Malachi 3:6-12 Return to me, and I will return to you, says the LORD of hosts.
Most pastors are reluctant to preach from Malachi, and I was also one of them. But I have been preaching from the Old Testament continuously for 10 years, and last Month I finally accomplished it.
I was so impressed with this text and am pleased to share it with you today.
By the way, recently I have written a book which title is “money and faith”, and this book has been welcomed in Christian circle.
But I got a strange reputation called the pastor of money, which is very unpleasant to me, because I had worked for ten years at one of the biggest brokerage banks dealing with stocks and bonds, but was not satisfied with taking care of money and therefore I became a pastor.
However in my ministry, I have constantly been confronted with the shortage of the budget and moreover, I feel irritated with my Christian friends who are so ignorant of the monetary subject yet always criticizing the current political or economic system, which is one of the motivations for writing this kind of book.
Our Lord Jesus speaks about money so often, and one of them is the Parable of the Dishonest Manager in Luke 16, that is difficult to understand.
But we need to accept His conclusion in verse 10-12, as follows. “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much.
If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful in that which is another's, who will give you that which is your own?
You may feel that you are poor because you do not occupy your heart with money, but according to Jesus, it might be true that you cannot possess your own riches because you are not faithful enough to the worldly wealth or another’s.
If you are really trusted by God or by others, you might have already enough riches.
For instance St Matthew was a tax collector and might have been very talented at book keeping , in another word, he was faithful to so called unrighteous wealth, that’s why he was entrusted to keep the true riches, which is the record of the preaching of our Lord Jesus.
And more interestingly as the Pharisees ridiculed Jesus’s preaching, it is written in verse 14 with great irony, “the Pharisees, who were lovers of money”.
The Beatles used to sing,“I don’t care too much for money, money can’t buy me love.”
But it is often so those who always says, “I don’t care for money・・” love money the most.
Of course Jesus is telling in verse
13 as follows,
“no servant can serve two masters・・・. You cannot serve God and money."
But it does not mean you should not talk about money openly in the church. For most of the parables of Jesus have something to do with money.
One of the biggest temptations of money comes to you, because you do not know the significance of praying over a bank note in front of you.
I love a poem by a French Catholic priest, Michel Quoist,
Prayer Before A Twenty-Dollar Bill
see this bill! It frightens me.
You know its secrets, you know its history・・・・.
It is heavy, heavy, Lord・・・For it had death on its conscience…
All the poor fellows who killed themselves for it,
To possess it for a few hours,
To have through it a little pleasure, a little joy, a little life.
how many hands has it passed, Lord?
And what has it done in the course of its long, silent journeys?
has offered white roses to the radiant fiancée.
It has paid for the baptismal party, and fed the rosy-cheeked baby.
It has provided bread for the family table.
Because of it there was laughing among the young and joy among the elders.・・・・
it has sent the letter breaking the engagement,
It has paid for the death of the baby in its mother’s womb,
It has bought the liquor that made the drunkard・・・
It has paid for the weapons of the crime and for the wood of the coffin.
Lord, I offer you this bill with its joyous mysteries, its sorrowful
I thank you for all the life and joy it has given.
I ask your forgiveness for the harm it has done.
But above all, Lord, I offer it to you as a symbol of all the labors of men, indestructible money, which tomorrow will be changed into your eternal life.
There are lots of people who pray
for the necessity of money but there are only few who pray in front of a paper
This prayer shows not only danger of money but also gratitude for money. And this could be called the prayer to redeem the money.
Today, I would like to use the word, “redeeming the money”. In the bible there is no such usage.
The word “redeem” means often “atonement for the forgiveness of sins”. But there is another Hebrew word with the general meaning of “deliver” or “take back.”
There is such usage as “ redeeming the time” as in the following two verses in NKJ
Colossians 4:5 Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time.
Ephesians 5:16 walk circumspectly・・redeeming the time, because the days are evil.
You will become a slave of the time if you don’t redeem the time.
And in the same way, you will become a slave of money if you don’t redeem the money.
