Malachi 1. 1-5
(1 of 9 Sermons)
In the days of Nehemiah we find the children of
Israel returning from their bondage in Babylon. Stepping over the broken
down walls of Jerusalem they with great gusto began to rebuild them.
Securing the city they then turned their attention towards the temple.
Rebuilding its courts they eventually completed it in 515BC.
Returning then to the daily grind of life its stresses and temptations began to take their toll. Slowly eroding away their zeal and enthusiasm they began to doubt that love of God. Despite praying everyday "thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might" their love began to grow cool. Ceasing to love as they ought they became careless concerning the temple. When they finally did come up into its sacred courts they brought that which was defiled and cost them nothing. Even their homes began to break up. Over a period of time they lost their initial love and enthusiasm not only for the work of God but for the God of the work.
With the passing of time there is a real danger of losing our first love and enthusiasm. Getting our eyes of his love ceasing to love him as we ought. Indeed, writing unto the seven churches in Asia the Lord speaking firstly unto the church at Ephesus he said in Rev. 2:4 "Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love". It is no coincidence that he mentions this sin first. Because it is the source of all other sins. There needs to be a guarding our hearts even from the daily grind of life. It can at times robs us of our enthusiasm. Are you as enthusiastic today as you were a few years ago? If not then return to the Lord because it will lead to other sins.
1. HIS MESSENGER: Bursting upon the scene with the fire and vengeance of Elijah Malachi's task was no easy one. Facing not only a defiled priesthood and a cold hearted people but a faltering economy we notice here that:-
a) His Biography Was Hidden:
Beginning to prophecy we read in v1 “The burden
of the word of the LORD to Israel by Malachi”. In taking up
his pen he unlike many of the other prophets makes no mention of his parentage,
birthplace or even his office. In fact the name "Malachi" is translated
in ch.2:7 and ch.3:1 as 'messenger' and it literally means 'messenger of
the Lord'. Some commentators believe that this was not his real name but
merely a pen name for one of the other prophets. Rather than drawing attention
to himself his only desire was to communicate God's message. To that end
in a total of 55 verses he records the Lord addressing them some 47 times
in the first person.
Christ must be paramount. As well as being the alpha he must be the omega of our witness. Indeed, writing unto the Corinthians Paul said 2 Corinthians 4:5 “For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake.”. Hiding himself behind the cross he sought only to reveal Christ and him in all his majesty and mercy. Again hiding himself in the obscurity of the wilderness John cried "Behold the lamb of God". Placing himself in the dust he sought to lift up Christ.
What is important in our witness is not the man but the message. The messenger decreasing he must increase the master. Robert Murray McCheyne preaching on the character of a faithful ministry said "I would willingly lie down beneath the sod in the churchyard, and be forgotten and tramped on, if only you were friends of Christ". Rather than promoting himself his only desire was to promote Christ. We have a lot of talk today about rights. But we should be willing to give up every rights and even be tramped into the ground for the cause of Christ. What is important is not you or I but Christ. An English merchant in the 17th century going to hear Samuel Rutherford preach he said "he showed me the loveliness of Christ". It is the loveliness of Christ we must leave with men.
b) His Burden Was Heavy:
Beginning to preach we read in v1 “The burden
of the word of the LORD to Israel by Malachi.”. As you read
through this prophesy you very quickly discover that it is threatening
in its nature. Every word is surcharged with the wrath of heaven. Seeing
the awful plagues that lay ahead if they did not repent Malachi's
heart was exceedingly heavy. Burdening him down he was sometime anxious,
sometimes angry and most of the time the tears ran down his cheeks.
While never gloomy the believer is not always glad. When in tune with heaven the tears often run down his cheeks. Indeed, waiting to meet his friends in the ancient city of Athens we read concerning Paul Acts 17:16 “his spirit was stirred in him, when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry.”. Seeing the Athenians bowing down before an inscription in Mars Hill to the unknown God his heart was rent in twain.
Those who are close to God are often a grieving people. The sins of society rather than tickling tears them apart. A man once visiting the Niagara Falls asked the waiter serving him did the continual roar of the water tumbling down not drive him to distraction. Turning to him the waiter said "what noise". He said "when I came here I could here nothing else but now it has become quiet to me". Why? Because he had become accustomed to it. There is a danger of becoming accustomed to the cry of perishing souls so that we no longer hear them and to the sins of our declining society so that they no longer disturb us. Have you the weeping heart of this prophet?
c) His Business Was Heralding:
His heart breaking within we read in v1 “The burden
of the word of the LORD to Israel by Malachi.”. It is interesting
to note here that although this prophesy was written after the people's
return from Babylon it is addressed not to Judah but to Israel. As far
as Malachi was concerned the ten tribes were not lost. Although his message
was dark and heavy yet rather than hiding it he sounded it out before Israel.
The message of God is given not to be hidden but heralded. It is to be delivered to the people. Indeed, speaking unto the disciples the Lord said in Mark 16:15 “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.”. The word "preach" simply means to proclaim with gravity. Leaving lightness aside they were to declare the good news.
