We're turning in our Bibles to Malachi's prophecy, and as I've already said we've already spent two weeks in our studies, and we're now in our third week and we're beginning to enter into chapter 2. God willing, if time permits, we will get down to verse 9 of chapter 2 - and our title this evening is 'Covenant Corruption Condemned', covenant corruption condemned. We take our reading up at verse 1:
"And now, O ye priests, this commandment is for you. If ye will not hear, and if ye will not lay it to heart, to give glory unto my name, saith the LORD of hosts, I will even send a curse upon you, and I will curse your blessings: yea, I have cursed them already, because ye do not lay it to heart. Behold, I will corrupt your seed, and spread dung upon your faces, even the dung of your solemn feasts; and one shall take you away with it. And ye shall know that I have sent this commandment unto you, that my covenant might be with Levi, saith the LORD of hosts. My covenant was with him of life and peace; and I gave them to him for the fear wherewith he feared me, and was afraid before my name. The law of truth was in his mouth, and iniquity was not found in his lips: he walked with me in peace and equity, and did turn many away from iniquity. For the priest's lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek the law at his mouth: for he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts. But ye are departed out of the way; ye have caused many to stumble at the law; ye have corrupted the covenant of Levi, saith the LORD of hosts. Therefore have I also made you contemptible and base before all the people, according as ye have not kept my ways, but have been partial in the law".
You will recall from our first week's study that Malachi the prophet very forcibly brought to the people from God's perspective the first symptomatic sign of their spiritual bankruptcy. We must remember that although Malachi is the instrument, God's messenger in this case, God is citing the case against His people Himself. In verses 1 to 5 of chapter 1, we saw that He cites first of all their sign that they had become lukewarm in their faith, that the zeal had gone, the power had gone from their relationship in covenant with God. The first sign, of course, you will remember, was that they were completely insensitive to God's divine deep love towards them. You remember God gave a fresh pronouncement of His love in verse 2: 'I have loved you deeply'. Yet God says that they replied back to Him: 'Wherein have you loved us?, and God gives the pronouncement of the people's protest against His love, they're actually questioning, doubting God's love. They're asking God, and challenging Him: 'Prove to us! Where is the evidence in our lives of your love?'. And so we found thirdly that God gave the proof of His love, and He told them that He loved him in this: 'Jacob have I loved, and Esau have I hated' - God loved them in that electing love right from the very beginning.
Then you will remember that in our second study we dwelt on the second symptomatic sign of the people's backsliding in verses 6 through to 14. This was not so much that they doubted God's love, but we found out that God saw that they were guilty and charged them with despising His name - several times we found that His name is mentioned. In verses 6 through to 14 we found how God was levelling, particularly at the leadership in religious Israel, levelling towards them the accusation that they were compromising in their priestly duties in the land, that the sins of the people were only symptomatic of the sins of their leaders. We saw how, as priests, God had given to them His very best, and committed to them His charge of worship and representing God to the people, and the people to God. Yet, although God had given to them His very best, He expected their best in turn - but we find that all they did was use God's best for themselves. They looked after number one. We concluded from that study that their worship was careless and their service became burdensome. They were asking the question: 'What's the point in serving God? In a world that we live in like this, God isn't honouring us, His power and glory has departed from our midst, what's the point?'. Then they moved on to the stage where they were keeping the best things that God was giving them for themselves, and they actually got to the position where they thought that they were deceiving God.
