Those Who Feared the Lord Talked With Each Other
Key Verse 4:2
“But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings. And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall.”
It wasn’t that long ago that God accused these people of wearying him with their words. And when they asked “How have we wearied him”, Malachi had responded with the voice of the God: “By saying, ‘All who do evil are good in the eyes of the Lord, and he is pleased with them’ or ‘Where is the God of justice?’” (2:17) They complained about the Lord’s standard of justice. They said that God wasn’t fair in his dealings with his people. They said that God considers those who do evil good, and conversely, he considers those who do good, evil. They were confused about why God punishes them who do good, while he turns a blind eye to those who do evil. It wasn’t fair of God to do so! These people were confused about God’s justice because they themselves were arrogant and self-righteous, thinking they were the good people who followed all of God’s laws to the T and who deserved to be blessed. But God wasn’t unjust in the way he treated them at all. God has his own standard of justice which isn’t based on human standards of justice. God assured them of a day coming when justice will be swift and all evildoers will receive what is due them. But what about the self righteous? To these people who complained that they were doing everything God wanted them to do, and still received no blessing from God, the prophet showed them that what God really wanted from them— he wanted them to return to the Lord with the heart. And he gave them an example of how they should return practically— by repenting of their attitude towards God. For example, they were offering their tithes, but they were doing it out of duty and not out of a sincere heart that loves God and is eager to bless him and serve him. They needed to repent and change their attitude, and God would return to them.
Read veses 13-15. “You have said harsh things against me, ‘says the Lord. “Yet you ask, ‘What have we said against you?’”’ ‘You have said, “It is futile to serve God. What did we gain by carrying out his requirements and going about like mourners before the Lord Almighty? But now we call the arrogant blessed. Certainly the evildoers prosper, and even those who challenge God escape.’” When God asks the people of Malachi’s time to repent and return to him, they complained that it didn’t make a difference what they did or how much they humbles themselves or how much they fasted and prayed, they complained that God doesn’t listen; he doesn’t hear their prayers; he doesn’t respond to them; and doesn’t bless them! So what’s the use? What’s the use of repenting or of serving him if it’s all the same, especially if the wicked prosper. They were saying: “It is futile to serve God. What did we gain by carrying out his requirements and going about like mourners before the Lord Almighty?” For them it was a waste of time to do so no because it was a waste of time, but because their hearts were not in it! And since their hearts were not in it, God wasn’t blessing them. So they blamed God for the situation. They said, “It is a futile thing to serve God.” “It’s not worthwhile to do so.” Well, the way they were doing it, it wasn’t worthwhile at all. We need to make something very clear. There are always those who attend worship services all over the world, who would do better if they would just take Sunday off to relax or go shopping! Why? Because their hearts are not in it. They attend worship to complain or to criticize, to take a nap or simply because they’re expected to. Quite honestly, if one’s heart is not in it, if there is no genuine love for the Lord and a desire to worship him, it is all to no avail. It is futile. It isn’t worth it!
Worshipping God is not a matter of legalism at all either. It’s our sacred duty to worship him. Sunday isn’t for gatherings and celebrations. It’s for the Lord’s honor and glory. God wants real worshippers not reluctant worshippers who appear before him because he demands it legally but because he wants it to be a matter of heart and spirit. We worship not because we must but because we want to, because his Son sacrificed his life to give us this privilege. Someone once said: “I suppose you think I’m going to hell because I prefer to watch football on Sunday rather than going to church.” “No my friend, you’re mistaken. You’re going to hell because you’ve rejected the Lord Jesus, because you care nothing about his honor, and because you’ve a broken relationship with him. Football has nothing to do with you going to hell.” Some people should probably watch football on Sunday rather than worshipping God at church because they’re hearts aren’t in it. What God really wants from his people is that they worship him with their hearts— from their hearts— those who love him and care for his honor!
Listen to what Jesus said to the Samaritan woman when she recognized that she had a serious worship problem— when she understood (from his words) that she had been worshipping a false idle— that she had been worshipping men instead of God. When Jesus challenged her to repent of her false worship, her heart was touched and she was ready to repent. But she didn’t know where she should worship God now that she wanted to. So Jesus taught her what true worship is all about. “Believe me, woman”, he said, “A time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.” (John 4:21-24)
Jesus was right. Worship has nothing to do with a place. Jerusalem was the most sacred city in the world. God had set it apart as the place of worship. But since the time of Jesus, every kind of religion, Christian or otherwise has defiled it with all kinds of false worship. People still go to Jerusalem to worship and they feel holy and righteous for doing so. But their worship is rejected by God. The worship Jesus talked about here is different from going to this church or that church, and following this liturgy or that. It’s a matter of heart because it’s a worship in spirit and in truth. It’s the kind of worship God wants. He wants our hearts. He wants us to come not because we have to, and not because we’re expected to, not even because we need to go to church. He wants us to come because he wants us to worship from our hearts.
