Will You Rob God?

           I have been occasionally working through the Minor Prophets. Here is my exegesis and application of Malachi 3:6-12. I would encourage you to read the passage before you read my post. You can read it online here


          Statistics can often be manipulated and thus are not always trustworthy. However, they can give us a general overview of where a society is at.  So when we hear that the average tithe in America is around three percent that should give us pause.  If the average tithe was eight percent we might shrug it off and say that is close enough. But three percent is nowhere near the pre-gospel tithe of ten percent. If those in the Old Testament were required to give ten percent, how much more should we in the New Testament age give? The failure of the tithe has led to many churches being hip-deep in debt. Debt can cause churches to focus on making money to pay off the debt, which diverts them from the main task of preaching Christ. This can have a tremendous impact on the spread of the Gospel, the discipling of the nations, and the glorifying of God in this fallen world.  It is no surprise that Jesus spoke about money so much.  How we use our money shows our character and priorities. 
            But this is not simply a 21st century American problem.  Over 2,000 years ago the Israelites had a hard time bringing their tithes into God’s house.  They were pinched for money and felt that they could not afford to give to God.  In this section of Malachi God urges Israel to bring in the tithe and see how he would bless her.
            At the beginning of this section, the Lord urges Israel to return to him and repent of their sins. God begins the debate by telling Israel that He is unchanging. (vs. 6) God is reminding Israel of His mercy. We need this reminder. Repentance comes quicker when we realize that God is merciful. God does not change therefore Israel is not destroyed. (Isaiah says something similar in Isaiah 1:9.)  Israel can repent and turn because God’s mercy is always present.  But then Israel says, “In what way shall we return?  What kind of repentance do you want from us, Lord? What sign can we show that our repentance is sincere?” God follows up their question with a question of his own, “Will a man rob God?” Israel replies, “In what way have we robbed you?” So this debate includes two questions by Israel instead of one: How shall we return and how have we robbed you? The main point of this disputation is now brought front and center: Israel has robbed God by failing to bring tithes and offerings into his house. Israel can show sincere repentance, a true turning to God, by tithing once again.  
            The tithes and offerings supported Israel’s priesthood. Tithes were a tenth of all produce, crops, and flocks. (Leviticus. 27:30-33)  These were given to the Levites to support them in their temple work, since their tribe did not have any specific plot of land in Israel. Every three years a tithe was taken to support a feast where not just the Levites, but the poor were invited as well. (Deuteronomy 14:28-29)  “Offerings were the portions of the sacrifices set apart for the priests and the voluntary gifts for a special purpose.” During Malachi’s time Israel was neglecting the house of God and the men appointed to oversee the house of God. Haggai addresses this same problem in Haggai 1:2-4, where Israel was building their houses, but refusing to build the house of God.
            The Lord invites Israel to test him and see if he will not bless them with great blessing when they bring the tithe into his house. (vss. 10-12) During the flood in Genesis 7:11 the windows of heaven were opened in judgment to destroy the earth. But here God says, he will open the windows of heaven and pour out blessing upon Israel. He mentions two specific blessings. First, the ground will once again be prosperous. (vs. 11) Second, the nations will call Israel blessed. (vs. 12)


There is always room for repentance because God does not change. (3:6-7) It does not matter what sin has been committed God invites us to return to him.  The Lord does not change therefore we are not consumed. The Lord mercy’s is everlasting.  The Lord does not change and therefore we can always repent.

It is a great sin to neglect the care of God’s house and those who minister in it. There have been some changes in tithes and offerings with the coming of Christ. None the less, the principle in this passage remains the same. God expects his people to use their funds to support the ministry of the Church, his house. This would include paying the pastor’s salary, upkeep of the facilities necessary for worship, providing for missionaries, and care for the poor. Those who refuse to tithe rob God.

Tithing is one of the central ways God blesses his people. It seems odd that giving results in getting, but the Scriptures are clear that this is the way God made the world to work. Proverbs 11:23-24 gives us the same principle. When we faithfully tithe God promises to bless us. This does not mean luxury and wealth, but it does mean that God will sustain us and his church.  

The nations will bless the Church when she tithes. It is hard to know exactly how this works, but here is a possibility. When the people of God tithe, the poor are cared for.  The world sees how the church cares for the poor and glorifies God.  Another possibility is that the tithe money is used to send out missionaries.  As the nations receive the Gospel they bless the Church and her Lord. However it exactly works out, the passage is clear: When we tithe the nations will see and bless God’s people. 

