Malachi Lesson Six 3:7-12 Robbing God
7 “Since the days of your fathers, you have turned from My statutes; you have not kept them. Return to Me, and I will return to you,” says the Lord of Hosts. But you ask: “How can we return?” 8 “Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing Me!” You ask: “How do we rob You?” “By not making the payments of the tenth and the contributions. 9 You are suffering under a curse, yet you—the whole nation—are still robbing Me. 10 Bring the full tenth into the storehouse so that there may be food in My house. Test Me in this way,” says the Lord of Hosts. “See if I will not open the floodgates of heaven and pour out a blessing for you without measure. 11 I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not ruin the produce of your land and your vine in your field will not fail to produce fruit,” says the Lord of Hosts. 12 “Then all the nations will consider you fortunate, for you will be a delightful land,” says the Lord of Hosts. (HCSB)
This passage introduces another dispute/rebuttal sequence between Yahweh and Israel. The topic is over tithing, although it is much deeper than just giving back to God. The real issue is obedience (faithfulness) versus disobedience (apostasy).
Before beginning this passage, let’s have a quick reminder of how the previous lesson ended with verse six; the unchangeable nature of God. This theological doctrine is called immutability. Since God is perfect, He can’t and doesn’t change. Here are two important truths about this statement.
- God can’t get better since that would mean He was less than perfect at some point, which would also indicate He is not God.
- God can’t get worse because He would then be less than perfect, which He can’t be.
God is and must remain perfect in all His attributes. Nevertheless, it is our unchangeable God who gives us a chance to change, which is something we all must do. The beginning of this passage will now reveal how that occurs.
This verse contains a three-fold exhortation.
- Situation – Since the days of your fathers, you have turned from My statutes; you have not kept them.
- Command – Return to Me.
- Motivation – and I will return to you.
The statement “since the days of your fathers” covers a large period of time, approximately 1,000 years. Like all people, Israel had a long history of being disobedient to Yahweh. What may have contributed to the situation presented in Malachi is Old Testament teaching from the time of Moses before Israel entered the promised land.
Deuteronomy 4:25-31 25 “When you have children and grandchildren and have been in the land a long time, and if you act corruptly, make an idol in the form of anything, and do what is evil in the sight of the Lord your God, provoking Him to anger, 26 I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you today that you will quickly perish from the land you are about to cross the Jordan to possess. You will not live long there, but you will certainly be destroyed. 27 The Lord will scatter you among the peoples, and you will be reduced to a few survivors among the nations where the Lord your God will drive you. 28 There you will worship man-made gods of wood and stone, which cannot see, hear, eat, or smell. 29 But from there, you will search for the Lord your God, and you will find Him when you seek Him with all your heart and all your soul. 30 When you are in distress and all these things have happened to you, you will return to the Lord your God in later days and obey Him. 31 He will not leave you, destroy you, or forget the covenant with your fathers that He swore to them by oath, because the Lord your God is a compassionate God.
In the mind of at least some of the Israelites, maybe most of them, they believed that since they had been restored from their exile. However, a quick review of Ezra, Nehemiah, and Malachi shows that the prophecies regarding Israel’s repentance and spiritual restoration and blessings had not yet been completed.
Up until this point in Malachi, Yahweh had levied charges against Israel in the following areas.
- Insulting worship – 1:4
- Treachery against one another – 2:10
- Intermarriage with pagan idolators – 2:11
- Treachery against their wives – 2:14
- Toleration of sorcery, adultery, perjury, and exploitation of the weak – 3:5
Now, Yahweh draws their attention to the fact that they were not tithing as required. The Old Testament references “the land” more than 1,000 times, with the vast majority connected to Canaan. Canaan was the land that God promised patriarchs, the land given to Israel, the land where the people would be blessed. The way Israel treated the land and its produce was a key component of their responsibility under the covenant. Ownership of land was understood to mean participation in the covenant community to whom God had given the land. But that ownership was validated by an attitude of faith and thankfulness toward Yahweh. The land was given as an inheritance to Israel, but it was, in reality, stewardship and not ownership. The reason for stewardship and not ownership is because of the habit of humans to sin and forget who gave the gift.
- Leviticus 25:23 – The land is not to be permanently sold because it is Mine, and you are only foreigners and temporary residents on My land.
