Malachi chapter 3, and if you haven't been with us in recent weeks, let me just recap on where we have come from and what we have learned. We began in week 1, in verses 1-5 looking at 'Malachi's Modern Message on Love', and as you have been with us these weeks you would have found out very quickly that this book is a series of questions or accusations that the people of God throw in the face of Almighty God, Jehovah, their covenant keeping God. They accuse Him of certain things, and then God comes back to them and gives them an evidence of why their accusation is wrong, and then He begins to judge them and condemn them because of their accusations, and because of the guilt that He has found in them. In verses 1 to 5 of chapter 1, they accused God of not loving them: 'Wherein have you loved us?', and God had to start from the very beginning to show how He chose them by grace, not because they were a great people or a strong nation, but because He loved them and set His love upon them in grace and the election thereof - He loved them with an everlasting love - 'I have loved you deeply, saith the LORD. Jacob have I loved, Esau have I hated'.
Then we found in verses 6 to 14 his 'Message on Service' - how they were serving Him not with their heart, but only in an external profession of religion. Then God disciplined them for that in chapter 2 and verses 1 to 9, and because they had despised His name in the offerings that they were bringing and in their lack of heartfelt service to Him, He told them that He would judge them - in the same way that they despised Him in their service, He would despise them in their discipline. Very harsh discipline it was, to such an extent that God said that He would smudge the dung of their offerings upon their faces. He would make them an abomination, just as they had despised His holy name.
Then we found out in chapter 2 verses 10-16, 'Malachi's Modern Message on Divorce' - for these Israelite priests and people in the nation were divorcing their young Judean wives of the covenant that they had made with God, and before their wives and the company, that they would love them with all their heart, for all their lives. They were divorcing those Judean wives and marrying pagan wives, and those pagan wives were leading them astray to follow their pagan deities.
Then in chapter 2 verse 17, the last verse, through to chapter 3 verse 6, we have his 'Message on Messiah' - and Israel and Judah particularly were continually looking for a Deliverer, someone to come and deliver them from their enemies and to judge their enemies for their sin, but they didn't realise that when this Messiah-Deliverer would come, He would judge them for their backsliding and for their failure. God told them through Malachi that Christ would come as a refiner's fire, not only would He judge the nations of the world round about, but He would judge in the house of God first of all for how they had not been a light to the nations round about them.
Then last week we looked at chapter 3 verses 7 to 12 at his 'Message on Stewardship' - how these priests and the people, following the lead of the priests, were robbing God. They were not bringing their tithes and offerings into the house of God, and for that they were suffering. But we see a little spring of light, for God tells them: 'Return unto me, and I will return unto you - and if you bring all the tithes and the offerings that you've been robbing me of, and bring them into my storehouse, I will open the windows of the storehouse of heaven and pour you out a blessing, so much so that it will almost exhaust heaven!' - now that's impossible, but He was communicating to the people what He would do for them if they would return unto Him.
Now this evening we're looking at his 'Message on Faithfulness' in chapter 3 and verses 13 to 18, and we want to see this evening what his modern message to us on faithfulness is, as we seek to apply the word of God written thousands of years ago to our modern age and to our personal lives. So we take up our reading at chapter 3 verse 13: "Your words have been stout against me, saith the LORD. Yet ye say, What have we spoken so much against thee? Ye have said, It is vain to serve God: and what profit is it that we have kept his ordinance, and that we have walked mournfully before the LORD of hosts? And now we call the proud happy; yea, they that work wickedness are set up; yea, they that tempt God are even delivered. Then they that feared the LORD spake often one to another: and the LORD hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon his name. And they shall be mine, saith the LORD of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him. Then shall ye return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not".
'The Message on Faithfulness'. Matthew Henry in his commentary, in an introduction to his comments on these particular verses, verses 13 to 18 under our consideration tonight, says these words - listen very carefully: 'Among the people of the Jews at this time, though they all enjoy the same privileges and advantages, there were men of very different characters (as ever were, and ever will be, in the world and in the church), like Jeremiah's figs, some very good and others very bad, some that plainly appeared to be the children of God and others that as plainly discovered themselves to be the children of the wicked one. There are tares and wheat in the same field, chaff and corn in the same floor; and here we have an account of both'.
