Chapter 3: 13-18
“Your words have been harsh against Me,’ says the Lord, ‘Yet you say, ‘what have we spoken against You?’ 14 You have said, ‘It is useless to serve God; what profit is it that we have kept His ordinance, and that we have walked as mourners before the Lord of hosts? 15 So now we call the proud blessed, for those who do wickedness are raised up; they even tempt God and go free.’ 16 Then those who feared the Lord spoke to one another, and the Lord listened and heard them; So, a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the Lord and who meditate on His name.
17 “They shall be Mine,’ says the Lord of hosts, ‘On the day that I make them My jewels. And I will spare them as a man spares his own son who serves him.’ 18 Then you shall again discern between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve Him.”
Thank you for your emails, and we are actively praying as a church for the persons that you have mentioned. I have a prayer request of my own. We have a ministry in Pakistan that has been using our materials and has been reaching out to us for help. We are a small church, and we do what we can. We have sent some materials, and we are in the process of getting some Bibles, or maybe just the John/Romans books in Urdu. Please pray for these folks; they also serve a household of orphans, and we have got pictures here. If you had told me 12 years ago when we began this teaching ministry that we would have people in Pakistan using the material, I would have shrugged my shoulders and laughed it off inside. BUT GOD….
Today we are going to tackle another conversation that God has with the people of Israel. This remnant that had been preserved through the captivity in Babylon is now back in the land, and as in many cultures, there are the believers and the doubters. Today, God is going to take on the doubters head-on, and we will see if we can listen in and glean some knowledge and wisdom for us here in 2021.
- What is the point? Verses 13-15
What is the point of serving God? What is the point of obeying these laws and performing these sacrifices? And if you recall the last lesson, what is the point of giving to God financially? There is no benefit to serving the Lord; why? The wicked and evil men are the ones prospering, and we, the ‘righteous’, suffer and are poor. If you were to take a look at Psalm 73, we find that Asaph, one of David’s chief musicians, had the same questions. He writes in Psalm 73: 1-9,
“Truly God is good to Israel, to such as are pure in heart. But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled; my steps had nearly slipped. For I was envious of the boastful, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. 4 For there are no pangs in their death, but their strength is firm. They are not in trouble as other men, nor are they plagued like other men. Therefore pride serves as their necklace; violence covers them like a garment. Their eyes bulge with abundance; they have more than heart could wish. They scoff and speak wickedly concerning oppression; they speak loftily. They set their mouth against the heavens, and their tongue walks through the earth.”
Asaph asked an honest question: What was the point of serving the Lord when the wicked seem to prosper and have everything in this life? They don’t seem to have the same troubles as other men. And if I may make an observation, they seem to live long and healthy. I think of the Queen at 95 still working, in her right mind, and then see my mom, a woman who served the Lord all of her life, and she is stricken with Alzheimer’s and laid up in bed. I think of the many faithful preachers that have suffered from various diseases, many of who never became rich, never even owned a home, and their children lived with hand-me-downs for a long time. It seems that many wicked people live to ripe old ages, they live in relatively good health, and they have a lot of money.
The people in Israel in Malachi’s day had the question that many generations, and I think ours today, are asking. What is the point of serving God when the only people that seem to prosper are the wicked?
It would seem that the way to get God’s favor is to be wicked. Sadly, we have a generation of people raised in churches that only equate God’s favor with money or fame. They cannot imagine any other kind of favor. Nowhere in the New Testament are we promised riches, but we are promised enough. We are promised that when we take stock, we will see that God has given us all we need and often more than we need. We have been fed that the life of leisure is the goal; retire early and play golf to the end. But in the Kingdom of God, we are called to serve Him to our dying breath. We are to give ourselves wholly to Him.
In 2021, we see this same phenomenon that was happening in Malachi’s day. We see the evil men prospering around us, the Gates and Bidens of the world, the Winfreys and Putins of the world. We see the financial prosperity of false preachers and their mega-churches; we see their books everywhere, see their homes, their cars, and their lifestyles.
It is easy to come to the conclusion as a conservative Baptist preacher that has to work a secular job, whose wife works a lot to keep the bills paid, and who at times had to sweat about money and still does sometimes, that serving the Lord and preaching/teaching the truth is not worth it. I can live better as a false teacher; I don’t have to compromise much, just a little, and the book offers may come, and we can live better. I can see how the folks in Malachi’s day and how Asaph came to ask this question.
- If the proud prosper, what is the point of humility? Verse 15, Psalm 73:6
If God resists the proud, how are they doing so well? Once again, we in the Lord’s churches have been conditioned to equate riches with God’s blessings. But riches wrongfully acquired are an abomination to the Lord; just read about any chapter in the book of Proverbs. Just because someone is rich does not mean that they are blessed by God. The Devil can bless you as well; if he knows that the money will keep you from God, he will make sure that you get all you want and more. There are many people who are legitimately rich; no evil was done and no deceit; that is just life.
