The Absolute Most Important Thing – Malachi 2:1-2

Speaking through Malachi, God has been correcting and criticizing both Israel’s priests and her people. Those priests, as part of the leadership of the nation, should have been setting a godly example. But they were accepting and offering corrupt sacrifices from the nation at large. They might have been justifying themselves by saying they were only offering what had been given to them. But still, it was they who were offering polluted bread upon God’s altar. So the criticism in the first chapter went back and forth between the people and the priests. But now, in this second chapter, the Lord focuses on the sons of Levi and Aaron. “And now, O ye priests, this commandment is (specifically) for you.” In Israel’s beginning, the Lord had blessed the tribe of Levi, setting them apart from the rest of the nation. At points during the Exodus, they had distinguished themselves in their zeal and service for the Lord. So the Lord had given them special privileges and responsibilities. Their primary duties were in and around the altar of the tabernacle and eventually the temple. They tended to the lamps inside the Holy Place; they offered incense upon the golden altar. They prepared and replaced the shewbread. Along with their brethren, the Levites, they probably maintained the building and all its parts. They were the only people permitted inside the temple. Not only did they offer the morning and evening sacrifices, but they slew and presented all the doves, lambs, goats and bullocks of the people. In addition to these things, they were supposed to be the primary teachers of the...

Do You Despise the Holy Name? – Malachi 1:6-14

If you were going to define “salvation” according to Biblical terms, what words would you use? If you need some help, let me give you some suggestions. When Zacharias, the father of John Baptist, had his voice miraculously restored, he began to praise God. One of the things he said was: “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he hath visited and REDEEMED his people, and hath raised up an HORN of SALVATION for us in the house of his servant David.” He was saying that salvation is found in Jesus Christ, the promised son of David. And that, by the way, is the first reference to “salvation” in the New Testament. Zacharias went on to say, John’s ministry will be “to give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the REMISSION of their sins.” Salvation boils down to remission of sin, the removal or forgiveness of sin, through the sacrifice of Christ. Elsewhere we read, “So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.” “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” If salvation involves the remission of SINS, we need to understand the nature of SIN. In order for someone to be saved, he must understand that he is a sinner before God. So what is sin? The Apostle John succinctly says, “Sin is the transgression of the law,” referring to the law of God. Two chapters later he says, “All unrighteousness...

The Sallow, Shallow Sacrifice – Malachi 1:6-14

Before we get into the application of this scripture, please remember the historical context. Malachi, the last of God’s Old Testament prophets, served the Lord after Israel returned from Babylon. Some commentaries place his ministry during the days of Zerubbabel, but I think most of his service was while Nehemiah was temporarily back at the palace at Shushan, reporting to King Artaxerxes. It was somewhere within the century from 536 BC to 445 BC or thereabout, and probably towards the end. A lot can take place in any society in a hundred years: from economic growth to moral disintegration. Any society is in trouble, when, even if there are a few faithful servants of God… when the majority is strong, powerful, and wicked, controlling the government, the media, the schools, the entertainment industry and religion. Such was the case in Israel four hundred years before Christ. And such is the case today. So herein is the purpose for this message today. In my preparation, I threw together an alliterated outline of these nine verses, but I’m not going to preach them. That outline may be cute, but it isn’t very practical. And yet I will share them with you just for the purpose of an introduction. We see here examples of irreverence and ignorance: verse 6. “A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master: if then I be a father, where is mine honour? and if I be a master, where is my fear? saith the LORD of hosts unto you, O priests, that despise my name. And ye say, Wherein have we despised thy name?” The...

Wherein Hast Thou Loved Us? – Malachi 1:2-5

The threat of questioned love is often used as a tool for evil. For example, have you ever heard a child, with a whine in his voice, say to one of his parents, “If you loved me, you’d let me do this or that”? “If you loved me you wouldn’t enforce a curfew on the weekends.” “If you loved me you’d not make me eat these vegetables I don’t like.” “If you really love me, you’d let me choose my own friends.” One of the problems inherent in children is their lack of experience in life. They are not sufficiently wise to see that dangers of bad companions and the effects of potential bad habits. Without seeing into the future, and anticipating only the best, they don’t recognize the predators out there. Adults, on the other hand, can usually look back at their own lives and accurately predict what their children may be creating for themselves. Having said that, it’s important to point out that even seasoned adults can behave like foolish children. Even with years of experience, we can look into our own futures and misread the signs in front of us. We can don our imitation Ray-bans and block out certain colors of the spectrum, putting ourselves into serious danger. Abraham, even after his disastrous venture into Egypt, said to a Canaanite king, “Sarah is my sister.” Solomon, with his God-given wisdom and experience, should have stopped with marrying one wife. And Peter, after being warned by the Saviour, “denied with an oath, I do not know the man.” In our scripture, we see Israel about a...