The God Who is Patient

  • God does allow the wicked to prosper and sin to go unpunished for a time. (2:17) It should not shock us when this occurs. He rarely judges quickly.  For this we should be grateful because it gives men time to repent.  But we also must not forget that God will not be patient forever. Men who flaunt their evil will be judged by God either in history or at the final judgment.   
  • God comes to his people with two purposes: purification and judgment.  (3:3 & 5)These two things go hand in hand. Today God does not come visibly to his temple as he did when Christ appeared, but he still comes to us, especially in worship.  Therefore two purposes of worship are to purify us of our sins and to judge those who refuse to repent.         
  • The phrase “who can stand” in 3:2 is a military term meaning that no one and nothing will be able to stand against God’s advance.  We should find great comfort in this. We see the number of people set in battle against God. We see the money they have at their disposal. We see them sitting in places of power and we are tempted to think that God’s hand will be stopped, his purposes thwarted. But Malachi reminds us this is not the case.  The hand of God cannot be stopped by the rank, wealth, or the strength of men and nations.
  • Only a pure people can offer a pleasing sacrifice to God. (3:2-5) Those who worship God must be clothed in the shed blood of Christ and must live a life of confession and repentance. This is why we confess our sins in worship and throughout the week. We cannot offer to God an acceptable sacrifice if we are not clean. Those who continue in sin, but still want to worship God, will find that he will come and be “against them.” They will be judged.  

Where is God?

When a train goes through a tunnel and it gets dark, you don’t throw away your ticket and jump off. 
You sit still and trust the engineer.  Corrie ten Boom
Though God take the sun out of heaven, yet we must have patience. George Herbert
One of the most perplexing questions facing those who believe in God’s sovereignty is “Why doesn’t God act when he has all the power?”  We sit back and watch as disasters occur, tsunamis crush cities, earthquakes devastate countries and tornados ravage the Midwest. Beyond these natural disasters, there are wicked men who rule around the world. Greedy corporate executives strip thousands of people of their pensions.  Tyrants drop bombs on their own people. Pornography producers are some of the richest men in the world.  The next door neighbor seems rich and happy, yet never attends church. Where is God in all this?  Why does evil seem to triumph?  Why do good men die unknown and wicked men die with a taxpayer funded funeral broadcast on T.V.? 

  When we begin our journey in Christ it can seem like the white hats always win and the black hats always lose.  But as time stretches on we see evil triumph. Time can erode our confidence in God’s justice. Our brothers during Malachi’s time had the same problem. They had listened to Haggai and Zechariah’s great prophecies about the coming Kingdom of God, yet evil still seemed to be in control. In this section of Malachi God assures his people that he is good and has not left his throne. We would be wise to hear these ancient words from the ever living God about the certainty of his judgment and the need for patience.

2:17 begins the fourth disputation/debate in Malachi.  The focus in this debate is on Israel’s attitude towards God. Israel is wearying God with their words.  What are these words?  They are that God must either love evil or not exist. (2:17) There is no justice in Israel. Sin is rampant.  Immorality reigns.  So men begin to ask the question we all ask when the evil prospers, where is God? Most of us, even in our darkest moments, have never uttered the words in this chapter. But we have thought them. The first statement in verse seventeen verges on blasphemy because it implies that God must love evil.  The the second statement is more subtle, but the idea is the same: “The God of justice is missing.” Despite the harshness of the statements, for the first time in Malachi we are dealing with a people who are actually concerned about righteousness.  They want to see righteousness in the land. However,  because God acts too slowly they assume he is absent or he loves evil.  If these men hold on to these views it could lead to hopelessness and falling away from the faith. But God is merciful. He gives these men assurance of his coming judgment/justice.

            Malachi gives Israel the promise that God will suddenly come to his temple to judge (3:1) and purify his people, especially the priesthood. (3:2-3) When he does this Israel will once again be able to offer to the Lord a pleasant offering because she will be holy. (3:4)  God says that when he comes he will execute judgment upon all evil doers. (3:5) The word for judgment in 3:5 is the exact same word translated justice (NKJV) in 2:17. The justice Israel is looking for in 2:17 comes in 3:5. God is reminding those who think he is too slow to be patient. Evil will be dealt with his timing.  God does not love evil nor is he absent. But he is patient, often much more patient than we are.

            Malachi 3:1 is a prophecy of John the Baptist who is the messenger sent to prepare the way for the Lord. (Matthew 11:10 and Mark 1:2)  This means that the prophecy in this section is primarily about the Christ coming to purify and judge Israel. 

Despising the Name of the Lord: Malachi 1:6-2:9

You should most certainly have your Bible open to Malachi 1:6-2:9 while you read this.

