I hope you believe that God is God. Do you understand what I mean by that? I don’t mean, I hope you believe that Jehovah is God, or Elohim is God. That is an eternal truth. I mean: I hope you believe that God is truly sovereign. Sovereignty is a part of the definition of the word “God.” He is a true King who can do whatsoever He would like to do. For example, I hope you believe that Jehovah has both the power and authority to permit or restrain Satan from touching Job or Adam and Eve or you. I hope you know that the Son of God can call Lazarus out of his tomb, and that He can give the rocks the ability to praise His name. He can order a donkey to speak, and He can make the sun stand still in the sky. He can turn off the light and heat from the sun; He can make the largest meteor to suddenly veer off course and not smash into earth. There is nothing that God can not do. He sets up kings and political parties, and He removes them. “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord; he turneth it whithersoever He will.” “God can do anything, anything, anything; God can do anything but fail.”
With that planted deep in our hearts, isn’t it a logical desire to have the blessing of that omnipotent God? “He can save, He can cleanse; He can keep, and He will; God can do anything but fail. He’s the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end; He’s the fairest of ten thousand to my soul. God can do anything, anything, anything; God can do anything but fail.” Where would we be without the Lord’s constant kindness; His mercy and His grace? In the midst of violent hurricanes; deadly tornados and devastating earthquakes, it is by God’s grace we are not consumed. And He continues to pour down upon us His manna, His milk and honey, even life itself. “Praise God from Whom ALL blessings flow; Praise him, all creatures here below; Praise him above, ye heav’nly host; Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.”
As we saw this morning, God told the priests of Israel that they had better straighten up and fly right. He said, “I’m giving you another chance to glorify my name. You had better listen.” “If ye will not lay it heart, to give glory unto my name, saith the LORD of hosts, I will even send a curse upon, and I will curse your blessings…” It is that last clause on which I’d like to focus this evening. We want the Lord’s blessings, do we not? We need the Lord’s blessings, don’t we? But if we are not bringing glory to His name, God threatens to turn our blessings into curses. Remembering this morning’s lesson: “The Absolute Most Important Thing.” What should we expect from the omnipotent God if we do not bring Him the glory due unto His name?
I’m going to divide this message into two sections. The first, I think, will be based upon a proper interpretation of the word “blessings.” And the second division, although scriptural in its application, will be from an incorrect exegesis.
To what does the Lord refer when He speaks of the “blessings” of these priests?
It is seen in Leviticus 9 after Aaron had offered some sacrifices for the sanctification of Israel. He killed a goat for a sin offering and burnt it according to his instructions. Then he slew a bullock and a ram for a peace offering, burning the fat upon the altar. Then Leviticus 9:21 says, “And the breasts and the right shoulder Aaron waved for a wave offering before the LORD; as Moses commanded. And Aaron lifted up his hand toward the people, and blessed them, and came down from offering of the sin offering, and the burnt offering, and peace offerings. And Moses and Aaron went into the tabernacle of the congregation, and came out, and blessed the people: and the glory of the LORD appeared unto all the people. And there came a fire out from before the LORD, and consumed upon the altar the burnt offering and the fat: which when all the people saw, they shouted, and fell on their faces.”
There are several examples of the priests of God, raising their hands over their people and in a combination of prayer and promise, pronouncing God’s blessing. The Lord Jesus, our great High Priest, did that sort of thing just before His ascension. Luke 24:50: “And he led them out as far as to Bethany, and he lifted up his hands, and blessed them. And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven. “ A notable general blessing is recorded in Numbers 6: “And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto Aaron and unto his sons, saying, On this wise ye shall bless the children of Israel, saying unto them, The LORD bless thee, and keep thee: The LORD make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: The LORD lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.”
I think it is to THIS kind of blessing that the Lord refers when he says, “I will curse your blessings.” I said a few moments ago that I consider this blessing a combination of prayer and promise. Aaron, and his successors, were supposed to be mediators between God and the nation. They were supposed to be reflections of the Lord Jesus, the ultimate mediator between God and man. And as such, ideally, they were to take the people’s prayers to God and to bring God’s blessings to the people. Looking back on the model, in essence the priests were saying: The LORD WILL bless thee, and keep thee: The LORD WILL make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: The LORD WILL lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.” But here in Malachi, the sovereign King tells us, “You priests may pray and pronounce, but I will turn those blessings around, and they will become curses upon the people.”
