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We're turning to Malachi, to chapter 3, and this is our sixth study this evening, and we have looked at several subjects thus far. We've looked at Malachi's 'Message on Love' in verses 1-5 of chapter 1; we looked at his 'Message on Service' from verse 6 through to 14; then we looked in chapter 2 verses 1 to 9 at his 'Message on Discipline' and the judgment that the priests incurred because of their transgressing of the covenant of Levi; and then in chapter 2 verses 10 to 16 we looked at his 'Message on Marriage', and how there was an unequal yoke with many of them, and some of them were divorcing their Hebrew wives of their youth to marry wives of the daughters of pagan gods. Then, in our last study in chapter 2 verse 17 through to chapter 3 verse 6, we looked at his 'Message on Messiah' - how the people of God in Judah were crying out for a deliverer, they were looking for a Messiah, but they didn't realise that when Messiah came that He would come in judgment - and, of course, when Messiah came the first time they didn't even recognise Him. But the Lord Jesus Christ - these verses particularly pointing to His second advent - will come again, but He will come to judge the world; not only will He judge the world and Judah's enemies and the Gentiles, but what they failed to realise was that He would also come to judge them.

You would think, as we read down all these messages that he's already preached, that he was compiling a Top Ten list of problems among God's people today...

Now tonight our study takes us to verse 7 through to verse 12, in the will of the Lord. Malachi's message this evening to us is the message that he gives on stewardship - 'Malachi's Modern Message on Stewardship'. So we begin our reading at chapter 3 and verse 7 - Malachi says, remember in verse 6: "For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed. Even from the days of your fathers ye are gone away from mine ordinances, and have not kept them. Return unto me, and I will return unto you, saith the LORD of hosts. But ye said, Wherein shall we return? Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation. Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it. And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the LORD of hosts. And all nations shall call you blessed: for ye shall be a delightsome land, saith the LORD of hosts".

'Malachi's Modern Message on Love' was that God loved His people deeply, but of course the people doubted Him: 'Wherein have you loved us?'. He had to prove to them in chapter 1, of course, as we have learned, that He loved them from even before the beginning of time, that they were chosen not for good in them but by grace, they were chosen not because they were great in number or strength but because He loved them. But yet in their service to Him, they began to serve in drudgery, they believed it was a vain thing to serve the Lord. The offerings that they were bringing were defective and defiled, they were bringing the lame lambs and the blind beast to offer to the Lord. There was this attitude that prevailed: 'Anything will do for the Lord, for what does it matter anyway? The wicked are prevailing and the righteous are suffering, so what does it matter how we serve the Lord?'. God brought this message through Malachi about service, and the service that God required. He had given the Levite His best, and He expects nothing less than his best from those who serve Him.

Chapter 2 verses 1-9, then the message came on discipline - how the Lord would judge those Levitical priests, how He would actually smear the dung of their offerings upon their faces - because they had defiled the name of the Lord, He would defile them. Then His message on marriage, as we have alluded to already: the unequal yoke, and how important it is even in this day and age that we make sure that we don't fall into that Satanic trap. Then there was the issue of how God spoke that He hated divorce, and in this specific instance how they were divorcing their Jewish wives that they had entered into covenant before God and with their wives in their youth - yet they divorced them to marry the daughters of pagan gods, and they had seduced them to follow those gods in idolatry! Then we saw how they were complacent to think that their Messiah would come and deliver them, and they had forgotten to realise that the Messiah was going to come as a refiner's fire and judge them along with the nations.

Isn't it so true, as we've looked at the issues that God's people grappled with 2500 years ago, that these are the same issues that God's people are grappling with today?

