trust in him. Israel had failed to do just that. Instead they came up with their own way of worship, their own manmade guidelines, and fashioned gods into the images that made them feel comfortable about themselves. Instead of following God’s law, they followed what they thought was best. God, through Malachi, called them back to a fresh beginning in himself. Would they listen? Let’s find out as we discuss being faithful…

READ: Malachi 2:10-16

When Israel was faced with the scathing retort from Malachi, they demanded to know “Why?” God literally says, “Okay, if you want an answer here it is!” For a fresh start they needed to realize…

I. They were faithless! (2:10-11a)
1. Spiritual questions stab the soul and our answers reveal our faith -- Malachi asks three!
1) The first question is: “Have we not all one Father?” The issue here goes to the idea of what a person truly believes. Malachi is addressing the teaching that God is the spiritual father of us all. Malachi is making the case of one God, who is our father and it goes back to verse 6 where God asks, “A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If I am a father, where is the honor due me?” So the correct answer would be, “Yes. We have one father and he is God.” If we recognize God is our spiritual father, then he is to be obeyed!
2) The second question is: “Did not God create us?” This idea goes to who is in charge—just who is the Creator and who is the creation?! In our day we like to think we are in charge. “It’s my life and I’ll do what I want!” We want to decide what is best for ourselves. We do what we like. We worship God how, when, and where it suits us. It is the profane notion that says, “I can worship God anywhere.” Yet God says, “Oh, that one of you would shut the temple doors, so that you would not light useless fires on my altar! I am not pleased with you, and I will accept no offering from your hands (v. 1:10).” If the One who created us wants us to worship him are we not obligated to worship him the way he desires, when he desires, and where he desires? The answer of course is, “Yes.”
3) The final question Malachi asks is: “Why do we profane the covenant of our fathers by breaking faith with one another?” God had created and worked with Israel as a nation and as a people. Now Israel was divided. This was totally against God’s will. Amos related that God had “chosen” them from “all the families of the earth (Amos 3:2).” Yet they acted like bickering children and rival siblings. They had profaned God’s sacred covenant by splitting the nation! A church family can break faith with God when they break fellowship with one another. What is the answer to Malachi’s question?
EXAMPLE: Being the siblings we were, Ed and I used to pick on one another. It is a brotherly love/hate thing. Anthropologists believe it goes back to establishing dominance within the gorilla group, establishing a pecking order. Not that I believe this is true for human beings who are created in the image of God. Anyway, I do know that when my Mom would have her fill of our rivalry she would tell my Dad, “You handle it. They’re your boys!” All he had to say was, “Boys, behave because I said so.” And we did. We behaved because Dad had set the law down. He was our Dad and we respected him and the punishment that followed if we didn’t “behave” because he said so. The same was true for Israel and it is true for us as well. They were to behave like God’s children the same as we are. Why? Because God told them to! Christians are to honor and follow God for no other reason except he said so. He has created us, chose us, and we are to act like his children that behave ourselves. In this New Year let’s learn that it is a matter of being faithful.

Like all people who have been caught doing what they should not have been doing, the Israelites demanded proof of their untrustworthiness of not being faithful. God responds by telling them that if they wanted a fresh beginning they needed to realize…

II. They were Spiritual adulterers! (2:11b-12)
1. Spiritual adultery occurs when we fool around on God!
1) Malachi describes their sin, “Judah has broken faith!” The KJV gives us a better idea of what had occurred and just how God looked at their sin by describing it this way: “Judah hath dealt treacherously, and an abomination is committed in Israel and in Jerusalem; for Judah hath profaned the holiness of the Lord which he loved, and hath married the daughter of a strange god!” The unfaithfulness Malachi had in mind (v. 10) is called “a detestable thing” (lit., “an abomination”), something abhorrent to God. The abominable unfaithfulness that profaned Israel’s holiness was spiritual intermarriage with pagan idols. They had married themselves to foreign gods instead of being faithful to the one who loved them!
2) Malachi declares the result of sin, “As for the man who does this, whoever he may be, may the Lord cut him off from the tents of Jacob—even though he brings offerings to the LORD Almighty.” The prophet invoked a curse on any Jew who had committed or would commit the sin of idol adultery. It meant that the man would die or that he would have no descendants in Israel. This was a horrible notion to the Israelite. Notice also that “even though he brings offerings to the Lord Almighty” God would see through his hypocrisy. Christians do this very thing when they say they love God, believe in Jesus, yet live with one foot in the world. Christians can commit adultery with their faith and deaden their walk when they follow the world instead of their first love, Jesus Christ.
EXAMPLE: Spiritual adultery doesn’t mean a person has to totally leave God. It can occur when your spiritual affections are lukewarm or tepid because you have diluted them. Jesus told the church at Laodicea “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked (Revelation 3:15-17 NIV).” We leave our first love when we allow the world to attract us more than our love of Jesus does. Have you dear child of God become lukewarm, diluted your faith, and committed spiritual adultery? When the things of God become second place to your success, your education, or your relationships you have done a “detestable thing” and married the “daughter of a foreign god.” You have committed spiritual adultery.