- Deuteronomy 6:10-12 – 10 “When the Lord your God brings you into the land He swore to your fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that He would give you—a land with large and beautiful cities that you did not build, 11 houses full of every good thing that you did not fill them with, wells dug that you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves that you did not plant—and when you eat and are satisfied, 12 be careful not to forget the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the place of slavery.
In addition, every third year, the tithe was supposed to be distributed in the giver’s hometown to benefit the Levites, foreign residents, orphans, and widows.
Deuteronomy 14:28-29 – 28 “At the end of every three years, bring a tenth of all your produce for that year and store it within your gates. 29 Then the Levite, who has no portion or inheritance among you, the foreigner, the fatherless, and the widow within your gates may come, eat, and be satisfied. And the Lord your God will bless you in all the work of your hands that you do.
Just like the Sabbath year, the tithe would benefit the poor and those who couldn’t own land (Levites), demonstrating love to God and their neighbors.
Let’s look at this concept from a New Testament perspective. Nowhere in the New Testament is the believer instructed to give a specific amount, tithe, or other. However, weekly offerings are described.
1 Corinthians 16:2 – On the first day of the week, each of you is to set something aside and save in keeping with how he prospers, so that no collections will need to be made when I come.
Also, in a general sense, the New Testament obligations of Old Testament legislation are increased rather than reduced. Understanding this, the moral conclusion is that Christians, being blessed with the fullness of life under the sacrifice of Jesus, should give more than a tithe since everything we have comes from and belongs to God.
The idea that Israel was robbing God is given two more pieces of evidence.
- They were suffering under a curse. Looking ahead to verse 11, the curse could have been in several different circumstances.
- It could have been a plague on the harvest – locust or drought.
- It could also refer to an enemy.
- It was the entire nation that was guilty.
This verse is effectively split into two parts.
- Bring the full tithe into the storehouse. The word “full” could be understood in two ways, both relevant and accurate.
- Israel was not bringing the full tithe. Instead, they were withholding part, or all, of the requirement in the Law.
- The whole (full) nation was guilty of this charge.
- Because the Levites were dependent on the tithes for sustenance (since they couldn’t own land), if they were neglected, it was more than a simple sign of disobedience. It signified a deeper problem of falling away from their relationship with Yahweh that the Levites modeled (complete dependence on Yahweh).
- Test Yahweh and see if He will bless and sustain you.
- If the people would return to God and be obedient, they would receive an abundant blessing.
- First, we need to understand what this is not.
- It is not support for or an endorsement of a prosperity gospel.
- It doesn’t mean we’ll get a promotion, new house, new car, etc.
- Those who promote the prosperity gospel are actually saying that human activity can force God into doing what they want. This is the same as implying that God is not sovereign.
- Instead of a false “name it and claim it” theology, it would be more appropriate to promote a “live it” theology. Act like a child of God, and we’ll be treated as one.
- It does mean.
- God’s provision will match our needs.
- It won’t lead to waste or overindulgence.
As mentioned under the discussion of verse nine, the word “devourer” can have more than one meaning. In general terms, it indicates something that eats. However, it is often found in expressions of destruction.
- Fire: Hosea 8:14b – I will send fire on their cities, and it will consume their citadels.
- Human armies: Jeremiah 30:16a – Nevertheless, all who devoured you will be devoured, and all your adversaries-all of them-will go off into exile.
Even though Israel was hanging under a curse, Yahweh was prepared to reverse that to a blessing if they would repent and turn back to Him.
Amos 9:14 – I will restore the fortunes of My people Israel. They will rebuild and occupy ruined cities, plant vineyards and drink their wine, make gardens and eat their produce.
Jeremiah 31:5 – You will plant vineyards again on the mountains of Samaria; the planters will plant and will enjoy the fruit.
In this verse, Israel is described as a symbol of blessing and the recipient of God’s grace and favor. However, this does not occur apart from obedience and faithfulness. But it does point to a future time when Israel will undergo a national repentance the will precede the earthly reign of Jesus and be characterized by Yahweh’s protection, provision, prosperity, and presence.
- Romans 11:26
- Joel 2:18-32
- If you have strayed from your relationship with God, cling to the promise He makes. Return to Him, and He will return to you.
- Understand what it means to rob God. Are you giving back to God what He has blessed you with? Are you cheerful in your giving?
- Ask yourself if you truly believe that God will meet your needs (not wants). If the answer is no, then pray for more faith and opportunities to display that faith through action.