But tonight we're looking at his 'Modern Message on Stewardship'. Now before we go on any further, need I ask the question: have we realised already that Malachi does have a modern message to the world in which we live? You would think, as we read down all these messages that he's already preached, that he was compiling a Top Ten list of problems among God's people today - things and issues that we're all struggling with in this world. You'd think, almost, that he was writing to the year 2005 rather than writing 2500 years ago. The simple message of Malachi, if you could sum it up in any shape or form, I have found at least, is this: not only is God an unchangeable God - as we find in chapter 3 and verse 6: 'I am the LORD, I change not' - but the human condition has not changed either. In fact, in verse 6 of chapter 3, if you look at it, where it says: 'therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed', the Hebrew literally reads: 'For I the LORD do not change, and you sons of Jacob have not ceased'. The Authorised Version translates it correctly: 'therefore ye are not consumed', but there is a sense in which this verse can mean, 'you too have not ceased to be the sons of Jacob'. 'I am the LORD, I change not: but you sons of Jacob have not ceased being the sons of Jacob', in other words, being a wayward people, because of course that's what 'Jacob' meant - 'sojourner', 'supplanter', 'one who is a twister'.

Isn't it so true, as we've looked at the issues that God's people grappled with 2500 years ago, that these are the same issues that God's people are grappling with in 2005 - because not only does God not change, and the standards that God requires of men do not change, but the human nature, the depraved, adamic, fallen nature of the whole race has not changed either. The Jews, sad to say, have not changed - and when their Messiah came in the first century they would not change. When the apostles preached the gospel they would not change, and up to this present modern day they have not changed - praise God, a remnant will be changed in a future day - but even Stephen had to say, after their Deliverer had come, as he preached that great sermon before his martyrdom in Acts 7:51, 'Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye'.

That was the history of their people: they continually resisted God's command. This is exactly what Malachi echoes in verse 7, if you look at it: 'Even from the days of your fathers ye are gone away from mine ordinances, and have not kept them' - 'You have disobeyed my laws'. Even in this present age, God's people in the church of Jesus Christ struggle with the issues that confronted Judah, the problems have never seemed to change - and the sad fact is, God's people find it harder to change those problems today than they have ever done. So, far from being an antiquated piece of historical literature, this book of Malachi we have found to be a treasure trove of practical truths - as contemporary and convicting as it was all those years ago. The clarion call of God is the same tonight as it has ever been in verse 7, the second half: 'Return unto me, and I will return unto you' - that was the cry of the God of Israel to His people all through the Old Testament. It is still His cry to the people of Israel today, and it is His cry to His church in this age that is probably going to usher in the second return of the Lord Jesus Christ: 'Return unto me! Return unto me, and I will return unto you!'.

The trouble was, Israel could not see their need of God. As far as they were concerned they had not left God, and God had not left them - though it felt like it at times. That is the reason why they answered again, as they have been prone to do in this discourse: 'Wherein shall we return?' - verse 7, the very end. 'Wherein, why do we need to return Lord? What are You talking about? We haven't left! You haven't left!'. I think this highlights one of the greatest problems that a child of God can ever have, and I don't think there's anything worse than this particular problem: it is the problem of spiritual delusion. Spiritual delusion: there are many ailments that the church of Jesus Christ suffers from today, but I believe that it is a spiritual ailment that affects the church today - delusion. It's been almost unavoidable for me, as I've gone through this study, to see the blatant parallels between the people of Judah here in Malachi's day and the church of Jesus Christ just before the second advent of our Lord. In other words, the church of Laodicea that we find in Revelation chapter 3.

Many Christians feel that repentance is something you did the night that you were born-again, and once you do it then that's the end of it - well, that's not a New Testament Christianity if that's what you believe...

Let me show you what I'm talking about, turn with me to Revelation 3. We'll not read the whole account of the church of Laodicea, but you know that because they were neither hot nor cold the Lord was going to spew them out of His mouth, being lukewarm. In other words, that type of indifference and apathy, spiritually speaking, makes the Lord Jesus sick! Then in verse 17 He gives the reasoning and rationale for His rejection and expulsion of them: 'Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not' - there's the delusion - 'thou knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me'.

He accuses Laodicea of not only being lukewarm, being indifferent and apathetic spiritually, and being deluded, but being blind - having spiritual myopia, shortsightedness or, if you like, not being able to focus regarding their true spiritual condition before God. They didn't see themselves the way they really were; they didn't see themselves the way the Son of God saw them; they were deluded. Because of that, even though the Lord Jesus told them to repent, they felt little need to repent - 'What do I need to repent of?'. When you talk to Christians in the day and age in which we live, we find the same result. Many Christians feel that repentance is something you did the night that you were born-again, and once you do it then that's the end of it - well, that's not a New Testament Christianity if that's what you believe. The Lord Jesus taught us to take up our cross daily, that's repentance, and follow Him; denying ourselves and following Christ. One of the greatest problems of the church today, and the reason we're in the lukewarm deluded position we are, is that we don't repent every day of our lives.