It is Better that I Die – Jonah 4:1-11

This message may sound very morbid, but it doesn’t have to end that way. I am taking my title from Jonah’s words to God – “It is better for me to die than to live.” We shall see similar sentiments from Paul, Job, Moses, and others, and there was Elijah’s death-wish at Mount Sinai. Each of these, along with a few others, had different backgrounds and different intentions in their utterance. And in them I am hoping that the Lord will grant some direction to all of us – along with perhaps some comfort where necessary. Let me point out from the outset that this is not a message about suicide. None of the examples I plan to use, actually took their own lives. Rather, each of them were either asking God to take them, they were wishing to die, or they were placing themselves in a position for a semi-natural death. They were praying and hoping that it was God’s will that they die – right now! When in verse 8 Jonah said – “It is better for me to DIE than to live…” And when he said in verse 3 – “O Jehovah, take, I beseech thee, my life from me; for it is better for me to DIE than to live…” The Lord replied, “Doest thou well to be ANGRY?” “Doest thou well to be ANGRY for the gourd?” God’s questions were rhetorical. Of course, Jonah had no grounds to be angry in either case. And God could have asked, “Doest thou well – wishing for DEATH?” Of course, there were no grounds for either anger...

The Capstone of God’s Attributes – Exodus 34:4-8

I believe, and have often said, that the foundational attribute of Jehovah is His holiness. Holiness underlies all the other attributes of God; they are all built on that foundation. And that is why we must “kick off our shoes” when we come into His presence. We must not approach Him as if he were our buddy or friend, but as our sovereign, holy King. Jehovah is holy in everything He does. Sin or impropriety is not impossible with the Lord. He is holy in the manifestation of His omnipotence. He is holy in permitting famine and economic prosperity – holy in plagues and in blessings. God was completely holy when He created the heaven and the earth. And He was holy when He created Hell and the Lake of Fire. He is holy when He saves one sinner, and He is holy when sends another into eternal judgment. If holiness is the foundation of all Jehovah’s attributes, what would you say is at the pinnacle of them all? What is the capstone of His being? I might even ask, what is the most glorious aspect of the infinitely glorious God? I’m not sure that I have a right to ask such a question, but for the sake of this lesson, let’s push forward. I trust that you are familiar with the basic outline of the Book of Exodus. If you are not let me refresh your memory. After the ten plagues and the Passover, the Lord brought Israel out of Egypt through the Red Sea. By Exodus 19, the nation was at the foot of Sinai. “In the...

No Greater Love – John 15:13

I trust that you are familiar with the sacrifice Abraham made of his son Isaac – in Genesis 22. God chose to test the faith and devotion of the that man, by asking him to make him a special burnt offering. And I hope you realize that event so many hundreds of years ago, is a type of God’s sacrifice of His Son. God said, “Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest….” Christ is described in the New Testament as God’s “only begotten son.” And God the Father described him as His “beloved son.” It must be remembered that when Abraham took is beloved son toward Moriah, Isaac was no small child. He was strong enough to carry a bundle of wood sufficient enough to burn a large offering. And the last leg of that journey was up a significant hill – described in the Bible as a “mountain.” Furthermore, his mind was sharp enough analyze the situation – He said, father, “behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” I believe that at some point, after leaving the servants and the ass, and before reaching the top of Moriah, Isaac came to realize that HE was to be the sacrifice. “And they came to the place which God had told him of; and Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood” – Genesis 22:10. I cannot conceive of this man, over 120 years old, overcoming an unwilling 20 year old,...

Love, Perseverance and Joy – John 15:9-11

According to a number of sources, 47,500 people took their own lives in the United States in 2019. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in this country – 2½ times higher than the homicide rate. Among people up to 34, suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death. In those from 35 to 45 it is the 4th leading cause of death. And those numbers are only the tip of the iceberg, because below that are tens of thousands who attempt suicide and fail. And then there are thousands more who give it serious consideration without actually attempting to do it. Isn’t it safe to say that those people are living lives without enough joy to pull them through their days of depression? Some of them are alone and lonely. They have no one to give them reasons to smile – or to live. Some of them have had disappointments serious enough to leave no room for rescue. Some are in serious pain, and there aren’t enough drugs or sources of joy and pleasure in their lives to draw their eyes and other senses away from that pain. Especially among the young – people can become so focused or obsessed with a certain friend that they can’t see the rest of the fish in the sea or the trees in the forest, and they kill themselves. There many, many reasons people take their lives, but a simplistic answer to the question “why” would have to be – they lack joy in their lives. And it is very sad to say, I have known quite a few professing...

