04 Sep 2022

Rebellion Exposed [Malachi 2:17-3:12]
  • Topic: Church, Drivers, Excuses, Father, God, Israel, Lord, Malachi, Mask, Ministry, Offering, Priests, Realised, Rebellion, Rebellious, Relationship, Return, Serve, SIN, Soap


In Malachi 2:17-3:12, Malachi exposes Israel’s inner rebellion against God. Malachi sends a strong message to Israel. He exposes a heart that had no desire for God and was willing to continue living that way. He dealt with Israel’s excuses and accusation that God was unjust. Yet Malachi too holds out a message of grace. God promises a fully restored relationship if Israel were to choose to return to God by making God their priority again. In light of the gospel, there is no shame in coming back to God after having our sins fully exposed. There is grace and love from a compassionate God.

In Malachi 2:17-3:12, Malachi exposes Israel’s inner rebellion against God. Malachi sends a strong message to Israel. He exposes a heart that had no desire for God and was willing to continue living that way. He dealt with Israel’s excuses and accusation that God was unjust.Yet Malachi too holds out a message of grace. God promises a fully restored relationship if Israel were to choose to return to God by making God their priority again. In light of the gospel, there is no shame in coming back to God after having our sins fully exposed. There is grace and love from a compassionate God.



Sermon Transcript


But shall we begin? Man, it's quite scary to be the first preacher on Sunday when the masks are remove. So, if my jokes are not funny, can you all at least pretend to smile later? It's quite daunting now that I see all your expressions, okay? But today mark a significant day in Singapore's COVID journey. It's the day when the mask can finally come off. And this gets a little bit tricky for the friends that we have made over COVID. Because the bottom half of their face is not what you expected. And I remember when I was meeting a friend I met over COVID and they took off their masks, I was trying so hard to hide my expression of shock, because I had pictured something else in my head. You see, the mask brought us a sense of safety because it hit some parts of our faces. Maybe some of you are insecure with your nose. It's not as sharp? The nose bridge is not as high? I think so, not as high as you want it to be? You think your smile is a little bit awkward or your teeth is a little bit weird. Or like me, the mask actually helped me hide my acne and my pimples. For the teenagers here, I'm 28 and pimples haven't gone away. So, you got to just hang in there. So just this week, as the mask mandate came off, I had the biggest pimple on my face up here. Thank God now it's gone because they're zooming in onto my face. And I remember walking into Wednesday night prayer meeting. And I refused to take my mask off because I didn't want people to see the shame that I was hiding below. And when I opened the door, every single one of them had their mask off. And I was so pressured. So, I started making excuses in my head. Okay, if they asked me why my mask is still on, I am going to say because I'm a concerned citizen. I'm going to say because I don't want to bring COVID back to my family. I started making all kinds of excuses in my head. Well, like me, we're all scared of being exposed. Right? We are scared that when we are fully exposed, when people see below the safety of our mask, it would shock them because it's not what they expected. We are hiding something that we don't want people to see. You see, this entire COVID mask situation has revealed a little bit about my human nature and maybe your human nature. As humans, when we know we have something to hide, we do our best to cover it up.

Israel’s Accusation Refuted (2:17 -3:7a)

Well similarly, Israel has been hiding their sin as Pastor Yu Fei mentioned last week. They've been giving excuse after excuse and God has been peeling off layer by layer of those excuses. And it's come to a turning point in Malachi. Because God says this, Israel with all your excuses, you have wearied the Lord with your words. Malachi is saying, Israel, your constant excuses has wearied God out. It has tired God out. Or in other words, in a Singaporean translation, I am sick and tired of all your excuses.

For those who are children living under your parent’s roof, isn't this a familiar phrase? When my mother would tell me that. That is the ultimate scolding. When I hear this, I know I have crossed the line. It's time to stop talking. It's time to sit up. Look at my mom in the eye and listen to everything she has to say. You're awkward there, mum. However, Israel does not quite get the hint. Instead of listening to God, they continued their excuses. They say, God, where God? Where have I wearied you? And this brings us to our first point. A continuation of Israel wearying God with their excuses. You see, hard hearted, rebellious Israel accuses God of enjoying evil. This is a serious accusation, right? They call God a lover of evil. They say that God enjoys looking on as people suffer, as we see in Malachi 2 verse 17. And they cried out, where is the God of justice?

