This message was presented on July 14, 2013 as a part of a series on Malachi.
No Profit from the Prophet
W. B. Riley told the story of a man who had walked the streets of Philadelphia searching for employment. One day he happened to go into the office of a well-known businessman by the name of Girard. When he asked for a job, Mr. Girard answered. “Yes, I can give you work. See that pile of bricks out there? Carry them over to the other end of the yard and stack them up.”
By nightfall the man reported that the project was completed and he received his pay. When asked if there would be more work the next day, his employer said, “Yes, come in tomorrow and carry those same bricks back to where you found them.” The following morning he came in early and got busy without a word. For more than a week he was instructed to carry bricks back and forth until it was evident that he could be trusted to do exactly what he was told.
Then he was given a new and bigger responsibility – to go downtown and bid on a large quantity of sugar. Not recognizing him, the people at the auction were surprised by the bid of this total stranger. When it was accepted, the auctioneer asked who would pay the bill. “Mr. Girard,” the man replied, “I am his agent.” He had earned this position by being faithful in a menial task.
Israel was not faithful to the Lord in any tasks. They deemed it beneath their dignity to do what God said. They had rationalized to such an extent that they had established the standard God should accept from them, how they should serve Him and what they owe Him. They raised themselves up and diminished God in the process. Hence, they did not enjoy the profit that God desired for them. How can you profit from God’s Prophet?
In Malachi one, God told Israel, “I have loved you. Why are you offering defiled offerings to Me?” Israel responded, “How have you loved us; we’re not sure you do, besides, how are we offering you defiled offerings?” God explained, “When you offer blind, sick, lame, or diseased offerings, is it not evil?’
In Malachi two God sternly rebuked Israel’s priesthood. He said, “You have not served glory to My name, you have not stood for the Covenant of Truth, you have not submitted to the covenant of life and peace and you have not set yourself aside to teach your children and others My ways. Furthermore, you are indifferent toward holiness in marriage, you are indifferent toward holiness in your children and you are indifferent toward My holy purposes.
Then in Malachi three, God warned Israel that the Messenger of the Covenant was coming. Therefore God would send judgment to prepare His people and purify them for His name’s sake, because He is faithful and never changes. This morning we see Israel wondered if it was all worth it. Where is the profit? Malachi recorded Israel’s attitude, “You have said, `It is useless to serve God; what profit is it that we have kept His ordinance.” (Mal. 3:14) How can you profit from God’s Prophet?
1) Understand God’s Words 3:6-9
Let us make sure we get this in context. In Malachi 3:6-7, God said through Malachi,
- 6 For I am the LORD, I do not change; Therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob. (Mal. 3:6 NKJ)
God never changes, but Israel did. Yet even though Israel changed, God did not go back on His word, His covenant, and destroy His people as He warned Moses in Numbers 14. Yet, God accused them of always wandering off the right path,
- 7 Yet from the days of your fathers You have gone away from My ordinances And have not kept them. Return to Me, and I will return to you,” Says the LORD of hosts. “But you said, `In what way shall we return?’ (Mal. 3:7)
What does God mean, “Return to me”? Israel did not think they had left God. They had rationalized they were living according to God’s standards. They reasoned they were doing all they needed to do. God said, “Return to Me and I’ll return to you.” Israel should have gotten on their knees, sought God through the priests and pleaded with Him for understanding.
Instead they asked, “How have we gone away?” Was God wrong in His declaration? God gave evidence of their wanderings that went back to the days of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Jacob was willing to deceive to get his benefit – his profit. Israel decided they would complain their way to benefit and profit. God said, “Israel you are just like them.”
Then God raised another issue without going into more detail. God is not obligated to explain every detail. Israel was obligated to seek out the answer from God. God said through Jeremiah, “And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.” (Jer. 29:13 NKJ) God raised the next issue,
- 8 “Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, `In what way have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings. (Mal. 3:8 NKJ)
What could God mean by this? No one can go to heaven and take from God. Furthermore, God has infinite resources. He would not miss something even if it were taken. God explained how, “In tithes and offerings,” that is, by not giving what was due. God did not and will not make up the shortfall. Does God come up short? No, but it limits what God would multiply to be done.
If you multiply ten times ten, you get 100. But if you multiply ten times 100, you get 1000. The amount given was not very different, but the result of what God multiplies is very different. By the way, what is nothing times ten? It is nothing. Even though God wants to multiply, if we do not give anything, there will be nothing in the fruit.