In Exodus 13:13 it is written “ Every firstborn of man among your sons you shall redeem.” It is to remember that for the liberation of Israelite every firstborn in Egypt was killed therefore every firstborn of Israelite belong to the Lord, in order to take back your firstborn as your own son you need to pay the amount of 5 shekels which is not a small amount, almost one 6th of the value of the slave.
In the same way your money is originally the possession of the Lord and entrusted to you, but in order to possess your money at your disposal, you need to offer one tenth of your income. In that way you will be free from the bondage of the slavery of the money.
We need to be always conscious of the sneaky attack of Satan who uses money in order to keep your eyes away from your Creator.
Now I would like to invite you to the world of the prophet Malachi which was written around the middle of 5 century BC, about 50yeas after the reconstruction of the Jerusalem temple.
After the collapse of the kingdom of Jerusalem and the temple in 586BC, Jews had been in the captive and dreamed of the liberation by their God. As they came back to the promised land and were able to build their temple they were so pleased.
It is written in the psalm 126,
When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dreamed. Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy;
But after 50 years their feeling of excitement disappeared, and feeling of malaise prevailed.
They thought, “nothing has been changed, we are still under slavery of Persian kingdom and re-constructed temple is too far small from Solomon’s temple.
Such experiences of excitement and disappointment happen all the time in our life. As German philosopher Schopenhauer said
“Life swings like a pendulum backward and forward between pain and boredom.”
the real problem in our life is not a circumstance but attitude of our mind.
As it is written in Revelation 2:4-5
“But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first(or in NKJV “You have left your first love”) .
Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first.”
the word of the LORD by Malachi begins as follows.
"I have loved you," says the LORD. But you say, "How have you loved us?"
Instead of responding to the love of the Lord, they are just complaining as written in 2:17
"Where is the God of justice?"
And responding to this question the Lord tells in 3:1,
"Behold, I send my messenger and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple・・
But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears?
7 From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from my statutes and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you, says the LORD of hosts.
But you say, 'How shall we return?'
It is very interesting that the Lord tells us a way to return to the Lord. But you may be puzzled by the answer, because the lord tells them by the way of offering tithe, you can return to the Lord.
For almost everyone, money is one of the most important subjects in family life.
You can say “ I love you” in your lip but if your attitude is mean to your beloved, your word is not trusted. Love can be shown by the sacrifice you have made. And that was the problem of Israelite.
So it is written very frankly in verse 8 as follows.
“Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me.
But you say, 'How have we robbed you?'
tithes and contributions.
About the meaning of tithe, it is written in Leviticus 27:30
"Every tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the trees, is the LORD's;
it is holy to the LORD・・・.”
Israelite was just stingy. They stored the riches which were given by God only for their own use.
Against this attitude, the Lord tells them very severe word.
“9 You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you.
10 Bring the full tithes
into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house.
You may be asking, why the creator of the universe need money.
For the usage of the tithe it is written in Numbers 18:21
21 "To the Levites I have given every tithe in Israel for an inheritance, in return for their service that they do・・・"
In the history of Israel they were often too stingy to support the Levites. Therefore the Levite could not concentrate on the work for the service for the Lord and the service had become empty.
In the same way, in every church the worship becomes empty if they do not give a tithe to the church. In almost every church in Japan, payments for the pastors account for the biggest percentage of the church budget. But if the congregation does not give a tithe, a pastor can’t concentrate on the preparation of the sermon.
Beside this, in my opinion, there is an obligation of a big church in Tokyo for supporting a poor church in a country area. If every Christian gives a tithe, every church will be revived.
In addition, there is another usage of the tithe, it is written Deuteronomy 14:22
"You shall tithe all the yield of your seed・・・And before the LORD your God, in the place that he will choose・・・you shall eat the tithe of your grain, of your wine, and of your oil・・・
28 "At the end of every three years you shall bring out all the tithe of your produce in the same year and lay it up within your towns. 29 And ・・・the fatherless, and the widow, who are within your towns, shall come and eat and be filled.