Malachi in this first point, seek to defend God against the wrong accusations that Israel has made. Malachi is going to say. Israel listen up! God is just. He has just not yet revealed His justice. Israel must look to the future events to see God's justice. But Israel is saying, how will I know when God's justice has started? Malachi says, the first sign is that I will send a messenger to prepare the way. For those of you who have read the Bible, this is a familiar phrase because John the Baptist, would come and prepare the way. John the Baptist will come to kick start God's process of judgement. For the Israelites, this was in the future. God is saying, look to the future, my justice will come. And then after John the Baptist comes and says this, and then the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to His temple. You will come to His temple to deal with the evil that is going on in God's temple. For those of you who weren't here last week, Pastor YuFei told us that God's temple was in a mess because of his priest. Here's a key verse. You see what happened in the temple was God's priests who were supposed to be doing all the right things, were giving substandard sacrifices, which God called evil. Look at that, they were offering polluted food upon God's altar when God wanted pure, unblemished animals. He says, when you offer a blind animal in sacrifice, they offer those that are lame.

What's happening here? The supposed priests and religious leaders were insulting God through their substandard sacrifices, that even earthly rulers would not accept. What more the God of Angel army. Maybe you think this is a little bit distant and unrelated to us. However, the priests giving polluted offerings are kind of like pastors in churches we see today, who are serving God inappropriately. This might strike a chord in some of us. Some of us come from church hurt. In the past 10 years, the number of scandals about God's leaders because of sexual misconduct, bullying, inappropriate behavior, pastors leaving the faith, has occurred more than ever in history. There's much hurt in the church. There's much distrust in the leaders. And maybe, you like Israel, are questioning God. God, how can you just sit by idly while your leaders and your pastors are behaving like that? God, how can you close both eyes when your leaders are living in rebellion against you? God, if there's any sense of justice in you, you are going to intervene. And maybe like Israel, you cry out.

Where is the God of justice? Well, thank God that Malachi is going to jump to God's defense for us. He tells Israel that God is not unjust. In fact, in the future, when the Lord comes again, He will make everything right. Look at this verse. He says, who can endure the day of the Lord's coming? Who can stand when the Lord appears for the Lord is like a refiner’s fire? Like fullers’ soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver. He will purify the sons of Levi. The sons of Levi refer to the priests who are offering substandard sacrifices. On the day that God comes, there will be no more corruption in His temple. God says, I will be the one who delivers justice. I am the refiner. He gives two pictures here, right? The first picture is about the purification of silver. I'm by no means any expert with silver, but in its natural state, silver is not 100% pure. Silver contains many other types of metals and impurities. So, in those days, actually also today, what the refiners would do is they would hit this unpure silver to crazy high heat so that all the other impurities and the other metals would melt.

And what's left is nothing but pure silver. God is saying, this will happen to my priests. The same thing will happen. All their impurities will be burned away so that the priests will be like gold and silver. And they will bring offerings in righteousness to God. Is God just? Yes, he is. He is going to purify his leaders. The second picture is of fullers' soap. Fullers' soap is not a name of a detergent. It's not front load or top load. It's simply a name for a type of soap they use in the past. Fullers' soap is really like washing detergent to us. If you look at the picture, on the right-hand corner, what they will do in the past is they will put soap into the washing area, with the clothes. And they don't have washing machines at that point of time. So, the lady there will start stomping on the dirty clothes together with the fullers' soap. And like our washing machine, it will produce pure clothes. Clothes without blemish. Clothes without dirt. God is saying, He is like fullers' soap. The same will happen to the priests on the day of the Lord. All impurities cleanse like clothes after a wash, that are cleaned. So, will the works of the priests be.

But that's just what's happening in church, right? How about the things that are happening outside? There's lots of evil going on in Israel and God needs to solve that too. Well, he says this in verse 5. He says, then I will draw near to you. I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterous, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired worker and his wages, the widow and the fatherless. Against those who thrust aside the sojourner and do not fear me, says the Lord of host. Maybe today, you're asking, how do I know that God is just?