- 9 You are cursed with a curse, for you have robbed Me, even this whole nation. (Mal. 3:9)
The temple was God’s house, so failure to support temple ministry was robbing God. God would take what the people gave and multiply it so all the ministry would be accomplished. God said, “Because you are neglectful, you are robbing Me and you are cursed.” In fact, you will keep on being cursed, is the meaning. Remember how Malachi concludes? He wrote, “And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.” (Mal 4:6 NKJ)
Why would God curse His people? This is a temporal curse because of their disobedience. When they repent as a nation, the curse is removed. The curse was to cause them to repent and return to God. Whether they admit they have departed from God or not, God would still loved them. And God would bless them with the Messenger of the Covenant in proper time. But their disobedience would not be blessed or rewarded, because they had already been given God’s Word, promise and covenant. Their disobedience was repugnant.
Notice God added at the end of Malachi 3:9, “even this whole nation.” Unfaithfulness of the priests was no excuse for the people to not comply. They should have held the priests accountable. God was clear on what He required. We’ve studied this in Malachi 1:7,12-13; 2:17. When Israel didn’t give what God described, He removed the blessing.
Note briefly God’s answer to Israel’s question about robbing God. God responded, “In tithes and offerings.” The following passages address the giving of tithes in Israel: Leviticus 27: 30-33; Numbers 18:20-32; Deuteronomy 12:5-7,10-19; 14:22-29. These passages describe three tithes. The first tithe was a tithe to support the Levitical priests as they worked in the temple and teaching the people. The second tithe was to support the festivals and participants, which included the giver of the offering. The third tithe was given every three years to support the Levites, the widows, orphans and strangers in the land. So every three years the people paid 30% and 20% the other two years or an average of 23.3% each year.
Yet, Israel was not faithful in paying their tithes. They robbed what God wanted to multiply to exalt His name among the nations. They neglected God’s Word –His ordinances. Their lack of action was actually detrimental to God’s influence in Israel and among the nations.
Let me illustrate with this quotation. Who does this sound like?
I have never been guilty of wrong actions, but on my account lives have been lost, trains have been wrecked, ships have been sunk, cities have been burned, governments have failed, battles have been lost and because of me a few churches have closed their doors. I have never struck a blow nor spoken an unkind word, but because of me homes have been broken, friends have grown cold, the laughter of children has ceased, wives have shed bitter tears, brothers and sisters have been forgotten and parents have gone broken hearted to the grave. I have intended no evil, but because of me, talents have come to nothing, courtesy and kindness have failed and the promise of success as well as happiness has yielded sorrow and disaster….I have no sound; just silence. No cause for being myself. I have no offering to make except grief and sorrow. You may not in an instant call me by name, but surely you are personally acquainted with me. What is my name? Neglect. Edsel Burleson.
The more you understand God’s Words, the more profit you will receive from God’s prophet. And understanding will be seen in obedience. How do you profit from God’s Prophet? Obey God’s Words. That seems too simplistic, but like Israel, we need to be reminded what
God expects from us. The confusion of life distracts us from the simple things, like obedience, God requires and is due.
God expects from us. The confusion of life distracts us from the simple things, like obedience, God requires and is due.
2) Obey God’s Words 3:10-12
- 10 Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, That there may be food in My house, And try Me now in this,” Says the LORD of hosts, “If I will not open for you the windows of heaven And pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it. (Mal. 3:10)
God challenged Israel to obedience. In the first portion of Malachi, Malachi 1:6-2:9, the emphasis was on the “quality” of the offering. Here, the emphasis is on the “quantity.” Malachi told Israel to bring in “all” the tithe. Test God in obedience, but do not test God in disobedience. If they obeyed, then God promised He would bless them in tremendous ways. He promised to open the windows of heaven and provide rain for their crops and drinking. There would be such an abundance that their barns would be overflowing and they would be able to share with the nations around them.
The Lord promised this 1000 years earlier when Moses wrote to Israel as they were about to embark into the land of plenty. Moses wrote,
- Now it shall come to pass, if you diligently obey the voice of the LORD your God, to observe carefully all His commandments which I command you today, that the LORD your God will set you high above all nations of the earth.
- 2 “And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, because you obey the voice of the LORD your God:
- 3 “Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the country.
· 4 “Blessed shall be the fruit of your body, the produce of your ground and the increase of your herds, the increase of your cattle and the offspring of your flocks. (Deut. 28:1-4 NKJ)
Tremendous blessing resulted from obedience. Now look at the opposite effect,
- 15 “But it shall come to pass, if you do not obey the voice of the LORD your God, to observe carefully all His commandments and His statutes which I command you today, that all these curses will come upon you and overtake you:
- 16 “Cursed shall you be in the city, and cursed shall you be in the country.
- 17 “Cursed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl.