Now this evening we're coming, at the beginning of chapter 2, to look at God's condemnation upon this compromising priesthood. We've already looked in verses 6 through to 14 at God's charge against them, and the various ways that they were offering false and defiled sacrifices to the Lord. But now He comes in verses 1 to 9 of chapter 2 to actually pronounce His condemnation upon these compromising leaders. Now you will see, if you read a little bit through the whole of chapter 2, that there is the great emphasis on covenants. You find the word 'covenant' in verse 4, in verse 5, and verse 8, in verse 10 and in verse 14. There are three covenants that are mentioned specifically in all of verses 1 to 9 that we will consider tonight. In verses 1 to 9 there is the covenant with Levi - I should say three covenants emphasised in the whole of chapter - in verses 10 to 12 there is a covenant of God mentioned that He made with Israel; then in verses 13 through to 17 there is the covenant made with God in marriage between the man in Israel and the wife of his youth. God is charging each time, three times, Israel with breaking the covenant. The priests were breaking their Levitical covenant; the people were breaking the covenant that had been made with Israel; and the husbands were breaking the covenant that was made with their Jewish wives of their youth, they were divorcing those wives and marrying pagan wives, and following pagan gods.
Now for our consideration tonight is this Levitical covenant that was made and specified in verses 1 to 9. We need to ask the question first of all, when this covenant was formed, for unless we understand when and how it was formed, we'll not understand the significance of God's condemnation for them breaking it. now some people think that this covenant was formed when, you remember, Moses was coming down Mount Sinai after receiving the Ten Commandments, and the people of Israel were making merry and worshipping the golden calf. The Levites stood with Moses and stood with God, they separated themselves unto God and they were actually used as God's instrument to slay all those who would not stand loyal to God and would follow foreign gods. But most scholars, and I myself, believe that this covenant with Levi refers specifically to the covenant of life and peace that we read about in Numbers 25. If you wish you can turn to it, but I'm going to recap on the story there, and that is the story about how I believe this first covenant of life and peace with Levi was bestowed on a man called Phinehas. Phinehas was a Levite, and Phinehas took a great stand against evil, and he honoured God in the nation.
Now let me give you a bit of contextual background to this story. This is before Israel had entered into the promised land of Canaan, and you may have heard about the false prophet Balaam. It was Balaam who tried to curse the nation, but Balaam, of course, was unsuccessful in his curse, because when he tried to curse the people God - you remember - turned his curse into a blessing, and God blessed the people through Balaam's attempt to curse them. Now because the curse didn't work, Balaam tried again. He tried to corrupt the nation by encouraging them to worship a false god, and the god was called Baal-Peor. He encouraged them to worship Baal-Peor through the practice of sexual immorality with Moabite women, and that was part of the worship of Baal-Peor. It was a fertility religion, and there was this fertility practice associated with the worship of Baal. Now once that was starting among the people of Israel, Moses made a pronouncement. He pronounced that all those who were practicing such immorality in worship of Baal-Peor were to be put to death, all of these abominations were to be destroyed.
Now picture the scene for a moment, it's so graphically outlined for us in Numbers 25. At the very moment that Moses makes this pronouncement, and the people start weeping because of the consequences of their filthy sin of immorality and idolatry, one man - bold in his rebellion and his sinfulness - a man called Zimri, went forth, took a Midianite prostitute woman, and before all the people, before Moses and before God, took her into his own tent, committed fornication with her in bold rebellion to the will of God. Among that crowd of God's people there was that man called Phinehas. Phinehas was Aaron's grandson, therefore a Levite. He was outraged by this man's arrogance before the clear word of God, and Phinehas, in godly jealous zeal, took a javelin in his hand, went into the tent, killed Zimri, killed Cozbi the Midianite woman, and thrust the javelin through her belly, through the child of sin in honour of God.