Doesn’t this take us back to the introduction to an earlier lesson in this series: “Praying for Grace?” The King of kings is under no obligation to listen to the prayer requests of the rebel. “Now we know that God heareth not sinners.” The mysterious missing page two of that earlier message included Psalm 66:18 which says: “If I regard iniquity in mine heart the LORD will NOT hear me.” Solomon says, “He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination.” Jehovah says in Isaiah 1:15 – “When ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood.” There are other verses such as Micah 3:4: “Then shall they cry unto the LORD, but he will not hear them: he will even hide his face from them at that time, as they have behaved themselves ill in their doings.”
Wasn’t the Lord telling these sorry priests to get their act in order, or He would turn a deaf ear to their prayers? Wasn’t He saying, if you refuse to listen to my commandment in this regard, your words of blessing will become poison to Israel? Your breath will not only be bad, but it will contain a virus which will infect and kill you and your people. Your pronouncement of my blessing will be overturned, and turned into judgment.
This is what I believe the Lord is saying in this verse, but let’s apply it in a second direction.
The sovereign, omnipotent God can turn today’s gracious blessings into tomorrow’s painful curses.
Let’s begin at the beginning: Only God has a right to curse anyone. Of course, there are two ways to understand what it is to curse, but in a sense they blend back together. Generally speaking, most people think of blasphemy or vulgarity when they hear the word “cursing.” When I Googled the word, the second definition which popped up said, “A curse is an offensive word or phrase used to express anger or annoyance.” But then, the first definition was: “a solemn utterance intended to invoke a supernatural power to inflict harm or punishment on someone or something.”
Since there is not one of us who is any more righteous than anyone else in the sight of God, we have no business cursing anyone else. And besides, ultimately, we have no power to bring our evil thoughts to fruition. A perfect example of this is the story of Balaam and Balak as they tried to curse Israel. Every time the evil prophet opened his mouth words of blessing came forth.
You don’t have to fear the curses of evil people, because only Jehovah is God. Only He can truly curse. You don’t have to fear the power of Satan, because he can’t lay a finger on you without the Lord’s permission. And we have an intercessor and mediator between them, and us and God: Christ Jesus. But in the case of Malachi, we are not talking about turning curses into blessings, but blessings into curses. The misinterpretation of this verse is that these blessings refer to the benefits the priests were receiving.
What was the first occasion when one of God’s blessings became a curse? Wasn’t it in the first garden? “And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden, and there ye put the man whom he had formed.” “And the Lord God took the man, and put him in the garden of Eden to dress it, and to keep it.” I guarantee that Adam enjoyed working in the Lord’s garden. The roses never smelled any sweeter and the tomatoes were never better than in Eden. But then Adam sinned and was expelled from God’s garden to plant and till a garden of his own. “Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” And the blessings which Eve first enjoyed were changed to curses as well. God said, “I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.” May I remind you of what prompted those changes? It was the sin of Adam and Eve.
Throughout the Word of the Lord we see God transforming blessings into curses. When Rebekah realized she was pregnant, her heart was filled with joy, but that eventually changed. When Israel left Egypt, they knew that they had never been so blessed. But then a blessed road trip which should have taken a few months, turned into a curse of forty years. The manna which so pleased them at the beginning, became a burden to them. And the blessing of a great flock of quail became poisonous to their bellies.
I don’t believe He was doing so, but Jehovah could have been telling Malachi’s priests that His kindness to them and to the nation would be turned into judgment, if they didn’t start to glorify His name. Part of the priests “salary” came from the sacrifices which the people offered. The Lord could have easily turned the flesh of those broken and sick animals into salmonella and ptomaine. And as Israel’s historians could attest, the Lord could easily change bumper crops of wheat and corn into years or decades of famine. God judged people and even whole nations with childlessness, still births and various viruses and plagues. These priests need to remember that Jehovah-Jireh, is also Elohim, the omnipotent and righteous Judge.
Let me give you a few scriptures which speak about this business of blessings turning into curses.
These aren’t proof texts taken out of context, just examples of our theme. In Psalm 69 David is pouring out his heart to God, and in the process was prophesying about his Saviour. In verse 19 he says, “Thou hast known my reproach, and my shame, and my dishonour: mine adversaries are all before thee. Reproach hath broken my heart; and I am full of heaviness: and I looked for some to take pity, but there was none; and for comforters, but I found none. They gave me also gall for my meat; and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink. Let their table become a snare before them: and that which should have been for their welfare, let it become a trap.” A table full of good food can be a Thanksgiving Feast or a source of food poison. What can, for a time, be for someone’s welfare can turn into a trap.