Office of Deacon (#4 – THE Qualification) – Acts 6:1-7

As we have seen, the Jerusalem Church was having problems. Like a teenager growing too quickly, its bones and muscles weren’t keep pace with one another. There were so many new converts – many of whom were extremely poor – that some were being missed in the daily ministration of food and support. So the twelve Apostles recommended that the church seek out men – “of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business.” The church then went to work, and in some way which is not explained, they came up with the recommended number of candidates. “And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolas a proselyte of Antioch.” The twelve told the church to look for men who were thoroughly honest and particularly sagacious and judicious – wise in a practical sense. But the most important qualification for office was more spiritual – they must be “filled with the Holy Spirit.” There are two purposes for this message today. One, we are in the midst of a short study on the office of Deacon and to be “filled with the Holy Ghost” was one of the criteria by which candidates were to be considered. And then second, Deacons are not the only Christians who are supposed to be “filled with the Spirit.” You and I are also to be so filled. This is a condition which is supposed to be true of all of us....

Adopting the Prodigal – Luke 15:11-24

Most of you are familiar with the Lord’s parable of the prodigal son. This morning, I would like to apply that story in a slightly different way than usual. And ultimately, I’d like to consider the Biblical doctrine of ADOPTION. One of the books I am currently reading is T.P. Simmons’ “A Systematic Study of Bible Doctrine.” While looking at the New Birth or “Regeneration,” Simmons has a single paragraph about adoption. He says, “The New Birth is not adoption.” Adoption is a legal term. It is the immediate result of justification. It is not the same as regeneration. Adoption makes us children of God legally, while regeneration makes us children of God experientially. Adoption brings a mere change of legal relationship. Regeneration changes our moral nature. Adoption has to do with us as the spiritual and moral children of the Devil by nature. Regeneration has to do with us as those who are by nature devoid of spiritual life.” That statement put me on a course of my own investigation of adoption. And I’ll get to that after we reconsider this Prodigal child. “Prodigal” means “wasteful,” or more specifically “extravagantly wasteful.” I have already said that this is one of the Lord’s “parables” – a story used to teach a spiritual lesson. But I have to qualify my statement. While it IS used as a parable, it involved an actual family. Verse 11 says, “And Jesus said, A CERTAIN man had two sons.” There was an actual man – a certain man – who had two sons. So he also had at some point a wife. He may...

The Collision of Grace and Justice – Psalm 85:1-13

We have had so many topical messages lately that I decided to return to an expository lesson today. The Lord blessed in my study yesterday, so I am quite certain it is the Lord’s will for us. I’d like to slowly journey through these thirteen verses and offer one explanation of what they say. Since this is primarily devotional material, not historical or doctrinal, I’m aware that it might be open to various interpretations. But with the Lord’s blessings and with a particular object in mind, you are going to hear my understanding. I will begin by pointing out that Bible scholars are divided about who and when this Psalm was written. Spurgeon, in his exhaustive “Treasury of David” said that he thought it was David, the son of Jesse. But I’m of the opinion that David usually identified those Psalms which were his. Without a specific preface no one can be certain, leaving the field wide open to simpletons like me. Maybe its because we recently spent so much time in Nehemiah, but that is where my heart leads me. Verses 1-7. In the first seven verses the Psalmist looks behind him and then around him. He rejoices in God’s recent blessings, while recognizing that he and his neighbors are still standing in jeopardy – they are still sinners and in the hands of an angry God. And that leads him into a little expostulating with the Lord. “Expostulation” is a word most of us generally understand, but rarely can define. It is old and somewhat obsolete. It means to “earnestly discuss or examine something with the hope...

