The Divine Distinction

SCRIPTURE: Malachi 3:13-18

13 “You have said terrible things about me,” says the LORD . “But you say, ‘What do you mean? What have we said against you?’
14 “You have said, ‘What’s the use of serving God? What have we gained by obeying his commands or by trying to show the LORD of Heaven’s Armies that we are sorry for our sins?

15 From now on we will call the arrogant blessed. For those who do evil get rich, and those who dare God to punish them suffer no harm.’”


16 Then those who feared the LORD spoke with each other, and the LORD listened to what they said. In His presence, a scroll of remembrance was written to record the names of those who feared Him and always thought about the honor of His name.
17 “They will be my people,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies. “On the day when I act in judgment, they will be my own special treasure. I will spare them as a father spares an obedient child.
18 Then you will again see the difference between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not.”

 INTRODUCTION

Although I addressed verses 13-15 Sunday night, I wanted us to look at them again because Malachi is showing us a contrast. Verse 18 is the key….Then once more you shall distinguish between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve Him.

As we have mentioned again and again…Many of post-exilic Jews had a bad attitude as we saw in verses 13-15. They had some harsh accusations against God:

  1. It is vain to Serve God. 
  2. No profit in obeying God’s law 
  3. What good does it do to wear sackcloth and fast?
  4. God blesses the arrogant: He shows favor to the wicked

BUT

Look at verses 16-18: here we have a completely different story. You see the contrast in verse 18….There were a group of Jews {minority} who feared God and wanted very much to please Him.

  1. This believing remnant feared the LORD.
  2. They had fellowship with each other.
  3. They prayed and God listened.
  4. They meditated on God’s name.
  5. They were serving God.                       

I. FIRST: NOTE THE DISTINGUISHING CHARACTERISTIC OF THOSE WHO SERVE GODTHEY FEAR THE LORD

[verse 16] Then those who feared the LORD spoke with one another.

The word Malachi uses is yare’ which means awe, reverence or respect. There are three Hebrew words for fear. One {pachad} means to be afraid, startled or stand in awe. It is used in Hosea 3:5... In the last days, they will tremble in awe of the LORD and of his goodness. It can be used in the context of worship but not always. The second word {arats} means to be terrified, to be filled with dread. Moses uses it in Deuteronomy 31:6…So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and no not panic before them. For the LORD your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.”

  •  Job — “The fear of the Lord is true wisdom; to forsake evil is real understanding.”
  • Solomon —Fear of the LORD is the foundation of true knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.
  • Isaiah–And the Spirit of the LORD will rest on him—the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.
  • Luke–The church then had peace throughout Judea, Galilee, and Samaria, and it became stronger as the believers lived in thefear of the Lord. And with the encouragement of the Holy Spirit, it also grew in numbers.
  1. When we fear God, we become afraid of evil, we turn from it {Proverbs 3:7} Job is a good example {Job 1:1} There was once a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job. That man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil.
  2. When we fear God, we obey Him or serve Him. Perhaps not for the right reason but we are afraid to disobey. Samuel told the Israelites, But be sure to fear the LORD and faithfully serve him. Think of all the wonderful things he has done for you. [I Samuel 12:24]
  3. When we fear God, we worship Him, stand in awe of Him. Impossible to worship without the fear of God. [Deut. 6:13] You must fear the LORD your God and serve him. When you take an oath, you must use only his name. I like what Moses said to the Israelites…And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you? He requires only that you fear the LORD your God, and live in a way that pleases him, and love him and serve him with all your heart and soul. Pleasing, loving and serving are vital aspects to worship.
  4. When we fear God, we begin to learn, gain wisdom {Proverbs 9:10}

….SO….

Those who do not fear the LORD….

  1. Are not afraid of evil
  2. Are not God’s servants
  3. Are not true worshippers
  4. Are not wise

II. SECOND: NOTE THE GENTLE REMINDERS

[Verse 16, GNT] Then the people who feared the Lord spoke to one another, and the Lord listened and heard what they said. In his presence, there was written down in a book a record of those who feared the Lord and respected him.

The people spoke to one another. The God-fearing Jews got together, they congregated and they spoke to one another. Whereas the other Jews were voicing complaints, this group was probably praising God and celebrating His goodness. It would be a type of worship service.

Verse 16 in the NASB

Then those who feared the LORD spoke to one another, and the LORD gave attention and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the LORD and who esteem His name.

