Malachi 2:17-3:18 – Our unchanging God – 25 October 2020 (Sunday Sermon)

This message was preached last Sunday. As it says below, I was encouraged to preach from this following a men’s meeting where I shared briefly from this passage. The aim of this message is to encourage God’s people in this unchanging times.

The video is the online version of the message (preached from my office). I also preached this live at our two services, but it was slightly shorter due to time constraints. The notes are sent to members who are unable to come to our services and who don’t have access to the internet.

Introduction

I shared from this passage just over a week ago at the men’s meeting and was encouraged to bring this passage to the wider church. Last Sunday we saw that God is faithful. This passage shows us that He doesn’t change. 3v6a: “I, the Lord, do not change.”

In a changing world, this is glorious, liberating truth. We have a foundation on which to rest amid everything that has happened and what may yet happen.

It is easy to get hopeless and discouraged. The battles that we faced before Covid haven’t gone away and a lot of them have intensified – and then there are all the changes that the virus has brought about.

Yet this text says, “I the Lord do not change.” This is the rock on which we stand and the rock doesn’t move no matter what the storms of Covid or life in general.

Not only that, we have an assurance about His commitment to us. He says (3v6b): “Therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.”

God’s words in 3:6 do not come as an isolated statement (even though there is a lot that we could say about it in isolation), but come with context. Malachi is a book written into a serious problem – or problems – with God’s people and their attitude to Him. Understanding these makes what the Lord reveals about Himself and about His people even more amazing. I won’t spend too long on this. So, briefly.

I) Their problem

The book of Malachi was written to a backsliding people. It is constructed as a series of challenges from God, followed by questioning denials from the people, and then an explanation from the Lord.

At the heart of the people’s problem in this section is their view of God and His ways (2:17): they are complaining constantly, so much that God says, “You have wearied the Lord with your words.” They don’t see who He is. They are challenging His seeming inaction – “Where is the God of justice?” Why isn’t He doing anything?

This comes out even more strongly in 3:13-15: What is the point of serving God when evildoers prosper? They wanted “profit” (v14), gain and success like the nations around.

This wrong view of the Lord, this assumption that somehow the Lord had let them down, was causing them to fall into unbelief. 3:14 – while complaining, they were “serving” the Lord in an external way while envying the sinner. They had stopped trusting God (3:15).

You can see the effect of that by skimming through the whole of Malachi. The children of Israel were messing up again and again. They were not worshipping right, they were not trusting the word of God and were complaining about Him, they were not giving their tithes, their marriages were breaking down. They were blaming God rather than themselves. They assumed that the Lord should make life good for them even though they were rejecting His commandments. They had been complaining about the supposed success of the wicked and that the Lord had failed to act, without recognising their own sin (3:5).

It is into this context that the Lord speaks the word: “I, the Lord, do not change” (Mal 3:6). However unbelieving or disobedient the professing church becomes, however messed up it appears the world is, however filled with doubts His people become, nothing changes the Lord. He is not changed by the world and He is not changed by us.

The second part of 3:6 says, “Therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.” Even though they deserved to be, even though we deserve to be, they/we are not – because of the Lord’s covenant love and His promises.

II) The answer

The answer to the accusations of 2:17 is given in 3:1-5 and refers to the coming of Christ. God says, My messenger will come first (that is John the Baptist) then the Lord will come (that is Christ).

He came, just as He promised. This again proves what He says, “I, the Lord, do not change.” From the very beginning, I have promised that He will come – I promised to Adam, I promised to Abraham, I promised to Moses, I promised to David, I promised through the prophets. Now, in this final prophecy of the OT, I remind you again.

He is coming to deal with sin (v2-4), to purify, to remove the dross, to cleanse His people so that the worship of His people will be pure worship. He will come and be the sacrifice of righteousness to make us right with Him.

He DID come. He did cleanse His people by dying for them. He did come “suddenly” (verse 1) – He came in the way they did not expect, not to destroy the Roman empire but to defeat sin.

