"I am the vine, you are the branches"
Malachi vs Revelation, Part 1
I Have Loved You
In the past several newsletters we have been looking at the second coming of Yeshua, comparing it to the feast days and the ancient Jewish wedding ceremony. We even looked at the parables to see what they had to say about His return. Now we want to look at what some of the prophets of old had to say about Yeshua's second coming, specifically the phrase "The Day of the Lord," which is a reference to His return. We are going to look first at the book of Malachi. Malachi in Hebrew means "messenger," and that is what he was. He brought God's message at a time when the temple had been rebuilt after the exiles had returned from Babylon; but things weren't going as they should. We could say these things today as we question what's happening around us and we wonder why. The Book of Malachi is a series of dialogues between God and His people. We want to present God's statements so we can answer them in regards to our own lives today. We also are going to compare Malachi, the last book of the Old Testament, with Revelation, the last book in the New Testament to see if God's message is the same to the church as it was to the temple-goer.
I Have Loved You
The Book of Malachi opens with God's heartfelt statement, "I have loved you." The Bible tells us that God is love and that nothing can separate us from that love. The people respond by saying, "But how have You loved us?" God answers by saying, "Jacob I have loved but Esau I have hated." Why did God love Jacob and not Esau? Esau's heart wasn't devoted to God. Esau married pagan women and worshiped their pagan gods. Esau represents those who go the way of the world and through their idolatry oppose the one true God. Jacob tricked his brother for the birthright, maybe for all the wrong reasons, but he came to know the one true God. Though he waited twenty years, Jacob found the meaning of the covenant and walked with God. So Jacob represents believers who follow the one true God by keeping His Word, and Esau represents idolaters and those who follow the world. The Edomites, who were the descendents of Esau, came to destruction, whereas the descendents of Jacob, Israel, even in their hardships, were still blessed of God. Yet they questioned God's love because they had to wait on God for prosperity while enduring famines and droughts.
What can happen when God's people wait upon God? They can begin to doubt God, and this leads them into sin, compromise, and blindness, a hardened heart and even a falling away. For years we have heard that the coming of the Lord is just around the corner. And though this may be true, the church has fallen asleep; they have fallen into sin.
I Am a Father
God continues in Malachi 1:6, "'A son honors his father, and a servant his master. Then if I am a father, where is My honor? And if I am a master, where is My respect?' says the Lord of Hosts to you, O priests who despise My name. But you say, 'How have we despised Your name?'" God turns to the priesthood first and addresses their hearts which had turned away from God. God tells them that they are defiling His name, yet they ask, "How?" Their lack of respect for God and their pursuit for their own interests were causing them to sacrifice blemished animals. God tells them to offer their sacrifices to their governor and see if he would be pleased. The priests were doing their duties uncommittedly and without love for God. As we would say, they were just going through the motions.
How often do we just go through the motions? Hypocritically, we go to church and worship Him from an uncommitted heart. We may sing in the choir, we may even preach the Word. It doesn't matter if we are the pastor, a deacon, or a lay person; if our hearts are not fully committed to God through a sincere heart of love, we are offering Him a blemished sacrifice, and in so doing we are not showing Him the respect and honor due His name. God tells the priests that if they will not listen to Him and take to heart what He was saying to them that He would curse their blessings. Remember that we are called to be a royal priesthood, a holy nation, and we all bring the sacrifice to the altar of God. Are we holding our pastors to the highest standards? God tells the priests that true instruction should be in their mouths because they are His messengers, but instead they have caused the people to stumble by their actions. Maybe we don't line up with God's standards because our hearts are not as committed as they should be.
I Hate Divorce
Next God continues on to the family in 2:13-14. He tells them that they are profaning the sanctuary because they are marrying daughters of foreign gods. God says, "And this is another thing you do: you cover the altar of the Lord with tears, with weeping and with groaning, because He no longer regards the offering or accepts it with favor from your hand. Yet you say, ‘For what reason?'" God answers them, "Because the Lord has been a witness between you and the wife of your youth, against whom you have dealt treacherously, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant." God tells them that He hates divorce.
Today in the church, divorce is rampant. There is no faithfulness toward God or marriage. We can not serve a covenant-keeping God when we ourselves can not keep our covenants. There is no integrity any longer. As Paul had warned, the love of many has grown cold, and people have become self-serving: Pornography is controlling many lives, and this alone leads to unfaithfulness. Lust is a disease in the world. But if our shepherds are falling, how can we expect the sheep not to stray? The church is in crisis, and we call out to God for help, but not help in overcoming our sin. But as the people in Malachi's time, they cried out to God because they were not prospering. The Word tells us, "You have not, because you ask not; but you ask amiss to heap it upon yourself." God is weary of this kind of prayer. The church has a heart problem: it is not for God. He no longer is the central focus of our lives. We have watered down the gospel message to massage our guilt. As it says, "In the last days they will reject sound doctrine to have their ears tickled."