Here's how we know. In the future, God will deliver judgement. But the question remains is, how about the here and now? What's God doing now? Is God on a break? Is he taking a holiday? Just waiting to deliver judgement in the future? Why doesn't He act now? Once again, Malachi gives us the answer. He says, for I the Lord do not change. Therefore, you o children of Jacob, this refers to the Israelites, are not consumed, are not punished. From the days of your father's, you have turned aside from my statutes, and have not kept them.

So why is God not punishing them now? He's saying, because I am faithful to the promise I made to your fathers. I am gracious. He is displaying current grace. He is patient and merciful with Israel as He was with their ancestors. They have been rebelling against Him since the start. We live in a period of grace. This is one of the most common questions that we face, right? Is God just? Maybe you have talked to some of your atheist friends. The atheist argument will be this. They will tell me this. How can there be a God in this world if bad things are happening to good people and good things are happening to bad people? How can there be a God when evil doers do not get what they deserve? And even if there is a God, I do not want to believe in a God who is unjust. If I'm completely honest, this question stumps us many times. I don't know how to respond to these questions. And maybe even like them, when we look at the evil around the world, we question God. You see, we live in a time where the rich seem to get away with crime. When the mighty bully the weak. When might is right. Where the justice system cannot punish the rich and the powerful, and we question, where is the God of justice? Malachi answers us. Look to the future. He is currently displaying grace. You see, Malachi took a lot of time right, to refute Israel's accusation of God. He launched a successful defense, and now he's going to go on the offence. He's going to reveal that behind these excuses, you're going to review what is really going on with Israel. You see in this first point, the accused, God is the accused. He is found to be innocent. And now the tables will turn. God will no longer be on trial. But it is now rebellious Israel who will go on trial.

Israel’s Rebellion Exposed (3:7b-9)

This is point 2, Israel's rebellion exposed. You see, God has been telling Israel this. Israel, return to me and I will return to you. This is unassuming at first, but Israel is in relationship with God. If as a husband, you need to tell this to your wife, to return to me, that shows that there's something really wrong with your marriage, right? You see, Israel had been disloyal to God. God is calling them, come back to me. Change your loyalty, come back, don't be disloyal. Israel had broken their commitment with God. To make matters worse, when God tells them this. I wish they would have just said yes, God, I will return to you.

But their hearts said this. They said, God, how shall I return? What am I doing wrong? You see, Israel is not blur here. But Israel is so far away from God and their relationship with Him that they can't see where they have gone wrong. One of the more interesting parts about my job. I serve in the varsity ministry. So, it is the 18 to 25 year olds. It’s sitting in the cars of new drivers. You all laugh because you all know, right? So, the age group that I serve, they are all fresh. They have a new license, they love to drive around.  And they love to volunteer driving all of us around. Although I love their eagerness to serve, one of the issues that new drivers had, is that they can be so fixated on one thing, that they totally ignore the rest that is going on. Their blind spot. They don't check, they're just looking at what's in front. So, as the Varsity Shepherd, I need to lead them and I also don't want to die in their car. Whenever they are lining up to try to get into the car, I will sneakily make my way to the front and say, my legs long, let me sit in front, please. But the reason that I'm sitting in front is that I don't trust their driving at all. I really don't. And if I'm sitting at a back, I can't give the person any advice at all. And the thing that gets me really cautious and really anxious, is when the new drivers are making a discretionary right turn. For those drivers, you know that right? They're trying to inch forward, they try to observe the oncoming traffic. And new drivers often do this. They only look at the oncoming traffic, and they forget about the pedestrians that are crossing. And so, I know because I look at them. And they're just so fixated on the cars that are coming or not coming. So, what's my job? My job is to tell them, look at a pedestrian. Pedestrian, pedestrian pedestrian. Don't go, don't go, don't go, come back. You see, that's the thing with new drivers. They don't see where they have gone wrong because they are so fixated on the thing just in front of them. They are blind to the other things around them. Likewise, Israel was so caught up with their excuses. They were so caught up in their sin. They are so fixated and so blind to everything else around them that they could not see where they have gone wrong.  And like the guy in the front seat with the driver, he had to nudge them and tell them, look, wake up, observe what's around you.