A. W. Tozer, that great preacher and writer, said that we're in the predicament that we are as the church because 'ignoble contentment has taken the place of burning zeal'. He goes on to say: 'We are satisfied to rest in our judicial possessions, and for the most part we bother ourselves very little about the absence of personal experience'. In other words, we are blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ, we know what our standing is: but what are we experientially before God? Do we experience the blessings that we ought to have in Christ? Or have we lost the zeal and has it given place to ignoble contentment? We're a bit like the bus conductor who has called out the destination that many times that he thinks he's been there. We know the verses, we know the expressions, we know the doctrines, we know them, perhaps, inside out and we know when others go wrong regarding them - but there is a possibility that, just like the Levitical priests and the whole Judean nation in Malachi's day, we have a form of godliness but there is no power! They were engaged in the rituals, the practices, the ceremonies of the temple and the sacrifice and so on - but the God of power was not there, and they knew it!

Even though they were in an awful state, God still displayed His unchangeable graciousness. Isn't it wonderful that, no matter how far Israel seems to go in their depravity and rebellion and backsliding, God is there again and again and again saying: 'Return unto me! Return unto me, and I will return on to you!'. The tragedy is that, no matter how much He cries again and again and again 'Return!', they fail over and over, again and again to return. But I'm asking you tonight in the light of this modern message to us: do you hear the Lord's voice to return? It may be a voice crying in the wilderness, I believe it is in the day and age in which we live, yet nevertheless I am crying to you tonight, I believe on God's behalf, on the authority of His word, and inviting you to return unto the Lord, and He will return unto you!

Are you a backslider tonight? Are you cold in heart and zeal towards the Lord? Are you indifferent to spiritual realities, to the prospect of eternity?

Are you a backslider tonight? Are you cold in heart and zeal towards the Lord? Are you indifferent to spiritual realities, to the prospect of eternity, to the knowledge of what will happen to those around you who are unconverted? I'm saying to you tonight exactly what Malachi said all those years ago: let us search and try our ways, and turn again unto the Lord! Now if you're here tonight and you don't feel any need of repentance, you're in the same sorry predicament as Judah was. You're sitting there tonight as I'm crying this clarion call: 'Repent! Return!' - and you're saying, 'Wherein shall we return? Wherein shall we repent? What are you talking about?'. Well, can I exhort you to beware - because do you know what happens when we challenge God to show us where we need to change? He hits us where it hurts.

If you, like the Judeans, come to God after He has implored you to repent and return to Him, and you say: 'Wherein shall we return?', God will hit you where it hurts! That can be seen in the next cry that comes from God. The first cry in this passage is that of 'Return!', and the second cry is that of 'Robbery!'. 'Wherein shall we return?', and God tells them in verse 8: 'Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me' - robbery! That's where you ought to repent, that's where you ought to return! The Hebrew word 'rob' here occurs only on one other occasion in the whole of the Bible in Proverbs 22:22, and it means 'to defraud'. The verb is used often in Talmudic Jewish literature, and means 'to take forcibly'. Imagine this, God is saying: 'Here is where you need to repent and return, you have defrauded me! You have taken forcibly what is mine, therein do you need to repent!'.

What is the old prophet getting at? Harrington C. Lees said these words, and I want you to listen to them very carefully for they are very perceptive: 'The most sensitive part of civilised man is his pocket, and one of the fiercest fights a preacher has to wage is when his preaching touches the pockets of his hearers'. Malachi comes and he touches their pockets: 'You have robbed me', God says. Malachi comes and touches their pockets because he wants to make their repentance costly, and he wants to make their repentance costly because he wants their repentance to be genuine. Can I say this categorically on the authority of the Holy Scripture: if your repentance doesn't cost you anything it's worth nothing. In fact, if your Christian life hasn't cost you anything, it's debatable whether you're saved at all!