Hell, the Mirror of Heaven – Revelation 20

  Through the years, our church has had members who did not quite see eye-to-eye with their pastor. Usually that has not been a major problem. Probably only my wife agrees with me – 90% of the time. I don’t force everyone to believe exactly the way that I do about the Bible. And in fact I will acknowledge that I might just be wrong about some things. But there have been some whom we had to discipline and remove because of serious disagreements. There are some doctrines which, because of the Bible, are not debatable. And when a member tries to corrupt others with their unbiblical opinions, something drastic must be done. For example years ago, we had to remove two long-time members. They had held to some relatively unimportant doctrines which are not taught by our church and which I had known about for nearly twenty-five years. But what I didn’t know is that they did not believe in a literal Hell. And what is worse, because of that – they accepted in some form of universalism – that Christ’s atonement provides salvation for every everyone. In other words, there is no NEED for Hell or the eternal Lake of Fire. Perhaps they granted God the right to annihilate the very wicked, but the relatively wicked and the man who simply dies in unbelief, would eventually come under God’s grace and be delivered from his sins. Despite the published doctrines of our church, members are going to believe what they want to believe. Perhaps it is just a part of the human psychology. It doesn’t matter what...

Wisdom and the Fool – Proverbs 17:7-28

If I called you a “fool” would you be angry with me? Even if you were, I might be more angry with myself than you would be. I would have to have lost my temper to call you a “fool.” It is not something I would ever do lightly or when I was in control of my emotions. With that point in the background, remember that Proverbs is one of the 5 Biblical “books of wisdom.” The others are Job, Song of Solomon, Ecclesiastes and then some of the Psalms. There are no “books of foolishness” in the Bible, and yet the Bible is full of fools and foolishness. In contrast to wisdom is foolishness; in contradistinction to the sage, or wise man, is the fool. Proverbs gives us the word “fool” over 60 times, and it is found 7 times here in chapter 17. And curiously, there are 3 different Hebrew words translated “fool” in this chapter. “Excellent speech becometh not a fool: much less do lying lips a prince” – v. 7. “A reproof entereth more into a wise man than an hundred stripes into a fool” – v. 10. “Let a bear robbed of her whelps meet a man, rather than a fool in his folly” – v. 12. “Wherefore is there a price in the hand of a fool to get wisdom, seeing he hath no heart to it?” – v. 16. “He that begetteth a fool doeth it to his sorrow: and the father of a fool hath no joy” – v. 21. “Wisdom is before him that hath understanding; but the eyes of...

Appropriate Questions – Isaiah 45:1-13

Wednesday I said that when we are trying to evangelize, we should do our best to avoid superfluous questions. There IS an answer to the question, “Where did Cain get his wife?” but it doesn’t need to distract from our friend’s spiritual condition and his need of salvation. The man who asks, “Can God create a rock so big he can’t lift it,” or “How many angels can sit on the head of a pin,” is trying really hard to keep from hearing that he is a sinner who is in need of a Saviour. Table those questions about the rapture and Millennial Kingdom. Avoid all the questions you possibly can. But sometimes that man has legitimate doubts and problems which simply must be answered. The scripture we just read is extremely important, because in it God mentions a man – a foreign king – who had, at that time, not yet been born. It is another point of evidence, proving the divine nature of the Bible. Isaiah 45 was recorded about the year 712 BC, and its subject, Cyrus, is reintroduced to us in II Chronicles and Ezra 1 about 175 years LATER. This prophecy is not referring to any other man, but a future king of the Medes and Persians. But that is not really my subject for this morning. Cyrus was raised an idolater – most likely a polytheist – worshiping more than one imitation God. To that man God says, “I am the LORD – Jehovah – and there is no one else, there is no God beside me.” And Cyrus is told that Jehovah...

Distractions, Deviations and Divergencies – I Corinthians 15:51-58

We have just read the conclusion of Paul’s exposition of the doctrine of resurrection. This may have been the most controversial Christian doctrine of his day. The details of this doctrine are often debated in our day, but it was even more important in Paul’s. One of the major Jewish sects, the Sadducees, denied this doctrine entirely (Matthew 22:18). And even though the Pharisees believed in resurrection generally, they refused to accept the proof that Jesus of Nazareth was raised from the dead, proving Himself to be the eternal Son of God. As I’ve pointed out before, nearly every sermon in the Book of Acts expressly declares Jesus’ resurrection, because it was such a hot topic. One of Paul’s conclusions here is – “if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.” As I say, Jesus’ resurrection was under attack, and souls were in jeopardy as a result. So I Corinthians 15 – one of the longest chapters in any of Paul’s epistles – definitively teaches the importance of Christ’s resurrection – and our resurrection in Him. Then he concludes with a statement about the Christian life and doctrine in general – “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye STEDFAST, UNMOVEABLE, always ABOUNDING in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.” One of the problems with American society is a lack of consistency. The media tries to tell us that the police are not consistent in their application of force and the law. Parents are not consistent and uniform in the raising...