I Am Weary
God tells the people in 2:17, "You have wearied the Lord with your words," and they once again ask, "How do we weary you?" God replies, "In that you say, 'Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the Lord, and He delights in them,' or, 'Where is the God of justice?'" The Psalmist asked the question, "Why do the wicked prosper?" The Bible tells us in the last days that they will call good evil and evil good, because they will have lost their ability to discern between the two. But God would never call good evil and evil good. For people to think that God would do this shows the level from which they had fallen. The Bible tells us that it rains on the good and the bad, but that is because of God's mercy. While we were still sinners, God died for us. And so God shows His mercy because God is slow to anger so that we may come to repentance. God is a God of justice, and even though it may seem that the wicked are prospering, their day of judgment is coming. In chapter 4:1 and 3, God tells the people "The day is coming, burning like a furnace, when all the arrogant and every evildoer will be chaff; and in that day that is coming, I will set them ablaze . . . And you will tread down the wicked, for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day which I am preparing."
I Have Been Robbed
In chapter 3:8, God asked the people, "Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing Me! But you say, 'How have we robbed You?'" God answers the people, "In tithes and offerings." God once again tells them that they are cursed with a curse for robbing Him. He tells them to bring the whole tithe into the storehouse so that there may be food in His house. The people had sinned by bringing a blemished animal for their sacrifice, and now He tells them that they aren't even bringing the whole tithe. Remember that the people had come out from exile and rebuilt the temple, and now they were experiencing bad times, and drought was ruining their crops. Many people today say that we are not under this law that requires us to pay tithe, that this was strictly Old Testament. Maybe so, but Abraham was not under the Mosaic Law, and he tithed to Melchizedek; neither was Jacob under the Law, yet He told God that if He would be with him and care for him and if he returned back home safely, that God would be his God and he would give Him a tenth and the pillar he set up would be God's house. We even find Yeshua paying His requirement of the Temple tax. If His believers were no longer obliged to tithe, then why did He not tell us that? Yeshua is the Way, the Truth and the Life, so how can we find the true way to life unless He tells us the way which we should go?
God went on to tell the people, "Test Me if I will not open for you the windows of heaven, and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows." He tells them He would "Rebuke the devourer so that it may not destroy the fruits of the ground; nor the vine in the field."
I Will Not Tolerate Arrogance
Chapter 3:13 says, "'Your words have been arrogant against Me,' says the Lord. Yet you say, 'What have we spoken against Thee?' You have said, 'It is vain to serve God: and what profit is it that we should have kept charge, and that we have walked in mourning before the Lord of hosts? So now we call the arrogant blessed; not only are the doers of wickedness built up, but they also test God and escape.'" Peter writes about false prophets: "These are springs without water, and mists driven by a storm for whom the black darkness has been reserved. For speaking out arrogant words of vanity they entice by fleshly desires, by sensuality, those who barely escape from the ones who live in error. Promising them freedom while they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by what a man is overcome, by this he is enslaved" (2 Peter 2:17-19). So we see that as the Old Testament ends, the people have fallen into darkness.
Now let's turn to the church.
Message to the Seven Churches
We see in the message to the first church, the church of Ephesus, that Yeshua calls the people out. In Revelation 2:4 He says, "I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen and repent and do the deeds you did at first: or else I will come to you, and remove your lampstand out of its place - unless you repent." As we saw in Malachi, the first thing the people had done was that they had fallen into sin because they had left their first love. If God is not the center of our lives, if He does not have our affections, then we will become prey to the lies of the Devil and fall away from God.
Yeshua tells the church in Sardis in Revelation 3:2-3, "Wake up, and strengthen the things that remain, which were about to die: for I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of My God. Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard: and keep it, and repent. If, therefore, you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come upon you." Like the people in Malachi, they too had fallen asleep from the result of the sin in their lives and needed to wake up before it was too late.
Yeshua tells the church in Laodicea in Revelation 3:19, "Those whom I love I reprove and discipline: be zealous, therefore, and repent." If we are not experiencing prosperity or the blessings of God, He may be disciplining us to teach us to rely on Him. We must remember that God loves us and He showed that love for us when Yeshua died for us. We need to repent and come back to our first love.
Like the priests that caused the people to stumble because of their sin by allowing them to offer blemished sacrifices, Yeshua tells the church in Perganum in chapter 2:14-16, "But I have a few things against you, because you have there some who hold the teaching of Balaam, who kept teaching Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and commit acts of immorality. Thus you also have some who in the same way hold the teaching of the Nicolations. Repent therefore: or else I am coming to you quickly, and I will make war against them with the sword of My mouth." As we see here, the sins of the people in Malachi's day were still present in John's day.
As we saw Malachi dealing with divorce, so the church also had a problem with immorality and unfaithfulness. Yeshua says to the church in Thyatira in 2:20, "But this I have against you, that you tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, and she teaches and leads My bondservants astray, so that they commit acts of immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols. And I gave her time to repent; and she does not want to repent of her immorality. Behold, I will cast her upon a bed of sickness, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of her deeds. And I will kill her children with pestilence; and all the churches will know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts; and I will give to each one of you according to your deeds." Yeshua warns the people, just like in Malachi's day, that He does not call evil good and good evil, but He will judge the wicked in the day that He is preparing.
Yeshua tells the church at Ephesus in Revelation 2:5, "Do the deeds you did at first." We must repent and come back to our first love, and do the things we did at first before the coming of the Lord. In our next newsletter we are going to take a look at who these Nicolations really are.