Malachi 3:15

Malachi 3:13-15

Image above in public domain; Tower of Babel by Dutch painter (17th century) from Wikipedia commons. It is the epitome of man’s futile effort to displace God by building upward to His dwelling and displacing Him.

As I have pointed out in the previous posts, the theme of verses 13-15 is—
Believers need to remain faithful to God and the teachings of His Word in order to avoid contributing toward building a godless civilization. 

This week we finish the conversation of the ungodly—the conversation of those who have rejected the Lord and His Word so they can better get along in society (Malachi 3:13-15).

The prophet Malachi is the one giving us the dialogue. He is functioning as a covenant prosecutor. (For more on this aspect of a prophet’s ministry see R. C. Sproul’s Covenant Prosecutors.)

We are faced with a decision as to which group we will join today. Will we be faithful to our Lord? Or, will we reject Him and His Word? In our world the majority have opted for rejecting the Lord and His Word. So, believers are always swimming upstream against the ungodly current of life.


Priorities

Ray Kroc, the founder of McDonald’s, used to say that the three most important things in his life were God, his family, and McDonald’s and that when he got to the office, the order was reversed.

As Christians we must never reverse that order. We are an ambassador of Christ wherever we go. Our behavior and words must represent the one who we serve. (See Sheane, below.)


III. We cannot numb our consciences so we can become “covert” Christians within our society. vs. 15

vs.15 ‘And now we call the arrogant blessed. Evildoers not only prosper but they put God to the test and they escape.’” 

Note the people who are acting opposite to God’s Word and ways have their priorities wrong. It is not healthy spiritually to numb our consciences so we can go in a direction that the rest of society is following.

Lemmings Logic


Our Consciences

The Bible speaks of an inner voice or awareness that can guide us toward what is good and righteous. There is no one word for it in the Hebrew Old Testament, but in the New Testament a word does emerge—syneidesis. …Conscience is an inner awareness about the rightness or wrongness of our thoughts, words, and deeds. The Greek word literally means the self that knows itself.

how to live the bible logo

So the best case scenario is when God the Holy Spirit enlivens and shapes conscience [through the Word of God], making it a reliable voice as we make one decision after another throughout the day. The conscience is where the commands of God and love and faith converge… . (see Lawrenz, below)


One point in Malachi 3:13-15 is the play on God’s own words in Malachi 3:12. God said—Then all nations will call you blessed, for you will be a land of delight, says the Lord of hosts. Compare this with 3:15 “…we call the arrogant blessed.” (see Perowne, below.) I can only conclude that the Israelites who proclaimed the arrogant blessed had dulled their consciences and thus were led to act against God Himself.

When we act against the Word of God, our consciences become unreliable referees in deciding between what is good and what is evil.


Matthew HenryMatthew Henry Simplifies Things for us

The remembrance of the works of God, will be a powerful remedy against distrust of his promise and goodness; for he is God, and changes not. God’s way is in the sanctuary. We are sure that God is holy in all his works. God’s ways are like the deep waters, which cannot be fathomed; like the way of a ship, which cannot be tracked.


We need today a heightened vision to see things as they are. Prosperity is not a sign of success from the eternal prospective. Psalm 73 gives us God’s perspective on “success.”

1 Truly God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart.
2 But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled, my steps had nearly slipped.
3 For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.

The great sin of democracy is envy. “If you have a dime, it is because you stole a nickle from me,” as one pundit has put it.


king midasSudden Wealth

The puritans had a proverb about a person who suddenly comes into wealth.
God is perhaps blessing that person;
or He may be testing him;
or He might given him what he wanted and is cursing him (e.g. “the Midas touch” pictured right hugging his daughter and she turns to gold).


How do we get God’s perspective? consider Psalm 73—

16 But when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task,
17 until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end.
18 Truly you set them in slippery places; you make them fall to ruin.
19 How they are destroyed in a moment, swept away utterly by terrors!

the-maidens-prayerGod’s ways are discerned in the sanctuary (the Holy place—either (1) in one’s Church, or (2) in a meeting with fellow believers, or (3) in one’s own private prayer closet). We need to take specific problems we struggle with and lay them before the Lord. (Picture left is from picryl.com)

Psalm 77—

11 I will remember the works of the Lord: surely I will remember thy wonders of old.
12 I will meditate also of all thy work, and talk of thy doings.
13 [Your] way, O God, is in the sanctuary: who is so great a God as our God?