These people were complaining that they had offered God service and worship but he had not responded by blessing them. Look at verse 15. “But now we call the arrogant blessed. Certainly the evildoers prosper, and even those who challenge God escape.” The wicked among them were still prospering, and those who cared less about God were still getting away with it, but those who worshipped were still suffering and their prayers were still going unanswered. Malachi told them it’s because your worship is wrong. You don’t come to hear the word of God and repent, but you come for show, because you think that if you come to worship, pretending to humble yourself fasting and mourning, that you will be accepted. But your worship is wrong. Jesus once told the Pharisees the same thing. “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.” (Matthew 6:16)
These people were always blaming God! But the problem wasn’t with God. It was with them! A dying man in a hospital room was always asking for another blanket to keep warm, even though the room was swelteringly hot. He blamed the hospital for freezing to death, even though the problem wasn’t with the hospital at all but with himself. Many people are like that! They complain that the churches they go to are cold, the people around them are lame, the words they hear are boring, when the problem is neither the church nor the people nor the message, but their own hearts are cold. It happens a lot! Malachi’s people were complaining that God doesn’t bless them, so what’s the use of worshipping him and serving him when the evildoers go on prospering and doing well while their own lives were so miserable. Where is the God of justice in all this! “It isn’t fair”, they say! Why should we even worship God or do anything for him! But they never stop for a minute to think if they are the problem; if their own hearts are cold; if their own worship is dead! We must be very careful not speak arrogantly against the Lord, but to examine our own hearts to see how we are worshipping.
Surely worship is a matter of heart, as the Lord said, a worship in spirit and in truth. God is spirit, as our Lord Jesus tells us. He is not flesh nor physical in any way. We know that! But what does it mean then, that we should worship him in spirit and in truth? And why is it the only kind of worship the father demands from his people, from those who love him as the Father of their spirits? It simply means that honoring and glorifying him as our Father and Creator is much more than just gathering together in a building to sing hymns and to read his word and to listen to a sermon. It’s more than visible acts of worship! Your worship must be spiritual, from your heart and soul, and it must reflect the truth of God as well. It must reflect the truth that Jesus loves you and had sacrificed his life to save you and has shed his blood to wash your sins away to bring you near to God in devoted worship. It must reflect the truth that you love him and genuinely submit to him in all things, not just in coming to church and sitting down in the congregation of worshippers, but to submit to him in your heart and soul and mind and strength. To worship him in spirit and in truth must reflect your desire to know him for who he really is, to enjoy him and to commune with him. Malachi’s people went through the ritual of worship, they even fasted, prayed, offered sacrifices and mourned before him. They thought that’s enough to appease him. But they missed the point. God didn’t want that kind is worship at all. God wanted them to love him, to seek him, to give themselves to him, and to trust him because he is their faithful Father.
Read verse 16. “Then those who feared the Lord talked with each other, and the Lord listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the Lord and honored his name.” There is always a faithful remnant among the Lord’s people whose worship was genuine and from the heart. They weren’t arrogant; They weren’t cynical; they didn’t doubt God’s justice! Everything they did, they did humbly before God, and sought to please him by living by faith in him, trusting that he is sovereign and true to his word. They believed that God their Father is worthy of honor and so they honored him. They believed that God their Master was worthy of respect, and so they respected him. It’s those faithful remnant that Malachi is talking about here. What about them? They feared God! Their lives reflected godliness and faith and genuine worship. And Malachi tells us that they talked among each other. In other words, they had fellowship with each other. Why is it important that they talked with one another in holy fellowship? Because when everyone else was complaining against God, these people weren’t! Instead, they did something that most people don’t do in times of difficulty and hardship. They looked to each other for mutual comfort and encouragement in fellowship. The faithful gathered together to seek the will of God and to pray with one another.
What happened when they did that? Look at verse 16. The Lord listened and heard as God never fails to do when it comes to his faithful ones. And then something else happened. A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence, regarding those special ones who feared him and who honored his name. The Bible mentions on several occasions the idea that there are books in heaven in which God writes things in. (Revelation 20:12) Once you’re name is written in the book of life, no one and nothing in this world or the other can ever remove it! It’s secure. But there are other things written in those books as well— especially all the things you’ve said and done. Like a grade book with marks in it regarding how you lived your life, what you’ve done with the talents and gifts God has given to you. The Lord Jesus says: “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time?” (Matthew 24:45) God gives you a charge to serve his purpose and encourages you to be wise and faithful with that charge he’s given you. Then on the day of reckoning, it is those who have served their charges well who will hear these words: “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” (Matthew 25:21)
A scroll of remembrance was written in God’s presence regarding those who fear him and have remained faithful— those who served God’s purpose in humility and in tears. Those are the ones who honored God regardless of their circumstances or the difficulties in their lives. They didn’t complain about God’s justice even when they saw the wicked prosper and those who challenge God get away with it. Look at verse 17-18. “’They will be mine,’ says the Lord Almighty, ‘in the day when I make up my treasured possession. I will spare them, just as in compassion a man spares his son who serves him. And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not.’” Today, you who belong to Christ may suffer unjustly. You may endure trouble and hardship. It may seem as if God makes no visible distinction between those who love and serve God and those who don’t! But there is even now a great distinction between them. Those who belong to God have the seal of the Holy Spirit on their hearts. And a day is coming when that distinction will become absolutely visible and apparent when the Lord returns to judge this world. Indeed the wicked may prosper now, and indeed you may have to endure the troubles of this world. But when he returns, if you are his special possession, you will be greatly distinguished. That is something worth waiting for!
