MALACHI -Fourteenth in a series
Is there ever any excuse for a Christian to feel worn out and resentful of or impatient with the Lord? The Jews under Malachi's frown felt they had that right.
Malachi 3:13-14 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?
Some commentators state that their failure to tithe or to bring offerings (keeping his ordinance) reflected their inner feelings that such obedience did not pay. It was a wasted effort, never rewarded or noted by God. So why do it?
It may be that they had worldly —not godly— sorrow (2 Cor 7:10); yes, they walked mournfully (vs 14) but in their hearts they had not truly repented of any sin.
The deeper problem was that these unrepentant Jews had lost confidence in the God of their fathers, who explained himself in their Scriptures. Since the Temple services were not exemplary, nothing seemed true; God was not real to them.
But for any who embrace the Bible, there is no cause to grow weary in well doing (Gal 6:9). Though the days of trials are long, we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us, yet there is often a need to rebuke the devil. Our discouragements are not from the trials but from our sinking hearts. We must be determined to keep our trust in God— whether we live or die (Phil 1:21), when we are disciplined (Heb 12:6), when we are persecuted for our faith (Mat 5:10), when our faith is tested (Jas 1:12), when we cannot see our way and feel forsaken (2 Cor 5:7), when we are purged to bear more fruit (Jhn 15:2), and to learn compassion (2 Cor 1:4).
Now, in verse 15, Malachi reemerges as the speaker as in Mal 2:10 (see post 10), confirming the testimony of the Lord who has accused Israel of faithlessness.
Malachi 3:15 And now we call the proud happy; yea, they that work wickedness are set up; yea, they that tempt God are even delivered.
Some of those in his hearing became ashamed and repentant, and sought out like-minded believers:
Malachi 3:16 Then they that feared the LORD spake often one to another: and the LORD hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon his name.
There are varying interpretations of vs 16. For example, Dr. Thomas Constable* views the "book of remembrance" as a covenant renewal document bearing the signatures of the faithful:
Upon hearing the Lord's rebuke through His prophet, some of Malachi's hearers who genuinely feared the Lord got together. Evidently they discussed Malachi's message and agreed among themselves that they needed to repent. They even wrote down their commitment on a scroll. (ref)
Matthew Henry* states:
A book of remembrance was written before him. Not that the Eternal Mind needs to be reminded of things by books and writings, but it is an expression after the manner of men, intimating that their pious affections and performances are kept in remembrance as punctually and particularly as if they were written in a book, as if journals were kept of all their conferences. Great kings had books of remembrance written, and read before them, in which were entered all the services done them, when, and by whom (as Esther 2:23). God, in like manner, remembers the services of his people, that, in the review of them, he may say, Well done; enter thou into the joy of thy Lord... Never was any good word spoken of God, or for God, from an honest heart, but it was registered, that it might be recompensed in the resurrection of the just, and in no wise lose its reward. (ref)
John Calvin* states similarly:
He shows by the issue itself why a book of remembrance was written— that God in due time would again undertake to defend and cherish his Church. Though then for a time many troubles were to be sustained by the godly, yet the Prophet shows that they did not in vain serve God; for facts would at length prove that their obedience has not been overlooked. But the two things which he mentions ought to be noticed; for a book of remembrance is first written before God, and then God executes what is written in the book. When therefore we seem to serve God in vain, let us know that the obedience we render to him will come to an account, and that he is a just Judge, though he may not immediately stretch forth his hand to us… (ref)
I have included these special notes from historic commentaries to encourage any who may be weary.
Malachi 3:17 And they shall be mine, saith the LORD of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him.
In what manner will the Lord spare those who serve him? In what day will he make up his jewels?
Malachi 3:18 Then shall ye return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not.
To whom is it spoken Then shall ye return, … Who will return and where is the place of return?
Briefly, the righteous will return, that is, come around to a time yet future, and in that day will see that God has rewarded in kind the proud doer and the humble believer. And in a further day hidden in eternity, the ones who sought to be God's servants will become jewels in his treasure box, pleasurable to behold, spared from Judgment.
*Thomas Constable is Sr. Professor Emeritus of Bible Exposition Dallas (Texas) Theological Seminary; *Matthew Henry was a 17th century Presbyterian minister in Great Britain; *John Calvin was 16th century French theologian and pastor of the Reformation era.