The Name Of God In The Book Of Malachi
I want to speak about the name of God, our obedience and reverence for it and our desire for its prosperity in this world. The Lord said, “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things which are God’s” (Luke 20:25). Caesar has been well looked after. Most of the whole world’s history has been occupied with rendering unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s. Relatively few have given thought unto God and to His things. It is all very well to speak about the things that pertain in the world, but in order to get any practical gain for our souls we must take account of ourselves, where we are today, and ask ourselves ‘Are we rendering to God the things which are God’s?’ I want to use this Old Testament book of Malachi to bring these things before us.
If any nation should have produced food for God it should have been Israel, but the testimony of the prophet is that God made them a vineyard, hedged them around, did everything He possibly could, but instead of bringing forth fruit that was luscious, they brought forth sour grapes (Isa.5:1-7). But before we criticise Israel, let us take account of ourselves. Every one of us has been wonderfully blessed, brought to Christ, given the gift of the Holy Spirit, had precious truth opened up to us, and if we examine ourselves, have we brought forth much fruit for God? Could it not be said of us, as it was said of Israel in the book of Malachi (1:8), that we have brought the maimed, the inferior and the blemished to God? Are we pleasing ourselves rather than giving God the first place? We must all answer this, dear brethren; we must face this squarely. It is no good burying our head in the sand, we have got to ask ourselves, ‘Are our lives really being yielded to God? Are we really rendering to God the things that are God’s?’ In this book God promised the Israelites that if they did right, He would open the windows of heaven, and pour a blessing upon them (3:10). We are all deeply distressed that with all the gospel preaching that goes on, in spite of all the ministry, what a meagre return there seems to be. There is no fault on God’s side so we must examine ourselves, are we what we should be in the presence of God, are we rendering to God the things that are God’s?
I want to speak about His name because I feel that if we answer to the instruction that is found in the references to His name there will be much in our lives for the pleasure of God. Some men in the Old Testament bore very high sounding names, but their lives were not in accord with the name that they bore. One was Elimelech (meaning “whose God is king”) who left the land of promise and blessing for the land of Moab because circumstances were difficult. Moab was the land of ease and plenty, but also the land of idolatry. He was not true to his name. We can find this all through the Old Testament, but what I want to emphasise is that God is always true to His name. There is never any deviation between God and His name. Every name that He bears He acts accordingly, and this was so blessedly true in the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. Every name that He bears, every office that He fills, He is true to that in absolute perfection. This wonderful name that we are connected with is the name that we are to be true to. We are to live for the pleasure of God because of the dignity, the glory and love of this name.
In Matthew 28:19 those who were brought to God through the preaching of the gospel were to be baptised to the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit - one name, three Persons - and all the dignity and worth of that name was upon the persons who were baptised. This is where we are, dear brethren, the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit is upon us, and we are to be true to that name, true to those Persons, that in the world there should be some expression of the glory and dignity that is attached to that name.
“For from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same my name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in every place incense shall be offered unto my name, and a pure offering: for my name shall be great among the heathen, saith the Lord of hosts” (Mal.1:11)
The literal fulfilment of this will be in the world to come when the heathen shall be blessed, but we can apply this to the position we are in today when, in the main, the carrying on of Christianity is amongst the Gentiles. The Jewish nation turned aside and refused their Messiah, they should have seen by His life, His words and His works that the Messiah was amongst them but they were blind and they missed the wonderful blessing. The Saviour mourned over this when He cried on the Mount of Olives, ‘Oh, if you had only known the day of your visitation, but you missed the day of blessing’ (Luke 19:41-44). However, the wonder of it is that if they missed it, we who are Gentiles have been brought into such wonderful blessing, privileged to be brought into contact with this wonderful God. Thank God we hold this name in all it's greatness and all it's distinctiveness.
“To us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things” (1 Cor.8:6). This God is everything to us. This is the God who has blessed us, who has brought us into relationship with Himself through His own beloved Son, this is the name that will bring everything to pass for His own glory and for our eternal blessing. Thank God that His name is great amongst us. We esteem Him the greatest above all, indeed there is no comparison, for we would never compare our God with any other god for there is only one God and that God is our God. He is great, and everything connected with Him is great, and all the hopes and destiny of the church are great because of the wondrous blessing that we have in connection with Him. So if that name was blasphemed amongst the Gentiles, thank God it is now revered, esteemed and glorified and that there is a wonderful response to this God (at least in part).