It's a shocking story, it seems such a violent act, some may say, such an unnecessary act - but for this deed, God said to him and his descendants: 'I give unto you my covenant of peace, and he shall have it, and his seed after him, even the covenant of an everlasting priesthood'. It was the deed of Phinehas that turned away God's wrath from the people. Now I want you to remember that: it was this zeal, this deed of fervent jealousy for the name of God, that turned away God's wrath from His backsliding, idolatrous, immoral people. Now, why should Malachi mention this? Well, very simply: Malachi wanted the priests of his own day to compare themselves with their forefather, Phinehas. Do you see it? He wanted them to compare their service and their zeal with their forefather. Here was Phinehas, who showed that he held God's name in reverential awe. But what is Malachi accusing the priests of his day of doing? They are despising God's name. Phinehas, because of his act, experienced peace and life during a very turbulent time in Israel's history, but as we learnt in previous weeks this is far from a turbulent time in Israel's history in Malachi's day. In fact, it's a time of non-events, it's a time of peace, nothing seems to be happening - but these people are going to lose peace and life. God, in verses 2 and 3, says: 'I'm going to take away from you peace and life'. Rather than the priests, like in Phinehas' day, taking and turning away God's wrath from the people, the actions of the priests in Malachi's day, despising God's name, is actively bringing God's wrath upon the nation. That's why God brings up Phinehas and the Levitical covenant.
Now this series is called 'Malachi's Modern Message', and the question hangs: how do we apply such a truth to today, and especially to the church of Jesus Christ? Well, I'm sure that if any of you are spiritually adept at all, you'll be able to make the application right away. The early church lived in a time of turmoil, Nero was feeding them to the lions, setting their heads alight on pitches, they were tarred and set alight in arenas, fed to the lions, chained in dungeons, sawn asunder, burned at the stake - yet the fact of the matter is: was there a greater time than that early church day, where the apostolic power was displayed and God's glory was seen, and it was said that they turned the world upside down? It wasn't a time of peace, it was a time of persecution. When the reformers come on the scene after the dark ages of the rule of Rome, we find that they too are persecuted, all manner of evil is spoken against them, they're burned at the stake, they're beheaded. The Puritans come on the scene, and they're excluded from the established church. The 18th-century revivalists, like John Wesley and George Whitefield, are put out of their church pulpits in the Church of England because they're preaching a gospel to the masses that the masses are hearing and believing. John Bunyan is put in prison because he's a nonconformist, and preaches the unadulterated gospel, and not an ordained minister.
All of these great men of God who had the fire of God in their bones, and knew the blessing of God's Spirit on their ministry - they didn't live in peaceful times, but here are we tonight in the 21st century, and we're living in peace, we have freedom to preach the gospel - but where's the glory? The glory has departed from the church, certainly in the West. I'm asking the question tonight: could it be that in this affluent and comfortable age we live in, we have become bored with our blessings - just like the priests in Malachi's day. We are bored with our blessings to the point that familiarity with all the things that we have in Christ has bred contempt! 'Too strong', you say? I'm accused often, I think, of being too strong, but I happen to see it as being too obvious, too obvious in its application that this is the only truth that I could possibly bring to you from this portion of Scripture tonight. We live in an age that is second to none in relation to the freedom that we have to proclaim the gospel, yet we are colder today than any church that has ever lived in the West.
David Levy, in his commentary on Malachi, says that he can agree, and I can agree too, with a man called V. Raymond Edmund in his statement when he said: 'In an undisciplined age, when liberty and licence have replaced law and loyalty, there is a greater need than ever before that we be disciplined to be disciples'. Can I read that again? 'In an undisciplined age, when liberty and licence have replaced law and loyalty, there is a greater need than ever before that we be disciplined to be His disciples'. I'm going to present to you tonight the proposal that we here in Ulster, the church of Jesus Christ, is under the disciplining hand of God.
It was no light thing to be a priest in the Old Testament. It was a gracious gift of God through His covenant with Levi, and we saw last week at the tail end that it is no light thing either to be a priest in the New Testament sense, that is what we are. There is no sacerdotal order of priests making sacrifice in the Old Testament sense today, we're in the age of grace, that has all been done away with and superseded. But the fact of the matter is, we find in the New Testament that we are priests - all of us - we believe, male and female, that we are a priesthood, we have a priesthood, the priesthood of all believers, and we are to worship God and bring spiritual sacrifices to God. We saw that one is to bring our body to God; another is to bring our substance to God, our financial giving; another is to bring our praise to God, morning and evening bringing our prayers to God; bringing our good works to God - even to the extent, we saw Paul outlined, he talked about bringing lost souls to God as an offering, as a priest.
