Behind all of Malachi’s preaching there is a concept of God; there’s a God framework and it’s important just to outline that framework before we look at the individual prophecies He sees God in three functions as the whole Old Testament does, but I’m afraid those who don’t read the Old Testament tend to forget these three things. We read the New Testament and think God is the loving Father – and he is – but these three dimensions of the Old Testament of God are vital. He is the Creator in our past, the King in our present, and the Judge of our future and we must come to all things with this God framework – of God as the creator from whom we come, the king under whom live and the judge to whom we shall go. That’s the picture of God here – as it is in the whole Old Testament and in the New; the loving Father side – it supplements this, but it doesn’t substitute for this. And it’s very important to have this godly sense of God as the background Now, the first people he has a go at are the priests, and he has two goes at them. And it’s interesting that here God is seen as father and as master and should be respected, but instead they are treating God with contempt – and familiarity breeds contempt. Again, may I dare to say it – I miss the fear of God in many, many services today where God is treated with familiarity but not with reverence and respect. And therefore, he said, you priests are bringing God into disrepute and dishonour, you’re giving him a bad name. You should be reverent but you’re not reverent and I’m not going to call you that, he’s saying, because you don’t reverence God. And they said, how? How are we showing contempt for God? He said, in two ways; you’re offering cheap sacrifices – instead of choosing the best lamb you’re choosing the worst, you’re accepting blind and crippled animals to offer to God, what nobody else has any use for, and you’re approving this. And you’re offering to God less than the best, that’s showing contempt for him. He said, you wouldn’t go to your governor – the Persian governor – with a blind, crippled lamb as a present and yet you go to God with that. That’s a devastating argument, isn’t it? You give God what’s left over; you give somebody else the best you can give He said, that’s how you do it and he said, God’s name is great among the nations but not among you. The Gentiles have more reverence for God than you do. Quite devastating And then he said, the second way in which you show contempt for God is preaching popular sermons. You’re supposed to be God’s messenger, but you give the people what they want to hear. You’re supposed to be teaching them the Law, you’re supposed to be God-fearers not men-pleasers. Now here we have again a fundamental temptation and pressure on those who serve God in the church; it’s so easy to give people what they want to hear and not to disturb them because if they’re disturbed, well you won’t be invited back. See? So here is how he specifically challenged them. He said, you’re showing God contempt, and they said, how do we show God contempt? He said, in this – you’re giving him less than the best as a sacrifice and you’re preaching sermons that are not what God wants preaching; you’re preaching what the people want Well, these things are not out of date, are they? And he reminds them of God’s covenant with Levi – with the priests – that they wouldn’t need to work, that they would be supported by the others provided they taught people to fear the Lord. He said, you get the living still but you’re not teaching people to fear the Lord. You are not teaching them awe or reverence. You’re to be an example too. The Levitical priests were told that people must be able to look at their lives and see it, and not just hear it with their ears. He says, your lips and your lives must be giving the same message and they’re not; and he says, you’re already under a curse and there’s worse to come because many of you, your children are going to die, and your priesthood will come to an end and your family will no longer

be part of the priesthood if you carry on like this. Quite a severe word. In other words, they’d become careless and casual – and again I’m disturbed at how casual some people treat the worship of God, as if it’s, you know, well let’s sing a few choruses. This is almighty God we’re coming to worship. They were doing the right thing but doing it in the wrong way Next, Malachi moved on to the people. And there were five things which showed that both their belief and their behaviour were slipping The first two examples are examples of broken faith, broken covenants. The first basic thing was mixed marriage; their young people were marrying out of the people of God which God said must never be. That is as true for the church as it is for Israel – we’re not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers. Do you know the chief Rabbi of this country was on the radio a week ago and he said the greatest anxiety they have is that so many Jewish young men in this country are marrying Gentile girls that Jews are likely to lose their identity in this country in another ten years or so It was happening then, it’s happening in the Church. If you marry a child of the devil, you’re going to have problems with your father-in-law We should be telling our young people this; it leads to a lifetime of unequal yoke which chafes and rubs and causes great unhappiness The second thing was heartless divorce and it had now become rife. People changed their wives. They’d got into what we call consecutive polygamy simultaneous polygamy is when people have more wives than one at the same time, consecutive polygamy is when they have as many wives as they want, provided they have them one at a time and I tell you this is now right inside the Church. Pastors are changing wives now. But