Read verse 4:1. “Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and that day that is coming will set them on fire,’ says the Lord Almighty. ‘Not a root or a branch will be left to them.’” What a description for the day of God’s judgment! Peter says the same thing when he says: “The day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare.” (2 Peter 3:10) People work very hard for their achievements, for their personal comforts, and for their own honor. And in their arrogance they glory in all their accomplishments. And also in their wickedness, they do so at the cost of other people’s ruination and misery. Perhaps they can make a name for themselves in this world, and have a claim on it. But the day will come when all their accomplishments will be laid bare, when everything they have built in this world and lived for will go up in flames. But it’s not only their accomplishments and achievements that will be laid waste and perish in the fire, but the wicked, the godless and the ungodly themselves will perish too. No wonder the Lord Jesus taught us the truth about the folly of this world when he told us: “What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done.” (Matthew 16:26-27) It is indeed a shame that so many people put all their hope in a world that is passing away, rather than in the God of hope. The fate of the world and all who hope in it is already sealed. It will burn. It will perish.
But in the midst of all that’s ungodly and wicked in a perishing world, God didn’t leave his people without hope. Read verses 2-3. “’But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings. And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall. Then you will trample down the wicked; they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day when I do these things,’ says the Lord Almighty.” God’s people had strayed from him. They had become ritualistic, treacherous, unfaithful, and arrogant and so far from the truth of God, that they really imagined they could appease him with useless sacrifices and false worship. God warned them that of they didn’t return to him, they would suffer terrible consequences. Yet among them there was a remnant of godly people who loved the Lord and revered him. To these, God gives hope that the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings. Of course, this prophesy refers to none other than the Lord Jesus Christ whose first coming was God’s grace to all who believe and put their trust in him. When Jesus came, his coming was like the Rising of the Sun in our hearts and lives. He exposed the darkness of sin and drove it out of our lives. He did more than that! He healed us. People’s hearts aren’t only darkened by sin, but also wounded by it. Look around you, the effects of sin ravage people’s lives and leave them wounded and devastated. They live in constant fear, shame and guilt. Nothing can heal these wounds. But Jesus does! When people trust him and receive his forgiveness, their wounded hearts and ravaged lives heal. And they live in his grace with a future as bright as the Sun of Righteousness Himself.
However this verse not only talks about the first coming of the Lord who heals us, but alludes to the time he will return on that dreadful day to bring another healing to our lives. It well be the final healing which transforms us into his children made into his image, who will live with him forever. On that day, the wicked and faithless will be judged and banished.
Malachi’s final words in this last book of the Old Testament are found in verses 4-6. Here there’s the promise of the coming of Elijah who will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the children’s hearts to their fathers. If we are to consider that this prophesy in regards to John the Baptist, then it’s a message of hope too. When John came in the spirit of Elijah, he delivered a message of repentance for the forgiveness of sin. At the time of his coming, Israel had been shattered through 400 years of God’s silence. Its people had lost the basic bond they had with their fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as well as all the ancestors who lived by faith and honored God with their lives. They no longer had the faith of Abraham who’s life was so closely intertwined with God’s own life. The people needed to repent and restore their faith and faithfulness. John’s message prepared them to meet the Christ of God and put their faith in him. And those who did no longer were broken off from their fathers nor from God. They all came together again through their faith in Christ.
Our nation is also broken off from our ancestors’ faith and faithfulness. Once, this nation was built on the faith of those who came here to build a new life in Christ, and to established a nation whose tenets and beliefs were Biblical, founded on grace and truth. Today’s children are also broken off from their fathers of faith, and fathers of today no longer care about the spiritual well-being of their children. We too need this message of hope, that we may be reconciled with our forefathers’ faith and turn to the Lord Jesus, our true Savior and Master and live to honor him. We still need Elijah’s message of repentance so that the Sun of Righteousness may rise with healing not only in our own lives but also in our nation and it’s people, young and old. Let’s pray for the young people of our generation to find repentance and faith so that they too may be healed. Look at verse 4. These are Malachi’s last words before God went silent for 400 years before the coming of the Christ. He wanted his people to remember Moses’ words which pointed to the Christ. It was his hope for his nation. Christ is also the hope of ours as well. Amen.