Give to God what is His
Good Morning! Please grab your Bibles with me and turn to Malachi, chapter 3. If you do not have a Bible, if you do not own one, please help yourself to one off of the back table, as our gift to you.
So, as we are continuing through this book, we are seeing that there is nothing new under the sun. The things that God is addressing and telling Israel through Malachi could very easily be written today. This book, the message in Malachi is very contemporary and applies to us, as Gods covenant people as it applied to the recipients of this message, Israel, as Gods covenant people.
There is not too much introduction today, because there is not much to say. In Malachi, God has been pointing out a variety of different ways that we are being unfaithful to him and the convant that he has established with us. He has been pointing out a variety of ways that we have been sinning against God. And he has been pointing out Gods “Never Stopping, Never Giving up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love.”
And we are going to continue those themes this morning as we read this weeks passage. We are going to look at Malachi 3:6-12. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version. Please follow along in your preferred translation. Malachi chapter 3, verses 6-12. God, speaking through his prophet, Malachi, says:
“For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed. 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?’ 8 Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions. 9 You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you. 10 Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. 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. 11 I will rebuke the devourer[b] for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of your soil, and your vine in the field shall not fail to bear, says the Lord of hosts. 12 Then all nations will call you blessed, for you will be a land of delight, says the Lord of hosts.
We start out with God proclaim his unchangingness. James writes that there is no variation in God. Once his covenant is made, it is made. When he makes a promise, that promise comes true. He says something and it happens. And he has said that he will show mercy to his people.
And yet, despite his promising to show us mercy, proving it time and time again, we continue to take from God. We reject him outright, or we think that we can use him and contain him, we continue to treat him as if we can earn his good graces, his love. We think we can keep him in a box, pull him out when its convienant, or when we need him and put him back away, able to live our lives however we want.
Thats not how God works and he has been quite clear about that. He has promised to have mercy and his love to those who are his people. He has called us to believe the Gospel and repent of our sins. James writes in his letter, chapter 4, verses 7 & 8:
7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
Here is what his promises and his word and his unchangeability mean. God is completely sovereign. Nothing is done, OR not done for that matter, outside of His will. Nothing in this world is done or not done, without God purposely and specifically deciding that it will or will not be done.
But Scripture is also crystal clear that this does not absolve us of our own responsibility for our actions and our decisions. Again, Jesus says in Mark 1:15 (double check) that we are called to Repent and believe the Gospel. We have no standing to say that we didnt have an oppurtunity or a call to turn to him. But we are to have faith in Jesus Christ alone as our Salvation.
James also writes that the faith that we do have, without acting on it, without doing the things that faith calls for, that faith is dead. (James 2:17) The seeming paradox between Gods Sovereignty and Mans Responsibility continues as we look at Ephesians 2. Verse 8-10, Paul writes:
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Even this passage shows us two things that I point out. First, the faith in which we trust in Christ and faith in which our rightouesness is based on, that faith itself is a gift from God and not of ourselves. But also, that with our faith comes responsibility. Verse 10 points out that we were created to do good works for and through God and and that it is our responsibility to do them.
We were created to do these good works that God has called us to. And we were created to worship God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength. Romans 12:1, Paul writes: to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Us doing the things that God has created us for is the truest and purest form of worship.
God says that he will be faithful on his end, and calls us to be faithful on our end. One of the things that Scriptures continues to show us over and over is the we dont keep our end. This section of Malachi shows another example of how Israel at the time and us today fail to give to God what is his.
Verses 8-12 here have an immdeiate context, a bigger context within Malachi and an even bogger context within scripture as a whole. And as a shared recently, all of those contexts are important, to leave one of them out is to take the verses out of context.
We will start with the immediate context and work our ways out. Malachi here is talking about Israels unfaithfullness in the context of tithing. The word tithe literally translated means 10 percent. Thats why we tend to use the word like we do. We dont notice, or we forget that the prescribed giving in the Old Testament was upwards over 30%.