why is it worse for them than church members? We are all brothers in Christ But this was happening in Malachi’s day and there were divorces and remarriages going on all over the place within the people of God. And this hurt God because every marriage is in God’s sight. Whether it’s in a registry office or the Garden of Eden or a church, every marriage is holy matrimony in God’s sight. And every marriage comes under the law of God and God’s law, according to Jesus, is that whoever divorces and remarries commits adultery. But I tell you most preachers today are scared stiff of quoting that, much less preaching it because it would upset too many people. One pastor of a church in the States actually pinned me against a brick wall because I read that verse in a service, and he said, you’ve upset half my congregation. Actually, I found out it was him as well; he was on his third. But Malachi had faced this and we have to face it too – but it’s probably the most unpopular thing to face in today’s church Well I move on. God simply says, “I hate divorce”. Do you remember when I told you we read the Bible right through in our church? One lady whom I didn’t know said, could I read for fifteen minutes? And I said, yes; she put her name down, and she came to the church to read her fifteen minutes and then she was going straight afterwards to her solicitor to get a divorce. And she read Malachi and she found herself reading, “I hate divorce”, and the result was she never got to that solicitor Coincidence? No. God knows how to deal with people Then he deals with the people’s doubtful questions You see, he accused them of breaking covenant, and they said, how are we breaking covenant? He said, you’re breaking the covenant with each other because marriage is a covenant and you’re breaking the covenant by marrying outside the people of God. You know, these people he was talking to thought they were innocent and they didn’t like this preacher accusing them. How! How do we do this?! But he spelled it out in detail. And I find, actually, people don’t mind you making general statements; it’s when you spell it out in particular ways – that’s when it hurts and that’s when people say to the preacher, shut up Doubtful questions. This really, says Malachi, is wearying God. You’re saying, how can you believe in a God of love when this is happening? How dare you ask such questions, you ask where is the justice of God? How dare you ask that question. Judgment will come – it doesn’t

come by next Friday, it doesn’t come immediately with God – that’s his patience with us, but don’t ever accuse God of being unfair and of being indifferent to bad things going on But, says Malachi, you’ll have an even bigger surprise when he does come to punish bad people because the purging will start in his temple As the New Testament says, judgment begins in the house of God. And he said, you’re crying out for God to deal with bad people, but when he does, it will be you he deals with. And he says, the priests will go and then lots of you will go – and he makes a list of what they were doing. He says these are the people who don’t fear God and who will go if God comes to judge – sorcerers, adulterers, perjurers, those who are defrauding labourers of wages, those who are holding cash back when they owe it, those who oppress widows and the fatherless, and those who deprive foreigners of justice, immigrants of justice – and he says, when God comes to purge they’re the ones who will go. It’s pretty direct talking Now at this point, there’s a change of tone and in all this accusation, there’s an appeal from God, and God speaks from his heart just for a little while and says, it’s because I don’t change that they’re not restored; it’s because I’m amazingly patient that I don’t judge quickly. You have a long history of unfaithfulness, but I’m still faithful You may break my covenant, but I never will; I am still committed to you. You may have turned away from me, but you can still turn back. Return to me and I will return to you There it is again. You see, when we get away from God, he gets away from us – but when we return to him, he returns to us God is in a dynamic two-way relationship with his people and he responds to them all the time. When they give him up, he gives them up, but when they return to him, he returns to them – when the prodigal turns home, the father runs out to meet him. God is constantly meeting us where we are, responding to us, reflecting our attitude to him – that’s this dynamic relationship which we have with God Some people think of God as sitting way up in heaven far away and just making decrees and pushing us around like puppets – that’s not the Bible picture. The Bible picture is of a God who is responding to us all the time, who changes his mind when we change, who repents when we repent, who returns to us when we return to him – that’s the dynamic picture It’s a very live relationship Now, Malachi says, you are stealing from God! How? We’ve never stolen from God. Oh yes you have – unpaid tithes and offerings. See how Malachi pins them to the ground. They object and say, we’re not like that. He says, yes you are. And he spells it out and they can’t say a thing. They have not kept up the 10% tithe to God or the voluntary offerings. He says, therefore you are under a curse because the law of tithing and the law of Moses says, if you pay, God blesses you – and if you don’t, he curses you to the third and fourth generation Now praise God, Christians are not under that law. I have never preached Tithing in my life I’ve preached giving because in the New Testament we’re to give out of gratitude, and the Lord doesn’t want your gift if you don’t want to give it. But in the Old Testament, they had to tithe – it is not a Christian practice but it was a Jewish