Their giving was deplorable, not only were they giving defective gifts and animals, the blind and the lame and the blemished, but they were actually not giving what they ought to give. God is coming, and He says: 'Look, if you want to know wherein you ought to repent and return, here's a good guideline from me to know that you have done it: stop robbing me! Pay back what you owe me! Your giving will be a guide to your repentance'. Now why should that be? Well, simply for one reason: their giving could be measured. I can't see into your hearts, thank God you can't see into mine, but the fact of the matter is: that makes it easy for many of us. I don't know if you had a quiet time this morning, I don't know how long you prayed, I don't know how many people you have spoken to for the Lord today - but the fact of the matter is: in the Jewish people's age, God would know very clearly and the temple would know if the people were giving to the ministry of the temple. It could be measured. Therefore their repentance was measured by their giving.

If your repentance doesn't cost you anything it's worth nothing. In fact, if your Christian life hasn't cost you anything, it's debatable whether you're saved at all!

Now you've heard it said, I think it was Murray M'Cheyne, that 'A man is what he is on his knees, and no more'. But in the context of this portion of Scripture, I would like to change that to say: 'A Christian is what he gives, and no more' - for your giving is a barometer of your spiritual health. Here is a man, Malachi, just like the Saviour Himself, who is not afraid to preach against the dangers of hoarding money personally for yourself, neither is he afraid of preaching that the money of God's people ought to be dedicated and devoted to God's service. Now their reaction was as predictable as people's reaction today - they didn't like it, because their wallets were too close to their hearts! They say: 'Wherein have we robbed Thee?' - do you see it? Verse 8, again they question God: 'Wherein have we robbed Thee?', and God comes back with lightning pace, 'In tithes and offerings! Do you want to know? I'll tell you!'.

Now most people assume that the tithe in the Old Testament was 10% of the people's income, but that is a woeful misconception. There were multiple mandatory requirements of the Old Testament people of God, and the one that is spoken of here in this verse is the Lord's tithe. That was the fact that the Levites in Numbers 18 were to be supported in their priestly ministry by the people of God. They were to submit supplies in order to help the ministry of the priests, it was also called the Levite's tithe. People would tithe of their animals, of their crops, of their produce, and that is what is spoken of specifically here in Malachi 3 and verse 8 - this 'Lord's tithe', they were withholding it. But there were other tithes - don't you think for one moment that Old Testament saints only had to give a tenth of everything they had - there was another tithe. There was the 'festival tithe' that you read of in Deuteronomy 12, that was often taken when there were great festivals, and after they had conquered the Promised Land there was to be annual festivals to celebrate that great event, and that was another tithe - so that's now a mandatory 20%. The Lord's tithe, 10%; the festival tithe, 10%; and then there was another tithe - the 'poor tithe' that we read of in Deuteronomy 14, that was for social welfare to help the poor and widows in society. That was taken every three years, not every year, every three years - divide 10 by 3 and you get roughly 3.3, that means 3.3% per annum was given to this Poor tithe. Add it all up: 10% for the Levites, the Lord's tithe; 10% for the Festival tithe; 3.3% per annum for this Poor tithe - and that is 23% per year per person of their income! That's not where it ended, for in Leviticus 19 you were to add to that the fact that you were to refrain from harvesting the corners of the field. If you were a farmer you weren't allowed to harvest the corners. If you were a husbandman you weren't allowed to pluck all the grapes in the vineyard, you were to leave some of them just in case poor people could come by and glean food for themselves. In addition to that, there were other taxes from time to time, such as the tax of a third of a shekel that later had to be paid for the materials of the temple, that we read of in Nehemiah 10.

Now what am I telling you all this for? Get it out of your head that the Jewish people only gave to the Lord one tenth! The bottom line is, at a bare minimum everyone was required to give 25% of their income - and added to that there was what was called 'freewill offerings'. The first fruits, if you loved the Lord enough, you would give the best of your crop and the best of your farm to the Lord. There were other freewill offerings: when Moses built the tabernacle in Exodus 25 the people were invited by God to bring all they could, and in Exodus 36 we read that there was so much brought by the people that Moses had to ask them to stop! They were bringing too much! Now what had happened here in Malachi's day, you may ask. Well, obviously they had stopped bringing the Lord's tithe - but in all probability they had decreased their tithes and their offerings because of the adverse conditions that prevailed.

