Agonizomai: Malachi 3:4-6 - God Alone is Faithful

Friday, August 28, 2009

Malachi 3:4-6 - God Alone is Faithful

Malachi 3:4-6 - God Alone is Faithful

Malachi 3:4-6 Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the LORD as in the days of old and as in former years. 5 "Then I will draw near to you for judgment. I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired worker in his wages, the widow and the fatherless, against those who thrust aside the sojourner, and do not fear me," says the LORD of hosts. 6 "For I the LORD do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed..."

Whitefield used to lament that he was often in a quandary as to whether or not to preach the gospel since, by preaching it, he might add to the condemnation of some poor souls who rejected the truth. It was a quandary that exercised him, but never prevented his preaching. The salvation of God’s elect and the declaration - the preaching of Christ - is more glorious than a whole world of the willfully lost.

This is the effect of the gospel - that it is the power of God unto salvation for those that believe, but that it is the harbinger of doom to those who reject it. It is the same with the bringers of the good tidings - those indwelt by the Spirit of Holiness - for they are to those who are being saved the savor of life unto life, but to those who are perishing they are the savor of death into death. {2Co 2:15-16} It is on account of the message, and not only the message, but the One of and from whom the message speaks. If people reject us then that is one thing, but if they reject the Christ we bring that is quite another. Are we invisible enough for that to happen?

Christ is Savior and Christ is judge. In salvation He is beautiful and the epitome of tender love. In judgment He is terrible with eyes of flaming fire and a voice like thunder. One day He will judge all men, but until then His life, His commands and precepts and His Word are the judge of all men. As the Word itself says:

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. {Heb 4:12}

Contrary to what many people think, the world is under judgment now. God placed a curse upon Adam and his race. His wrath and condemnation are revealed and they abide upon any who do not receive the love of the truth in Jesus Christ. {John 3:16-21 Ro 1:18-20} The truth is abroad in the world - in creation and in the incarnation, in the saints and in the Word of God. The stamp of the Creator is plain for any who will to see.

God promises Israel that in the day of the Lord’s advent He will draw near to them for judgment. Though He came not to condemn the world in general - nor the Jews in particular - yet the very testimony of His life and words is the condemnation and judgment of which He speaks here. "He came unto His Own and His Own received Him not." What tragedy! What irony! What depravity! What judgment! The light of His life and His wisdom shone to the very people with whom He had been dealing for almost 2,000 years and they didn’t even recognize Him!

Yet that light shone on the hypocrisies, the religiosity and the worldliness of the nation with a searing beam that was so hard to bear that they killed Him for it. They would rather have had their sorceries so that they could know the forbidden things. They would rather marry and cast off women at will for pleasure of political or economic gain - even with the pagan nations that surrounded them. They would rather lie and cheat and turn a blind eye to true need and injustice. In the times of Noah, this was what was known as a land "filled with violence". Not the violence that simply brutalizes physically, but the worse kind that twists the truth and does violence to the edicts of God Himself.

And one must bear in mind that this is the condition of a nation that God had chosen, nurtured and disciplined for millennia. Miracles, prophecy, the scriptures; the warnings, admonishments, chastening, patience, faithfulness and lovingkindness of God did not fail, because God was true to the end. He kept the covenant. But these privileged, chosen, blessed people did not.

There is a lesson for us in this. We are a faithless, and worldly people apart from the grace of God in Jesus Christ. The moment we think we stand we fall. The moment we think we stand we are already fallen. God makes us to stand. {Ro 14:4} We are upheld by His power. {1Pe 1:3-5} It is through faith, yes - but that faith is a faith that is itself the gift of God. {Eph 2:8-10} This is the lesson of Israel for us - that we are not justified and neither can we live through the flesh by obedience to the law so that we are made right with God. God must do it for us. In our flesh dwells no good thing. None. Nada. Nunkie. Zero. Zilch. {Ro 7:18} Salvation is of the Lord - plus nothing and plus no one. {Jon 2:9}

And so the offering of a naturally wayward and rebellious people is acceptable to God only through the Messiah. It is in Him that all the children of God are acceptable - just as in Adam they are not. This is the promise and the hope of Israel, and spiritual Israel always understood this. And it is to spiritual Israel that God always speaks with hearing.

These verses are not a threat to God’s true people, but a promise of faithfulness from God. True Israel mourns. True Israel hungers and thirsts after righteousness. True Israel longs for the judgment of the wicked. And these things are what God promises to do in His faithfulness in the coming Messiah - Emmanu-el, God with us. For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. And in Him all things hold together. He is the One for and because of Whom all things exist. {Ro 11:36 Col 1:15-18}

When God says, "For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed," He is contrasting His own faithfulness and immutability with the faithlessness and fickleness of the children of Israel as a nation. It is because Of God and His character - and not on account of anything in Israel that He forbears and still delivers on His promise. If it relied upon Israel to keep the covenant in order that God send the Deliverer then they would be sunk. In fact, God’s word is that they would (inevitably) be consumed. This is a very scary term. It means "utterly destroyed" or "made clean riddance of". And remember that when God destroys He destroys unendingly in hell. {Mt 10:28}

But deliverance does not depend in any way whatsoever upon men. It is entirely a work of God from start to finish - from divine foreknowledge to final glory. {Ro 8:29-30} It is precisely because God purposed to save a people for Himself and for no other reason that Israel was not consumed. It is because God is true and faithful and merciful and gracious. It is because God is Who He is. It is because what God purposed in eternity He brings to pass in history no matter what any of His creatures purposes to do. And if it were not so then no one could be saved. This is the message of these verses.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Such glorious words! To us who are being saved they are light and life; to those perishing they are condemnation. God's grace is so deep and so real. This is the inner joy we always have, this is the good news of the gospel. Listening to you reaffirm it in the morning sets the stage for a day filled with thanksgiving and praise. Thank you.:-)

8:35 am  

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