We have to concur that in Judah everyone had the same privileges, everyone had the same advantages, but as we've been studying over these weeks the two types of individuals that we find in our portion this evening are two very different types of characters. That is the way it has always been among God's people, and that is the way it will always be even in this modern church age. That's why we have so much practical truth to apply to our lives from a book like Malachi, that's why Malachi has such a modern message for us all - because not only, as we have found as we have gone through this book in chapter 2, God says 'I am the LORD, I change not', we as human beings do not change, as sinners we do not change, and even though we may call ourselves 'sinners saved by grace', largely speaking God's people have not changed much since His ancient people in Judah. We would have to say that if you're successful and overcoming and victorious in the Christian life, it's not because you have had any added privileges or more advantages than those who are struggling and those who are backsliding. The fact of the matter is, like the Judeans, as Matthew Henry testifies in his commentaries, these two characters that we find in our reading this evening all had the same privileges, the same advantages, but they are found to be very different characters - not just in my judgment, but in the judgment of God's Holy Spirit.
Now I'm sure you're aware what a 'hypocrite' is. But you may not be aware that the derivation of that word 'hypocrite' comes from a Greek word that speaks of an actor in the Greek auditorium that used to use a mask, he was hiding his face with a facade. That is where we get the modern idea of 'hypocrite' from, someone who puts up a mask, a facade, you could use the modern day expression 'two-faced' to hold the sentiment of the meaning of 'hypocrite' in our day and age. Now it's one thing to be two-faced and hypocritical with other men and women, and even our brothers and sisters in Christ, but it's an entirely different thing and so much more a dangerous thing to be found to be two-faced with God. That's the case in point this evening in our study: those who were genuine with God, those who were real with God; and other people who were portraying a type and character of life that was not echoed by their soul, their heart and their spirit.
I want you to see very definitely, at the very beginning of our study this evening, the evidence upon which God judges these two characters: those who are found to be righteous, and those who are found to be hypocritical; those who are found to be the wheat, and those who are found to be the tares. How does He judge them? The prime evidence He uses is their words - that's how He judges them. That's how, in His Old Testament context, if I can use the analogy, He separates the sheep from the goats - by their words. Now we've already found out as we've gone through this book, in chapter 1 and verse 10, that God has no pleasure in His Old Testament Judean people at this particular time: 'I have no pleasure in you, saith the LORD, neither will I accept an offering at your hand'.
Then later we find in chapter 2 verse 17, He says that they have actually wearied Him with their words - yet they continued to retort to Him: 'Wherein have we wearied Thee? When ye say, Every one that doeth evil is good in the sight of the LORD, and he delighteth in them; or, Where is the God of judgment?'. God is starting to be wearied by their accusations toward Him, but now He moves on in chapter 3 to condemn them for the specific accusations in their words. He's saying now: 'I'm not just wearied by your words, but I'm going to come and judge them for the accusations that are in their words'. He condemns first of all this group of the unrighteous, of the chaff, of the goats, this is the group that are judging Him in their words. Then we find that the end of this portion that He commends as His jewels those who honour Him in their words, in their conversation.
So let's look at these both in some detail tonight, and see what we can learn as a modern message to us all from those who have judged the Lord in their words, and those who are found to be jewels in the words that they speak about the living God. First of all, His judges - verses 13 to 15 - His judges. Let's read them again: 'Your words have been stout against me'. Again the Lord is charging His own people with accusing Him, but now He's defining their accusations that have been coming time after time after time as we have studied this book week after week, He charges these accusations as being 'stout against Him'. Now we would expect the Lord's enemies to speak stoutly against Him, in fact Jude in verse 15 of his book in the New Testament says that the Lord, when He comes again in judgment, will come to execute judgment upon all the hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him. Centuries before Malachi prophesied in this book, Job quoted the wicked men who say: 'What is the Almighty that we should serve Him? And what profit should we have if we pray to Him?'.
We don't usually expect those guilty of such ungodly speeches to be among God's people, but here Malachi is accusing his own Judean people of speaking stoutly against Him. Now that word 'stout' simply communicates that they're speaking proudly against the Lord, they're speaking arrogantly to Him, they're even speaking loudly in His face - and they're not caring who hears their accusations against God. Not only are they not ashamed, but they, as Matthew Henry again says, 'Desired to propagate their atheistical notions to infect the mind of others'. They spoke proudly and loudly because they wanted to sway others' opinions about God's dealing among His own people. They wanted their scepticism and their cynicism to spread and take root within the commonwealth of God's people. From those stout sayings against God, one commentator has put it: 'Through their unguarded conversation they undermined morale'. Listen to that statement very carefully: 'Through their unguarded conversation they undermined morale' - and that is still the case today!
