Weekly Word from Bro. David
June 2, 2016
From The Pastor's Heart:
Today we begin a brand new series through the Old Testament book of Malachi. It's a series I've entitled Going Through the Motions because here we see God's people performing the rituals of religion without a heart for God. They're still in church; they even come on Wednesday nights. They're faithful to Sunday school; in fact, they might even teach a class. They serve in various ministries; some may even be deacons or church officers. But, their heart is far from God. They were going through the motions. And you know as well as I do, just like in Malachi's day, these days it can be easy to go through the motions.
The book of Malachi sits aptly in our Bibles as the last book of the Old Testament, for it looks back to the Old Testament and assumes, summarizes, and applies its message. But it also looks forward to the New Testament, with its promises of the coming reign of God.
One of the book’s most striking features is the way in which every word of God is contradicted or questioned by God's people. This is the deep structure of the book and its recurring theme. Contradicting God and His words was unfortunately characteristic of this country’s people! Whatever God said, they contradicted with questions.
Furthermore, God's people neither served him enthusiastically, nor turned away in blatant disobedience. This was not neutral territory, but a dangerous whirlpool of self-deception.
A church member scolded her pastor for preaching a series of sermons on ''The Sins of the Saints.'' ''After all,'' she argued, ''the sins of Christians are different from the sins of other people.'' ''Yes,'' agreed her pastor, ''they're worse.''
They are worse. For when believers sin, they not only break the Law of God, but they break the heart of God. When a believer deliberately sins, it isn't just the disobedience of a servant to a master, or the rebellion of a subject against a king; it's the offense of a child against the loving Father. The sins we cherish and thing we get away with bring grief to the heart of God.
Malachi was called to perform a difficult and dangerous task. It was his responsibility to rebuke the people for their sins against God and against one another and to call them to return to the Lord.
Malachi took a wise approach: he anticipated the objections of the people and met them head-on. ''This is what God says,'' declared the prophet, ''but you say _______'' then he would answer their complaints.
The Old Testament prophets were often the only people in the community who had a grip on reality and saw things as they actually were, and that's what made them so unpopular.
In this series, we'll study what Malachi wrote concerning their sins. But don't read Malachi as ancient history. Unfortunately, these sins are with us in the church today. Many churches and many of God's people are still going through the motions.
Today we will focus on the first verse of this prophecy and it will serve as an introduction to the entire sermon series. And what is striking about this book is that God's people appear to be reluctantly serving God, in a half-hearted kind of way. They are neither energetic enough to serve him wholeheartedly, nor to engage in blatant disobedience. It is hardly satisfactory for them, as it is hardly satisfactory for God.
The name ''Malachi'' means ''my messenger.'' What a great name for a prophet! Some scholars think that wasn't his real name but maybe a description of the man. I believe it was his actual name and for the purposes of our study I will teach just that. If that is the case, it is clear that God had a purpose for this prophet even from birth.
Malachi prophesied after the people of God had returned from exile in Babylon and served in Jerusalem and Judah. The temple had been rebuilt (1:10), and there was a (Persian) governor (1:8). Though no date is given for the prophecy, there are some external clues that give indication that Malachi prophesied about the same time as Ezra and Nehemiah. He probably gave his prophecy between 460 and 400 BC.
He is the last prophet in the Old Testament. Last, but not least. His message is significant and vitally important for us to hear and to heed.
The truth is we don't know much about the man Malachi. And I think Malachi wanted it that way. Malachi recognized that it wasn't the messenger that was important, but the message he proclaimed.
And he prophesied to a wicked, rebellious, stubborn, and complacent people. Much like the church today!
Frank Layden, the former coach of Utah Jazz in the seventies, had problems with a basketball player, and so he summoned the talented but troubled man to his office. Looking the player in the eye, the coach finally asked, ''My son, I can't understand it what it is with you. Is it ignorance or apathy?'' What was the player's typical unconcerned response? The player said, ''Coach, I don't know and I don't care!'' That sums up many in the church today.
A wise old evangelist was once asked, ''Why don't we see revival happening in the Church in the United States today?'' The old preacher scratched his chin and thought for a moment. Then he said, ''The reason why we are not living in revival today is because we are content to live without it.''
The sad truth is we are all too apathetic when it comes to the things of God. God has spoken. There is no question about that. But many times we simply respond, ''I don't know and I don't care.'' We must heed the words of this prophecy, because they are not only to the people of Israel. We need to wake up and listen up because God is speaking to the church of today. Get in His Word!