Lord's Day Evening Meditations February
"They That Feared The Lord"
These last three verses of chapter 3 are the happiest
part of this book. Going through it we have been learning about
the Lord, His love, His interest in His people, and His desires
for them. Sadly, they were far from what He wanted them to be;
but, in these last three verses there was a little remnant which
cheered His heart. He could look down on them with pleasure; they
were a refreshment to His heart. Let's just review that remnant
in relation to the whole nation of Israel. A diagram may help
us to understand the insignificance of this remnant in relation
to the whole nation.
The whole rectangle, divided into 12 parts, represents
the twelve tribes which became divided into two: Israel and Judah.
Both were removed from their land, in judgment, but it was from
the captives of Judah, that a relatively small company, rectangle
R on the diagram, returned. They rebuilt the temple and the wall,
but the revival didn't last very long, and in the days of Malachi
they had turned away from the Lord. It is out of that remnant
that we find a few, the small shaded square inside the rectangle
R on the diagram, who "feared the Lord … and that thought
upon His name." This is just a simple effort to show
the relationship of the few of Malachi 3:16 to the remnant of
Judah and to the nation as a whole. The proportions are not exact.
As we have seen previously, there were three things
that distinguished them from the rest of the people at that time.
1) "feared the Lord,"
2) "spoke often one to another,"
3) "thought upon His (the Lord's) name."
We must keep in mind, however, that the majority
of the people in the land at that time were still going on with
the outward forms of serving the Lord. They were still offering
sacrifices, observing the solemn feasts, teaching the law, and
presenting themselves with tears at God's altar. But as we have
already seen, and it was "The burden of the word of the
Lord to Israel by Malachi," none of this was acceptable
to the Lord because it was only external, and accompanied by much
disobedience to His will. It was the little remnant out of the
remnant that had the Lord's approval, and we have seen the three
things that obtained that approval. There were no great works
or any show of power, but in weakness and obscurity they went
on, truly pleasing the Lord.
In view of these three things being so important
as to draw the Lord's approval, we'll consider them one at a time.
1) "They … feared the Lord."
This is something that should characterize the
Lord's people at all times, though we must make a difference between
Old Testament and New Testament times. In Malachi we are still
in the Old Testament, reading about a people who were still under
the law of God given by Moses at Mount Sinai. Let's see something
of what "the fear of the Lord" would have
been at that time.
Their knowledge of God was limited to what had
been revealed up till then. We have heard Him say to His people,
"I have loved you, saith the Lord," and we
know that He proved that love to them by having chosen their fathers,
by having delivered them from slavery in Egypt, by having given
them their promised land, and by having helped and provided for
them so faithfully over many years. But they didn't know that
love as we know it; they didn't yet have that full manifestation
of the love of God that we have: the cross of Christ. Malachi
lived 400 years before the coming of the Lord Jesus into the world.
Their knowledge of the Lord was largely through the law - a perfect
standard of human righteousness (which man could never attain
on his own strength) enforced with punishments for disobedience.
The original giving of the law was a frightening
experience ("the fear of the Lord"). It was
given at "the mount that might be touched, and that burned
with fire," where was "blackness, and darkness,
and tempest, and the sound of a trumpet" which was
so terrible that even Moses said, "I exceedingly fear
and quake." Heb. 12:18 - 21. Later, when the tabernacle
was erected, and then the temple, God dwelt behind the veil, hidden
from His people, and only the high priest, once a year, dared
enter there, with very special preparation and with the blood
of a sacrifice. His holiness, His majesty, and His hatred of sin
might well put fear into the hearts of His people.
When Nadab and Abihu "offered strange
fire before the Lord, which He commanded them not, … there went
out fire from the Lord, and devoured them, and they died before
the Lord." Lev. 10:1 - 2. In Lev. 24:10 - 16, when
a man "blasphemed the name of the Lord and cursed,"
the penalty was death. "A man that gathered sticks on
the Sabbath day," also suffered the death penalty.
Num. 15:32 - 36. Even an extremely "stubborn and rebellious
son," who was "a glutton and a drunkard,"
and who would not "obey the voice of his father or the
voice of his mother," was to be put to death. Deut.
21:18 - 21. If this law was to be put into effect in our society
today, would anyone be left alive?
In Deut. 21 we are also given the reasons for the
severity of this punishment: "So shall thou put evil
away from among you; and all Israel shall hear, and fear."
v. 21. There were two reasons:
1) remove the evil and thus maintain holiness among
the people, and
2) warn the others so that they might be afraid,
and therefore be kept from doing the same thing.
Does this now give you an idea of what "the
fear of the Lord" was in the time of law? The book
of Acts describes the transition from law to grace, and in the
beginning of the book, in the story of Ananias and Sapphira, we
have something similar in the way sin was dealt with immediately
and severely, with the result that "great fear came upon
all the church, and upon as many as heard these things."
Now, what should "the fear of the Lord"
be for us today? The Lord hasn't changed; He is just as holy -
hating sin, just as mighty and as glorious as ever, for He is
the unchanging One. However, that glorious, holy Person has come
down to us in human form, "the Word made flesh,"
and was found here in all meekness and humility; come, not to
judge the world, but to save the world. "God was in Christ,
reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses
unto them." 2 Cor. 5:19. He gave Himself into the hands
of His enemies; they nailed Him to the cross and there He accomplished
the work of redemption whereby He has made available, freely,
to "whosoever will," a perfect and eternal
salvation. The cross is the manifestation of the love of God to
1) the world - "For God so loved the world
that He gave His only begotten Son."
2) the church - "Christ also loved the
church and gave Himself for it."
3) the individual believer - "The Son
of God Who loved me and gave Himself for me."
The cross of Christ is the supreme, the fullest
manifestation of the love of God to us. In that work, and in that
love, we have full deliverance from eternal judgment, present
care, and provision, and a glorious future of eternal joy and
rest. We owe it all to Him! Knowing this love, and owing
everything to such a heart, can we lightly displease Him, disobey
Him, or turn against Him? Will not the knowledge and the experience
of such love make me afraid to displease Him in any way?
To sin against righteousness is understandable, because we are
human; but, to knowingly sin against such a heart of love, after
all that He has done, is doing, and will yet do, for us, is base
and shameful. This, I believe, is the true character of "the
fear of the Lord" at this present time. May we have
it in a fuller measure! r S.L.