Now in verses 5 to 7, Malachi outlines for the people in his day what the duties of the priest ought to be. I think they're very applicable to us as New Testament priests in this particular age, if you look down at them. He describes the standard of their priests, according to the life of their forefather Levi with whom the covenant was made. Basically, what He's saying is: 'This is the first priest that I made this covenant with, and I want you to live up to his standard'. Look at it, verse 5: 'My covenant was with him of life and peace; and I gave them to him for the fear wherewith he feared me, and was afraid before my name'. He feared the Lord and he obeyed the Lord. I'm not sure that Christians today, to a large extent, even know what the fear of the Lord is - a reverential fear and awe that leads to obedience. That was necessary in a priest, it's necessary in us. In verse 6, at the beginning, we see that he receives the word of God and he teaches it: 'The law of truth was in his mouth, and iniquity was not found in his lips'. We have received the word, we have it in our hands, but the question is: are we teaching others? Teaching and making disciples in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit!
That word 'iniquity' at the beginning of verse 6, the Pulpit Commentary says it could be translated 'unfair decision', 'there's no unfair decision in his mouth', because a priest also operated on occasions as a judge. He was to be impartial in his wisdom and in his judgments. Such wisdom is not just for elders, it should be in all of our hearts as priests before God. Then the third thing we see in the middle of verse 6: 'He walked with me in peace and equity', he lives what he teaches! It's not just the talk, it is the walk, an intimate communion - as James said in chapter 1 verse 22 - not just to be hearers of the word, but doers of the same. Then at the end of verse 6: 'and did turn many away from iniquity' - a priest ought to be a man who turns others away from sin. Is that what we do? The problem was in Malachi's day that sin had shut their mouths, they were dumb. The great commission that we are given is to go into all the world and preach the gospel, and Paul asks the question in Romans 10: 'How shall they hear without a preacher?'. I have a real question of myself and of believers in this age: why are their mouths so shut in proclaiming the Gospel?
Fifthly, in verse 7: 'the priest's lips should keep', that word 'keep' could be translated 'guard', 'knowledge, and they should seek the law at his mouth: for he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts'. He is to guard and preserve the law of God from perversion, and how many Christians are doing that today? How many leaders are doing it? That is our duty! To keep the doctrine of God pure! But the priests in Malachi's day actually, in verse 8, led the people astray: 'But ye are departed out of the way; ye have caused many to stumble at the law; ye have corrupted the covenant of Levi, saith the LORD of hosts'. They were leading people astray from God, and God charges them with defiling the covenant that He made with Levi.
He condemns them for covenantal corruption, and when we ask the question: what will God do to them? We see very clearly at the very beginning in verse 2, God says: 'This is my judgment upon you: I will curse your blessings'. If you underline your Bible, underline that: 'I will curse your blessings'. It wasn't just the blessings that they inherited as descendants of Levi through the Levitical covenant, but it was also meaning that the blessing that they would make over the people would be cursed. As they ministered to the people, they would minister a curse! Do you know what the Aaronic benediction and blessing is in Numbers chapter 6 and verses 23 through to 27? 'Speak unto Aaron and unto his sons, saying, On this wise ye shall bless the children of Israel, saying unto them, The LORD bless thee, and keep thee: The LORD make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: The LORD lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace'. Imagine that: this Levitical priest pronounces this Aaronic blessing that we know all too well off by heart, and God says: 'As you try to bless these people, I'm going to make you curse them! I'm going to turn your blessings into cursings!'.