I wonder do you ever ask the question: why do people speak out as they do? Well, obviously, if you think about it for a moment, it is simply not only to let you know what they are thinking, but in some shape or form to influence you to their thinking. Now, if it's for a good cause, that can only be good, and that's what we do in the gospel, that's why we preach the gospel and speak out, that's why we proclaim the truth of God's word - positive truth, the truth of the Almighty, because we want to sway people's minds and hearts to come into accordance with that truth. But when what is being spoken is evil, that means that those who are speaking the evil desire that others should be influenced and swayed by the evil, and ultimately that that evil should take root in their hearts and bear fruit. What happens in a community, whether it's Judea, whether it's in the church of Jesus Christ, or an individual local assembly, is: unguarded conversation can undermine morale. Just as it did in Malachi's day, it does so in our modern day and age.
I say this categorically and unashamedly: whoever's company you are in, if they begin to propagate evil, if they speak of slander, if it comes under the definition of gossip in any shape or form, all such evil speaking should be checked and should be censured by men and women of God. We've got to get beyond being afraid of offending people, to check and censure them, if what they are saying has potential to offend the peace and the unity, and the bond of peace that is in the church of Jesus Christ.
You've heard of 'Valiant-for-Truth', most of you anyway, in John Bunyan's 'Pilgrim's Progress'. Well, the individual characters that Malachi is speaking against here are those who are 'Valiant-for-Error'. They're not ashamed, not concerned about even a check or a censure from God Almighty. They're determined to speak their mind, they're determined that they should evangelise others with their scepticism and with their cynicism, and they don't care what God thinks of them because they feel they are right. As residents in Zion, effectively they are speaking treason against their King, who is of course the King of Kings. Elpihaz threw this accusation at Job, and it wasn't true of him, but it is true of these people: 'They stretch out their hand against God, and they strengthen themselves against the Almighty'. The irony of it is this, and we have found this characteristic of these people as we've gone through this book: they are absolutely oblivious to their guilt in this regard and every other regard. As far as they're concerned: when God brings His guilt upon them, they retort back to Him, 'Wherein have we done this? Wherein have we said this? Wherein have we felt this against You?'. They're oblivious to their guilt - as far as they're concerned: they're right, God must be wrong!
We find it in chapter 3 verse 13 at the end, they question God's accusation again: 'Yet ye say, What have we spoken so much against thee?'. They don't believe that God, Almighty God, is justified when He speaks. They are beginning to doubt that God is clear when He judges, and if I could put it into our contemporary language, they're effectively saying in the second half of verse 13: 'What's all the fuss about? Why are our words riling you God? Why does it annoy you? And even if we say these things, what's the problem? Is it not true what we say?'. Now I want you to listen very carefully, because what we find here is a trait of those who are unconvinced and unhumbled by their sin. The reason why people are oblivious to their guilt is because they are unconvinced that they've got any, and they don't feel that they have to bow and submit low before God. When people are like that, do you know what they begin to do? First of all, they deny their sin and guilt; and then when they're faced with it and they can't handle it, or won't admit to it, they trivialise it.
First they deny it, then when they are faced with it they trivialise it; but on both counts they are completely oblivious to it - and especially when you come to folk and it involves what they say. 'What's all the fuss about?'. I wonder have you ever gone to anybody and said: 'I have heard that you said this', or you heard them say this, and they have retorted to you, 'Well, what's all the fuss about?'. Do you know why it's so much more difficult to face our words? Because it's hard to forget, at times, actions which have been done unto you and you have done to others; but it's so easy, isn't it, to forget our words that we speak. They are spoken and they are gone, and often in a 24-hour space of time they're forgotten - but the earth-shattering teaching of Malachi to his hearers, and his modern message to our hearers tonight is that he teaches that God records all our words! He records the bad words, He records the good words; to such an extent that God could come to any of us and all of us and say: 'You said this, this is what you said, this is when you said it, this is where you said it, this is how you said it, this is why you said it'. God records our words.