Compare another way for trying to discerning God’s ways—

motorboat-425053_960_72019 [Your] way is in the sea, and [your] path in the great waters, and [your] footsteps are not known.
20 [You] led [your] people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron.

You can see the wake of a boat, but as it disappears so also does its wake after a very short while. (Public domain image right from pixabay.com)

I always rely on Romans 11, when I do not understand a matter—

33 O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!
34 For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his [counselor]? [KJV]
35 “Or who has first given to Him, and it shall be repaid to him?” [NKJV]
36 For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen. [KJV]

Next week we will move to the conversation among the godly.

Sources

Lawrenz, M. (2018). “How to Live The Bible — Voice of Conscience,” sermon series. Accessed 24 October 2021 from https://www.biblegateway.com/blog/2018/01/how-to-live-the-bible-voice-of-conscience/

Perowne, T. T. (1890). Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi with Notes and Introduction in the Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges. Accessed 24 October 2021 from https://biblehub.com/commentaries/malachi/3-15.htm

Sheane, S. (2010). “Employers and Employees.” Sermon. Accessed 25 October 2021 from https://www.sermoncentral.com/sermon-illustrations/76399/are-your-life-s-priorities-by-sermon-central

Malachi 3:14 God’s Word in the Modern Public Sphere

Malachi 3:13-15

Image above is of the First Nicene Council; from a Fresco in Sistine Chapel, Vatican; public domain.

I remind you from the last post that in Malachi we are “listening-in on” two conversations from the past—

  1. The conversation of those who have rejected the Lord and His Word 3:13-15;
  2. The conversation of those who have remained faithful to the Lord and His Word 3:16-4:3.

We have these two conversations still ongoing today in our church and nation. Some individuals and even Churches compromise their beliefs to “fit-in better with the culture.”

As we saw last post, the theme of Malachi 3:13-15 is—

Believers need to remain faithful to God and the teachings of His Word in order to avoid building a godless civilization.

vs. 14 You have said, “It is vain to serve God. What is the profit of our keeping his charge or of walking as in mourning before the Lord of hosts?”

II. We cannot reduce the application of God’s Word to fit a compatible theology of our modern public sphere. vs. 14

Richard John Neuhaus wrote a book that has greatly influenced evangelicals from the 1980s to the present—The Naked Public Square: Religion and Democracy in America. “The public sphere…is an area in social life where individuals can come together to freely discuss and identify societal problems, and through that discussion influence political action.” (see Public Sphere, below.) Today the public sphere includes social media. Neuhaus rightly saw the exclusion of God from the public square (national discourse) would lead to the collapse of democracy.

It is easy to be a follower of Christ in our homes or in Churches. In the public sphere, we may lose our livelihood for giving a testimony to the exclusiveness of Christ as God in human flesh. So some won’t do this outwardly, lest FB put them in “time-out” for violating public policy.


Papal Caution about Denying Communion to Abortion Politicians

Pope Francis has cautioned bishops about wading into politics as U.S. bishops question whether or not to deny communion to pro-choice politicians such as President Biden.

“I have never refused the Eucharist to anyone,” the pope said… .”

The point he stressed was that bishops should be pastors, not politicians, according to The New York Times. He referred to communion as “a gift” and not “a prize for the perfect.” “What must the pastor do? Be a pastor; don’t go condemning. Be a pastor, because he is a pastor also for the excommunicated.

Pope Meets with Pelosi

The pope stressed, however, that the Catholic Church views abortion as homicide. (See Aitken, below.)

Is not giving communion to pro-abortion politicians a political stance in line with the agenda of pro-abortionist politicians? Doesn’t the church try to maintain its place in society by aligning itself with popular politicians regardless of their anti-God bias?