In Deuteronomy 28 God had told the people very clearly what would happen if they didn't obey His word. Instead of Israel being a light unto the Gentiles and a blessing to the whole world, God said that He would turn their blessings into a curse, and He would make them a curse to all of humanity. I'm asking the question, as we seek to grapple with the modern message of Malachi and apply it to our contemporary age: is it possible - and I'm asking the question only - is it possible that God's people today, as the church of Jesus Christ, is more of a hindrance than a help to the world around it? Is it possible? Yea, I would say it's more than possible, it's probable. I personally would go further and say it's inevitable.
Now this condemnation to the priests is connected a bit with chapter 3 and verse 9, if you look at it for a moment: 'Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation'. You see, God's people were to bring tithes and offerings, and through the tithes and offerings the priests would actually be fed - their livelihood came from many of these offerings. But because they were sinning against God, God cursed the crops, cursed their seeds, the people became poor, they didn't bring the offerings for the priests - and because they didn't bring those priestly offerings, the priests went hungry. God is saying to them: 'Because you're sinning against my covenant, you're only hurting yourself! You're not getting fed'.
Let me take you, for a moment, back to the Garden of Eden, to Eve and how she was deceived in the very beginning. We have there a cameo of how every man, woman, boy or girl has been deceived since - and it's simply this: Satan said, 'Yea, has God said?'. He was accusing God in the mind of Eve of disenfranchising her from some kind of blessing that she should have had and God was withholding from her. Everyone who sins does exactly the same, and don't you say that you're not guilty of that as a believer yourself, because one of the chief reasons, I feel, that we resist God's will in our lives is that we feel that we're going to be robbed of something. Is that not true? But what God is saying to these priests is: 'I'm going to curse your blessings, and by robbing me of what I am due, you're only robbing yourself!'.
Is it not a revelation to you, it certainly has been to me, not just from the case of Balaam, as we have already mentioned, that God can turn someone's cursings into blessings; but how often do we ever contemplate this possibility, indeed this probability and inevitability that when God's people live like this, God will turn their blessings into cursings. I'm going to let that hang in the air, because I'm just not sure 100% how that is applied in our day and age - but it has to be. Not one jot or tittle of God's word fails, and I'm contemplating how in the church, the blessings that we have inherited can now perhaps be cursings because it is a form of godliness much of the time, but denies and lacks the power of God. God, perhaps, could be using those very things that He has blessed in the past as a curse upon us, to discipline us! I think you would agree with me, it's painful enough when God removes His blessings from us, but what must it be like when God turns the very things that are meant to be blessings and makes them a curse to us - how painful and terrible that must be!
In verse 9, God said: 'Therefore have I also made you contemptible and base before all the people, according as ye have not kept my ways, but have been partial in the law'. The Lord is threatening to punish them in a manner that fits the crime. Do you see what God's saying? 'You have shown contempt for me, the Living God, and for that crime the punishment will fit it - I will make you contemptible before all the people. You will be despised, you will be humiliated before the people, because you have despised and humiliated me, because you have defiled me'. Remember He said that in chapter 1 and verse 7? 'You have defiled me, I will figuratively defile you in front of the whole nation'. This is one of the most difficult verses in the whole of this passage - not difficult to understand, difficult to take in. Verse 3: 'I will corrupt your seed, and spread dung upon your faces, even the dung of your solemn feasts; and one shall take you away with it'. Because they had defiled God, do you know what God said He was going to do? In the sacrifices and offerings to God the offal, the inward parts, were removed. Inside those inward organs of digestion there was dung, animal excrement that was removed along with the offal. The offal and the excrement were taken without the camp to the Valley of Hinnon, and were burned outside the camp because they would have defiled the sacrifice, and God said: 'I'm going to take that excrement and that offal, and I'm going to spread it upon your face to defile you, because you have defiled me!'.