Taking up nearly one third of Malachi, this is the longest section in the book. The priests are the target of this section. God asks the priests why they do not honor him as father or reverence him as master. The Lord says that they have despised his name. (vs. 6) But the priests seem to be in the dark. They think they are innocent and therefore ask God to bring proof. God brings proof by bringing two pieces of evidence into the courtroom.

The first piece of evidence is the lame offerings the priests give to God. (1:7-14) The priests think they are holy. They do not see how they have despised God’s name. But God points a finger at their mockery of his law to show how they drag his name through the mud. The priests, who are supposed to carefully obey God’s commands, offer to God lame, blind, and sick sacrifices. (vss. 7-8) Leviticus 22:18-25 and Deuteronomy 15:21 forbid this type of offering. God says even the Persian governor would not accept this offering. Why does Israel think God will accept it? (vs. 8) Israel wants God’s favor (vs. 9), but does not want to obey God. Therefore God tells them they should shut up the doors of the temple. (vs. 10) Their offerings are in vain.

He then reminds them that one day all the offerings will be pure and they will not just be offered in Israel, but in all lands. The promise given in 1:11 is wonderful picture of the spread of the Gospel. Let’s take a closer look at what it is saying. First, these pure offerings will cover the entire earth. The phrase “from the rising of the sun, until its going down” makes that clear. Second, incense was a picture of prayer. So this passage is saying that the earth will one day worship the Lord through prayer. Third, the word “pure” is never used of the offerings in Leviticus. Malachi is saying that these future offerings will actually be more holy than the offerings in the Old Testament. Finally, the Gentiles are the ones making these offerings, not the Levitical priesthood.

God closes his opening argument by saying that Israel has become weary of worship. That is they have become weary of God. (vs. 12-13) The temple was now several decades old. Israel had been hoping for the glory of the Messiah to come soon. But it had not. The priests became weary of coming to God, even “sneering” at the offerings and allowing Israelites to bring unworthy offerings. So God says they are cursed. (vs. 14)

The Lord continues to press the case against the priesthood in 2:1-9. The focus here shifts from the offerings of the priests to their teaching. Malachi begins by issuing a call to true repentance. He tells the priesthood to “take these things to heart.” (vs. 2) He says if they do not heed this call and turn back to the Lord he will curse them. The Lord will curse their blessings. Those good things which the priesthood has will become a burden. Their descendants will be rebuked. (vs. 3) The offerings and the feasts, which are supposed to be the glory of Israel, will become humiliation, as the dung from these feasts are spread upon the faces of the priests. This will make them unclean, unfit for service in the temple. Unlike their father Levi, who taught the word of God, these Levites have caused Israel to stumble over God’s law. (vss. 5-8) So they will finally be taken away, driven from the temple as unclean and unholy because of their refusal to listen to God’s word and refusal to teach God’s word. The Levites were supposed to be glorious, a great light to Israel. Instead they will become contemptible. (vs. 9) If the priesthood refuses to turn from their sins God promises to curse them.

• We must bring into worship what God requires. That means the Bible is our guide for worship. In the New Covenant there is more freedom in worship than the old, but the Bible is still our guide. God expects our best in worship, this means our singing, praying, preaching, etc. must be of high quality.

• We cannot expect God’s favor if we do not seek to obey his commands. To ask God’s blessing, but refuse to listen to his voice is to make a mockery of His Word.

• Weariness in worshipping God is a terrible sin and will place one under his curse. It is easy as we move through our Christian life to become lazy and apathetic in our worship. Time can be a problem in our Christian life. Pastor Dale Davis makes this point when he comments on Genesis 16 and 17. He notes that thirteen years passed from the end of chapter 16 to the beginning of 17. Then he says this, “What had happened during the previous decade-plus. Abraham played veterinarian to his goats, settled scraps among his herdsmen, sat up with Sarah when she had the flu—in short all the sorts of things that one does in the wash-your face, brush your teeth, go to work routine of daily living. And year follows year that way, and Yahweh’s promise goes unfulfilled. Is the writer not telling us that time can be a severe problem for faith?” We must constantly draw near to God in prayer, asking him to keep us zealous for his face. Time can erode our joy and delight in coming into God’s presence.

• Those whom God has called to preach and teach the word, must understand the weight of the task they have been given. Pastors and elders are not priests, but they do perform a priestly duty by bringing God’s word to his people. Malachi says the priests of his day will be cursed because they caused people to stumble over the law. How many ministers will stand before the Lord of all the earth ashamed because their flocks stumbled over the law due to their teaching? All those who teach the word must bear in mind the awful judgment if they fail at the task. Thus James says that not many should seek to be teachers. (James 3:1)