The RSV reads heeded and heard…The ESV–The Lord paid attention…Holman–The Lord took notice. The Hebrew word is kä·shav’, to hear, be attentive, heed, incline (of ears), attend (of ears), hearken, pay attention, listen.

FIRST REMINDER–GOD is paying attention: He cares

When someone sits down with you and pays attention, attending to your every word and making every effort to understand your heart…How do you interpret such a gesture? It means they care. Most folks are not going to stop what they are doing and sit down and listen because they do not care.

God listened to them as they talked to each other: He heard, took note of what they said. We do not know exactly what they said, but obviously, it was pleasing to the LORD. It is a remarkable thing, that God listens to us.

SECOND REMINDER–Because God cares, He listens.

God is listening and he is understanding. The second word Malachi uses is  shä·mah’ to hear, to understand

Let me give you an example: Think about the story in Luke 24 of Jesus and the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. Jesus joined these two disciples without them being aware of who He was. He talked to them, He listened to them; He even asked them questions. It is a wonderful story of God interacting with man. God does listen to what we say. Our prayers may not get answered the way we want but He is listening. He cares about our feeling, our problem and the things that concern us.

THIRD REMINDER–God is paying attention, He is listening and He is taking notes.

The first time I spoke to Morgan County Preachers was back in the 80 when Michael Dawson was pastor of Central in Decatur. I preached out of Judges on Gideon pursuit of his enemies. The title of the message was WEARY, YET PURSUING. I noticed as I was preaching that one preacher had a note-book and was taking notes. Only one and it was Bro. Mike. I almost lost my place. It blew my mind that a man of his caliber would think he could learn from me. Later, I came to realize that the Holy Spirit speaks when the word is preached and it is a good time to have pen and paper.

Even more amazing is the fact that God is taking notes. He had a record in heaven. Perhaps you are thinking, I don’t know if that is a good thing. Well, He is not recording our sins, although sins are recorded. This is a record book of those “Who fear Him” and those who “Meditate upon His name.” You might say PRAISE HIS NAME. Those who HONOR HIS NAME. Those who give high regard or ESTEEM HIS NAME.

Let me tell you where I think Malachi is going with this: The complaining Jews, those who do not fear God are accusing God of favoring the wicked. They were saying, “It does not pay to serve God…there is no reward in it.”

Malachi is saying the opposite: Yes, it pays to serve God and He is keeping a record of all who do and someday [future] they will be rewarded. Ancient Kings kept extensive records and from time to time they would review the records and when they found a loyal subject deserving of reward, they would reward that servant. Mordecai is a good example: one night when King [Xerxes] Ahasuerus could not sleep, he called for the record books and found out that Mordecai had saved him from a wicked plot and he rewarded Mordecai [after all that time].

The complaining Jews were thinking of this world only: don’t limit God to this world only.

III. THIRD: NOTE THE PROMISE

[V. 17] “They will be My people,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies. “On the day when I act in judgment, they will be my own special treasure. I will spare them as a father spares an obedient child.

  1. A DAY OF RECKONING...“On that Day.”…We do not need to fret about the wicked. Psalm 37 is good medicine for all of us…their DAY is coming…
    Don’t worry about the wicked or envy those who do wrong. For like grass, they soon fade away. Like spring flowers, they soon wither. Trust in the LORD and do good. Then you will live safely in the land and prosper.  Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you your heart’s desires. Commit everything you do to the LORD . Trust him, and he will help you. The wicked have no future.
  2. WE ARE GOD’S SPECIAL TREASURE. The word for Treasure can refer to anything of great value [Jewels, gems, gold, silver] that must be secured or locked up. The Hebrew word seg-ool-law’ is the feminine passive participle of an unused root meaning to shut up as in wealth. To keep under lock and key. Some interpret this to mean we are God’s crown jewels. I like to think of the security aspect, we are under lock and key. No fear of the devil stealing us away.
  3. WE WILL BE SPARED LIKE OBEDIENT CHILDREN. Holman translates verse 17… I will have compassion on them as a man has compassion on his son who serves him. The Hebrew word khä·mal’ to spare, pity, have compassion on.

CONCLUSION

I don’t look forward to judgment. I think it will be a terrible day. Yes, I am anxious about seeing Jesus glorified and institutional sin destroyed but I am not excited about anyone going to hell. I must say this: we are not going to be saved by our good works, our hope is in the compassion and pity of God. We are saved by virtue of His divine nature. He is a loving and compassionate God and that is why He sent His only begotten Son to die in our stead. Praise to God from whom all blessings flow.

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