Test Me In This, Says The Lord Almighty
Key Verse 3:10
“’Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,’ says the Lord Almighty, ‘and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.’”
Look at 2:17. “You have wearied the Lord with your words”, the prophet tells the people. And they answer back saying: “How have we wearied him?” They didn’t know what a burden it was to the Lord to constantly have to hear their complaints. They always complained about how burdensome it was for them to serve God! They had no idea how tiresome it was to hear them talk about their problems. “How have we wearied him”, they asked. And the prophet tells them how. You weary him with your words. What kind of words did they speak? Look at verse 17 again. They were saying: “All who do evil are good in the eyes of the Lord, and he is pleased with them”. What did they mean by that? They meant that God doesn’t care about them. He blesses those who do evil, and those who do good, he curses! What were they talking about? Well, they looked around and they thought there was no justice. They had the impression that they were godly, that they were doing what is good and right in the sight of God. So they were wondering why they still suffered so much. They wondered why they were having so many problems. Didn’t God care anymore about them? Then they compared themselves with those whom they thought were living unrighteous lives, and saw that those people were prospering. They saw that they wicked had it easy. Life was good for them. So, how could God allow this to happen? Wasn’t it they who deserve the blessing of God instead of those who did evil things? They were confused, and they started saying: “Where is the God of justice”?
There are many people like those of Malachi’s people in the world, and especially in the Christian church. They measure God’s system of justice by their own sense of justice and understanding of what justice is or what justice should be. And so they have a habit of complaining all the time. They’re never happy— and never satisfied with anything. They measure the world and what happens to them from their own narrow perspective and end up becoming bitter and angry people. And you never hear a word of thanksgiving or praise for God from their lips. They complain about God’s justice, but in truth they themselves do not uphold even the most basic standard of justice. What’s wrong with them?
Many things are wrong with them! But fundamentally they have two problems. The first problem they have is, they are too self-righteous, thinking that God should reward them for their righteousness and good deeds. They don’t know that no one is righteous, not even one (Romans 3:10). They don’t know that no one can earn merits with God by being good, and doing what the law demands. So when things didn’t seem to be going well for them; when they don’t get what they want; when they don’t seem to find favor with God, they think God is uncaring and unjust. So they have much reason to complain and no reason to say “Thank you Lord”.
The other problem they have is that they have a twisted sense of what God’s justice is all about. In all honesty, if we were to be subject to God’s justice, none of us would survive. It’s a miracle of miracles that these people were even left alive by God, considering the sins they were committing against him and each other. Yet they were still measuring God’s justice by who seems to be blessed and who seems to not be so blessed. If God were to unleash his justice on us, who among us could stand! If God were to really deal with you according to his justice, do you think that you would have a leg to stand on? Who among us can stand to God and say that they deserve life and blessing! Who among us can stand to God and say that they deserve justice! Those who think so, don’t know their own hearts; they don’t know their own soul; they don’t know their own sins. With all the evil that churns inside the human heart, the only justice we deserve is death ten times over. Don’t you know that? Malachi’s people didn’t know their own hearts; they didn’t acknowledge their own sins; they didn’t even know that they were sinners in danger of facing God’s righteous and terrible justice! They didn’t know that justice demands that we should suffer and die for our sins against God and against one another. Yet they said: “Where is the God of justice? Indeed where is he? Actually many people in history have grappled with this very question, even prophets did! (Psalm 73; Jeremiah 12; Habakkuk)
It was this very God of justice who was planning their salvation and ours! We all deserve condemnation and death. But the Good Lord of justice was working out a plan to satisfy his own justice. Is there anyone who has been to a trial where their transgressions are recited, where every evil thought they’ve had, every evil deed they’ve done, every shame they’ve suffered, and every guilt that they’ve felt, were all cited before the judge and in the presence of all who they’ve wronged— and regardless of how merciful the judge is, he must condemn because he is a just judge who can’t and will not turn a blind eye or a deaf ear to the enormity of their crimes? This would have been our lot, yours and mine and every other human being. These people questioned God’s justice out of ignorance to what justice is and of what true justice awaited them. So the prophet begins to tell them of God’s justice in detail.
Read verses 1-5. “See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the Lord Almighty. But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the Lord will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness, and the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will be acceptable to the Lord, as in days gone by, as in former years. ‘So I will come near to you for judgment. I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive aliens of justice, but do not fear me,’ says the Lord Almighty.”
