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Reformed Free Publishing Association
This is an extract from chapter 7 of Studies in Malachi, by Carl J. Haak, pages 47-49, published by the RFPA. The author discusses Malachi 3:7–12.
Will a Man Rob God?
We see repeatedly in the study of Malachi how the prophet’s day and our own are so much alike. The sins present among God’s people then are similar to those today, especially the merely outward observance of religion and the cold, formal worship of the true God. We have also observed how Malachi deals with these sins, namely, by always holding them up to the light (brightness) of God in order to show how heinous and treacherous it is when people sin against the goodness and mercy of the Lord, depart from his ordinances, and render him the service of a carnal heart.
We have seen another penetrating, applicable, and urgent lesson in these verses. It deals with the “worship of giving” (2 Cor. 8–9). It is the call to supply the needs of God’s church and kingdom, as well as to show benevolence to the poor.
The evil exposed in Malachi 3:7–12 is the failure to bring the tithes and offerings to God’s house (v. 8). These “ordinances” (v. 7) were clearly marked out in the Old Testament scriptures. It was a common sin of the covenant people, one which their fathers had committed and for which they had been punished. Now the restored exiles from Babylon settled (fallen) into the same sin. Evidently the Lord had chastened them with “a curse” (v. 9), “the devourer,” and that which “destroys the fruit of the ground” (v. 11). A famine, pestilence, or plagues of some sort had been sent (Joel 1:4). Yet the people, in the hardness of their hearts, did not see this as the word of God’s rebuke, but hoarded for themselves whatever was left.
The heinousness of this sin and the underlying rebellion, distrust, and covetousness are exposed by the “messenger” of God.
First, this sin was hereditary (Mal. 3:7). History seems to have taught them nothing, although their history was full of examples of the Lord’s faithful and gracious care and his heavy chastisements upon their fathers’ covetousness and greed. (Ps. 78; Dan. 9:3–19; Ezek. 9; Acts 7).
Second, the people “robbed” God by their sin (v. 8). The question is biting and arresting: “will a man rob God?” The principle of the eighth commandment is at work. It reveals that in stealing and in failing to serve the Lord with the possessions entrusted to us, we are insolent and incredibly defiant (Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 42).
Third, the people were hardened in this sin, and their stinginess revealed their spiritual bareness. To God’s call “Return unto me!” (Mal 3:7), they respond, “Wherein shall we return?” That is, they were so ignorant of themselves and of the spiritual demands of God’s law, that they could see nothing in themselves for which they should repent, and rather saw themselves justified in the way they dealt with their possessions. More: to Jehovah’s reproof, “Ye have robbed me” (v. 8), they have the audacity to say, “Wherein?” That is, they refused (as we do so often) to own up to their sin of coveting and of hoarding for ourselves the things of this life.
Fourth, the sinful reasoning of the people is brought out in verse 10, where the Lord says, “Bring…” and then “I will… open you the windows of heaven.” Offer, out of trust in me to supply your future needs, but offer first! In contrast, they reasoned this way: let God first give us plenty (open the windows) and then we will bring him the tithes and offerings. It was the “you first” mentality. “Thou, O God, must prove us, see if we will not indeed offer willingly when thou dost give us plenty to offer,” rather than “proving” God, trusting him to supply future needs and rendering to him out of our present circumstances (Luke 21:2).
Valuable truths concerning our giving to God’s church and to the poor, as well as our entire lives of stewardship are taught us.
God must be served first. The causes and needs of his kingdom come first. (1 Kings 17:13; Matt. 6:33).
We are taught proper stewardship. To rob is to take for oneself what belongs to another. We are taught by implication that all things belong to God and that he is to be served, not with some, but with all we have. (Ps. 24:1; 50:12).
The way of giving is the way of blessing. Greed, stinginess, and covetousness result in spiritual barrenness. We are not made poor by liberal giving to God’s church and kingdom. Rather, we shall experience blessedness. (Mal. 3:10; 2 Cor. 9:8).
God calls the people to return (Mal. 3:7). See Jeremiah 31:18 for the relationship between God’s grace and our turning from sin. One of the evidences of true spiritual repentance is seen in bringing in the tithes and offerings. Where grace has touched the heart, the hand is opened as well. (Luke 19:8; 2 Cor. 8:8).
The promise of God is twofold. First, “I will return unto you” (Mal. 3:7). That is, in the way of sincere stewardship we are given to enjoy the lovingkindness of God. Second, God will richly supply our earthly needs, often beyond our imaginations (v. 10).
In such a lesson as this we hear God speak, “Beware of covetousness, for a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of things, but in being rich toward God” (Luke 12:15–21). How our carnal nature reveals itself when it comes to what we say is “ours,” and we are called to render unto the Lord. May our study produce a “return,” a seeking of God’s glory first and a wise use of the earthly goods of our Master that have been entrusted to our stewardship (Matt. 25:14–30).
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