Hosea was one of God’s prophets assigned to the Ten Tribes before their captivity in Assyria. He ministered when Isaiah was doing the same in Judah. Turn to Hosea 4 or listen as I read: “Hear the word of the LORD, ye children of Israel: for the LORD hath a controversy with the inhabitants of the land, because there is no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land. By swearing, and lying, and killing, and stealing, and committing adultery, they break out, and blood toucheth blood. Therefore shall the land mourn, and every one that dwelleth therein shall languish, with the beasts of the field, and with the fowls of heaven; yea, the fishes of the sea also shall be taken away. Yet let no man strive, nor reprove another: for thy people are as they that strive with the priest. Therefore shalt thou fall in the day, and the prophet also shall fall with thee in the night, and I will destroy thy mother. “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children. As they were increased, so they sinned against me: therefore will I change their glory into shame. They eat up the sin of my people, and they set their heart on their iniquity. And there shall be, like people, like priest: and I will punish them for their ways, and reward them their doings. For they shall eat, and not have enough: they shall commit whoredom, and shall not increase: because they have left off to take heed to the LORD. Whoredom and wine and new wine take away the heart.”
Many of these prophecies and coming judgments sound pretty much the same, but keep in mind our theme of blessings into curses. Turn to Hosea 9:11 – “As for Ephraim, their glory shall fly away like a bird, from the birth, and from the womb, and from the conception. Though they bring up their children, yet will I bereave them, that there shall not be a man left: yea, woe also to them when I depart from them! Ephraim, as I saw Tyrus, is planted in a pleasant place: but Ephraim shall bring forth his children to the murderer. Give them, O LORD: what wilt thou give? give them a miscarrying womb and dry breasts.”
Haggai was a prophet of God just before Malachi; he may have returned to the land with Zerubbabel. Turn to Haggai 1:1: “In the second year of Darius the king, in the sixth month, in the first day of the month, came the word of the LORD by Haggai the prophet unto Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, saying, Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, saying, This people say, The time is not come, the time that the LORD’S house should be built. Then came the word of the LORD by Haggai the prophet, saying, Is it time for you, O ye, to dwell in your cieled houses, and this house lie waste? Now therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways. Ye have sown much, and bring in little; ye eat, but ye have not enough; ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink; ye clothe you, but there is none warm; and he that earneth wages earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes. Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways. Go up to the mountain, and bring wood, and build the house; and I will take pleasure in it, and I will be glorified, saith the LORD. Ye looked for much, and, lo, it came to little; and when ye brought it home, I did blow upon it. Why? saith the LORD of hosts. Because of mine house that is waste, and ye run every man unto his own house. Therefore the heaven over you is stayed from dew, and the earth is stayed from her fruit. And I called for a drought upon the land, and upon the mountains, and upon the corn, and upon the new wine, and upon the oil, and upon that which the ground bringeth forth, and upon men, and upon cattle, and upon all the labour of the hands.”
Back in Malachi, the Lord was not saying He would turn Israel’s promising crops into dust – blessings into curses. He was talking about the upraised hands of the priests blessing the people after their presentation of another corrupt sacrifice. But where the rubber meets the road is in whether or not the sovereign God was going to meet Israel’s needs with His kindness and grace. He certainly can turn today’s blessings into curses.
Don’t say, “Oh, that is for Israel. I am under the blood of Christ Jesus and living with the promise of never-ending joy.” The principles of this verse still apply. We have been tasked to bring glory to the name of our Saviour. We have not been saved to go off on our own, doing whatever we like; to sin for example. We have been redeemed to become “a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.” If we are not doing what we’ve been called and saved to do, then we may find God’s temporal blessings turning into curses. “Be sure your sins will find you out.” “Whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap.”
But let me close this rather negative message on a more positive note: We may look at our lives, as Job looked at his, and conclude there must be something that is horribly wrong in me. Such may not actually be the case. The Devil brought curse upon curse to that righteous man. It was said of him that there must have been horrible sin in his life to deserve these curses. But the truth was, he was nothing like the priests in Malachi’s day. He had been honoring and magnifying the Lord, his God throughout his life. And then, despite the curses of a few months of this life, Jehovah-Jireh stepped in and reversed the curse. In the end, the sovereign God turned those curses into blessings. “So the Lord blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning.”
Yes, there are scary lessons here in this scripture. But when the lessons are learned and applied, the kindness of God will begin to flow once again. May the merciful God teach each of us what we truly need.