The Church must conform to God and His Word in the public sphere to properly posture itself for maximum impact on the world! Thank God we have patterns of believer’s resistance to anti-Biblical ideas of government from the past. This is one reason I like biography of Christian greats from the past. They are mentors to follow.


Needed Words from Robert Cardinal Sarah

Robert Cardinal Sarah schooled the Pope and other church leaders by writing in God or Nothing: A Conversation on Faith

The idea of putting Magisterial teaching in a beautiful display case while separating it from pastoral practice, which then could evolve along with circumstances, fashions, and passions, is a sort of heresy, a dangerous schizophrenic pathology. I therefore solemnly state that the Church in Africa…is committed in the name of the Lord Jesus to keeping unchanged the teaching of God and of the Church. (See Cardinal Sarah, below; emphasis mine.)


As believers we cannot conclude that since it doesn’t pay to be too public with our theology, we must remain silent in the public sphere about religion.


“Against the word; for the World”

“In the fourth century, the number one heresy was the Arius_erstketterteaching of a presbyter in Alexandria named Arius, concerning the person of Christ. (pictured left). Arius held that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, who was begotten by God the Father with the difference that the Son of God did not always exist but was begotten within time by God the Father, therefore Jesus was not co-eternal with God the Father. Arianism holds that the Son is distinct from the Father and therefore subordinate to Him.” (See Arianism, below.) Arians would say, “There was a time when He [the Son of God] was not.”

“Alexander, the bishop of Alexandria, refuted the teaching of Arius and his followers and this eventually led the emperor Constantine to call the First Ecumenical Council in Nicaea during the winter of 324–325. The Arian controversy produced not only the Nicene Creed of AD 325 (which is still recited in many churches today) but it also brought to the fore a truly heroic figure of the faith, namely, Athanasius of Alexandria.” (See Jones, below.)

“Alexander stood for truth and when he opposed Arius. He had a young deacon whom he had ordained in 319. In 325, Athanasius served as Alexander’s secretary at the First Council of Nicaea. Already a recognized theologian and ascetic, he was the obvious choice to replace his ageing mentor Alexander as the Patriarch of Alexandria. Athanasius had a mentor in Alexander.” (See Jones, below.) He later stood in opposition to Arius because of what he saw in his mentor. Who is looking at us as we stand for God and His word over the current fancy of the world? We may be a mentor to others who are younger and will take the same stand in the future.

Here are the words of the Nicene Creed that refutes Arianism—

The Nicene Creed

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one Being† with the Father. [†con-substantial]
(See Nicene Creed, below)

Image left is “Saint Athanasius was persecuted.” Athanasius-Bitschnaufrom Wikimedia Commons; public domain.

Later after Athanasius became the Bishop of Alexandria, “Constantine [Emperor of the Roman Empire]…wrote a letter to Athanasius urging him to receive Arius ‘whose opinions had been misrepresented.’ Athanasius refused to re-admit Arius and his followers on the grounds that ‘there could be no fellowship between the church and the one who denied the divinity of Christ.’ Seeing that the Emperor and many of his fellow officers were pushing for restoration, concession would have been easy if not understandable for Athanasius, but he would not budge.” (See Jones, below.)

“Athanasius was theodosiusi-400x533hounded through five exiles, and he was finally summoned before emperor Theodosius [Emperor of the Eastern Roman Empire, pictured right], who demanded he cease his opposition to Arius. The emperor reproved him and asked, ‘Do you not realize that all the world is against you?’ Athanasius quickly answered, ‘Then I am against all the world.'” (see Athanasius, below.)

We can be against the world and for the world at the same time. We cannot be for the world and against God at the same time! Only by embracing God’s Word and ways can we influence people for eternity.

I John 2:15-17 15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. [ESV; emphasis mine.]


The ones in Malachi 3:14 who had departed from God saw their compromising lifestyle as paying off in a big way. They would profit like the godless who seemed to prosper rather than suffer ill. The Hebrew word in vs. 14 for “vain” is shav which means “futility, emptiness, or vanity.” Further the Hebrew word for “profit” is betsameaning “gain made by violence, unjust gain, or profit.” Since there was no capitalism in the ancient world, people had to resort to cheating and robbery to get rich suddenly.