We see there in Malachi’s day, in Asaph’s day, and now today that those riches lead to prideful living and attitudes. The idea that because they are rich, they have something to offer the rest of society that we need. They have some piece of wisdom that if we would just listen, we would prosper as they. This is the same argument that false Bible teachers offer – all of you could be rich as well; just get my book, my teachings, and voila, riches will fall into your lap. Many rich people have a hard time with Jesus because He was poor; not just poor, very poor. Jesus made this assessment about the rich in Matthew 19: 16-23,
“Now behold, one came and said to Him, ‘Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?’ So He said to him, ‘Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.’ He said to Him, ‘Which ones?’ Jesus said, ‘You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not bear false witness,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’
The young man said to Him, ‘All these things I have kept from my youth. What do I still lack?’ Jesus said to him, ‘If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.’ But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.'”
Money was this young man’s god. He has kept the commandments, or at least he was sure he had kept commandments 5-10, but he did not keep the first commandment, “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20: 1-3). While we see prideful people prospering here in this life, we are to read the scriptures and trust that God hates the proud, He resists them, and their end will be destruction. All of these prideful ‘all knowing’ persons that we see on TV will one day all bow their knee to the Jesus they despised, and they will be humble and silent in His presence.
- Look back and see, verses 16-18
The ones who feared the Lord, the ones who had respect and loving regard for the Lord, spoke up and gave testimony to God’s faithfulness and that we should hold on and see that while these prating fools prosper but for a while, the Lord will truly and eternally prosper those that love Him and that He loves.
These folks wrote a book of remembrance to help them and the following generations see how good God is and was. Do you have a book of remembrance? A journal that helps you to see the past so that you can clearly see the future. I was reading not too long ago about the teaching of some modern preachers that encourage people to always look ahead and forget the past. But here in Malachi, we are encouraged to look at the past so that we can make good decisions and have discernment about the here and now and the future.
Let me offer a journal of remembrance of our own from my wife and me.
Twelve years ago, when we met, we were both living in the basement with our respective parents. We had lots of stuff, but the value of which past sentiment was nothing. She had 2 kids, and we got married and moved into our own place. Paying rent was hard and expensive here in Southern Ontario; we had to pull the kids out of the Christian school as the monthly fee was more than our rent. We struggled, pastoring and working; she worked 2 jobs trying to make ends meet.
Soon we had kid number 3; that year was a hard year. Marny had a high-risk pregnancy and was off work for 16 months. We still had to pay rent and the bills, but God did a thing. The company I was working for was bought by a bigger, better company, and things began to change slowly, but change they did. We found that we could take a vacation; we did at a lovely place in Florida provided by the Lord through Marny’s side of the family. We had a blast; I saw old friends, and we loved it.
A few years later, I was moved to a different division in this company. Again, I was worried, but not even 2 years at the new location, the Lord opened a door for us to buy a newer van, then a home, and now here we are. Along the way, our older daughter was married, I now help pastor a second church, and God took this ministry from 9 people to where we are reaching people on just about every continent on the planet. Hindsight helps you to have 20/20 vision. God is good all the time. He is faithful all the time, and when we take a look at what He has done, it helps us to have the right perspective in the now. Just this week, God provided my wife with free summer clothes.
No joke, we were given a bag of designer clothing for her to try on, and she fits most of them, plus our housemate was able to get some free new clothes, our daughter has some clothes here waiting for her, and even my 8-year-old got a few pieces out of it. We are blessed. God is good. Most of these clothes still had the tag on them. When we appreciate what God has done in the past, we can clearly see what He is doing right now, and we can rejoice that His promises are true, real, and secure.
God, we see in verse 17, is merciful to those that fear Him, that hold Him in high regard and thank Him for His faithfulness. Look back, take an account of all that God has done, rejoice, call out His name in gratitude and bask in His goodness; there is nothing like being cared for by the Highest.
One last thing. Asaph had a sobering moment when he considered the future of these rich, prideful fools. Psalm 73: 16-20,
“When I thought how to understand this, it was too painful for me—Until I went into the sanctuary of God; Then I understood their end. Surely You set them in slippery places; You cast them down to destruction. Oh, how they are brought to desolation, as in a moment! They are utterly consumed with terrors. As a dream when one awakes, so, Lord, when You awake, you shall despise their image.”
These folks will all die, and without Jesus, their riches mean nothing in the next life. The things that made them rich here are the building materials of the new Jerusalem. Gold for the paving of the streets and jewels for the gates. The riches of the rich mean nothing in the next life, and they will all get there. The Queen will die, the Gates and Winfreys will die, and their riches will mean nothing when they meet Jesus. If you have Jesus, you are already richer than the Gates, Winfreys, and the monarchies combined. You have eternal life with Him, and them eternal life in Hell. Their riches may help them in the 80-100 years here in this life, but your riches in Jesus are eternal.
If you have enough for this life, rejoice; write down how good God has been to you, look at it, repeat it, thank God line by line for His goodness, His faithfulness, and that He is the God we can trust.
Look back and see God is good; hindsight is 20/20.
God bless you,
Dr. Sean Gooding
Pastor of Mississauga Missionary Baptist Church
How To Connect with Us