We do also see that there is no prescribed “tithe” in the New Testament. We re commanded to give, but never commanded to give a certain amount. 2 Corinthians 9:6 & 7 says : The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. So, when you give, the two things to makes sure is not that your giving meets a certain dollar amount or whatever, but that your giving is cheerful and sacrificial. Give generously and as you are led.
Above all, we are to give God our first fruits. We are to give to God before all and above all. Lets look back momentarily to the story of Cain and Abel in Genesis 4.
Cain was a Gardner, a farmer. He grew crops and food. Abel was a Shepard, tending to the flocks and the animals. Now, they both brought an offering appropriate to their profession, what they had, they brought the offering to the LORD.
For one reason or another, God approved of Abel’s offering and did not approve of Cain’s offering. Now, any conclusion we come to as to why, is just a guess. The scriptures don’t tell us clearly why. But there are some thing it does tell us and there are some ideas we can ponder. First, Hebrews 11:4 says that Abel’s was a “more acceptable sacrifice,” and he was commended as righteous. But why was it more acceptable?
There are a few thoughts, some might be right, all of them might be right, none of them might be right. I don’t think that last one is the case, by the way. Now, some say that it was because there was no blood in Cains offering that his was rejected. This is possible, but I don’t think its the case for a few reasons. First, yes, blood was already shown to be required for the covering of sin, as we saw last week, but specific offerings and sacrifices had not yet been implemented. Also, there is no indication that this is a sin offering. There were plenty of Old Testament offerings implemented that were not required to include blood. All the text says is that this was an offering to the LORD. So, I tend to lean against that view.
Next, and this has the most possible textual support, is that Abel gave his first and his best, while Cain gave just some stuff. If we look back at verses 3& 4, it says that Abel brought first born of the flock. For Cain it simply says he brought of his fruit. If he did bring first fruits, wouldn’t it say it there? And God does want us to give first to him. We put him number one in our life, above all things. Period. We give to him first, everything else second. We give off the top and we give him the best. That principle is clearly established throughout scriptures and very well could be why Cains offering was rejected.
I think that’s part of the reason. But I think the biggest reason is that Cain gave his offering, his sacrifice, his fruit he gave them for the wrong reasons. I think that Abel gave cheerfully and generously, as Paul calls us to do in 2 Corinthians. I believe that Abel gave out of his faith. He gave out of his love for God. It was his worship. I believe that Cain gave because he was supposed to or he was told to. Without faith. With out worship. Not cheerfully or generously. But out of obligation.
I think we see that in the way Cain reacts here. And as we look at this, think abut how we act with God as well. Cain brings fruit for an offering, as he is supposed to and God rejects it. You can almost here the thoughts going through Cains head. “I did my best and it wasn’t enough for you! Its not fair! What else do you want me to do? What more could I possibly do?”
We also see in the passage of our scripture reading this morning, Acts chapter 5, the story of Annanias and Saphira that the issue is not with how much they gave. The specific dollar amount is never the issue. The issue we see here is the heart, which we know is deceitful above all things. They said they were going to give the whole amount to the church. They instead, held some back for themselves and then lied about it. It was their deciet and sinful heart that ultimately did them in, not the amount of their giving.
From there, we move to the bigger context within Malachi. And that is us being unfaithful to God, his commands and what he has called us to. We have seen us breaking his commandments. We have been worshipping other gods and various idols. We have ignored and celebrated sins. We have been un faithful in marriages and seeing marriage as a covenant. We have failed to repent of our sin and know we are robbing God with out unfaithfullness in giving and genorosity. Basically, a basic, complete and systematic lack of obedience.
And yet, God is faithful. We believe in the Gospel and repent of our sins. And sometimes we expect that means that we wont sin anymore. We expect to never let God down again. And yet, we know thats not the case because we are living it. Pual himself struggles with this issue in Romans chapter 7. But once we are brought from death to life in Christ, once we are Gods children, God has made a promise that He will not turn his back on us, that he will be with us always.
