INTRO: The final book of the Old Testament addresses a period following the work of the prophets Haggai and Zechariah. The temple has been rebuilt, and Israel is in a time of relative peace. But years have passed since the exiles returned from Babylon. Early excitement and fervor surrounding the restoration have slipped away, and great indifference seems to have settled over the land. Can this be the story of so many nations and events. War memorials throughout the world often have on them these words: Lest We Forget. I suppose those words refer to the men and women whose lives were lost in military encounters. But do they not also challenge us to continue to remember the lessons of history? Still, in the space of a few decades, Israel has forgotten the lessons of the Babylonian captivity.
I. WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF NEGLECT?
A. They question whether or not God really loves them - 1:2
1. perhaps the economy is not good; the crops may be bad; times are hard
2. the conclusion to which they came in their thinking is really not all that rare
3. and Gods response? Was not Esau Jacobs brother? ... yet I loved Jacob
4. God challenges these people to consider their history; to count their blessings
5. Heb 13:5,6 - promises we need to remember always!
B. They offer less than their best in sacrifice - 1:7,13
1. this is always the way of indifference ... carelessness
2. the truth was that they were more concerned about their civil governor than they were about their God!
3. and Gods response? Offer it now unto they governor; will he be pleased...?
4. God challenges them to consider how inconsistent, ungrateful they were
5. Rom 12:1 - do we need constant reminders of this to avoid indifference?
C. Their priest had left God law and way - 2:8
1. there was no careful spiritual leadership to challenge neglect!
2. when the leadership fails, it is not long until the people become forgetful
3. and Gods response? I have also made you contemptible ... before all the people
4. unfaithful leaders have no right to expect respect from those whom they lead
5. Titus 2:1,7,8 - Gods men must think of this description, this challenge
D. They had abandoned Gods marriage laws - 2:14
1. marriage and the home become victims when spiritual neglect sets in
2. not only were their divorces, there were apparently marriage agreements which were not permitted (2:15 ref. to the godly seed)
3. and Gods response? ...the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away...
4. the very underpinnings of their society were being eroded!
5. Rom 7:2,3 - here is a great, needed lesson which must be lovingly taught
E. They had lost sight of a distinction between right and wrong - 2:17
1. they saw nothing wrong with doing evil ... considered evil doers o.k.
2. they even questioned that God would call all of this into judgment
3. and Gods response? ...I will come near to you to judgment (3:5)
4. even more was the fact that the Lord changes not! Why would they think that He would suddenly be unconcerned with their folly? What had been their history?
5. Heb 5:12-14 - neglect is apparently not limited to ancient Israel
F. They had been robbing God - 3:8
1. when respect for God is gone, any reason for giving is gone, too
2. notice 3:7 - the specific ordinance they were neglecting was tithing!!!
3. and Gods response? Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me...
4. friends, thats a frightening thought ... can our neglect of giving result in our being cursed? - is it true that depth of devotion may be gaged by our giving?
5. the challenge from God? - 3:10
G. They had decided that it was vanity to serve God - 3:14
1. the spiral of indifference and neglect has led them to this conclusion
2. if material blessings are all we seek from serving God, we have missed the point completely
3. look a 3:16,17 - there were still some who feared the Lord - that thought on His name
4. and what a glorious promise is given to them!
II. REMEMBER THE LAW- 4:4
CLOSE: Among all of the books of the prophets, I believe the book of Malachi speaks more relevantly than the others to our own time. Yes, the lessons were drawn from people of the Mosaic law and covenant. But the lessons are not unique to that covenant. We should ... we must learn them.
Cecil A. Hutson
29 June 2003
You Must Hear the Gospel
You must hear the gospel and then understand and recognize that you are lost without Jesus Christ no matter who you are and no matter what your background is. The Bible tells us that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Before you can be saved, you must understand that you are lost and that the only way to be saved is by obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 1:8) Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6) “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." (Romans 10:17)
You Must Believe
You must believe and have faith in God because “without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6) But neither belief alone nor faith alone is sufficient to save. (James 2:19; James 2:24; Matthew 7:21)
You Must Repent
You must repent of your sins. (Acts 3:19) But repentance alone is not enough. The so-called “Sinner’s Prayer” that you hear so much about today from denominational preachers does not appear anywhere in the Bible. Indeed, nowhere in the Bible was anyone ever told to pray the “Sinner’s Prayer” to be saved. By contrast, there are numerous examples showing that prayer alone does not save. Saul, for example, prayed following his meeting with Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:11), but Saul was still in his sins when Ananias met him three days later (Acts 22:16). Cornelius prayed to God always, and yet there was something else he needed to do to be saved (Acts 10:2, 6, 33, 48). If prayer alone did not save Saul or Cornelius, prayer alone will not save you. You must obey the gospel. (2 Thess. 1:8)
You Must Confess
You must confess that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. (Romans 10:9-10) Note that you do NOT need to make Jesus “Lord of your life.” Why? Because Jesus is already Lord of your life whether or not you have obeyed his gospel. Indeed, we obey him, not to make him Lord, but because he already is Lord. (Acts 2:36) Also, no one in the Bible was ever told to just “accept Jesus as your personal savior.” We must confess that Jesus is the Son of God, but, as with faith and repentance, confession alone does not save. (Matthew 7:21)
You Must Be Baptized
Having believed, repented, and confessed that Jesus is the Son of God, you must be baptized for the remission of your sins. (Acts 2:38) It is at this point (and not before) that your sins are forgiven. (Acts 22:16) It is impossible to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ without teaching the absolute necessity of baptism for salvation. (Acts 8:35-36; Romans 6:3-4; 1 Peter 3:21) Anyone who responds to the question in Acts 2:37 with an answer that contradicts Acts 2:38 is NOT proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ!
You Must Be Faithful Unto Death
Once you are saved, God adds you to his church and writes your name in the Book of Life. (Acts 2:47; Philippians 4:3) To continue in God’s grace, you must continue to serve God faithfully until death. Unless they remain faithful, those who are in God’s grace will fall from grace, and those whose names are in the Book of Life will have their names blotted out of that book. (Revelation 2:10; Revelation 3:5; Galatians 5:4)