What am I talking about? Well, they seemed to try and justify that they were not bringing this Levitical tithe, because the crops were failing and they didn't have hardly enough crops to live themselves, so how could they be expected to bring that tithe to the temple? There was a drought, there was a pestilence - that's what we read of in verse 10 and in verse 11. But the Lord reveals to them: yes, there are natural disasters; and yes, you're not as well off as you ought to be; but those natural disasters are the result of your disobedience, those natural disasters are not the cause of your disobedience!

They didn't realise that not only were they robbing God by not giving their offerings, but they were robbing themselves!

Let me show you what I'm talking about, turn to Haggai chapter 1. This crop failure, drought and pestilence, are the result of their disobedience before God and not the cause of the nation's disobedience. Verse 9 of chapter 1, the same epoch, the same conditions prevail - Haggai verse 9 of chapter 1: 'Ye looked for much, and, lo it came to little; and when ye brought it home, I did blow upon it. Why? saith the LORD of hosts. Because of mine house that is waste, and ye run every man unto his own house. Therefore the heaven over you is stayed from dew, and the earth is stayed from her fruit. And I called for a drought upon the land, and upon the mountains, and upon the corn, and upon the new wine, and upon the oil, and upon that which the ground bringeth forth, and upon men, and upon cattle, and upon all the labour of the hands'. Look back to verse 6: 'Ye have sown much, and bring in little; ye eat, but ye have not enough; ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink; ye clothe you, but there is none warm; and he that earneth wages earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes'. What does God say to them? What is God saying to them? Verse 7: 'Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways'. Verse 5: 'Now therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways'. These natural disasters are the result of your disobedience, not a reason to be disobedient! He's saying what he said in Malachi 2 and verse 2 to them: 'Because you have despised me, because you have dishonoured my name, I have cursed your blessings'.

God had shut the rain off, God had spoiled the crops, all because of the people's selfishness - yet they used that as an excuse not to give to God. They didn't realise that if they would only give to God, God would give back to them. If they returned unto God, He would return on to them. They didn't realise that not only were they robbing God by not giving their offerings, but they were robbing themselves! Someone has said, and I think said well: 'If God's larders are empty, His people are to blame'. If God's larders are empty, His people are to blame. Malachi's modern message is the same today as it was then, and it's simply this: God has promised to bless and care for those who are faithful in their stewardship toward Him.

Do you not believe me? Well, turn with me to Philippians 4 for a moment. Paul talks of his own experience of how kind the church at Philippi were to him. Philippians 4 and verse 10: 'But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at the last your care of me hath flourished again; wherein ye were also careful, but ye lacked opportunity. Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. Notwithstanding ye have well done, that ye did communicate with my affliction. Now ye Philippians know also, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but ye only. For even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my necessity. Not because I desire a gift: but I desire fruit that may abound to your account. But I have all, and abound: I am full, having received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, wellpleasing to God. But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus'. Do you see what Paul is saying? 'Because of your faithfulness in providing my need in the gospel, God will reciprocate that and bless you for blessing me, and God will supply all your need according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus'.

Imagine and contemplate the possibility that God's own money is not available to Him, because the Christians of Malachi's and today's day are so tight-fisted that they won't let go of it and allow Him to use it!

Now, let us gather in these lessons, these modern contemporary lessons for us tonight, and ask a very sobering question of ourselves. First of all, the obvious answer to the first one is given: can God be robbed? Categorically yes! Can we rob Him? Would we not be very inconsistent if we were to answer 'no' to the second question? William MacDonald has made this very piercing statement regarding the lack of stewardship in the church of Jesus Christ today: 'We rob God in this sense: often times the Lord's own money is not available to Him'. Imagine and contemplate the possibility that God's own money is not available to Him, because the Christians of Malachi's and today's day are so tight-fisted that they won't let go of it and allow Him to use it! This is the principle of stewardship, and please do not misunderstand what I'm saying tonight as an appeal for the Building Fund - it is not - I am preaching in God's word consecutively, and don't you dare accuse me of doing anything else. I haven't got the privilege of skipping over verses, I have to answer the question before God rather than you: can a man rob God? Can I rob God? Can you rob God? And the answer is 'Yes'! In fact, I would go as far as to say that the average child of God in this generation is robbing God!