Malachi had to expose their sin. How does he do it? He says this to Israel. Will man rob God? Yet you Israel are robbing me. But you say, how have we robbed you? In your tithes and contributions? You were cursed with a curse for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you. At first glance, it seems like this was just about offering. Just give offering you know. However, unlike the New Testament, the time we live in, as you observe what Pastor Jason said on stage. He says, there's no obligation to give, give from a cheerful heart. However, for the Jews, giving was a commandment. If you look at Leviticus 27, it says, every tithe of the land, whether of seed of the land, of the fruit of the trees, is the Lord's. It's holy to the Lord. So, Israel, not giving tithes and contributions was not just that they were ungrateful. They knew the commandments, but they chose to rebel and disobey against God.

You see, the robbery of God was something much deeper rooted. But what is the extent of the robbery? In verse 10, we see it. When God called them to come back. He says, bring the full tithe into my house that there may be food in my house. You see, the robbery was so bad that the temple could not even afford to feed its priest. What more, function. The Israelites live in a time where forgiveness of sin could only happen in the temple. So, without the temple functioning, there can be no relationship between God and His people. When there's no food for the priests, the priests cannot work. There is no one to make sacrifices for Israel. And there is no forgiveness for Israel sin. And then there is no relationship between God and Israel, because of the separation due to sin. You follow that?

No priests, no sacrifice, no sacrifice, no forgiveness of sin, no forgiveness of sin, no relationship with God. This means that Israel was not just robbing God, but Israel had zero desire to be in relationship with God. They are okay to continue their lives without God. They would rather continue living in sin and rebellion. And as God exposed their hearts, deep down inside, under the mask, were hearts so far and distant from God. And they were accusing God for a lack of justice. But in fact, it was all excuses that they were making. You see, Israel and God had entered into relationship. All this time, Israel decided to rebel against God. Can I just ask you, if you had a friend who was in a relationship like this, what are you going to tell them? Well, I'm going to come out and tell them you should break up. The relationship is toxic. It is so one sided, just call an end to the relationship. That make sense, right? You have a partner that doesn't want to have anything to do with you, just break up. Likewise, in response to Israel's rebellion, I'm expecting God to turn His back on Israel for good. To end the relationship once and for all. But what will God do? How will God respond to rebellious Israel?

Israel’s Second Chance (10-12)

This is a third and final point. Israel's second chance. God gives them a second chance. He says Israel, bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house, and thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of host. If I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need. What amazing words right, the last sentence. He says, and I

will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of your soil, and your vine in the field shall not fail to bear says the Lord of host. God is saying to rebellious Israel, the second chance I'm giving you is full restoration of relationship. I will open the windows of heaven and pour down so much rain that you will no longer need any rain. It says that He will rebuke the devourer. The devourer was a pestilence that was going on at that time. They were eating all the crops of Israel. So, Israel was working and they had nothing to eat because the pestilence was destroying everything. He will give fruit to the fruitless vines, only if Israel returns to Him. A final chance to return to the relationship. God will promise to pour out blessings on Israel.

And then this passage ends off with one of the most amazing lines that I've seen. He says this. He says this, mind you, to a rebellious Israel. He says Israel, if you turn back from your rebellion, then all the nations will call you blessed. For you will be a land of delight says the Lord of hosts. You see, this is a familiar phrase in the Old Testament. If you know the Book of Malachi, Malachi is the last book in the Old Testament. But this phrase recall something in the first book of the Old Testament. This is what God said to Israel's forefather Abraham. He says, I will make you a great nation and I will bless you and make your name great so that you will be a blessing. What's God saying here? God is saying that Israel, if you turn back, if you come back to me, my relationship with you will be just like how it was at the start. The start of any relationship is always the most exciting, right? For those of you who are in here with your parents, try not to smile so hard in case they know that you have a boyfriend outside. Okay, emotions and affections are how you are crazy madly in love. And I remember this to be a time when I proposed to my wife. I was so madly in love. Okay, my in laws are here and her family is here. I'm still madly in love. But this is just an example, okay? And my proposal, I was ready to go all in. I told myself, I told my best friends. I said, we will make this the most romantic moment of her life ever.