“In every place incense shall be offered to my name”. The children of Israel offered strange fire to God (Lev.10:1), they offered up incense to other gods (e.g. 2 Ki.22:17). It was said by the apostle Paul, “the name of God is blasphemed amongst the Gentiles” because of the conduct of the Jews (Ezek.36:20, Rom.2:24), but if this is so (and it was so), thank God that now, in this wonderful day of grace, and because of the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, there is a pure incense, pure worship and a pure response rising to God which gladdens and gratifies His heart. How privileged we are to be in this sphere. There are millions in darkness today, in idolatry, in superstition, millions whose eyes have never been opened to see the greatness of Christ and the glory of God, but in His wondrous sovereignty He chose us and blessed us, and we are privileged to worship this true God, how wonderful! The Lord said when He was here “But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth; for the Father seeketh such to worship him” (John 4:23). We have been privileged to worship the only true God, the living God, who has revealed Himself in Jesus Christ, His Son. Pure incense is ascending to this God from the hearts of those who love Him.
Scripture says, “for my name shall be great among the heathen, saith the Lord of Hosts”. It is true that His name is great amongst us. We delight to sing hymns such as ‘How great thou art’ which speak of the greatness of God. Every Christian’s heart responds to such sentiment. How great God is, how wonderful the revelation of Himself in Christ, how wonderful to be amongst those who have responded to Him in gratitude, in praise and in thanksgiving! Dear brethren, the depth of feeling and reality that marks this response will be very much governed by the practical response in our lives. If we are mixed up with things that are dishonouring to God, if we are living for ourselves, we will be so dulled in our sensibilities and in our feelings towards God that we will not rise to the height of worship that becomes God. The desire of God is for His name to be great amongst us, He wants a pure response from our hearts. This is the goal towards which He is moving, this is the object He has before Him, and He wants every one of us to be in accord with it.
“I am a great King saith the Lord of hosts, and my name is dreadful (or “revered”) among the heathen” (v.14)
The other references to His name in the book of Malachi will produce this reverence for the name of God, this acknowledgement on our part of His supremacy, that He is to be obeyed, to be honoured and to be followed, that would touch us in every part of our lives. These actions are not done out of fear, such as marks the devotees of idols, whose lives are characterised by debauchery, but they are done out of a reverence for God, understanding the greatness and the glory of God. This is what is meant by reverence, God is so great that there is something demanded on my part in my approach to Him. It is not to be a careless, casual approach that would treat God as if He was of the same standard as myself, but there must be a sense of His greatness and glorious supremacy that would bow my spirit and my heart in wonder and adoration before Him. It used to be said that Britain was a God-fearing nation, but this is true no more, God has been thrown overboard. There are blind theologians who speak about God ‘being dead’, there are those who would throw overboard every principle that God has given for the conduct of man in every sphere of life that God has graciously given, it cannot now be said that Britain is a God-fearing nation; but it should be amongst those who belong to God, those who owe everything in time and eternity to His mercy and to His goodness. God-fearing should mark us who belong to God.
