Lord's Day Evening Meditations February 8, 2004

Malachi 3:7-12

"Prove Me Now Saith the Lord."

The One Who had said, "I have loved you," is still speaking to His beloved people, trying to draw a response from their hearts. "Even from the days of your fathers ye are gone away from Mine ordinances, and have not kept them." His ordinances were the laws He had given them - mostly the books of Moses. Notice how He says, "Ye are gone away from Mine ordinances," but He says, "Return unto Me." To have turned away from the written Word was the same as to have turned away from Him Who is the living Word.

In the book of Nehemiah, after the remnant had finished rebuilding the wall, they asked Ezra to bring the book of the law of God and to read it to them. All listened attentively as the law was read and explained, and the first reaction was tears as they were given to realize how far they had drifted from the law of their God. But the tears turned to joy as they kept the feast of tabernacles, and then after confession and prayer they made a promise to walk in God's law and to keep all the commandments of the Lord. (Neh. 8 - 10.) It was a wonderful revival, accomplished simply by the action of the Word of God: no prophets and no miracles, but simply the Word doing its work in the consciences and hearts of the people.

The sad thing is that in the time of Malachi, not that many years later, all that wonderful awakening by the Word and to the Word, was almost all gone, all, that is, except for a few that we see later on this chapter. Oh, they still kept up appearances, but their hearts were no longer in it. This is not surprising because it has happened over and over again to the Lord's people. Let us receive instruction from this so that we do not let it happen to us. May we never get away from the Lord so that He has to say to us, "Return unto Me." v. 7.

However, when the Lord says, "Return unto Me, and I will return unto you," we see the heart that doesn't change. He loved that people and He loves them still. After all that they had done to Him, He would take them back if they would only come back. In the New Testament He came down to His people in the form of a man. He walked among them and as it were, with outstretched arms, He yearned over them, saying, "Come unto Me." How did they respond to His love? They spit in His face and nailed Him to a cross. So, rejected, after accomplishing all the work needed for their blessing He returned to heaven. There He still loves them, and will yet, in a future day, restore them to Himself and fulfill every promise of blessing ever made to that nation. His love doesn't change, and His Word doesn't change either. He is not only the loving One; He is also the faithful One.

Those words, "Return unto Me," speak the love of His heart, for He wanted to have them near Himself. Joseph, a type of Christ, said to his brothers, "Come near to me, I pray you." Gen. 45:4. After what they had done to him they had reason to be afraid, because they didn't know the love in Joseph's heart. So it is with the Lord Jesus. He wants His people to be near Him so that He can enjoy them and they can enjoy Him. It is, as we said before, that true Christianity is an intimate acquaintance with the Person of Christ. However, we must always remember, intimacy, that is, nearness to Him, is right; we can never be too near the Lord. But familiarity, that is, behaving as though we were on the same level as He is, is wrong. He is our God, and we are only objects of divine mercy.

But those people had no sense of their condition before their God. They replied, "Wherein shall we return?" They had drifted away from Him, and didn't even seem to know it. It is one thing to get away from the Lord and to know it. It is another to get away from Him and not even know what has happened to us. It is like the assembly at Ephesus in Revelation 2 - they had grown cold in their hearts and they were not aware of what had happened. The Lord had to say to them, "Thou hast left thy first love."

Well, since they needed to be shown that they had turned away from the Lord, He gave them a proof of it: "Will a man rob God?" v. 8. They reply with their usual answer of professed ignorance: "Wherein have we robbed Thee?" They had robbed Him "in tithes and offerings." According to the law, "All the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land, or of the fruit of the tree," was "the Lord's: it is holy unto the Lord." Lev. 27:30. The tithes and the offerings belonged to Him. What is robbery? It is taking what belongs to someone else. These people were taking what belonged to the Lord and using it for themselves. A robber doesn't think of the loss and trouble to the real owner. These people didn't think of what they were doing to the Lord.

Is there anything about us that the Lord claims - that belongs to Him? Yes, firstly He claims our hearts, our love, our devotedness and faithfulness to Him. Was there ever love like His when He laid down His life in order to save us and make us His own? Has He not paid enough to win our hearts? But that is not all. "Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost, which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?" 1 Cor. 6:19. When He paid the price of our redemption, He not only paid for our souls; He paid for our bodies as well. He has purchased us - spirit, soul and body - so that now we are totally His. Yes, even our bodies belong to Him. That is a wonderful thing. But there is something more. In the days of slavery, anything the slave possessed was the property of his master. So anything that we have is not ours. We are not owners; we are administrators - responsible to our Lord for the things that He has committed to our care. In Israel, the tithe, 10%, belonged to the Lord. Now it is 100% that belongs to Him. That does not mean that we have to give everything away. It is simply that we must recognize that all is His and we are responsible to use it according to His will. This is strong language here, but it is nonetheless true, that if we take as our own and use for our own will what belongs to the Lord, then we are robbing Him.

Verses 10 - 12 show yet further that wonderful heart of love. God delights to bless. "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." v. 10. Israel was an earthly people, and so it follows that their blessings were earthly - material things of this life. See Deut. 28:1 - 14. Those who belong to the Lord today are a heavenly people, and so our blessings are heavenly - spiritual things which are of so much more value than material things. But the principle remains the same; the Lord delights to bless, and if we render to Him what is rightfully His, He will load us with spiritual blessings.

If this remnant rendered to the Lord the tithes and offerings that He claimed, then there would be three results: 1) they would be richly blessed in all their circumstances (v. 10), 2) they would be sheltered from the effects of all adverse influences (v. 11), and 3) their blessing would be a testimony to all other nations (v.12). Other people would look on Israel and exclaim at how blessed and happy they were. Now let's apply this to ourselves as some of the Lord's people today. If we, individually and collectively, yielded to our Lord our hearts, ourselves, our all, in humble devotedness and faith and service, what blessings would follow! We would 1) enjoy the spiritual blessings of peace, joy, strength in the Lord and growth in our souls, 2) be preserved from all the efforts of the enemy to disturb, to harass and hinder our fruitfulness, and 3) be such a testimony to the unsaved who would look on and say, "What a happy people. We would like to have what they have!"

There is also a principle here that runs through Scripture. The Bible begins, "In the beginning, God." Gen. 1:1. The Lord must have first place in everything. "That in all things He might have the preeminence (first place)." Col. 1:18. If we render to the Lord firstly what is rightfully His, then we can be sure that the One Who delights to bless will not fail. S.L.