Today, we wait – for His second coming. He will come suddenly at the time we do not expect. We wait for Him to come to His new temple – His people. He will come, not to consume us (even though we deserve that), but to make us free from sin forever, face to face with Him.

He does not change. He has fulfilled all this here – and He will bring about the final fulfilment.

III) The foundation

In the context of all this failure, He is saying I do not change. It is as if He is saying, you do not change, but nor do I. You have failed continually and you are still like you were before – but I do not fail and I do not change. I am not changed by your behaviour and I am not changed by your opinion of Me and your complaints about Me.

All the things that the scriptures tell us are still true today. He is still everlasting, Almighty, good, faithful, and full of steadfast love and compassion.

Every promise still stands today because He does not change and so He does not change His mind. In fact God cannot change. This sounds strange, but it is true. Although nothing is too hard for the Lord, there are certain things He cannot do. He cannot sin (James 1:13), He cannot lie (Hebrews 6:18) and He cannot change (Exodus 3:14 – He is “I AM”, always the same).

If He could change, that would mean that He was either changing for the worse, which He cannot do because He is good (Psalm 136:1) or that He is changing for the better, which He cannot do because He is perfect (Matthew 5:48).

So, He never changes. He is as good and powerful, as holy and loving, as gracious and merciful, as faithful and true as He always has been and as He always will be.

Westminster Shorter Catechism Q4. What is God?

“God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.”

Our focus needs to be the Lord. This text is the first sermon recorded in the books of Spurgeon’s sermons. He reminds his readers that they need to study God. That is how we grow. In the changing scenes of life and the trouble we face, we need to turn our attention to Him.

As we focus on Him, we are assured of who He is, our faith is built up, we are assured of His covenant love. Even though we do not deserve God’s love, because He does not change and is 100% committed to us in covenant love in Christ, we are not consumed. We are forgiven. He pours His love upon us and covers us with His mercy and grace.

This is not saying that it is good to sin. It’s not. But, when we do sin, the Lord does not consume us in His wrath, but He turns to us in mercy. We don’t need to hide from Him. We don’t need to pretend that we haven’t sinned, we can turn to Him and confess our sins. He is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Amazing grace!

IV) The comfort (3:16-18)

The final verses are an encouragement to those who do trust Him. Amid all the mess of Malachi’s day, there are some of the people who truly love and fear Him. And He knows.

  • He pays attention (3:16).
  • He hears (3:16)
  • He remembers (3:16)
  • We are His (3:17)
  • We are His treasured possession (3:17)
  • He will “spare” us – show us mercy (3:17)
  • In the final day, we will be rescued and secure forever (3:18).

We will not be consumed by life or by death because He is the unchanging God who doesn’t change in His being, His wisdom, His holiness, His power, His truth.

When Malachi was written, around 400 years before Christ came, Israel was back in the promised land, but they were surrounded by enemies more powerful than them. They were in danger of being consumed by their enemies.

But, the Lord does not change, therefore, He says, “you… are not consumed.” You are not consumed, because the Lord’s power is the same. He is still the same God who took Israel out of Egypt, parted the Red Sea, provided food in the wilderness and gave them the promised land.

He is still the same God today. Even if all the armies of hell attacked us, He is still the same God who made the heavens and the earth. He is still the same God who defeated the devil’s power through the cross and resurrection. He is still the same who in Christ cast out demons and raised the dead. Nothing has changed.

There are times when we have enemy attacks on every side, when worry fills our hearts and minds, when we are so sick, when we don’t know how we are going to pay the bills, when people insult us, but you, O child of God, “are not consumed.”

None of these things, even though they are powerful and painful, are able to consume us, because the Lord does not change. Not even death can consume the believer, because He has defeated death, so death takes us to be with Him.

Whatever you are facing today, you will not be consumed. You will be refined, yes, but not consumed.

We are kept through His unchanging grace.

“Grace has brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.”


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