- 18 “Cursed shall be the fruit of your body and the produce of your land, the increase of your cattle and the offspring of your flocks. (Deut. 28:15-18 NKJ)
Disobedience brought cursing. Remember this word “curse” is the last word in Malachi. Because Israel would not repent, God left them under a temporary curse (Mal. 4:6). Yet God promised He would give them additional blessings,
- 11And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, so that he will not destroy the fruit of your ground, nor shall the vine fail to bear fruit for you in the field,” Says the LORD of hosts. (Mal. 3:11)
God would provide pest control also. God allowed the pests to eat up the crops in Joel’s day (Joel 1:1-4). There were chewing, swarming, crawling and consuming locusts that devoured their crops. Joel warned Israel to return to the Lord, just as Malachi warned Israel to repent and walk in obedience and God would ensure that pest control would be in effect.
God also promised there would be sweet wine for joy and celebration for Israel. The Lord of hosts, or better, Lord of the armies, promised this. Furthermore,
- 12 “And all nations will call you blessed, for you will be a delightful land,” Says the LORD of hosts. (Mal. 3:12)
“The nations would be compelled to call you blessed, because they would see the tangible evidence of My blessing in your lands,” said the Lord. There would be such an abundance that it would flow to other nations. This is from God’s promise to Abraham in Genesis 12:1-3.
God promised Abraham a land, seed and blessing. Each of those three blessings were amplified in the Palestinian, Davidic and New Covenants, respectively. Through Israel, God promised to bless the entire world. However, Israel would have to be obedient for the world to receive the maximum blessing. They were not, so the world suffered.
How do you gain profit from the prophet? Understand God’s Word, obey it and humble yourself before God for divine profit.
3) Humble yourself for divine profit from God 3:13-15
Listen to these words. Do they make sense?
- 13 “Your words have been harsh against Me,” Says the LORD, “Yet you say, `What have we spoken against You?‘ (Mal. 3:13)
How can God say words like that? Does He have thin-skin? This is certainly language of accommodation, because nothing can affect God, except that in His holiness and divine love, there is great disappointment over rejection of His so great love and grace. In fact, God gave a tangible expression of how much this expression bothered His holiness. Moses wrote in Exodus 21:17, “And he who curses his father or his mother shall surely be put to death.” If a child cursed his parent by saying, “I wish you were dead,” or something similar, the child was put to death. That is how serious speaking against God is. That is how sobering we should be when speaking about or to God.
Then Malachi writes,
- 14 You have said, `It is useless to serve God; what profit is it that we have kept His ordinance, and that we have walked as mourners before the LORD of hosts? (Mal. 3:14)
Israel was not really sure if serving the Lord was worth it. In Malachi 2, God accused the priesthood that they did not serve glory to His name. Here, God quoted them saying, “We are not sure if it is really worth it to serve God.” What is the profit? “We should be rewarded by what we do. It’s useless. What did we gain?” complained Israel. They were mourners in action, but not in heart over their sin of indifference. They unleashed tears at the altar, but that was pure emotionalism, self-focused on wanting their own blessing rather than wanting to bless the name of the Lord.
Jesus gave the attitude every person should have. If God provided freedom to any person from the slave market of sin, from the eternal damnation of the Lake of Fire, from the drudgery of misery, then all who have taken the gift of salvation, all who are in the family of God, all who are blessed to be children of God, should rally to be ever grateful and ready to serve glory to God’s name. That is illustrated in Luke 17:7-10,
- 7 “And which of you, having a servant plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, `Come at once and sit down to eat ‘?
- 8 “But will he not rather say to him, `Prepare something for my supper, and gird yourself and serve me till I have eaten and drunk, and afterward you will eat and drink ‘?
- 9 “Does he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I think not.
- 10 “So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, `We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do.'” (Luke 17:7-10 NKJ)
The servant was to obey the master, serve the master and then receive his sustenance, but never have the perspective that he deserves the sustenance. He did what he was commanded to do.
The problem was Israel really did not understand sin. They considered the one aspect of sin as in active rebellion. Paul gave many examples of active rebellion in Galatians 5:19-21. Those are deeds of the flesh in contrast to the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23). The second type of sin is passive indifference. James writes, “Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.” (Jam. 4:17 NKJ) When I know what I am supposed to do, but do not do it, I am indifferent to God’s will and therefore in sin. Israel violated this over and over without thinking about it. The third aspect of sin is acting independent. Faith is dependency upon God. Faith is reliance upon God. Paul writes, “But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because he does not eat from faith; for whatever is not from faith is sin. (Rom. 14:23 NKJ) The problem is never with God. The problem rests with man and his failure to realize God is worthy of worship, worthy of sacrifice, and worthy of service.