The Jewish Targum thought that this verse was so grotesque that it dispensed with the metaphor and translated the verse: 'I will make visible on your faces the shame of your crimes', but do not dilute God's word. If a preacher said such a thing, he would be pulled right away down from the pulpit - but friends tonight, God has said this: the seriousness of their sin was such that He pronounced such a defiling judgment upon them. In other words He was expelling them outside the camp. He was showing them up! Their hidden sin would be hidden no longer! Now, it's impossible to not see the New Testament counterpart of this truth, because the Lord Jesus in the book of Revelation pronounced to that lukewarm nauseating church of Laodicea: 'Because you're neither hot nor cold, but lukewarm, I will spew you out of my mouth'. It was Matthew Henry, that great commentator, that said: 'Nothing profanes the name of God more than the misconduct of those whose business is to do honour to it'.
Do you know it's possible for a New Testament Christian in this day and age, just like the Old Testament priest in Malachi's day, to be disqualified for service? To be defiled to such an extent that God cannot, and will not use you - Paul had a fear of that, and so he buffeted the body, as he said in 1 Corinthians 9:27, to bring it into subjection. He used holy violence to make sure, as he said, when he preached to others lest he should become a castaway - the word is 'disqualified'. This has been a piercing sword through my heart, and I thought to myself today: imagine if God fitted my punishment according to my crimes. Just imagine it, if you will. I've said before, and we're shared together: imagine if God judged us the way we judge other people. You don't have to imagine it for too long, do you know why? Because the Lord Jesus said in Matthew 7 that there's a day coming when we will be judged, as we have judged others. But let me take you a step further, for the point that is being made here is: imagine if God treated us with the same contempt that we at times treat Him!
Imagine, if I'm allowed to make this illustration: you come to the throne of grace in prayer, and you pray, and you pray, and you pray, and five weeks later God says to Himself: 'O, I haven't answered any of those prayers, I've been too busy with more important issues in the universe'. We expect God to be faithful to keep His word, don't we? Why is it, why is it that we think that we have the privilege not to be faithful to Him, not to give everything? These priests fell down because they forgot that the blessings of God were dependent upon their walking in obedience. You can't get blessed if you're going to be disobedient! The hymn is correct: 'Trust and obey, for there's no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey'. But the message of Malachi, if it is anything, is encapsulated in chapter 3 verse 6: 'I am the LORD, and I change not'.
God still looks for obedience to bless, but friends tonight, I believe that the weight of the message that is on my heart and has pierced my soul today as I've been before God's word is the cry of Malachi to his own priestly people: how do you fare in comparison to your forefather Levi and Phinehas? How do you measure up? The priests of Malachi's day were weighed in the balance and found wanting, and I'm asking us tonight and my own heart: how do we compare with our forefathers? What have we done with the privileges that we have because of their faithful endurance? They have passed down the charge of the Gospel in their trust to us - what have we done with it? How are our lives measuring up to the standard that they lived?
I read a profound statement in the last couple of weeks from an author called John White, and I want you to listen very carefully to it. He is writing on the subject of evangelical pride in the world today, and he says this: 'We all forget our beginnings. We all accept the costly heritage that has come down to us, forgetting that we never paid the price for it. We are better off financially because they accepted low pay. We enjoy the respect of our neighbours while they endured the scorn. Yet the price we have paid for our respectability is a far bigger one than they paid for their faithfulness, for we have lost God's smile and are too blind to recognise it!'. Can I quote you that last line again? 'We enjoy the respect of our neighbours while they endured the scorn. Yet the price we have paid for our respectability is a far bigger one than they paid for their faithfulness, because we have lost God's smile...yet we're blind...'
Isn't that what the Lord Jesus Christ said to the Laodiceans: 'You say, I am increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked'. The trouble, at times, with God's gifts is that we begin to trust them and not God. We become proud of our heritage, yet we fail to live up to its standards. Oh, we love to quote our forefathers, but who of us will live up to the lives that they lived? This is why, friends, we do not have the power! I believe the church in the West today, like Malachi's priesthood, is eaten up with evangelical pride - perhaps more in Ulster than anywhere else - and because of it we've lost God's blessing! Could it be even to the extent that our blessings have been turned to curses?