“If ye will not hear, and if you will not lay it to heart, to give glory unto my name, saith the Lord of Hosts.....” (2:2)
Here we have a practical touch. Man’s glory is all around us, man boasts in his achievements, in his pride of heart he says that he is master of his destiny, that he can control all the complexities of his life, that he can bring to pass all that he wills, and that everything is secure in his hands. This is man today. Just as Nebuchadnezzar looked round at Babylon and said, “Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of my kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty?” (Dan.4:30), and in the pride of his achievement strutted around as if he were lord of all. Those who know God give God the glory, they humbly, in His presence, think about His name, turn aside from the wilfulness of man and his desires, and give glory to God. It was said of Abraham that he was “strong in faith, giving glory to God” (Rom.4:20). He had known something of this world’s glory, Ur of the Chaldees was a wonderful place in Abraham’s time. All of man’s glorious achievements were around him, but Abraham turned aside from them and gave glory to God because he had the light of another world in his soul, he had another God before him, not the gods of the Chaldees, but the only God, the God of glory. Seeing something of the God of glory he responded to it, he gave glory unto His name. This is why a Christian gives glory to God, this is why He gives glory to His name; He sees in God the complete answer to his whole life, he sees all the provision that God has made for his redemption and blessing, for the pathway with all its difficulties and trials, and he sees all the provision that God has made in the eternity that is to come. Oh what a wonderful God He is! Turning aside from man’s glory a Christian gives glory to His name. Let us cultivate this as we go into the presence of God, as we bend our knees before Him, and I trust we do this. Oh that we might bend our knees in the presence of God more in this busy life, owning His supremacy, and speak to Him about His own affairs, His own glory, before we speak about our needs. How prone we are to spend our all time asking God for help in connection with all our frailties and difficulties. In recent months I have tried to speak to God about His own things and His own glory, and this has produced blessing to my soul, it brings a peace, a grandeur and a depth into one’s prayers and into one’s heart as we take time to think about God. I am sure that in answer to the disciples request, “Teach us to pray”, when the Lord said, “Our Father which art in heaven.....”, He did not mean this to be reiterated in every service amongst Christians, but what He did mean was to take this prayer as a pattern, and to think of God first before thinking about other things - “Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed by THY name, THY kingdom come, THY will be done in earth as it is in heaven”. The first part of the prayer is all about God, and the interests of God before the prayer goes on to other matters. If we cultivated this more in our private prayers to God we would know more about the glory of His name. Our hearts would be full of His greatness and His glory.
“My covenant was with him of life and peace; and I gave them to him for the fear wherewith he feared me, and was afraid (or “trembled”) before my name” (2:5)
If we have something of this in our souls, that God is supreme, that God’s word is binding upon us, as those who are connected with Him, then we will act in this way, we will tremble at His name, not a trembling that is a fear that we are going to be punished, or that God is a hard, austere God, it is a trembling that is produced by this fear of God in the acknowledgement of His holiness, His righteousness and His truth. God never alters His standard to suit our circumstances. God might sympathetically take account of our circumstances, but He never alters His principles just to suit us, He remains the same God, the God of righteousness, of truth and of holiness, and all that we are must bend before this standard. There were those who were described as “trembling at his word” (Ezra 9:4), that is, if God had said it, it was right to obey it. They trembled before the majesty and greatness of this God.
If we turn away from the word of God, we will reap the consequences (Gal.6:7). It is not that God is an austere God who wishes to punish us, we reap the consequences of departing from the will of God. There are those who are described here as following God, not breaking the covenant, not departing from the mind of God, but instead, seeking to do His will, trembling with that reverence and fear of Him that was in keeping with the revelation of Himself. What a wonderful thing it is to obey this God. All that God desires for us is blessing, this fills His heart for us. He wants us to be blessed. ‘If you only do that which is right, I will open the windows of heaven and shower blessing upon you’ (3:10).
We have all known what it is like to be disobedient. Was it a happy position? Did it bring joy? Did it bring blessing into our lives? No. Disobedience always brings sorrow, brings distance from God, and unhappiness. Disobedience began in the garden of Eden and it will culminate with the man of sin. All the disobedience that marks man only brings sorrow, tears and unhappiness. The pathway of obedience is the pathway for spiritual prosperity, life and peace, joy and encouragement. We sometimes wonder how we can get out of difficulties, or order our lives so that we can be more effective, and we have all sorts of ideas of how this can be achieved - change our environment, have a larger meeting, obtain more intelligence in the word of God, many things come into our minds, and we have all gone this way before, but then we come back to the simple pathway of obedience, this is the pathway for blessing, the pathway for spiritual prosperity, to have reverence for God, to tremble at His word, to do what He wills us to do.
“Then they that feared the Lord spoke often one to another: and the Lord hearkened, and heard it, and a book or remembrance was written before him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon his name” (3:16).
