Malachi 3:13 – 16: “Your words have been stout against me, saith the LORD. Yet ye say, What have we spoken so much against thee? Ye have said, It is vain to serve God: and what profit is it that we have kept his ordinance, and that we have walked mournfully before the LORD of hosts? And now we call the proud happy; yea, they that work wickedness are set up; yea, they that tempt God are even delivered. Then they that feared the LORD spake often one to another: and the LORD hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon his name .”
God remembers those who know Him and records their lives in His Book of Life. Malachi 3:13-15 speaks of a people who have taken their eyes off God and have turned inward to look only at themselves. Malachi 3:16 contrasts the previous verses with a picture of a people who truly fear the Lord and who are remembered by their Lord.
When we become self-righteous, we speak proudly to God, saying to Him that we don’t need Him. In Malachi 3:13, the Lord says to the Israelites that their words have been stout, or proud and haughty, towards Him. We are proud and haughty towards God when we remove Him from the place of leadership in our lives. We become like those people Paul talks about in II Corinthians 10:12 who “commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.” Paul is speaking of those people who measure themselves by themselves, and not by God; those people who measure their actions by those around them and not by God’s standards. It is scary how often we fall into this trap. We take our eyes off the “unseen” (God) and focus on the “seen” (the world) (II Corinthians 4:18). Generally, we don’t even notice it, and we say, like the Israelites, “Who me? I haven’t spoken that way to God, have I?”
As we take God out of the place of leadership in our lives, we begin to think that it is worthless to serve Him and worthless to live a life under His will. Like the Israelites in Malachi 3:14, we say “What is the good of keeping His law or of serving Him, how does it help me to serve Him?” We convince ourselves that there is no point in obedience, that we can get along without it. We forget what Christ told us in John 12:26, that “If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honour.” Following Him requires serving Him, and God honours our service. We forget that we show Him that we love Him by keeping His commandments (John 14:15). When we look at ourselves, instead of Him, we seek only to serve ourselves.
After we go down this road of taking our eyes off Christ and serving ourselves, we lose perspective. “And now we call the proud happy; yea, they that work wickedness are set up; yea, they that tempt God are even delivered” (Malachi 3:15). We see the proud as the happy ones. We see the wicked prospering and placed on a pedestal. We see that those who disobey God seem to have it all. Yet, we are seeing incorrectly. Having gone down this road, however, we cannot see God, only the world. When the world truly begins to look good, we have gone way too far and it is time to quickly and immediately look back to Christ. Paul tells us in II Timothy 3:4-5 that when we become “lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God “, it is time to turn away from the pleasures and turn back to God.
Malachi, having well described the slippery slope we walk down as we turn away from God by taking Him off the throne of our lives, serving ourselves, and losing sight of Him, now describes what God does with those who truly love and fear Him. “Then they that feared the LORD spake often one to another: and the LORD hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon his name” (Malachi 3:16). When we truly love and fear the Lord, and our lives speak of this love, the Lord takes notice and hears us. As Psalms 8:4 tells us, He is “mindful” of us. But more exciting than just taking notice of us, God remembers us! Amidst the din of disobedience in the world, He hears us as we testify to Him and He remembers us in His book. My friends, our very lives, when lived for Him, will be recorded in the pages of His holy book.
Strive to live lives that are focused on Him, that testify to His forgiveness, mercy, and grace, and know that He notices and remembers. “Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:31-33). Seek Him instead of the world. Your obedience will be recorded forever, because you obey Him and turn your thoughts towards His name (Malachi 3:16).