In Malachi 3 we are introduced to the Floodgates of Heaven. There is an unmistakable connection in Scripture between spiritual growth and material values. Israel’s giving patterns were a consistent thermometer of the nation’s inner spiritual condition. When the Israelites’ hearts were kindled with a spirit of worship to God, they overflowed with contagious expressions of generosity. But when Israel’s hearts turned inward to ingratitude, complaint and idolatry, their hands withheld. And the more their hands withheld, the more their hearts turned away from God.
With their hearts went their wallets. Malachi challenges their behavior and explains how God’s blessings are experienced. If we want to experience God’s blessing we must do three things.
1. We must turn back to God (3:6-7)
2. We must stop robbing God (3:8-9)
3. We must start trusting God (3:10-12)
This week the people of Britain have been preparing to vote. There has been unprecedented levels of media attention in the polls. Popular support for some of the candidates in the last few days has reached fever pitch. Not just in Britain but around the world, millions and millions of ordinary people have been watching, speculating and cheering on the candidates.
What has impressed voters has been the honesty, the integrity, the complete lack of guile, the down to earth, no nonsense, approach of some of the candidates. For weeks I have been in no doubt whatsoever as to the outcome. I believe that if Susan Boyle had been standing as a candidate for the local elections or the European Parliament, instead of last night’s final of Britain’s Got Talent, she would win on Thursday with a huge landslide. Susan is a 48 year old church volunteer from West Lothian in Scotland. She lives at home with her cat Pebbles. Susan has been singing since she was 12 years old. She regularly attends her local church and helps them out however and whenever she can.
On Thursday, England goes to the Polls a second time this week. Turn out will probably be much lower than on Saturday night. It will be a referendum on our entire political system.
This is not a good time to be an MP. Melanie Philips wrote,
“There has never been anything like it. The political class is disgraced. Public fury is unassuaged. Revolution is in the air. Yet our MPs are still obdurately behaving true to discredited form. Some are taking refuge in self-pity, claiming they are being driven to the edge of nervous breakdowns or even contemplating suicide. Certainly, public shaming is a savage ordeal. But since this has occurred only because MPs hid shameful behaviour which has now been exposed, such an appeal to public sympathy just adds insult to injury…parliamentary democracy certainly has been undermined – not by those who have shone a light on the corruption of the system, but by those who have corrupted it.”
How do we change the system? Hold up our hands, shrug our shoulders, stay at home or cast a protest vote? No, that is the last thing we should do on Thursday. Only the extremists will benefit. I urge you to vote. But not in some Pavolvian way as you have always done. Do your homework and vote for the local and European candidates who demonstrate integrity, who can earn your respect and will act responsibly as your representatives. That is the democratic way to change the system. And there is more that MPs can do as well. One political leader has declared that in future, when his MP’s submit their expense claims, they will simultaneously publish them online so that anyone can see what they are claiming for. That is how you change the system. Transparency. Although I am not claiming expenses at the moment, I want you to know that you can ask the Church Wardens to see any of my expense claims over the past 12 years, at any time.
God holds each one of us accountable for our actions. In Malachi, these Sunday mornings, we have been examining six such disputes God had with his people:
After breaking up with his fiancée, a young man realized the error of his ways and wrote: “Dearest Marie, No words could ever express the great unhappiness I’ve felt since breaking our engagement. Please say you’ll take me back. No one could ever take your place in my heart, so please forgive me. I love you! Yours forever, Jimmy…P.S. Congratulations on winning the lottery.” I’m not sure how sincere this guy was, but at least he was right to restore their broken relationship at any cost.
It is hard to talk about strained or broken relationships isn’t it? As Phillip Jensen and Richard Pulley say in Burning Desire
“Many of us know it close to hand, and it may be almost impossible to discuss it without bringing complex emotions to the surface. It is one of the most painful and pervasive social issues… and it is one of the most personal. We would prefer to avoid raising it. However… when God says “I hate divorce” we cannot leave the matter to one side. We need to understand the warnings of Scripture about breaking faith, and then heed them. It’s a difficult task, but one which we must try to do, in prayer, humility, and with an eye open to those of our Christian brothers and sisters around us for whom this subject will be very relevant indeed.”
So, please, please, remember what we learnt two weeks ago in the opening verses. “I have loved you,” says the LORD” (Malachi 1:2a). Remember how this oracle begins – God declares His unfailing love: “I have loved you,’ says the Lord.” He doesn’t begin by pointing out their sins or listing his complaints. The word “love” is in the perfect tense, indicating that God not only loved in the past but loves in the present as well. “I have loved and do love you.” And the word He chooses for “love” is not the typical OT term that describes “tough love” or “covenant love.” This word is more relational: “I have embraced you. I have expressed my affection for you,” At its core then, Malachi is really a love letter from God. A love letter full of hope and encouragement. And it is a love letter containing some heated exchanges.
Malachi contains six such disputes between God and his people:
1. A dispute about God’s love (1:2–5)
2. A dispute about God’s honour (1:6–2:9)
3. A dispute about Godly Faithfulness (2:10–16)
4. A dispute about God’s justice (2:17–3:5)
5. A dispute about God’s blessing (3:6–12)
6. A dispute about God’s mercy (3:13–4:3)
Today we come to the third. Please turn with me to Malachi 2:10-16. A dispute about Godly faithfulness. I’ve entitled this, “From this time Forward: Faithful in all things”. Because five times in this passage we encounter the word “faithless”. Twice the Lord commands, “do not be faithless” (2:15, 16).