We're so familiar with Psalm 139, but do we ever let the import and sentiment of it all, of the omnipresence of God and the omniscience of God, grip our heart? David says that, among the many things that display the attributes of God in that regard, 'There is not a word in my tongue; but lo, O Lord, Thou knowest it altogether'. When we go into the New Testament, we find that the message is no different. If you turn with me to James 3, that famous passage on the tongue - I commend it to your study - but we'll look just at verses 5 and 6: 'Even so the tongue is a little member', one of the smallest members of the body, 'and boasteth great things', it is what we communicate our desires with, 'Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell'.
Now here is a perennial teaching from God's word that passes every dispensation and covers every age, epoch and era. It is simply this: the tongue of every child of God must be guarded. That's why the man of God cried: 'Lord, put Thou a watch upon my mouth', because God takes the sins of our speech extremely seriously - much more seriously than we do. To the extent that the Lord Jesus taught in Matthew 12: 'I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment' - every idle word! Many believers live as if God was deaf to their conversation, blind to their actions - but the fact of what Malachi teaches us is that God catches everything, He records every word and every deed. The book of Hebrews tells us that the word of God is as a sharp two-edged sword, 'piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do'. If there's a modern message in Malachi for all of us tonight, as children of God in his age or our age in the church, it is this: so many believers need to repent of what they have spoken foolishly, and especially of that which they have spoken foolishly against God, against God's ways, against God's workers and God's work.
What were their accusations to the Lord? Well, here's the first one, if you look down at it with me, they said: 'We serve God for nothing'. Verse 14: 'Ye have said, It is vain to serve God'. The first thing they put to God is: 'Serving You is a waste of time'. Now after the list of sins that have been exposed already in Malachi regarding their service, one would wonder how they saw themselves as truly serving God in any capacity. But nevertheless, what they say here is true - not generically that it's always a waste of time to serve God, but for them it was a vain thing in their service. Because, like the Pharisees in the Lord Jesus' day, Malachi is saying to them: 'In vain you worship God, you draw near with your lips but your hearts are far from me'. In fact, I believe that Judaism at this particular point in time is the forerunner to what we find in the New Testament Gospels of the Pharisees and the Sadducees. They probably inherited the ways and thoughts and the doctrinal system of these people, these Jews and priests in Malachi's day. The Sadducees, you probably know, didn't believe in the supernatural, the realities of the resurrection and the eternal state. The Pharisees, they sought recompense now, they had an outward religion and they sought the praise and the fame of men, and they sought the same currency of reward of men - their god, so often, was that of mammon.
That's why, in the Sermon on the Mount, you will remember in Matthew chapter 6 the Lord Jesus spoke to them in those first couple of verses: 'Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward' - Pharisees! If you seek the recompense of men, the glory of men, doing these things outwardly, you will get your reward; but you'll have no reward of heaven. Then He goes on to say: if you give your alms in secret, if you pray in secret, if you fast in secret, what you do in secret will be rewarded by God - now 'openly' isn't there in the original, and the sense could be that you may never be rewarded in this time, but one day in glory you will have your reward.
The Sadducees didn't believe in the supernatural, the Pharisees sought the recompense of the world and the currency of the world. Now we may not be liberal Sadducees or legalistic Pharisees, but the fact of the matter is: we can fall into this trap that they fell into...you can judge the service of God with the world's values. You can judge the service of God with the world's values! 'Serving God is a waste of time!', they say, 'Serving God doesn't pay!'. Though you believe in the supernatural, though you're not wanting the praise of men, many a man gets weary of serving God because they get nowhere in the eyes of this world. Do we judge the service of the Lord in worldly value? Do pastors go to churches for a bigger car, a bigger house? Do we choose jobs in the Lord's work according to the pay packet, according to the revenue, according to the future pension? When things get tough do we decide that we're going to go out, we're going to leave? Do we leave the Lord's work because we're not appreciated, or we don't get the praise of men? I'm not talking about so-called 'full-time workers' now, I'm talking about everybody in the Lord's work. Could it be that we're judging the work of God by worldly values? When you read what the apostles suffered, you come to the conclusion that these men - apart from what they said from the very example of their lives - were not living for earth, they were living for heaven, and that's why many of them were martyred! That's why Paul said: 'If Christ is not raised, if there is no resurrection, then we're of all men most miserable'. They were living for the resurrection, they were living for eternity - are you? Even in the Lord's work, are you living for time? The praise, the pennies, the prosperity?