I was only able to find statistics for the United States, but they'll do when we consider the United States as the biggest evangelical Christian nation in the world, and also, in parallel, the most wealthy nation in the world. In 1969 the average church member in the United States give 3.1% less than his tithe - 3.1% income less, that is less than a third of the tithe. That figure dropped every year until 1990, and then it recovered slightly to 2.66% - that's approximately a quarter of a tithe. In 1990 the average American Christian was giving less than a quarter of a tithe. This statistician, who is a Christian, observed the trend over the years from '68 until 1990: as the Christians in America got richer and richer, evangelicals chose to spend more and more on themselves and give less and less, a smaller percentage to the church. Now isn't that interesting? 'Why?', you might say. Well, the reason why God was reprimanding His Old Testament people was because they thought they had just reasons for withholding the tithe, there was a famine, there was a drought, there was a pestilence - yet God's people today, as they increase in affluence, think it is just to hold back more and more from God's work! If God had reason to judge them, has He not reason to judge us this evening?

Today, on average, evangelicals in the United States today give about two fifths of a tithe - two fifths of a tithe! In 2002 a Barna poll was taken, and it was discovered - listen to this now - that 6% of born-again adults tithed! From the year 2000 - now wait for this - to the year 2002, there was a 50% reduction and decline. In 2000 12% of evangelicals in America tithed, and in two years it was cut by half to 6% - and there is more money spent in the United States to feed and to care for their pets than is given to churches and charities. The wealthiest nation, the most Christian nation, so-called: and I say to all of us tonight, the divine message remains unchanged, 'Ye have robbed me, saith the LORD'!

The New Testament teaches us, and I haven't time to go into this but I have ministered on it in the recent past, that believers in Christ are not required to give a tithe necessarily, although that may be a good starting point, but believers are to give sacrificially, they're to give systematically on the first day of the week, they're to give liberally, they're to give cheerfully - for the Lord loves a cheerful giver. They're to give as the Lord has prospered them, that is proportionately to the wealth that God has given them. Although no tithing is mentioned in a commendatory sense in the New Testament scripture, the suggestion that we have in principle in the New Testament is that if the Jew was living, giving a tithe and several tithes, under the law - how much more ought the child of God to give under grace?

I say to all of us tonight, the divine message remains unchanged, 'Ye have robbed me, saith the LORD'!

The reward in the Old Testament for faithful tithing was the blessing of material wealth. Though there may come a certain amount of reciprocation, as the man said: 'We give a spoonful, and God gives us back a shovelful'; the spiritual blessings are the main ones that we get today when we give in our stewardship sacrificially, systematically, liberally, cheerfully, and proportionately to the Lord. But there is an important spiritual principle here that's enumerated in Malachi, and it's applicable to every age. It's simply this: God meets with blessing any heart of any man or woman, boy or girl, that is completely devoted to Him. If you want God's storehouse to be opened to you, you need to open your storehouse to God. It's just as simple as that. It's not all about money, it's about time, giving your time to God. You can rob God of your time in the morning, and in the evening, and on the Lord's day. You can rob God of your energy, you can rob God of your intellect, you can rob God of your talent, you can rob God of your possessions - whether it's your home, or whether it's your car, whatever it may be. The simple message of Malachi is that the pathway to blessing is always obedience.

'Do you want to be blessed?', God says to His ancient people Judah, 'Here's the way to do it: return unto me, stop robbing me, and gather all the tithes and the offerings into the storehouse; and I will open my storehouse in heaven and pour you out a blessing to exhaustion!'. Isn't that what verse 10 says? They had been questioning God, hadn't they, over and over again? 'Lord, prove it. Wherein do You love us? Wherein have we robbed You?'; and now God is saying, 'It's now your turn to prove me. Prove me not to be unfaithful, as you accused me of; but prove me to be faithful. Try me, test me, and see - when you bring all your tithes in - if I will not pour you out a blessing until there is a failure of sufficiency!'. That's literally what it means: until you haven't room to receive it.