These verses talk about God’s justice fulfilled. In verse 1a, God tells them that he is preparing to send the forerunner of the Christ whom he had promised to send at the proper time. He was talking about the John the Baptist who fulfilled this prophesy when he came 400 years later. We all know John the Baptist, whose sole mission was to prepare the way for the Messiah and to announce him to the world. John came preaching “A baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (M ark 1:4). John served God with his whole heart, mind, soul and strength. Jesus said of him that he was the greatest prophet who ever lived. But in spite of his spotless record as the Messiah’s forerunner, in spite of all the great things he had done in the gospel cause— in serving God— in preparing the way for the Messiah to come— in spite of all the wonderful things John did in turning the hearts of the people to the Lord, still he was persecuted and imprisoned. I can’t imagine how miserable it must have been for him to go from the heights of glory as the beloved prophet of Israel and to end up so lonely and abandoned by everyone locked up in a dungeon. Yet John never questioned God’s justice. Why? Because John had a right perspective of God’s justice. So, rather than complain and become bitter, he lived in God’s sovereignty! He deeply understood his own role in God’s history. God used him to prepare people’s hearts through repentance and faith in the One who was coming. It was God’s justice to use John in helping people return to God through repentance.
Look at verse 1b. “The Lord you are seeking”, “The messenger of the covenant”, the one “Whom you desire”, is a prophesy about the coming of the Lord Jesus. Jesus then came; he preached the good news of salvation. And then he gave his life on the cross as a ransom for our sins. Malachi’s people were waiting for the promised Messiah to come and reward them for their righteousness, and to make them the Lords of the earth, with all other nations crushed under their feet. These people had no idea that the “Messenger of the covenant”, Jesus Christ, would come to sacrifice himself for their unrighteousness— to cancel their sin debt— and to call them to become the shepherds and Bible teachers of the world— and to spread the gospel of life and peace to all nations. It was God’s justice that offered the life of his Son as a ransom to avert his terrible justice from them— from us— and from all who put their faith in Jesus.
Look at verses 2-5. Here Malachi is talking about the day of the Lord, which is the second coming of the Lord Jesus. It’s going to be a dreadful day for those who have not believed the Lord and accepted his gospel of life when he first came. On that day when the Lord returns, he will not return as the shepherd who came the first time to call his sheep to renounce their sins and to embrace his grace in their lives. He will be coming as the Judge of all the earth to separate the sheep from the goats— the wheat from the chaff— the believing from the unbelieving— the rebellious from the obedient. Malachi is answering their question as to where the God of justice is, and he’s telling them that God deals justice in his own time and in his own way. But a day is surely coming when God’s final justice will come to pass through fire. Those who belong to the Lord will be purified by the fire and transformed, and those who don’t belong to the Lord will be consumed by the fire and condemned. On that day, God’s people will finally give the Lord their acceptable offerings in righteousness.
Listen to what the Lord tells these people who were asking the question: “Where is the God is justice?” Look at verse 5 again. They complained that God’s not fair, and that his justice is biased. But their own hearts were filled with all kinds of evil. Look at their sins! And the sins of those whom God will judge! We don’t have time to list them all and discuss them in detail. But these transgressions seem to be a world wide problem today. People are unjust towards each other, using an abusing each other, lying cheating, deceiving and being deceived by one another, practicing adultery, being unfaithful, dabbling in the spirit world, communing with demons, betraying one another, enjoying all that is unholy and profane. People don’t change much in their sinful habits even after millennia. Why do people do these things even to this day? Why don’t they stop to think about the consequences of their actions? God himself tells us! Because they “Do not fear me, says the Lord”. When people have no fear of God, they do as they please— they give in to the sinful passions of the flesh. But on that final day, God himself promises to exact his final justice by putting all people on trial for their sins (5b). On that day, we who trust Christ and have put our faith in him will be found blameless before the Lord.
Read verses 6-7. “’I the Lord do not change. So you, O descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed. Ever since the time of your forefathers you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you,’ says the Lord Almighty. ‘But you ask, “How are we to return?”’” Clearly, if God hadn’t been faithful to them, keeping his promise to their faithful ancestors, he would have exacted his justice from them right there and then. But he withheld his hand from judging them because the Lord never changes— he is indeed faithful, and his mercy runs like a river amidst all our inequities. And in his great mercy he called them to return to him. God wanted them to repent of their sins and renew their faith and trust in the Lord their God. To return to him, they needed to abandon their self righteousness, humble themselves, and then throw themselves at his mercy. They needed to honor him as their father— they needed to fear him as their master! (1:6) But they asked the same question again. They said: “How are we to return?” Look at how God answered them. In verses 8-12, God shows them in a very practical way how they might show their sincere repentance in returning to him.