Those who had abandoned God and His ways in Malachi’s day…”had made some efforts at improvement [in their walk with God], expecting immediate results in added blessings; and as these did not come as quickly as they hoped, they relapsed into their old [compromising ways].” (see Spence, below.)

Today some often subconsciously do a profit margin analysis between the lives of those who serve God and those who do not. The business analysis is always the bottom line—how much does it pay. Serving and walking with God cannot be assessed from the standpoint of how much do I get out of following God in this life (contrary to the health and wealth gospel teachers.)

John 16:33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” [ESV; emphasis mine.]

Jesus’s analysis is on another scale. Matthew 6 gives it—

19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.


The Christian Fight Song

On January 23, 2012, Dr. R.C. Sproul spoke at Reformation Bible College’s chapel service on the subject of “The Wrath of God Revealed” from Romans 1:18. At the close of his message, he reminded us of “the Christian fight song,” saying:
“It goes back to the fourth century to the Arian controversy when the Arians were denying the Trinity. And part of the way they communicated their heresy was to make up bawdy songs that were insulting, and they stood on one side of the river and sang these insulting songs to the Trinitarians. And so the Christians came up with their own fight song.”

Here is the Christian fight song that the Trinitarians would sing back to the Arians.

Glory be to the Father;
And to the Son;
And to the Holy Ghost.
As it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be, world without end.

The word “it” refers to the eternal nature of God as three persons equal in power and glory.

The attribute of glory that is the supreme attribute of deity, is to be given to Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. The next time you sing it, will you sing the Gloria as the Christian fight song? (See Sproul, below.)


Next time we will look at verse 15.

Notes on Sources

Aitken, P. (2021). “Pope Francis on communion for ‘controversial’ Catholic politicians” Accessed 11 October 2021 from https://www.foxnews.com/world/pope-francis-communion-catholic-politicians-eucharist

Athanasius. (2021). “Athanasius of Alexandria” accessed 11 October 2021 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Athanasius_of_Alexandria

Arianism. (2021). Accessed 11 October 2021 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arianism

Cardinal Sarah, (2015). God or Nothing: A Conversation on Faith. San Fransico, CA: Ignatius Press.

Halloran, K. P. (2013). Jim Elliot’s Diary Entry with He is no fool”; blog. Accessed 12 October 2021 from https://www.kevinhalloran.net/jim-elliot-quote-he-is-no-fool/

Jones, K. (2004). “Contra Mundum” [against the world]. Accessed 11 October 2021 from https://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/contra-mundum

Maya, J. (2017). “Profit Margin.” Accessed 11 October 2021 from https://brocorights.blogspot.com/2017/12/profit-margin-profit-margin-ratio.html

Nicene Creed. (1997). “English Language Liturgical Commission translation.” Accessed 11 October 2021 from https://www.creeds.net/ancient/nicene.htm

Public Sphere. (2021). Definition from Wikipedia accessed 13 October 2021 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public_sphere

Sproul, R. C. (2012). The Christian Fight Song. Blog post. Accessed 14 October 2021 from https://garyware.me/2012/02/08/the-christian-fight-song-via-nathan-bingham-r-c-sproul/

Malachi 3:13 Listening-in on Two Conversations

Malachi 3:13-15

Image above is from the Basilica of Saint Lawrence in Austria—Gothic stained glass window (AD 1330). Latin quotation is from Malachi 3:1—”The Lord shall come to his temple.” Wikipedia public domain.


Listening in on Another Person’s Conversation

When I was in Junior High School, I went to summer camp in upper Greenville County, SC. Since I was in the younger group, we were allowed to phone home once a week. There would be a long line of fellow campers, so the calls had to kept brief. To complicate matters, the telephone line we used was a 15-party line. (I realize party-line telephone lines are foreign to those born after 1960ish.)  Each of the 15 customers had a separate ringtone to identify a call that was for them.

On a party line, when you wanted to make a call, you would pick up the receiver to be certain no one was using the line already. Then, you would enter the number you wished to call (on a dial telephone). Frequently, you would hear someone else pick up and remain listening while you talked to Mom. This was the neighborhood gossip seeking information to pass along to others.