Not wanting the Israelites to think that they were getting off easy God, again through Malachi, continues in his chastisement of his children. God, through Malachi, illustrates for them exactly why their sin had affected their relationship to one another as well. They wanted a fresh start, yet they were not being faithful…

III. They had committed spiritual divorce! (2:13-16)
1. Breaking faith with God is like divorcing a devoted spouse!
1) Malachi teaches us about the outcome of our actions (v.13)! There are consequences for sinning. Malachi said some of the people “flooded the Lord’s altar with tears.” People are always sorry when they get caught in sin or when they all of a sudden need God’s help. The idea here is one of begging, pleading, or false and phony repentance but God did not care any longer. He knew their true inner nature. John wrote to his friend Gaius, “It gave me great joy to have some brothers come and tell about your faithfulness to the truth and how you continue to walk in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” (3 John 1:3-4 NIV) It does not matter how “sorry” we are what matters is if we put into practice and renew our marriage vows to the Lord. Dear child of God, is he filled with joy over your walk with him? Are you devoted?
2) This is why Malachi shows them the exact sin they were guilty of (2:14-15a)! God lets them know why he doesn’t heed their tears or hear their crying. They asked, “Why?” and he replies, “Because the Lord is acting as the witness between you and the wife of your youth, because you have broken faith with her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant (v. 14).” God had made them “one flesh” with himself. God wanted a holy people totally devoted to him! This is why Peter warns us that “you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light (1 Peter 2:9).” God hates divorce and especially spiritual abandonment from a personal relationship with Him!
3) Malachi then mentions the cure (2:15b-16)! God’s people are to “guard” themselves in their “spirit” and “not break faith with the wife of your youth (v. 15b).” They were to return to the one they loved in the first place! It would show true repentance. By guarding their spirits they would be acting in accord with God’s purpose and would help preserve the unity of the nation as well as their individual relationship to him! We forget that God sees divorce as an act of spiritual “violence.” This is why he “hates divorce”! This is why he asks, “Has not the Lord made them one? In flesh and spirit they are his.” He continues by asking, “And why one?” God then gives us the answer, “Because he was seeking godly offspring. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth.” Christians are God’s spiritual children, “children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God.” (John 1:13 NIV) Christians are “all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus”! (Galatians 3:26) In this coming New Year, “guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith!” Remain in your relationship with the Lord!
EXAMPLE: The other night I watched an old John Wayne movie called “The Cowboys”. During the movie some boys that were supposed to be moving a herd of cattle through dangerous country found a bottle of whiskey and got drunk. John Wayne and his cook knew they had done it and the next day when the boys were suffering from the effects of too much alcohol, the cook gave each one a dose of castor oil. As he ladled a large spoonful into each boys unwilling mouth, he remarked sarcastically, “I wonder why you ‘boys’ all of sudden are so sick?” That’s the way the cure for sin is. The cure for our sin may seem distasteful to us but God is gracious and desires that we return to Him. And, yes, it can be hard to swallow! In this New Year, this may be the first step you need to take in being faithful.

Conclusion:
We all at some time want to ask the question “Why?” Yet for some of us the answer may be more than we want to hear. These people revealed their true faith; they were spiritual adulterers, who had divorced God from their lives. The writer of Hebrews teaches, “See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today’, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” (Hebrews 3:12-13 NIV) It is a matter of being faithful!
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Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 25 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2012 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.