practice, and my wife and I sat and listened to a young man in a church preaching on tithing, which he shouldn’t – but at least he was honest; he gave them the whole story and he said to the congregation – if you don’t tithe, your grandchildren and great-grandchildren will suffer because the Law says ‘to the third and fourth generation’ He said, you’ll be under the curse and you’ll put your grandchildren under a curse. Do you want to do that? Then let’s take up the offering for this morning – and they got the biggest offering I think they had for years. But I said afterwards to the leaders of that church, that was wicked teaching. If you’re going to teach tithe, you’ve got to teach the curse of not tithing as well as the blessing of tithing. And the Jews you could say that to, but to say that to a Christian congregation is wicked, and it makes people give out a fear – but the Lord loves a cheerful giver under the New Covenant. But I just throw that out because too many churches teach tithing and it’s not the law for Christians. We are to give out of sheer gratitude to God. And frankly, churches that are taught giving give far more than tithing. For some people, tithing would be far too little and for others it would be far too much – and we need to be much more flexible But they were under this law, and he says,

you’re already under the curse because you haven’t brought the tithes; and he said, if you want blessing again then you know how to do it – bring all the tithes into the Lord’s store house, and see if I don’t open the windows of heaven and pour out such a blessing as cannot be contained. Unfortunately, it’s that verse that Christian preachers get hold of and they ignore the verse in front about the curse, but that’s being pick-and-mix, related to the Old Testament. We shouldn’t do it But what does he mean ‘the windows of heaven’? He means literally clouds and rain because the curse had brought drought to them; and he says, I’ll open the windows of heaven and ‘pour out’. He means, I’ll give you rain again if you just do what I’ve told you to do and bring them all in; yours will be a delightful end Then he accuses them of slanderous talk, and they say, how have we slandered God? And Malachi, with that sharp razor of his tongue says, because you say, it’s useless to serve God, it’s futile, it doesn’t pay to be religious And he said, that’s a libel on God. They were saying, even evil doers prosper so it doesn’t pay; those who challenged God seemed to get away with it, so why bother? Why bother? He said, that’s a slander on God Now did all this have any effect? Was Malachi as effective a preacher as Haggai and Zechariah had been, did the people respond? The answer is, some did; and some went away from hearing Malachi’s prophecy and they got together in a house group – a house group here and a house group there – and they didn’t have roast preacher for supper as so many do. They didn’t discuss the messenger, they discussed the message and they repented and said, that preacher meant us – we’ve got to put things right Only a few did that, and they did it in little groups in homes, and it says, God wrote their names down in a book. They talked about God so God said, I’m writing them down; I’m noting who responded to the message Quite a thought, isn’t it? God writes down the names of those who hear and then talk about it and do something about it. So they discussed it among themselves, and the Lord listened to their conversation. He must have smiled – oh, they heard it. He wrote their names in a book of remembrance. You see, God writes names in books and if your name is not written in the book of Life when the book is opened at the end of time, it would be better for you if you’d never been born. God notes names down, of those who hear the message and receive it, talk about it with each other, say ‘we’re going to be different’ And so we come to the final section of this prophecy. There is going to be a separation within the people of God. Within Israel, there’s coming a day when they’ll be divided into two right down the middle. It’s called the Day of the Lord. Here’s ‘the day’ coming up again as we remember it from Zechariah and other prophets like Amos and Joel. They talked about the Day of the Lord and now he talks about it. It’s a day of reckoning, it’s a day of settling accounts, it’s the Day of Judgment. And on that day, there will only be two groups – the righteous and the wicked, those who serve God and those who don’t, those who revere God and those who despise him, those who are humble before God and those who are arrogant about themselves On the one hand, the righteous – I love this next description. See, I used to get up at 4.00 in the morning to milk 90 cows – there were two of us who did that. And during the winter, we kept those cows indoors. It was up in Northumberland and the weather wasn’t fit to leave them out, so we brought them in, in the Autumn. And then we fed them cake and hay for months, and then came the day when we let them out for the first time in the spring. If you know anything about country life, you know what happened next. Even the oldest cow gambolled like a lamb and the cows – these old, big, fat cows would jump around the field for joy – they would just go wild Calves do it naturally at any time of the year – have you ever seen calves suddenly getting excited? Horses sometimes do it in a field and suddenly gallop around the field at full gallop, but calves do it. But even cows will do it and it says on that day, the righteous will be my treasured possession,