Then the second accusation - after saying, 'Serving God is a waste of time' - was they said: 'The way to real success is wickedness'. They have already expressed this to the Lord, but now they do it again - verse 15: 'Yea, they that work wickedness are set up; yea, they that tempt God are even delivered', and at the beginning, 'Now we call the proud happy'. They blindly estimated things by the standard of worldly prosperity. They compared their pay packet to the people in the world, their future, their materials to the people in the world - and they thought to themselves: 'This doesn't pay, and the wicked are prosperous!'. Literally it could be translated at the beginning of verse 15: 'From henceforth we are going to pronounce the presumptuous ones' - i.e. those who defy God - 'to be the happy ones'. Now you might say, 'This is ridiculous' - is it really? Do we not fall into the trap today of saying that those in the world are the really happy ones, those who have the possessions, those who are not bearing the reproach of Christ - they are really satisfied, they are really enjoying their life? Is there even a time when we look out of the corner of our eye at those who are enjoying the things of the world - especially you young people - do you never think like this at times? 'They are enjoying themselves, I'm not! I'm lumbered and laboured with all this Christian stuff!' - and the reason why we ever conclude like that is because we have begun a Christian faith living, not with eternity's values in view, but with the earthly values in view!
Can I ask you: do you sometimes watch family and friends around you, and verbally they deny God - they're not Christians, they don't have a testimony - maybe they even live, we could say 'wicked lives'; but they seem to receive greater blessing than other believers and especially you. You would never say it, you would never verbalise it, but you cynically think it in your heart and mind: 'What profit is there in serving God? It doesn't pay!'. Now, here's the message of Malachi: God records everything, the God who changes not not only records our foolish words that these priests were speaking, and the people were speaking, but we must remember that God keeps record of all that we do and say in His name - and one day, hallelujah, payday is coming! Do you believe that?
It was Asaph in Psalm 73, I mentioned him on Thursday night at our prayer meeting, that like many of the Psalmists, David included, he was looking at the prosperity of the wicked and was thinking: 'What's this all about? It's a waste of time serving God! The wicked are prospering and succeeding' - like we could almost think today. Asaph had his questions, and he faced the questions honestly, but he took his questions - the Bible says in Psalm 73:17 - into the sanctuary of God. They were painful for him, but he took them before God and it says this: 'Then understood I their end'. 'Then understood I their end' - what he was really saying was: 'When I brought my questions into the house of God, there I got the answers, and the answers were these: you must keep eternity's values in view, because in the end we will win!'. Man has his puny innings today, but we will have our recompense on that day.
Well, the judges were well answered. They accused God, 'It's a waste of time to serve You, and the way to success is wickedness' - and He has answered both those accusations. Now we come to the jewels, the second group of people. The first group of people were the judges, and now the second are the jewels in verses 16 through to verse 18. He calls these people 'jewels', God's jewels, 'My jewels - they shall be mine', verse 17. He gives this beautiful name of beauty, pricelessness, 'jewels' to those who, in an age of compromise, an age of worldly values, an age of lukewarmness, apathy, indifference, even among God's people; and an age of apostasy, falling away and backsliding among the community of God's people - those who talk about the Lord, those who fear the Lord, He calls 'His jewels'.
I think these are some of the most beautiful verses in all of Scripture. God says in verse 16: 'Then they that feared the LORD spake often one to another: and the LORD hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon his name. And they shall be mine, saith the LORD of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him'. God says: 'There is a remnant people, true to me' - and there always is, right throughout all of time. We talk about, in history, the Dark Ages - especially in the history of the church - those years when there was no alternative to dark Roman Catholicism in the mediaeval times, but yet there was a remnant. There was a people of God in the mountains of Rome and in parts of Europe, and throughout Italy. They were serving God in spirit and in truth.