Tithe here is for the fellowship and helping of the poor. And that seems to be the additional one to the tithe to the Levites. If it is so, you need to give not only 10％ of you income but 20％. But there is a difference of the opinion among theologian.
Anyway it is very reasonable to give the tithe first to the church you serve, and after that you can consider another possibility of the tithe in order to help inter-denominational activities, fellowship for believers, bible study, or evangelistic events.
In the book of Malachi, one of the greatest promises is written as follows,
“And thereby put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.
12 Then all nations will call you blessed, for you will be a land of delight・・・.”
“Put me to the test” is a very unique statement in the bible. In other places it is a great sin to put the lord into the test.
But by offering of the money the Lord himself invites us to put him to the test.
Of course the blessing in today’s world doesn’t mean the rich in money. Because there is a great danger that money can destroy your life.
But the blessing will appear in many different ways.
One of the greatest blessings in our life is the assurance of hope. The book of Malachi ends with the word of hope 3:16
16 Then those who feared the LORD spoke with one another. The LORD paid attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before him・・・.
Malachi 4:1-6 "For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble・・・
2 But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings・・・
5 "Behold, I will send you
Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes.
You know that Elijah had already come in the person of John the Baptist, and the promised messiah has appeared in Jesus.
In Jesus final stage of the God’ salvation has arrived. Completion of world peace was secured. Shalom in Hebrew, which means not only peace but also every wellbeing in the world. If we have this assurance we can be calm in the midst of all the troubles and concentrate on the most important work of love believing that all our labor are not in vain.
Strangely as Jesus appears there comes the conflict with the religious leader of that time. Jesus criticized as follows in Matthew 23:23
23 "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness.
These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.“
The Pharisees was very obedient
to the word of the Malachi, but they had forgotten the weightier matters of the
law: justice and mercy and faithfulness.
They despised the outcast of the society.
But they should have remembered that their forefather Jacob was an outcast of the society.
He betrayed his father and brother and, had to run away from home.
Genesis 28:11-22 11 And he came to a certain place and stayed there that night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place to sleep.
12 And he dreamed・・・
And there come the greatest promise from the Lord
Responding to that,
20 Then Jacob made a vow, saying, "If God will be with me and will keep me ・・・and will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear・・・ And of all that you give me I will give a full tenth to you."
You might be in a difficult situation like Jacob. You may be too poor to spare the tithe to the Lord. Then you can give the same vow like Jacob.
“If God will be with me and will keep me・・・all that you give me I will give a full tenth to you."
The promise of the tithe will open up your new fellowship with the Lord.
By the way, there was a severe warning of the curse of the Lord, but our savior Jesus took our curse instead. It is written Galatians 3:13-15
“13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us- for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree"- 14 so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.”
We are saved by His blood. There is an analogy of the salvation which Jews once experienced.
They were once slave in Babylon and liberated by the Persian king and could come back to their promised land and re-build the temple, and once they were so excited of the salvation of the Lord.
But soon they were occupied with the feeling of the boredom and malaise.
You maybe sometimes in the same situation, you are once so excited of your salvation, you are so joyful to be called the brothers and sisters of the Lord Jesus and to be called as a son of God. Your life is already secured by the hand of God, and you are more than conquerors through Jesus who has loved you.
Even so you feel sometimes, God is far from you and the assurance of salvation disappears.
Then God taught them interesting way to return to the Lord. That was a way of tithe.
Of course, the tithe is not the most important work of the Christians but Jesus himself says, “justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.” That means you cannot neglect the importance of the tithe.
But you should not see the tithe as an obligation. It is a way to blessing. It is a way to show your first love to the Lord. And it is a way to be free from the bondage of money.
By the acts of the tithe you become free and you can enjoy the blessed life with Jesus.
And if your desire is to grow in your faith in Jesus, one of the best way is to offer your money to your savior, because Jesus is telling in Matthew 6:20-21
“Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven・・・
21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Our treasure is not only money but also time
If you give your precious money and time to Jesus, your heart will be with Jesus. That is the way you can deepen your fellowship with Jesus.