800px-Party_line_telephone_etiquette

As telephone upgrades made party lines more popular in the 1940s, local telephone companies ran frequent ads to instill community spirit and personal courtesy in party-line subscribers. Image from Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Party_line_(telephony)


This telephone party-line story is not far off from the experience we have when reading the Bible. We read a text intended for an ancient original audience. Yet, it was written down for us, as well.

Paul writes of the experiences of the Old Testament saints in I Corinthians 10—

6 Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did.

11 Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. (ESV; Emphasis mine.)

We should immerse ourselves in the Scriptures regularly to avoid the sins of those written about in the Old and New Testaments.

In Malachi we are listening-in on two conversations from the past—

  1. The conversation of those who have rejected the Lord and His Word 3:13-15; 
  2. The conversation of those who have remained faithful to the Lord and His Word 3:16-4:3.

God is the one giving us the dialogue. We are faced with a decision as to which group we will join today. Will we be faithful to our Lord? Or, will we reject Him and His Word? In our world the majority have opted for rejecting the Lord and His Word.


Oskar_Halecki

European Culture without Christianity

Oskar Halecki (pictured right) said, “The attempt to create a culture which would be European without being Christian…is now recognized as the main cause of the present crisis in European civilization.” That churchmen in great numbers are a part of this revolution, this de-Christianization of the West, is an amazing as well as an ugly fact. (see Selbrede below, p. 296.) 


The theme of verses 13-15 is—

Believers need to remain faithful to God and the teachings of His Word in order to avoid participating in building a godless civilization.

I. We must separate ourselves from those who are hard-hearted towards God. vs. 13

vs. 13 “Your words have been hard against me,” says the Lord. But you say, “How have we spoken against you?” 

The word for “hard” in Hebrew is hazaq, meaning to grow stout, rigid, hard—with the idea of perversity. (see hazaq, below.) Compare Exodus 7:13 Still Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he would not listen to them, as the Lord had said.

Those who depart from God and the teachings of His Word harden their hearts against the Lord and His Word. Soon perverse, hard words come out of their mouths.

Such hard-hearted folks do not recognize their sin against God. “What have we spoken [among ourselves] against you?” The word “spoken” (in Hebrew dabar) carries the meaning of the “reciprocal sense, speak with one another.” We are listening-in on a conversation among persons who are hard-hearted toward God (see dabar, below).

We in the West have permitted our institutions of Higher Education to teach anti-God philosophies. We can restrict the classrooms of our K-12 grades from teaching it, but those who teach have been taught by godless professors.


Sowing and Reaping

On one occasion in the old First Baptist Church sanctuary in Atlanta, I heard Charles Stanley make this observation about sowing and reaping—”We reap what we sow; we reap more than we sow; and we reap later than we sow.”


I agree with Dr. Stanley! Our current religious situation began with hiring the first anti-Christian professor. He taught many students over the years who became teachers themselves; Etc. If Christian members of the various alumni associations had said, “We won’t give a dime to the university’s sports program, nor will we attend any more ball games until you get rid of anti-Christian professors,” We would have seen a different atmosphere in our institutions of higher learning today.

Quotefancy-3440951-3840x2160

Marvin Olasky asked then Gov. George W. Bush to rein-in the higher educational institutions in Texas. Sadly, Gov. George W. Bush said he didn’t have the power to take on that strong cabal.

We do not have the power to take on strong cabals in our world merely with our human abilities. But this is not the end. See Zechariah 4:6 [The angel] said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.

Next time we’ll look further at Malachi 3.

Notes on Sources

Dabar. (1939; 1994). Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew-English Lexicon to the Old Testament. Accessed 9 October 2021 from https://biblehub.com/hebrew/1696.htm

Hazaq. (1939; 1994). Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew-English Lexicon to the Old Testament. Accessed 9 October 2021 from https://biblehub.com/hebrew/2388.htm

Selbrede, M. G. (2017). “Power Grabs in Church and State.” Accessed 9 October 2021 from https://chalcedon.edu/magazine/power-grabs-in-church-and-state

Images from Wikipedia or public domain.