You see, I did things that I will not usually do. This was in the middle of Botanic Gardens. I was willing to propose in front of a huge group of our friends. And I don't really have the best voice in the world. I was willing to take a guitar, sing in front of a huge crowd of strangers to profess my love for Belle. I was singing to her; the strangers were looking on. I told Belle, Belle, I will die for you. I will catch a grenade for you, I will jump in front of a train for you. You see, for those of you who have been in love, or are in love, you will have similar experiences. The start is always the height of the relationship, everyone longs to go back to their emotions. And the amazing thing is that God is offering this to rebellious Israel. The chance to return to the height of their relationship, a second chance to start all over again. He's willing to forgive all their wrongs, all their sins. He's saying, Israel if you come back, it will be just like this, a clean slate. What an amazing way to end right?

Israel’s Rebellion Exposed, Our Rebellion Exposed

Let me wrap things up, let's think about some applications here. Israel in this text, had their mask removed. And it exposed an inner rebellious call. Behind the excuses was a rotten call, the rebellion was exposed. And just as Israel is exposed, this text too exposes us our rebellion. Personally, this text review something festering in my heart, that has been eating at me for a long time that I didn't really realize only until I started working on this. I'm new to working in church, it's been less than five years. And I entered ministry having this super high expectation. I want to run this perfectly run ministry. I want things to be totally effective and efficient. And deep down in my heart if you ask me. And I can finally admit it, is that I really want to run the best university ministry in Singapore. So, the bad part about this is that when the people that I shepherd, when they struggle with sin again and again and again. When they fail, and they mess up, instead of coming to lovingly guide them, I realized that my first reaction is that, I get angry, annoyed, and frustrated.

And then I start giving excuses. I say, you know what, I'm like that. Because I want to do God's work welI. I want the ministry to be run well. Why are people like that? And I'll use all sorts of excuses to justify my sin. But all the while, I was really living for myself in rebellion to God. Below it all was a heart or is a heart that is extremely prideful.

I want to be seen as a successful leader. And as I was just writing this, I realized that this entire thing was all about me, me, me, me, me. It was really all about me and my success, to try to do things my way so that my name will be great. And instead of really serving God, I'm really serving myself. I ask that you will continue to pray along with me, because I'm going to struggle with this for a long time.

But the wonderful thing is that God offers a second chance to those who will return. So, I know that after this sermon, I need to constantly return to make God the person I worship instead of myself. But the question now is, how about you? A lot of you here are my teachers, my pastor and my leaders. I do not mean the next part to be disrespectful. But this is God's pulpit and I need to be faithful to His Word. So, forgive me if this comes on a bit strong, but I just need to be faithful to God's Word.

Maybe for you. On the inside is a heart living in rejection of God to chase the Singapore dream. You give excuse after excuse that you would come back to God, after you've achieve your next car or your next house upgrade. You say God, God, you wait. I'm going to make you a priority after I've achieved what I want. You are okay to put God on hold. But the problem with that is that it means you need to repeatedly say no to God every day in order to chase your dream. You tell God to wait. God, I will serve you one day in the future, to mask your current rebellion. That is the Singapore dream that is sold to all of us. And we are okay with saying God, I'm going to put you on hold while living in rebellion against Him. God says this, stop your excuses. Return, come back to me. For some of us, it might be a sinful relationship that we are pursuing. An extra marital relationship or an unequally yoked relationship. And in order to sustain these relationships, you need to make excuse after excuse. After being prompted from sermons, you said it's okay I will come back one day. When you read your Bible, you know that God is calling you back. When you pray, you know that the spirit is convicting you, but you decide to give excuse after excuse to compromise again and again. You decide and you tell God, God I rather follow my passions than you. God says, stop the excuses. Return, come back.

For the rest, it might be a me first, self-centered attitude towards church. I'm in church because the sermon is good. I'm in church to have my needs met. I'm in church for me. If it's out of my comfort zone, if it is eats too much into my time, if it takes too much effort, I don't want to do it. So, we make excuses. I have other more important things to do. When we come to church, we say I want to be served. And we can even slip into a spirit of criticism. You constantly criticize others and their service and their ministry but you barely lift a hand. It's always about me. It's always about how the church can serve my needs better. By here is the real problem. The problem is that while you are in church, you are really here for yourself.