Read verses 8-12. “Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. ‘But you ask, ‘How do we rob you?’ ‘In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse— the whole nation of you— because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. ‘Test me in this,’ says the Lord Almighty, ‘and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it. I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not cast their fruit,’ says the Lord Almighty. ‘Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,’ says the Lord Almighty.”
How then have they robbed God? They had robbed God in that they had indeed responded and done what God wanted them to do. But they had done so not in the spirit in which God wanted them to respond. In other words, yes they did it! They gave their tithes and offerings. But they didn’t do it with the kind of heart that God intended for them to give it. They had carefully measured the tithe down to the nickel and dime. They had weighed it so as to be exactly what was prescribed by the law. They had done it! They had given! But it wasn’t given with the heart and spirit in which God had intended them to do in the first place, when he first invited them to offer the tithes and offerings to him. So how had God intended them to do it? From their hearts! Wholeheartedly! With love— with total willingness— He wanted them to do it gladly— as a gesture of devotion to the one they love! That’s how God wanted them to offer their tithes.
And on the same thought then, what is God’s claim on us Christians? What does God want from us? I can honestly tell you that God isn’t really asking you for a tithe. Let me explain. Some give a tithe from their income. It’s what the church teaches, and rightly so because it is every Christian’s privilege to tithe and to offer to God. And while that may be the right thing to do, giving a tithe isn’t just about giving a tithe! It’s about loving God and caring deeply for his church and kingdom work. That’s what tithing and offering is all about. For example, some people have no business giving the regular tithe on their earnings— they simply cannot afford it, given the fact that they’re poor and they have families to take care of, children to clothe and to feed and to care for their education. God has no intention of breaking their backs and crippling their families in demanding a tithe they simply cannot afford. On the other hand there are those who are robbing God by giving him exactly the tithe he wants them to give. Why? Because their tithes do not reflect a generosity towards God, nor a sincere love for him, nor do their tithes reflect a faith that rests on God’s generous provision in their lives. But their tithes and offerings reflect only a cold, calculated duty, carefully counted and weighed in the scales. Does this mean that some shouldn’t give a tithe because they’re poor, and others should give a multiple of tithes just because they’re rich? Not at all!
Giving tithes and offerings is a sacred privilege of every Christian. But it must be voluntarily done. It must reflect one’s love for God. It must reflect one’s concern for seeing God’s work done without hindrance. [If no sincere love for God and no concern for the kingdom work, the church might end up receiving funds from Satan. That shouldn’t be!] God wants us to love him and express that love practically, even through giving our tithes. Yet Christian peoples make excuses. There are poor people in Christian churches who use their poverty as an excuse not to give their tithe or anything else to God. They don’t really love God and are also robbing him. There are rich people in the Christian churches who use the corruption in the church as an excuse not to give their tithes or anything else to the Lord. These too don’t seem to love God and are certainly robbing him.
Money is a very sensitive issue to everyone, even to God’s people who should be more sensitive to God’s will instead of to their own monies. But it shouldn’t stop us from talking about it when necessary. Most Christian people love money. And they also love themselves too much to tithe properly and with a clear guilt-free conscience before God. So they find themselves constantly in the process of robbing God. They rob God in what they owe him in tithe. But they also rob him in everything else in their lives. They rob him in love, in devotion, in time and in effort. But God our God is a great king. Not to mention that we his people owe everything to him because he redeemed us with the life of his most precious Son. We can’t afford to be stingy with him, and certainly we cannot afford to rob him either! Everything we are and have belongs to him, not only the tithe and offering. Everything! But just because we know and agree that he owns everything, is no excuse not to express our love by giving him the tithe and offering. It’s no good to withhold it from him, especially since we also know that his kingdom work requires it and relies on it. So what do we conclude about the tithe? We conclude this: Don’t rob God! God loves us. We should love him back with a conviction that our tithe and offering comes from a willing heart full of gratitude and love for the one who gives us everything.
And what is God’s promise when we tithe in the way God would have us tithe— In a spirit of love and of gratitude and with a deep concern for his kingdom work? Read verse 10. “’Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,’ says the Lord Almighty, ‘and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.’” We need not test the Lord, because the Bible forbids us to put God to the test. He is faithful and reliable, and his word of promise is good and absolute. But we can test him by trusting him and depending on him. In Christ our redeemer we can fully depend on God to supply all our needs, as we serve his good purpose. As Paul said: “And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19) This is his promise and assurance when we stop robbing God and instead bless him as he continues to bless us. Amen.