Now I want you to note that both of these people - those who were the judges and those who are the jewels - both of them claimed to be among God's people. But what I want you to see are the characteristics that contrast between Jehovah's judges and Jehovah's jewels. Here's the difference with the jewels: one, they feared the Lord - do you see it? Verse 16 'Then they that feared the LORD spake often one to another'. What does the book of Proverbs say? 'To fear the Lord is the beginning of wisdom'. These were people who, in the midst of all that was going on around them, reverenced God and submitted and bowed to God's authority and no one else's. These were a people who always put the Lord before them in their thoughts, in their words. Do you remember Malachi reminded his people of their ancestors - Levi and Phinehas - in chapter 2, turn back to it, and verses 5-7. Look at the great characteristics that they exhibited, chapter 2 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. 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'.
What does the Bible say? 'The fear of man bringeth a snare, but the righteous' - those that fear God - 'are as bold as a lion'. Thessalonians says: 'Even so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God which trieth our hearts'. I think it was said of John Knox that he feared no man because he feared the Lord. Do we fear the Lord? It's not a very fashionable term that - 'fearing the Lord'. What prevails in modern Christendom today is a buddy-buddy attitude, a pally-pally conversation with God that is devoid of any fear, of any reverence, of any majesty, of any dignity. Sometimes in our very demeanour as we come to worship the Lord there is an absence of fear. Matthew Henry has said: 'The worse others are in the world, the better we should be. When vice is daring, let not virtue be sneaking'. Isn't that nice? 'When vice is daring, let not virtue be sneaking'. How many of us sneak around in this world, because we fear men rather than fear God? But the apostles that turned the world upside down said: 'We must obey God rather than men'!
The Lord calls those who fear Him His jewels. The second characteristic about these jewels was that they thought upon His name. Verse 16: 'Then they that feared the LORD spake often one to another: and the LORD hearkened...they thought upon his name', at the end of the verse, 'for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon his name'. Their meditation of Him was sweet! Now the only way you can think upon God's name is to go to the only place where God has categorically and perfectly declared Himself, and that is the Holy Scriptures. Through studying the Scriptures this remnant, when there was a famine of the word of God, when the preaching of the word of God wasn't popular, this remnant was feeding on the Scriptures - and their meditation of Him was sweet. They thought on the name of the Lord, that means they thought about His Majesty, they chewed upon His attributes, they assimilated and digested into their being everything concerning the person of God. Do you know what happens when you do that? It caused them to fear God all the more!
Do you think about His name? They began to fear God more and fear others less. They feared the Lord, they thought upon His name, and then they spoke often about Him. verse 16: 'they spake often of Him one to another', and the progression is obvious here: if you fear Him, and you think about Him, you certainly will talk about Him - because, as the Lord Jesus taught, out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh! Here's the question out of Malachi's modern message for all of us tonight: what do your lips portray about your heart, for they will portray something? Do you talk often one to another about Him? Oh, there's another lesson in this for us all, because in this cold apathetic day when iniquity was abounding, the remnant kept company together - they encouraged one another, they preserved and promoted love and faith in each heart. They were not forsaking the assembling of themselves together, as the manner of some is, as they saw the Day approaching. They kept company with those who were talking about the Lord, those who were thinking on His name, those who feared the Lord. Can I give you a bit of advice: keep company, not only in the assembly, but in your personal private company, with those who talk about the Lord - not about other Christians!
Now you might say, as those in Malachi's day said: 'What does it matter? All this is well and good, but what does it matter, if serving God is a waste of time or not, if the wicked succeed? What does it matter if I fear God, or if I think upon His name, or if I speak about Him often one with another?'. Here's the reason why it matters: the Lord hears it all! Oh, that this would be burned upon all our hearts tonight - it says in verse 16: 'the LORD hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon his name'. God has a book of remembrance! He has opened it. literally verse 16, the second half, could be translated: 'He pricked up His ears, and He listened for those who were talking about Him, those who were caught up with Him in such an awful day of apostasy - He was listening for anyone that would name worthily His name'.