God tells us in Joshua 1:9;
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”
And the very last words of Matthews Gospel, Jesus says in Matthew 28:20:
I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
God has made his promises and his word is unchanging. He will keep his promises and his covenant will be fulfilled.
And we finally come to the biggest context, the context of the entirety of the scriptures. Give to God what belongs to God.
This includes but is more than money. As an example of how, all incompassing this is, I want to read Luke 20:19-25:
The scribes and the chief priests sought to lay hands on him at that very hour, for they perceived that he had told this parable against them, but they feared the people. 20 So they watched him and sent spies, who pretended to be sincere, that they might catch him in something he said, so as to deliver him up to the authority and jurisdiction of the governor. 21 So they asked him, “Teacher, we know that you speak and teach rightly, and show no partiality,[d] but truly teach the way of God. 22 Is it lawful for us to give tribute to Caesar, or not?” 23 But he perceived their craftiness, and said to them, 24 “Show me a denarius.[e] Whose likeness and inscription does it have?” They said, “Caesar’s.” 25 He said to them, “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”
Your life does not belong to you. Your life belongs to God. Jesus paid for it with his blood. He gave his life for yours. He created you and I. And we were created in his image and likeness.
And as one made in his image and likeness, you reflect the attributes of God the Father. You get to chose how you do so. You are either a slave to sin, or you are a slave to rightouesness, as Paul puts in Romans 6: 17-23. Jesus says in Johns gospel that we are either sons of the Devil or Sons of Abraham. (John 8:39-47) As spiritual heirs of Abraham, the fulfillment of so much prophecy, we are called children of God. (John 1)
You either give to God what is His, or you rob from God by wothholding and taking what is His.
Now, its common to hear very wrong application taught from this passage in Malachi.
Guiling you in to giving a higher dollar amount to the church, regardless of what you have been giving or what the other circumstances are. WRONG!
Offering you a money back gaurauntee on your tithes if God doesnt show up in your life and do a miracle. WRONG.
Any other application where you eliminate the Word of God and just go off of guilt or what the Pastor says. WRONG.
Gove in order to receive any sort of material blessing or healing. WRONG.
You give. Thats biblical. Thats from God. But you give what God has called you to give and not what I or anyone else tell you to give. Sometimes God will bless you with money or material blessings, but that is never promised in the Bible. Sometimes God will heal you. He certainly can and in some cases, does. But physical healing of disease or infirmities is never promised this side of heaven.
And if he chooses to give you those blessings, YAY! Praise God! But what He has promised to give us is worth som much more than anything else in this world. He promises us Him. He gives us himself. He gives us forgiveness of our sins, His Sons rightouesness and eternal life.
Revelation 7:9&10 gives us a picture of what this will look like when John writes:
behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands,
Rev 7:10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
All of things that are written in scripture, all the Words of God are designed to show us the truth. John writes in his Gospel, Chapter 20, verses 30 & 31:
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book;
but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
Thats the goal, and if we are in Christ, thats the promise. We stumble, we trip, we fall. In Christ, that is in the process of being driven out of us, the process of sanctification. But we deserve the wrath of God. But it is Gods grace that saves us, through faith in His Son Jesus Christ.
The enemy will try to sow seeds of doubt or shame. Because we have not and will not achieve sinlessness this side of the grave, Satan, the Accuser, will try to make us doubt Gods love, see the first section of Malachi. He will try to make us doubt our salvation, that we havent yet earned it or done enough good. Or he may make some think that because they are good people or have done good thingsthat they really are saved when their actually is no saving faith. He will use and do anything he can to make us doubt Gods promises and faithfullness.
God promises us in Malchi 3:11 the he will rebuke the devourer for us. The enemy has no power over us when we are in Christ. Romans 8:1 says that there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. And thats what Im going to leave us with. Assurance of the fulfillment of Gods promises to us. Im going to read Romans 8:31-39 and then I will close us in prayer. Paul writes:
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?
He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?
Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.
Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?
As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers,
nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.