C.S. Lewis said that 'Pride was that complete anti-God state of mind' - I think that's tremendous. He went on to say that it was that complete anti-God state of mind, pride, that made the devil the devil! What about the blessings that he had, second to none! A place that no other angelic being had, all the blessings were his, but pride caused him to abuse them and they became a curse, and so he fell! He was the first to fall, but he will not be the last.
Friends, can I end on this note, turning our attention to the New Testament. The New Testament knows of three kinds of Christians, you can turn to it in 1 Corinthians chapter 3. In verses 9 to 17 of 1 Corinthians 3 we read of three types of workmen, three children of God, or if you like servants of God. First of all there is the master builder, then Paul talks about the shoddy builder, then he mentions the destructive worker. Now the master builder is the one who lays a good foundation and builds a good structure of good works to glorify God. Then the shoddy builder is careless and unskilled in his building process, and what he builds does not endure. Then the destructive worker, he doesn't know how to be constructive at all, and he seeks to pull down rather than to build up. All of them, as we analyse this passage, use different materials in their building. The house that is built by the master builder, that lasting edifice, is built by great materials, lasting materials like gold, silver and precious stones. But the building built by the shoddy workman is built by not worthless materials, but less valuable and less durable material: wood, hay and stubble. The punchline of Paul's passage is simply this: every person's service, every child of God one day at the judgment seat of Christ, will be tested by fire what sort of work it is - and it will be more ruthless than Malachi's little four chapters!
The combustible materials will inflame and disappear, and the shoddy builder will suffer loss but he himself shall be saved yet as by fire - by the skin of his teeth. You'll be saved, my friend, but what if the edifice of your Christian life falls down around your ears. Those who will have built on a sure foundation with gold and silver and precious stones, to the glory of God, they will receive a reward. But friends, what I want you to see tonight is that Malachi's modern message is that, as his priests received judgment they deserved, we will receive it too! Hallelujah, Christ took the judgment for our sins on Calvary, and we will never be condemned for those sins as Romans 8:1 says: 'There is now no longer any condemnation for them that are in Christ Jesus'. But I warn you, as Paul warned the Galatians: God is not mocked, and whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. Be not deceived! I feel that perhaps all of us could be, in our day and age in the West - particularly in this province, and certainly, could I say it, in this church - under the discipline of our fathers! But the real question that Malachi would pose to us tonight, and that I ask us all, is: are we learning the lessons of that discipline? For if we don't, our blessings will continue to be a curse as God's hand is heavy upon us.
What's the antidote? It's found in 1 Corinthians 11 verse 31, Paul said: 'For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged'. In other words, if we would erect a mini judgment seat in our hearts to judge ourselves before that great day, if we would analyse our hearts, search ourselves and see if there be any wicked way in us, we wouldn't need to be under such a discipline. We are still disciplined, for every son whom He receives, He chastens - but nevertheless, the choice is ours, and we can't get away from it. Oh, my prayer for myself is that I would see that my life is now dictating, word-for-word, into Christ's lips what He is going to say to me at that adjudication of service on the day of judgment! I am writing it now, with my life! Oh, that today I and you would live in the light of that day in eternity. It was George Whitefield who said: 'O that I could always live for eternity, preach for eternity, pray for eternity, and speak for eternity'.
There is a poem that I have quoted to you before, and others have done so, but it never leaves me when I think of this subject and I must leave with you again tonight. It goes like this, listen carefully:
'He would have me rich, but I stand here poor,
Stripped of all but His grace,
And memory will run like a hunted thing
Down the years I cannot retrace.
And my penitent heart will well-nigh break
With tears that I cannot shed.
I'll cover my face with my empty hands
And I'll bow my uncrowned head'.
Our Lord lived His life for our eternity, may we live in the light of eternity for Him.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the third recording in his Malachi's Modern Message series, titled "Message On Discipline" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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