And the Bible tells us that church is a community that needs to love one another, support each one.

God says, stop your rebellion, come back to God. For those of us who might be walking back into church for the first time in a long time. Maybe someone dragged you here today. Someone told you just come and you'll begrudgingly come back. God calls you to come back and return to me. And the most amazing thing about the Gospel is this, is that when our rebellion is fully expose, God still takes us back. You see for those of us who have been living in rebellion to God, that's the most amazing thing about the Bible is this. Your sins are fully known. And yet because of Jesus, you are fully loved. You see, there is a second chance that is talked about in the New Testament. We see this in the parable of the prodigal son. For the friends, here for the first time, this story is so popular that you might have heard it before. This story is about a rebellious son who takes all of his inheritance from his father. He leaves the house and he rebelled against his father. He squandered and he loses all his money. And eventually he realizes that he needs his father.

So, he says this. The rebellious son says, I will arise and go to my father and I will say to him, father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants. You can feel like that right when our sins and our rebellion is expose. We hang our heads in shade. God, I don't deserve your love. You know what, I'm so messed up God, you cannot possibly take me back.

Can I tell you this? That is not the Gospel, that's self-righteousness. Because the next part is one of the most heartwarming passages in the Bible, found in the father's response. See, the sun arose and came to his father. While the sun was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion and ran and embraced him and kissed him and the son said to the father. Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, I am no longer worthy to be called your son.

It will be okay the story ends there right? He gets what he deserved. But father says this. He says to his servants. Bring quickly the best robe, put it on him. Put a ring on his hand and shoes on his feet and bring the fattened calf and kill it and let us eat and celebrate. For this, my son was dead and is alive. He was lost and is found and they began to celebrate. Instead of being treated with shame, the son is treated with love and compassion. Relationship restored, as if he had never left. That's the love of God for rebellious people like us. Fully known, our sins fully exposed, and yet fully loved. Did you catch that? And God says, come back to me. When you come back to me, you don't come back in shame. You come back to a God who embraces you with open arms.

So, friends, if this is you today, come back. Return. Stop your excuses. Because there is grace and love, from a God of steadfast love. God whose mercy lasts for thousands of years. And that's the beauty in the Gospel. If you are here today for the first time, if you are not a believer of God and you find that your sins are just mounting and mounting and mounting. The same call is given to you. Return, repent of your sins. And at God's son expense. Every one of your sin was paid on the cross so that when you come back, every sin forgiven. There is no longer shame, there is celebration. So please, guys, don't walk out of here hanging your heads low in shame. As Christians, we walk out of here celebrating because as Christians, say it again, your sins fully exposed, yet you are fully loved because of God's grace.

Come, let us pray. I'd like to give us some time to just reflect before we pray. Because the Gospel is so beautiful, it allows us to dig into the depths of our heart, to expose every single sin, every single bit of rebellion. We do not need to deny it, because when we confess it and return back to God, everything is forgiven. That is the beautiful message of the Gospel. Deservedly, we should have received punishment. There should be no second chance. But God in all His graciousness, all his mercy and all His love, will look upon us and says, you are forgiven. Come back to the heights of my relationship with you.

Think about it. Go into the depths of your heart. Searching yourself, asking God to refine us. Stop our excuses. Come back, return, where there is grace from God. Let's pray. Dear God, we sin, we rebel, we stumble and fall. Yet every time we deserve to be punished, every time we mess up. You say that as long as we return, we would find the warm embrace, the compassion and love of a gracious Father. And because of that, there is no shame in the Gospel. There is sin but because there is forgiveness, there is no more shame. God, will you work in all our hearts as we think about the areas that we need to return, the areas we need to confess of and repent of. Holy Spirit, would you do a thorough work in our hearts. Expose those sins, that we might bring them to light, confess them to You and find a loving embrace of a Father. So God, I pray that you will be with us when as we leave this place and think about these things. That your love and grace will overwhelm us and compel us and make us want to come to you more.

So, we thank you for all that has been said this morning. Thank you for your love and Your Word. In Christ's name we pray, Amen.