Suppose you talked for one day - that's not hard for some of you - and everything you said was taken down verbatim: how much of it could be entered into God's book? Conversations after church, before church, around the dinner table, your Sunday evening socialising - how much of it would you be happy being recorded in that book? Now it's being recorded whether it's good or bad, but there's a special book! Now, of course, prophetically this is a reference to the remnant in Israel in the future day, and we don't want to miss that. During the tribulation there will be a group of Jews who will come together, and they will be a remnant, and they will take that gospel - but the fact of the matter is: to us, can we not learn the lesson tonight, whatever will be in the prophetic future, should we as a people of God today in our modern age not seek to follow the practice of this godly people? Is our age not the same? An age of darkness, an age of despair, an age of apostasy and compromise, indifference and apathy - should we not fear the Lord? Should we not think often about Him? Should we not speak of Him one to another? May we not have the same sweet communion that they had? I say to you tonight: a thousand times 'Yes'! We should have, and we can have!
I have made the application of how Malachi's book is so like the Laodicean church in Revelation 3 - we'll not take time to read it, but you remember they were self-deluded in the same age, and I think possibly we're in the spirit of that age today certainly in the West. They thought they were rich, increased with goods, they had need of nothing. The Lord came in His risen judicial form and showed them that they were blind, they were naked, they were pitiful, they needed Him more than ever - but they felt they had need of nothing. He said: 'I'm going to spew you out of my mouth because you're neither hot nor cold, you're lukewarm' - but here is the invitation that is given, that Christ says to that church: 'Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man' - not any church - 'any man hear my voice', any remnant hear my voice, 'I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me'.
The Bible says there's a book for our tears, the Bible says in Revelation there's a book that will be opened, and all the iniquitous works of men will be judged out of those books. Then there's the book of the Lamb's Book of Life, and those that are not found in it will be cast into the lake of fire - but this is the book of remembrance. Now God doesn't need to keep books, God knows all things and doesn't forget anything - but what this is is an encouragement to all our hearts, it's an assurance to the godly. 'What is it?', you say. 'You remember me', God says, 'You remember me, and I'll never forget you'.
Matthew Henry put it: 'Never was any good word spoken of God, or for God, from an honest heart; but it was registered that it might be recompensed in the resurrection of the just, and in no wise lose reward'. Am I speaking to someone tonight, and you're struggling in the Lord's work in His service - you're almost ready to quit. Maybe you're even attracted by the rewards of the world; maybe people, even Christians are dissuading you from going all out for God? Do you remember those two on the road to Emmaus? All their heart's desires were downcast, their hopes and dreams had been shattered, Christ had died - and as they were walking down that road to Emmaus, it says: 'It came to pass that while they communed together', what were they communing about? I don't know, but I reckon it was something to do with what was going on, and what was going on concerned Christ. Now it might have been a negative conversation, but they were talking about Christ - and as they communed together and reasoned together, Jesus Himself drew near and went with them!
Israel was a royal diadem in the crown of Jehovah. From their election in grace they were a peculiar treasure, and there's a coming day when He will gather all His jewels when He comes to judge the world, and He will put them in His jewel house and take them out of all the dirt of the earth wherewith they've been scattered, and He will pluck them from the four corners of this earth - and He says: 'They shall be mine'. But that privilege is not unique to Israel, for all believers in 1 Peter 2:9 are called 'a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people'. God treasured them, just as a father his son, verse 17. God treasures them, verse 18, and protects them. As the 103rd Psalm says, some of you Presbyterians sing it well: 'Such pity as a father hath, unto his children dear; like pity shows the Lord to such as worship Him in fear'.
God honours the righteous, He says: 'Them that honour me, I will honour'. My friend, you're precious in His sight, you're purchased by His blood, you've been polished through trials and testings, and one day in glory you will be perfect and you will shine in beauty and majesty and splendour unto the perfect day. What a comfort! What an encouragement for those who are tried and tested in the work and ways of God! What an exhortation for those who value the fellowship of the Lord above everything else in the world - and thank God there's still a few people like that! People who can say 'Take the world, but give me Jesus; all its joys are but a name, but His love abideth ever, through eternal years the same'.
The message of Malachi is: God knows - whether your words are bad or good, whether you're a judge or whether you're a jewel - God knows, God cares; and if you remember God, especially in the days of your youth, God will never forget you. I implore you tonight: don't ever forget that, and don't forget Him.
Can I read a portion of Scripture with you as we finish - Matthew 19, here it is from the words of the Lord Jesus as He spoke to Peter, Matthew 19:27, and with this we close: 'Then answered Peter and said unto him, Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore? And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name's sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life. But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first'.
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 seventh recording in his Malachi's Modern Message series, titled "Message On Faithfulness" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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