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The Tithe Chapter
When one reads the Book of Malachi he would think that the Holy Spirit was writing a message to the churches of the twentieth century, especially to that part of the church which has become more or less lukewarm toward the Master.
It is true that ages do repeat themselves. Conditions which prevailed in the ending of one age are quite liable to prevail in the ending of another age. Admonitions and instructions given to one people are sure to be instructive to succeeding generations. Let us notice some of the preliminary conditions and conclusions which led up to chapter 3.
1. A loving Lord. Chapter Malachi 1:2 states, "I have loved you," saith the Lord. Immediately Israel is seen to reply, "Wherein hast Thou loved me?" No matter how much God seeks to impress His faithfulness and devotion, His people cast insinuations against it.
2. The servant and his Master. "A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master: if then I be a father, where is Mine honour? and if I be a master, where is My fear? saith the Lord of Hosts unto you, O priests, that despise My Name." Israel immediately answered back, "Wherein have we despised Thy Name?" The Lord takes up the challenge, and replies, "Ye offer polluted bread upon Mine altar; and ye say, wherein have we polluted Thee?" Once more the Lord gives His response: "If ye offer the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? and if ye offer the lame and sick, is it not evil?" Certainly a great God like our God deserves our very best. No one would offer a governor or a ruler that which was sick, or lame, or blind.
3. Unwilling to serve for love. Malachi 1:10 gives God's inquiry: "Who is there even among you that would shut the doors for nought? neither do ye kindle fire on Mine altar for nought."
Can the Lord have any pleasure in servants when all they think about is what they shall receive? God help those who serve for what they can get instead of for what they can give.
4. Profaning the table of the Lord. God goes still deeper into the matter. He tells Israel they have profaned His table because they say it is polluted, and the fruit and meat thereof is contemptible. God even charges that they cried, "What a weariness it is!" He says they went so far as to snuff at it. They brought that which was torn, and the lame, and the sick as their offering.
5. "Ye have wearied the Lord." After God says that His table is a weariness to them, He replies, "Ye have wearied the Lord with your words."
Beloved, the Lord God is still standing over against the treasury. He is still beholding how the people cast in their portion. It is not half so much what people give to God that He observes, as it is the spirit in which they give it. "God loveth a cheerful giver." God loves a heart that rejoices in its offering. Would we give to one dear to us any gift with a moping, drooping mien? Nay, we would give it with gladness, with every expression of love. So let us bring our gifts unto God lest we become a weariness unto Him.
I. THE COMING OF ELIJAH (Malachi 3:1 )
Our study opens today with the picture of Elijah's return to the earth. Some one may marvel that in a book centering around Divine offerings, this statement should occur. One thing, however, is true: Malachi 3:1 , which we have just read, gives the time of the setting of God's message. It is the time immediately preceding the Lord's Return to the earth.
1. A long-waited-for event. God promised that He would send His messenger to preach "the way" before Him. Some one, perhaps, says that Elijah was John the Baptist. However, John the Baptist positively stated, "I am not" Elijah. "I am not that Prophet." Of John, Christ said, "If ye have believed Me this is not Elijah." God knew, however, that Israel would not believe. Therefore, John came in the spirit and power of Elijah.
2. The province of Elijah. When John the Baptist came, he came to preach the way of the Lord. Thousands were baptized by him as he proclaimed the message of repentance. When Elijah comes, he, too, will go before the Lord. Let me read the statement of the last two verses of the Book of Malachi, the verses which close the Old Testament.
"Behold, I will send you Elijah the Prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: and he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse."
The orthodox Jews believe that Elijah must come, and he will come. Those who desire a more complete record of the coming of Elijah, and the other Prophet who will accompany him should turn to Revelation 11:1-19 .
II. THE COMING OF THE MESSIAH (Malachi 3:1 , l.c., 2)
1. The Lord will come suddenly. Our text says, "And the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to His Temple." He will come suddenly for His saints when they are raptured and caught up into the air. The Bible speaks of His coming as "in the twinkling of an eye." So, also, will He come down to the earth to His people, Israel, as He enters the Temple.