Now this is mind-boggling, because this is the eternal God - as you know, He owns the cattle on a thousand hills, the wealth in every mine, the heavens and the earth are His and everything in it - yet He is saying, 'I will reciprocate your blessing to such an extent that it will be almost as if I have exhausted the resources of heaven to give you the blessing'. God is challenging the people to try and exhaust Him with their giving, He says: 'I will give over-proportionately to everything that you do'. The first cry has been 'Return!', and then the next cry was 'Robbery!', but if you want the blessing the cry that comes is 'You will be rewarded if you repent!'. God's word does not change: 'He who soweth sparingly, shall reap also sparingly; and he who soweth bountifully, shall reap also bountifully'. God told them that if they would do this, in verse 11, the pestilence would be removed; verse 12, they would be restored to prominence one day that will be fully fulfilled in the millennial reign of Christ, when they will be called again 'a delightsome land', and the land will bring forth plentifully.

I'm asking you the question tonight, and I'm asking myself this question: are we, as Christians in the 21st century, failing to obey the elementary commands that the Lord Jesus Christ has left us regarding stewardship? What am I talking about? Listen to these words, His words: 'Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again'. Another: 'Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also'. 'No man can serve two masters, you cannot serve God and money'. Could it possibly be that our spiritual blessings could be turned into cursings because we don't do stewardship right? Please do not dispensationalise the words of the Lord Jesus Christ to suit your cheque-book. These teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ are either expected of us, or they are not, and He even goes as far as to say in this parable in Luke chapter 16: 'If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous money', the money that's in your pocket, 'who will commit to you the trust of the true riches?'.

If you use your money for the spread of the gospel in any or every way, it will not be lost!

God requires of us that we turn our money into Bibles. God requires of us that we turn our money into Testaments, and Scripture portions, and tracts, and other Christian literature. He requires that money is used to support missionaries, and evangelists, and pastors and teachers. He asks that money would be used to finance Christian radio to preach the word of God all over the world, and many more worthy endeavours and activities - in short, what Christ is telling us and Malachi is telling us, and the Holy Spirit is saying to us all this evening, is that if you use your money for the spread of the gospel in any or every way, it will not be lost! Someone has put it: 'The only way we can lay up our treasures in heaven is to put them into something that is going there'. Are you putting your money into something that's going there?

Dr Adam Clark preached on the text on one occasion: 'Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely', from Revelation 22:17. At the conclusion of the meeting he announced an offering, and afterwards a lady asked: 'How can you reconcile the freeness of the water of life with the collection at the close?'. 'Oh Madam', he answered, 'God gives the water without money and without price, but you must pay for the waterworks, for the pipes and the pitchers to convey the water'. Can I say something to you from my heart tonight: don't insult God by asking why the Gospel is not blessed in your church, if you're not willing to reach into your pocket to bless it. I read a poem that is searing, and I finish with it, it's called 'A Dollar to God':

'Three thousand for my brand-new car,
Five thousand for a piece of sod
Ten thousand I paid to begin a house
A dollar I gave to God!

A tidy sum to entertain my friends in chatter
And when the world goes crazy mad
I ask the Lord what's the matter
--a dollar I gave to God!

Yet there is one big question
For the answer I still search
With things so bad in this old world
What's holding back my church?'

Are you robbing God? Let us search our hearts, whatever assembly you belong to, I don't care - do you give? When was the last time you gave to missionary endeavour, when there are millions dying without Christ that have never heard His name? You're not robbing the church, you're not robbing the Missionary Society, you're robbing God!

Father, forgive us, forgive me when I live for self, and the service of the King suffers, and souls that will never die enter into eternity for want of a piece of paper with a verse upon it. Oh God move us, revive us to follow in our Saviour's footsteps, the One who had no place to lay His head. Oh God, help us to forsake all and to follow Him, and may we put all that we are and have into the storehouse of God, that Thou mayest open Thy windows, and pour us out a blessing, O God, that we would not have room to receive it. O, have mercy upon us, and hear our cry in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

Don't miss part 7 of the “Malachi's Modern Message” series: 'Message On Faithfulness'

Transcribed by:
Preach The Word.
April 2005

This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the sixth recording in his Malachi's Modern Message series, titled "Message On Stewardship" - Transcribed by Preach The Word.

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