Let’s start by looking at the middle of verse 7. What is God’s plea to the people of Israel? Middle of verse 7… ‘Return to me!’
But as you can see from the end of verse 7, the people claim to not know howto return to God. ‘“But you ask, ‘How are we to return?’’
So, God shows them how…
It’s as if God says, “Israel, you want to know how to return to me? Well, here’s how you can return to me… by giving up your greediness. And by quitting this incessant desire you seem to have to keep my tithes and offerings to yourselves.” That’s verse 8.
God says in verse 9 that the people are ‘under a curse—the whole nation of you—because you are robbing me.’ They’re serious rebels… As it’s put in verse 7, ‘Ever since the time of your forefathers you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them.’
Now, as a result of that rebellion against God, you might expect a more general command to repent. But God is more specific than that, he really wants to concentrate on this issue ofgiving—verse 10… ‘“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house.”’
“Give!” Says God.
That’s what’s required. The people need to set aside a tenth of their produce and bring it to the temple.
Now of course, everything that Israel have belongs to God—everything any of us has belongs to God. But God isn’t asking for them to give everything back. No, he’s only asking for an acknowledgement of the fact that he gave them everything. A show of thankfulness. One tenth of what he has given them.
And it would be justified if it was just left at that, God has already generously given them absolutely everything they have. But not only does he say, “you don’t have to live without these things, all I ask is that you give me back a tenth as a symbol of your gratitude.” He takes his generosity a step further…
If Israel actually do this tithing, there are some amazing promises that God commits himself to fulfil… First of all, there’s the promise at the end of verse 7, ‘I will return to you.’ If Israel re-commit themselves to God, he will re-commit himself to them.
And then look at all these promises found in verses 10-12:
“[If you tithe to me] I will throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.
“I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not cast their fruit,”
“…all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,”
Connected to all three of these promises is the phrase ‘Says the LORD Almighty’. This title for God is used twenty-fourtimes in the book of Malachi. Here’s what John Piper says on this:
What Malachi wants us to see and feel is that our Father in heaven has infinite authority in the universe. […] He has myriads of unstoppable angels who do his bidding flawlessly and never fail in their errands. And he has appointed every star in the universe its position. He holds them in place—all trillion, trillion of them—and calls them all by name.
The LORD Almighty is worth listening to.
So, there are a lot of promises, and they are all stated by the LORD Almighty.
There’s the promise that if they tithe to God, then he will bless their crops innumerably by bringing lots of rain—and when the weather’s like this, we can understand what it’s like to crave some rainfall.
God also says that all the nations will be blessed by him if they tithe to him.
God even promises to act as a Divine pesticide and fertiliser. Their crops won’t fail as a result of bugs or a bad year.
Now, I think to understand the basis of this generosity, we need to go back to verse 6, which gives an indication as to what’s behind all this generosity that’s being promised to Israel. Verse 6…
‘“I the LORD do not change.
So, you, O descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed.”’
This is the doctrine of the immutability of God, and it’s embedded in the covenant which was established with them long before they were even born.
What is a covenant? (Check your children’ catechism if you don’t know)
It’s a promise, an agreement that God had made with his chosen people Israel. Now, he wasn’t bound—he didn’t have to make a covenant with them—or, to use a different metaphor—he didn’t have to marry them—or another picture—he didn’t have to adopt them.
But he chose to do those things, God chose them—through no merit of their own—God chose them to be the ones through whom the whole world was going to be blessed, which reaches its peak with Jesus who is born to theirrace. That’s the covenant pledge.
When did God first make this covenant with them & what did it say? Well, it goes right back to Genesis 12 where we read about Abraham—this seemingly random guy from Mesopotamia who God calls—apparently—out of the blue and says to him, “I will make you into a great nation and I will blessthis nation—namely Israel—and through Israel I will bless the rest of the world.”
And for God this was a promise. God never breaks his promises. That’s why they haven’t been destroyed at this point in their history, in Malachi. They deserve to be destroyed for disobeying God, but God in Malachi 3 reminds them of his pledge, he hasn’t changed his mind—verse 6— ‘I the LORD do not change. So, you, O descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed.’