2. He will come as "the Messenger of the Covenant." The Lord will fulfill every promise and every covenant made to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, and to David. He has never "failed" * * "of any good thing." Those words will truly be said when the Lord comes to His people.
3. He will come to His Temple. His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives. From the Mount He will come to the Temple, that is, He will come as a King to take David's throne. To His people He will come as Lord of lords.
4. "Who may abide the day of His Coming?" Here is a solemn statement concerning Christ's Coming for the saints. It is written that some may be ashamed before Him at His Coming. They will draw back and hide their faces in fear and shame. So, when He comes to Israel many of them will weep as one who weeps for an only son. They will put on the sackcloth and ashes of repentance.
5. How is it with you? Do you join the beloved disciple in crying, "Amen, Even so, come, Lord Jesus"? Is the Second Coming to you the Blessed Hope, or is it a certain fearful looking forward to judgments?
III. HE WILL COME AS A REFINER'S FIRE (Malachi 3:3 )
1. The question of Revelation 6:17 . There we read, "For the great day of His wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?" When Christ comes for His saints He comes to judge them according to their works. When He comes to Israel He is the Judge standing at the door. He is spoken of as the Refiner's Fire, and as the Purifier of Silver.
2. The deeper meaning of it all. When the silversmith watches the molten silver in the fire, he immediately awaits the moment when he shall see his own face mirrored in the hot lava. It must then be taken immediately from the fire. Its purification is perfected.
May we not say that God will permit Israel to be purged with fire, but that the moment Israel's heart is ready to receive Him, then Israel's chastisement will be over?
3. The objective of the Refiner's Fire. Now we come to the heart of the study. The last statement of Malachi 3:3 is "that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness." In other words the Children of Israel who wearied the Lord with their offerings and sacrifices because they brought the blind and the lame and the sick, and snuffed at it, will then gladly offer a righteous offering. We would not have thought that God was so concerned about what His people put into His treasury, or what they brought in their gifts, but He is concerned.
After He has given unto us with a heart of love and tenderness, after He has given unto us so bountifully, should He expect anything from us except a glad and wholesome gift?
IV. THE SWIFT WITNESS (Malachi 3:4-5 )
1. God comes in judgment against the offerings of the guilty. Our verse says, "And I will come near to you to judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against false swearers, and against those that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow, and the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger from his right."
2. God cannot and will not receive an offering from the hands of those who oppress the poor, who are evil in their lives, and wicked in their ways. We must be clean, and have clean hearts if we expect God to receive anything from us. The Book of Isaiah is very definite on this line. The first chapter speaks of those who brought their bullocks and their rams, the fat of their fed beasts, Iambs, and he goats before the Lord. God, however, said unto them, "When ye come to appear before Me, who hath required this at your hand, to tread My courts?" Then the Lord, having told them what they were doing, cried out, "Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before Mine eyes; cease to do evil; learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow."
3. God demands clean hands. Giving, even large giving cannot prove a cloak to cover up and to condone corrupt practices. Nothing we give and nothing we do is pleasing or acceptable to God, until the heart is pure.
V. THE SOLEMN CHARGE (Malachi 3:8-9 )
1. The question. Malachi 3:8 opens with the words, "Will a man rob God?" One is almost startled with such a question. How can we rob God? Has He not given us freely all things to enjoy? We know that the earth is His and all things therein. We did not think of robbing Him when we took of His free gifts. There are no charges; nothing to pay; no taxes; nothing assessed by God. Everything He has given freely, and without restraint. How, then, may we rob God?
We may rob Him by withholding from Him the tithe and the offering which He has asked us to bring not the bringing back what He gave us, but bringing back of the increase of what He has given us. We are to bring unto Him of what we have made by trading. Perhaps, those who withhold their tithes and offerings from God have never weighed the seriousness of this question.