Having acquired there must then be an announcing of the truth. A declaring of it to rather than against our friends and neighbours. Bishop Taylor Smith walking down one of the aisles in Westminster Abbey he came to the tomb of David Livingstone. Reading the inscription which read "Other sheep I have" someone asked him what he was thinking. He said "Who shall bring in those sheep if we do not offer our feet". Will you offer your feet and your tongue today and begin to proclaim Christ?
2. HIS MERCY: Anticipating their objections the Lord outmanoeuvred them. Realising they would question his love he in his opening breathes declared it in all of its fullness. Notice:-
a) It Is A Divine Love:
Lifting their eyes up out of the mire of despair we read in v2-3
“I have loved you, saith the LORD. Yet ye say, Wherein hast thou loved
us? Was not Esau Jacob’s brother? saith the LORD: yet I loved Jacob, And
I hated Esau”. Jacob and Esau were twins. Being born there was
little difference between them except Esau was the firstborn. As such Jacob
had no right to the birthright or even the blessing. More than that he
was a twisted, deceiving and double dealing type of character. As such
this love was not merited.
The love of God is not something that is gained but rather given. It is simply deposited upon those whom he chooses to deposit it upon. Indeed, reminding his dear children in the faith of this John, the apostle of love, said in 1John 4:19 “We love him, because he first loved us.”. He reminded them that the Lord loved them not because they had firstly loved him but rather vice-versa.
The love of God is both strange and sovereign. He loves simply because he chooses to love. A man one day coming to Griffith Thomas he said "I have a great problem with Malachi 1:3 where God says 'Esau have I hated'". Griffith Thomas looking at him he said "I have even a greater problem with Malachi 1:2 where Gods said "I loved Jacob'". The problem is not that God should hate any one because we all deserved to be destroyed. The marvel is that he should love any of us. Because you are his does not mean that you have anything to boast off. He choose you not because of your goodness but rather because of your lack of it.
b) It Is A Durable Love:
Choosing his word carefully we read v2 “I have
loved you, saith the LORD. Yet ye say, Wherein hast thou loved us?".
Although in the past tense the force of these words is not merely "I have
loved" but "I do love you". Indeed, they were spoken in answer to the accusation
that he no longer loved them. As such although their hearts had grown cold
he was saying I not only have loved but still love you.
The love of God is not merely limitless in its extent but in its endlessness. It neither fades nor falls. Reminding them of this in the days of Jeremiah the prophet said in Jeremiah 31:3 “Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.”.
The love of God is enduring. Seizing the soul it never lets it go. One day C. H. Spurgeon was walking through the English countryside with a friend and as they strolled along, the evangelist noticed a barn with a weather vane on its roof. At the top were the words, "GOD IS LOVE". Remarking that the weather vane being changeable and God's love being constant he said it was rather inappropriate. His friend disagreeing he said "You misunderstood the meaning. It simply means that regardless the way the wind is blowing, God is love". God's love is constant. It does not matter what way our love is blowing he still loves us. That does not make you coldness acceptable. It is worse because then you are sinning against love.
c) It Is A Demanding Love:v2
“I have loved you, saith the LORD. Yet ye say, Wherein hast thou loved
us? ". The reason he was now reminding them of his love
was in order to draw them back to himself.
The love of God when considered is constraining. It draws us back into the path of obedience. When giving the law Moses urged the people to obey because the Lord was holy. Later reviewing it he told them to obey because he loved them. What greater argument is there for obedience than his love.
3. HIS MAGNIFICATION:
While they were now ridiculing him the Lord reminded them that despite
a) His Favour Would Be Seen: v5 “And your eyes shall see, and ye shall say, The LORD will be magnified from the border of Israel.”. Questioning his love he told them in v3 to look around them. While Edom was a wasteland and the inheritance of Jackals they were living in relative comfort. Their land had not been destroyed and unlike them they had a future.
The love of God can be seen if only it is sought. It is evident all around us. Think back to the meeting where you were saved. Were there not others there. But while they remained unmoved you were disturbed and drawn to Christ. You may not be as well off as that old rascal down the road. But unlike them you are not on the road to hell. How dare you question his love.
b) His Foes Would Be Slain: v4. "Lord of Host" is the military name of God. It comes from a root which means 'to wage war'. Waging war against Edom he would not only bring her down but blight her every effort to recover herself.
God is not only a God of love but a God of war. He will permanently destroy his enemies. Men my mock him but he will have the last laugh. He will be magnified.
c) His Faithfulness Would Be Sung: v5 “And your eyes shall see, and ye shall say, The LORD will be magnified from the border of Israel.”. They would praise him
God has saved us not only to serve but sing. As well as proclaiming his great name we are to praise his great name. Will you not recognise his love and even now ascribe unto him the praise he rightly deserves. (This message is one of a series of 9 preached on the book of Malachi. For further details see list of tapes available)