This beautiful verse was said towards the end of the dispensation in relation to the nation of Israel just a few hundred years before the Lord came. It looked on to the coming of Christ. The Spirit of God would draw our attention to the fact that, although things were difficult, there were always those who thought upon the name of the Lord. Thinking upon His name involves having affection for Him and for His interests. In natural things, if we think of our friends it gives us pleasure. It is a question of affection being connected with them. This is the same. Those in that dark day who sought to be true to God thought upon Him, and they spoke often one to another. Being connected with the wonderful God involves fellowship. If individually we love God, we will find our greatest joy being in the company of those who also love God, speaking together, in fellowship with each other, encouraging each other, and representing God along with others. We will find it our joy to think upon His name. Dear brethren, we have every reason to think upon His name.
If we analyse our thoughts at the end of a day, what a mixture there is, all sorts of things flitting through our minds, all whims and fancies. How little there is that is really about God. How little there is that would be honourable to God. Oh, that we would desire to think upon His name in a more positive way. The more we are together in fellowship with each other, the more we provide conditions for right thinking, separate from the things of this world, which brings in all its clamour and all its noise, but in quietness together, gathered to the name of the Lord Jesus, thinking about God and the Lord Jesus Christ, our souls are refreshed and our minds are cleansed. Can we go out into this clamorous world and think about God quietly? It means tremendous abstraction and I doubt if we are capable of it, but when we are together, as those who love God and Christ, the Spirit of God can control our minds and it is this that God takes account of. Think of God so pleased with us that He takes a book and records in it all those who are prepared to turn aside from this evil scene and think upon His name. This is what God thinks of those who love Him.
Dear brethren, we are in the minority. Relatively speaking, there are few that think upon God, this is to be taken account of. God is not concerned with the majority, God is concerned with those who think upon His name. There are other things recorded in another book. In that day to come this other book will be opened at the great white throne, and persons will go into a Christless eternity because they never thought upon God or upon His Son in the right way (Rev.20:11-15). Thank God there is another book being prepared, and everything is being righteously recorded there, everything is being put down that pleases the heart of God. A book of remembrance is kept for those who thought upon His name and spoke often one to another. The proper order is Christ first, then the meetings. We cannot come together too often. The more we are together, the more help we get, the more blessing we have in our souls, the more help and encouragement is provided for us to go out into this world and preach Christ. It is in the Christian company that we get help and support and strength.
“Unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and you shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall. And you shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I shall do this, saith the Lord of hosts.” (4:2-3)
Literally this belongs to a different dispensation from the one we belong to, it belongs to a different company, but I want to end with a note of triumph. There is a wonderful day coming. Look at all the sores and diseases that are around today, all are going to be put right. Righteousness is going to arise with healing in his wings. Everything is going to be attended to. There are so many ills in this world, we cannot correct them. It is no good going into politics or any other means of correcting the evils of this world we must leave it all in the capable hands of Christ; He will put things right. Our duty today is to live lives that are honourable to God and to endeavour, wherever we can, to preach Christ to the unconverted so that persons might be drawn out of this world that is going on to judgment, and bring them into the sphere where they can find eternal blessing. The Sun of righteousness will put things right. Dear brethren, if we can apply this to New Testament teaching, this is what we are waiting for. We are waiting for Christ’s coming; we are waiting for the trumpet shout in the day of Jubilee. What a wonderful shout that will be when “the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them to meet the Lord in the air” (1 Thess.4:16-17). This is what we are waiting for, it might come at any moment, this we know will be the first step in putting things right. The church caught up to be with Christ, and then Christ will take over. Judgments will cleanse this earth from all evil that He might bring into being His Kingdom that will be for the glory of God and for the blessing of this poor world. This is our hope as Christians, this is why we are so glad that we are connected with this wonderful name. “Those that fear my name”, those of us who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, look forward to this event with wonderful hope and blessing to our souls.
This little message ends with this note, “Remember ye the law of Moses”. Do not let us forget that the word of God is the word that governs our conduct, not the imaginations of men, not the thinking of the intellectuals, but the application of the word of God to our lives and will produce this reverence for the name of God, this fear for the name of God, this desire to respond to Him in worship as pure incense. This is where we are today, having this wonderful privilege of responding to God in the way that He desires. If our lives are regulated by the word of God we will inevitably find ourselves in this wonderful position of pleasing God and being true to His wonderful name.