The book of Malachi was written to the Israelites who have returned from captivity in Babylon. Israel had been taken into captivity around 586 BC by the Babylonians as punishment from God for their disobedience to His law given at Sinai. As prophesied, after 70 years the Medo-Persians allowed Israel to return to their homeland and rebuild the temple. They completed this with God’s blessing and then rebuilt Jerusalem as well. The writing of Malachi occurs approximately 75-100 years after the initiation of the aforementioned rebuilding.
In chapter one, the prophet Malachi declared God had shown Israel His love by favoring them since the time of their forefather Jacob. Sadly, Israel did not honor God and could not acknowledge their ungrateful behaviors. Their sacrifices to God were blind, sick, and lame beasts unacceptable even to earthly officials. They were weary of properly reverencing the God of heaven who had returned them to the Promised Land. Perhaps they believed worship and service to God was simply a matter of convenience? They overlooked God’s loving commands and viewed their actions as right in their own eyes.
In chapter two, Malachi condemned the priests and people of Israel for failing to preserve the word of God, teach the Law, and keep His commandments (vs. 7-9). The prophet declared they were married to worldliness. A godly marriage seeks godly offspring and this is produced by two godly parents, not a union of one serving worldliness and the other devoted to holiness. Israel had been commanded to not take foreign wives. The spiritual understanding is to not associate with that in opposition to God. In the Christian Dispensation, God has sanctified the union of a believer and unbeliever (1 Cor. 7:12-14), but he does not authorize or accept worldliness in service to Him (Col. 3:17).
The third chapter, with the previous atrocities in view, called upon Israel to repent and stop robbing Him. Israel failed to recognize their sin and questioned a need to return to God. Of course, the robbing occurred through Israel not giving the Lord what He had commanded in the form of spiritual and physical service as required by the Law of Moses (Dt. 10:12). It the idea of “robbing God” that we want to now take a moment to consider and apply to our lives today.
Are churches robbing God today? As with physical Israel it is certain most Christians would respond in the negative. How could a person be condemned by declaring Christ, assembling, singing, giving, partaking of the Lord’s Supper, praying, and listening to His Word? The answer is broken up into two aspects: Spirit and Truth (John 4:24). God has always desired that worship and service to him be from the heart and according to His commands. Herein is where failure to adhere to God’s authority is found.
Perhaps the “truth” of our service to God is easiest to determine as to whether or not it is seen as robbery. Regarding assembled worship, is it occurring when and how God has directed (Acts 20:7)? Is there reverence or a visible lack of honor that would be frowned upon by even a man expecting something above what is common (1 Pet. 1:16)? Is there singing or playing (Eph. 5:19)? Is a component of assembly missing altogether (such as intermittent partaking of the Lord’s Supper rather than each first day of the week – 1 Cor. 11:26)? Is prayer focused upon God or upon man (Lk. 18:11)? Is it God’s Word being shared or the teachings and traditions of man (Gal. 1:6-10)? These behaviors can be keenly addressed and examined against the scriptures to determine if the offering will be considered acceptable or robbery in God’s eyes.
The state of our “spirit” in serving God is more difficult to ascertain. Man is not God who can read the heart (Jer. 17:10). However, it is true actions and words are a good indicator of what is in the heart (Lk. 6:45). If one finds worship “boring,” then we have a warning sign. If the individual embraces sinful activities or promotes sinful activity as acceptable, there is likely a heart problem (1 Cor. 15:33). If the commands of God are suggested to be too restrictive or legalistic, the spirit may likely not be engaged. If what is good and holy is belittled or mocked, then the soul of that individual is probably not tuned to following God, but instead is seeking out the desires of the flesh. When a person comes to God and is transformed, it is because there has been a mental change and he desires to follow Christ (Rom. 12:1-2). The old man has died. The new man is a possession of Christ. Not being a living sacrifice to Him is robbery.
Malachi 3-4 affirms that those who have “discerned between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth Him not” will be cared for by God. However, those who do not turn to God will be tread down. Extended from physical Israel to the whole world, this is a promise that God, who is faithful, considers those who rob Him and fail to honor him as He is due shall be held accountable.
Travis attends and teaches at the Eastside congregation in Mt. Vernon, OH. He has been preaching for over 15 years.