2. The curse. After the question, came the statement: "Yet ye have robbed Me. * * In tithes and offerings." Following this are the solemn words, "Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed Me, even this whole nation." God withheld from Israel the early and the latter rains. He sent many insects to destroy their fields. He did it because they were unfaithful to Him.
It is true today as much as it was then. If a man keeps back from God that which He has given him, God will curse him in everything that he touches.
VI. THE PLEA (Malachi 3:10 )
This verse is, perhaps, one of the most famous Scriptures of the Old Testament. It reads: "Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in Mine House, and prove Me now herewith, saith the Lord of Hosts, if I will not open you the windows of Heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it."
1. We have the call. "Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse." This is a plaintive call. It is an urgent call. God still calls. The reason the Lord's work at home and abroad often suffers is not because Christian people have not the wherewithal; it is because they have not the grace of giving. If saints would systematically tithe their incomes, or give proportionately of everything they receive, we would never need to send out committees to raise money, nor to beg from the pulpit.
2. We have the test. "Prove Me now herewith, saith the Lord." God seems to invite us to try Him. When we think of bringing our tithes and offerings to God, we begin to argue that we will not have enough on which to live. God charges us and says, "Bring them in, and test Me." "Try Me out and see what I will do." We know that He will prove faithful. "No good thing will He withhold from them that walk uprightly." "The earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein."
Now, listen to what He says. "I will * * open you the windows of Heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it." It makes us think of the promise in the New Testament: "Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom." God is not miserly with His gifts.
VII. THE FINAL PROMISE (Malachi 3:11-12 )
1. "I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes." In other words, the worms and insects are all under His power. He says that if we will bring in our tithes and offerings He will take away the curse. He will rebuke the drought, the worms which destroy, the winds which wreck. He will not destroy the fruit of our ground. He will rebuke the devourers so that our vines will not cast their fruit before the time in the field.
As we write our nation is in a depression. Millions are out of work. Many are hungry. It is useless to blame God and say that He did it all. This is not true. We, ourselves, have kept back the blessings. God has not yet sent much of famine and pestilence among us. However, we have deserved what He has sent. Even the Church has kept much from God, and she will, no doubt, be impoverished.
2. The nations "shall call you blessed." "Ye shall be a delightsome land, saith the Lord of Hosts." This is a picture of the House of Israel restored to the land in the day of His Coming again. In that day Israel will bring unto God an acceptable offering, and God will give back unto her the early and latter rains. The plowman will then overtake the reaper. All the world will say that God is with His people, Israel.
Let the Church learn her lesson by God's dealings with Israel. If we would prosper under His favor, we must faithfully bring of the increase of our goods to Him.
We think of Ananias and Sapphira. They kept back part of the price of the land, while professing to give it all. The widow (Luke 21:4 ) gave all, and gave it gladly.
Whether it be in our contribution of money, or of time or talent, it is the spirit, and the sacrifice of the gift that holds the attention of the Lord Jesus Christ. It holds it today, just as it held it of yore.
Out of their abundance, they cast in much. The "much" certainly could accomplish more than the two pence of the widow. Christ, however, was not speaking of what the money could do, He was looking at the source from which the money came.
Have we always pleased the Lord in our gifts? He gave His all, and His all was much. He was rich, but became poor, that we through His poverty might be made rich.
Malachi 1:1-14 ; Malachi 2:1-17 ; Malachi 3:1-18
The Book of Malachi presents questions asked by God. In response, instead of a direct answer, the chosen people, Israel, ask God questions in return. As these pairs of questionings have to do with the theme in hand, we have decided to give a brief description of the varied questions that are in the Book as a whole.
1. The first pair of questions.
God says, "A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master: if then I be a father, where is Mine honour? and if I be a master, where is My fear? saith the Lord of hosts unto you, O priests, that despise My Name. And ye say, Wherein have we despised Thy Name?" (Malachi 1:6 ).
The Lord is speaking of the utter lack of filial honor, and servant-fear, which Israel manifested. If Israel desired to claim God as their father, God asks, "Where is Mine honor?" If Israel claims God as Master, God says, "Where is My fear?"