Finally, Malachi expressed the epitome of foolishness in perspective. There were times when it seemed like the wicked got away with sin and were even blessed in it, even as it does today. That was how Israel saw the wicked people around them.
- 15 So now we call the proud blessed, for those who do wickedness are raised up; They even tempt God and go free. (Mal. 3:15 NKJ)
Israel thought the wicked were coddled and seemingly delivered. Does anyone escape God’s notice? Absolutely not, as Malachi recorded in Malachi 4:1, “For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, and all the proud, yes, all who do wickedly will be stubble. And the day which is coming shall burn them up,” Says the LORD of hosts, “That will leave them neither root nor branch.” (Mal. 4:1 NKJ) The wicked do not get away with anything. They may have a temporary short time of blessing, but it will be fleeting. Israel should never have concerned themselves with anyone else, but their own relationship with God.
Let me bring this closer to home and quote from Edsel Burleson one more time. He said,
What is the difference between the atheist who supports no church and members who will not support the church to which they belong? What is the difference between the skeptic who does not believe the Bible and the negligent church member who never reads it? Too many churches are singing “Standing on the Promises” when they are in reality just sitting on the premises. Someone has said that every church is made up of willing workers: 10 % are willing to do the work and the other 90 percent are willing to let them do it. Too many have learned that heaven will be a place of rest and they’re getting all practiced up for it.”
How do you profit from God’s prophet?
Understand and obey God’s Words
and you’ll enjoy the divine profit!
- You must seek to understand God’s Words. It’s not once a week. It’s the attitude of being consumed with wanting to know God’s Words – Every book understood, outlined, even memorized, developing discernment. (Ps. 25:5)
- Ask God to help you obey it. You’ll never completely obey, because the flesh distracts you from the Holy Spirit. Plead before God. Realize your frailty and beg God to fully understand how to obey. Ask God to help you redeem the time. (Eph. 5:15-17)
- Depend on Christ to live through your flesh. Trust He will. He wants to more than you do. Live as if He wills you to live. Deny your life, because it is dead in Christ (Gal. 2:20)
What profit will you receive? Will it be as good as Wall Street? Will it be as good as silver and gold? Will it be as good as what Warren Buffet can do? None of those compare to what the Lord Jesus will give you in return for obedience!
Do you remember when Jesus was alone and people came to Him, recorded in Matthew 14:14-21. He had compassion for them and healed them. As the day drew to a close, the businessmen disciples cared enough for the people to tell Jesus He should send them away to get something to eat. But Jesus said, “You give them something to eat.” Well, the disciples did not have anything, and a year’s wages would not be able to pay for food for the multitude. But one of the disciples found a boy with five loaves and two fish. I assume the disciples paid for the bread and fish, unlike what the government might do, and said, “Lord, here are two fish and five loaves.” Jesus told them to bring them to Him. Jesus lifted them up to heaven to reveal the blessing would come from the Father and those 5000 men along with another 10,000 women and children were filled. In fact, twelve baskets of leftovers were gathered there was such a blessing! The disciples obeyed the Lord and He multiplied their small offering and produced an abundance! What are you struggling over that seems so little? What is God waiting to multiply for you if you obey Him at His Word? Is it your lack of love in marriage? God can multiply what you have? Are you children not obeying you? God can multiply what little obedience there is and empower you to develop children who want to be with you and become productive disciple-making children.
My friends, the Lord Jesus is able to do more than you can imagine or even think. Paul wrote,
- 20 Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us,
- 21 to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Eph 3:20-21 NKJ)
Understand God’s Word, Obey it, and you will enjoy the divine profit!
There is blessing in generosity Acts 4:31-35; 2 Cor. 9:6-12; Gal. 6:6; Phil. 4:14-19
Message Based Discussion Questions
1) When was the first time you received a return on work that you did? What did you do?
Digging Deeper: Titus 3:1; 1 Tim. 4:14
2) What did God promise if they obeyed (Deut. 28:1-14)? _________ What did God promise if they disobeyed (Deut. 28:15-68)? ___________ Do you see any relationships?
3) What do you suppose Ananias and Sapphira were thinking when Peter confronted them (Acts 5:1-11)?_______________________ How does this relate to Malachi?
4) What does Job say some people ask God about in Job 21:14-15? _______________________ Do you think the people are actually saying it, or communicating it by their actions or non-actions? Why?
Making application of the message to life:
5) Do you think people struggle with the same thing Isaiah describes in Is. 58:3-8? How would you encourage someone through this?
6) How would you explain the profit you receive from serving God to a young disciple?
7) What five things would you encourage/exhort a young disciple in the importance of obeying God’s Words?