and they will leap like calves let out of the stall. I just see that picture. I mean, I’ve seen it so often – I can just see some of you leaping for joy on that day; perhaps you can even see me doing it. But, you know, people will be so thrilled, so excited, like calves let out of the stall. We always did it when the sun was strong enough and on a sunny day, and it says, ‘and the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in his wings’. It’s a spring picture – it’s poetic language but the sun is shining, and people are leaping for joy and it’s the spring Life! But those who are rejected on that day are like stubble burned after harvest. It’s not legal to do it now in this country because smoke pollutes the atmosphere and drifts over roads but, until recently, after the harvest, did you ever see a whole field of straw being burned and just crackling fire running through and all that’s left is ash? He said, just as the calves leaping in a green field under the sun is a picture of the righteous on that day, the ashes of stubble is a picture of the wicked – those who have not responded to God There are three notes that are sounded here which I would just sound at the end. Israel as a people will survive. There will always be an Israel as Malachi said on behalf of God, I don’t change; I don’t go back on my word. But that does not mean that every Jew who’s ever lived will be saved. It does not mean that. The Jews do need the Gospel. We do need to preach to them because there are hundreds of them dying and going to hell now The second thing that is clear is that some in Israel will be lost, and the third thing that Malachi makes clear is that some outside Israel will be saved, the Goyim – that’s what we are – it’s the word for Gentiles. It’s rather like your word – gor, gorgy – Goyim That’s what the Jews call the non-Jews, the Gentiles, and it says some in Israel will be lost and some outside Israel will be saved – that’s us Now we get to the last three verses – a postscript, an epilogue – and it’s built around the two greatest men in the Old Testament – Moses and Elijah. And it’s God’s last appeal to his people of Israel in the Old Testament days, last word for 400 years. He says, remember Moses; get back to the Maker’s instructions he gave you. God is your great King. Get back to Moses and then he says, and God will give you another chance. He’ll send one more prophet to you – Elijah – and he will come as a forerunner and he will come to challenge you Now Elijah was the first major prophet to challenge the idolatry and the immorality of Israel. That was his greatness; he was the first of a long line, Elijah, Elisha, Amos, Hosea, Isaiah, Jeremiah – but Elijah was the first. Moses was the prophet who led them out of Egypt and who gave them the covenant and the Law, but Elijah was the first prophet to say you’ve broken it and you need to get back to it And so the Old Testament closes with that and says, if you don’t listen to Elijah, then the land will be smitten with curse. That’s the last word in your Old Testament, lest he come and smite the land, it should be ‘the land with a curse’. They would get one last chance before the day of the Lord, one more prophet to prepare the way of the Lord, an Elijah, calling for repentance who would reconcile the generations and bring family life together again; and reconcile fathers to sons and sons to fathers, one more chance. And for over 400 years, they waited for that to happen They were occupied by Egyptians – Persians first – then Egyptians, then Syrians, then Greeks, then Romans, and then the chance came and suddenly there was a man dressed like Elijah eating the same diet as Elijah – locusts

and wild honey – and the country said, he’s come. They flocked out to hear this man, and this man preached the message that Malachi said he would preach. He called people back to wisdom and back to family life, and Elijah had come – but he’d only come as a forerunner to prepare the way of the Lord to come Now, when you turn to the New Testament, you find that there was a great debate about whether John the Baptist was Elijah or not; and in fact, Jesus came into the debate twice and he said, Elijah has come, he was my cousin John. So Malachi and Matthew go side by side in our Bible because that was the very next thing God said, and Matthew tells us how Elijah did come in the person of John the Baptist And he deliberately wore the clothes of Elijah and ate the food of Elijah. This was the revelation of God’s next move. And I think it’s lovely that when Jesus reached that watershed after two and a half years, took the disciples to the foot of Mount Hermon and said, who do people think I am? They said well some think you’re a reincarnation of Jeremiah or somebody else and he said but who do you say I am? As dear old Peter who saw the truth, he said, well you have lived before haven’t you? But not down here, you’ve lived up there? You’re the Christ the Son of the living God. And then Jesus said to Peter, James and John, come with me up the mountain and they went up to the top of the mountain, and Moses and Elijah appeared and talked to Jesus. Malachi promised it, and it all came together Well, all these Old Testament examples are written for our use. We must let the New Testament interpret the Old, we’re not under laws like Sabbath and Tithe, but we are under the law of Christ and we are under his law which is stricter than the law of Moses on divorce and remarriage, on many other issues. And we are not to lose the fear of God, that’s the danger. If you forget the Old Testament, you lose the fear of God. Above all, we must remember that judgment begins at the house of God. The New Testament writers say, like Malachi, when God comes to judge he first judges his people and then he judges everybody else – we need to remember that. There will be a separation even of people in church, so let’s not drift away, let’s not neglect the faith, let’s not commit apostasy, let’s stay with it and go on believing – and he who believes to the end will be saved. Amen