The reason God asks His question is because His people had offered polluted bread on His altar.
Israel answers God's question by asking one. She says,
"Wherein have we despised Thy name?"
"Wherein have we polluted Thee?"
God replied at once, "In that ye say, The table of the Lord is contemptible." Then the Lord continues with a series of questions:
"And if ye offer the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? and if ye offer the lame and sick, is it not evil? offer it now unto thy governor; will he be pleased with thee, or accept thy person? saith the Lord of hosts. And now, I pray you, beseech God that he will be gracious unto us: this hath been by your means: will he regard your persons? saith the Lord of hosts. Who is there even among you that would shut the doors for nought? neither do ye kindle fire in Mine altar for nought. I have no pleasure in you, saith the Lord of hosts, neither will I accept an offering at your hand" (Malachi 1:8-10 ).
We trust that some who hear these words will stop and ponder their own course? How many of our gifts must displease the Lord, who so richly gave us His best; yea, His all. How can we treat the Lord Jesus Christ as we do. We find many who give to Him no more than the "left overs," or, the no-account and worthless remains of things already sapped of their value.
When, on the other hand, we serve Him, we demand a good sum. We would not shut His doors, unless we were to receive something in coin or in honor from men. No marvel God says that He has no pleasure in us.
2. The second series of questions.
This time Israel speaks first. After God has charged His people concerning their sins, and laid bare their ignominy, showing how they had wearied the Lord, then Israel asks, "Wherein have we wearied Him?"
The Lord's people are feigning innocency. They would seek to hide their shame. With a false piety they ask, "Wherein have we wearied Him?" God quickly places His finger on their sin, and specifies their iniquity. He says, "When ye say, Every one that doeth evil is good in the sight of the Lord, and He delighteth in them: or, Where is the God of judgment?"
God then tells Israel how He will send His messenger before His face, how He will come suddenly to the Temple, and then God asks, "But who may abide the day of His coming? and who shall stand when He appeareth? for He is like a refiner's fire, and like fullers' soap."
Let those who act foolishly and deceitfully with the Lord, remember that a day of judging lies ahead.
3. The third series of questions.
We now come to the verses assigned for today's study. God calls unto Israel to return unto Him. Israel, still professing innocency, asks, "Wherein shall we return?"
In answer to this query, God asks some questions and makes some statements:
"Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed Me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed Thee? In tithes and offerings. Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed Me, even this whole nation. Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in Mine house, and prove Me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of Heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it. And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the Lord of hosts" (Malachi 3:8-11 ).
How wicked it is to receive from the hand of the Lord, but never to return to Him! To take, but never to give. God gave definite command to Israel as to their tithes and offerings. When these were withheld, His people were no more than robbing Him. Are we better than they? Have we not received from the Lord, good measure, pressed down, and running over? Shall we then give back into His hand the miserable pittance that marks too many gifts. Shall Christians give a tenth? We reply that we certainly should not give less. Grace is not meaner than Law. Larger blessings demand larger gifts.
After God has said that He would hold back from Israel His blessings, as a punishment for their infidelity, then He says that their words have been stout against Him. Then follows:
4. The fourth series of questions.
"Your words have been stout against Me, saith the Lord. Yet ye say, What have we spoken so much against Thee? Ye have said, It is vain to serve God: and what profit is it that we have kept his ordinance, and that we have walked mournfully before the Lord of hosts?" (Malachi 3:13-14 ).
The questions this time are from Israel. She still persists in her innocency. She claims thus not to have spoken against the Lord. She even goes so far as to assert that she had served God in vain. She claimed to have kept the ordinances of God and to have walked mournfully before Him in vain.
Thank God the Book continues to give a prophecy of the time when Israel will seek the Lord, and when He will be gracious unto her.
Read also carefully 2 Corinthians 8:1-5 , 2 Corinthians 8:9 .
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Neighbour, Robert E. "Wells of Living Water Commentary on Malachi 3". "Living Water". https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 22 / Ordinary 27