David Pawson - Malachi Part 1
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Thoughtful Thoughts 8.12.23 by John Dunning. Malachi Part 1.
Malachi is only the last book in OUR version of the Old Testament! It is NOT the last book in the Jewish Scriptures. The church changed the order of the books in the Bible and after mixing up the order of the Bible books, it added books collectively called the Apocrypha, which is a mixture of history books and books that helped its own theology, that were not in the real Bible. (That did that as it helped to justify man-made church theologies, like “Purgatory”, for example.)
What we call the Old Testament was accepted by Jesus as "The Law, the Prophets, and the Writings", which was nothing like the church's own re-mix version of the Bible. The church had no right to tamper with the Word of God for a thousand years, but they did.
Today, most orthodox Jews accept certain Rabbis books as the authority on how the Bible must be followed, and Isaiah 53 is deliberately ignored. This too is a kind of tampering with the Word of God, so it is nothing new.
Religious leaders in Malachi’s day had been doing something similar with the Law. It had been ignored, and so God sent Malachi…
The word ‘Malachi’ simply means “messenger”, and the author is saying he brings a message from the LORD. To start with, the context is really important, so I need to start with that.
If you were to read “The British government has declared war on Germany”, common sense would tell you that it is a historical document from 1939. It only has value now as a historical record. Well, it is similar when reading Malachi, who makes it very clear that the message he brings is from the LORD for the people of his time as they were breaking “the covenant of Levi”; (Mal.2:8). Malachi’s audience lived under the Old Covenant which is crucial to remember because some religious leaders today are still quoting from this book to extract money out of churchgoers. (When it was only relevant to the people under the Old Covenant, (which Paul said was cancelled).
1). “T’s and C’s apply”.
We often come across the term; “T’s & C’s apply”, which is the abbreviation for “Terms & Conditions apply”. Well, the Old Covenant had Terms and Conditions. Malachi warns his hearers that they were breaking the Terms and Conditions of the Covenant that they had made with God, and that He was on the brink of walking away from them. (Ezekiel had even witnessed God’s Holy Spirit leave the Temple). After Malachi preached, God stopped talking to them for 400 years - until John the Baptist came as the second Elijah.
Then Jesus came and "completed" the Old Covenant, on the cross, saying "It is finished", introducing the New Covenant.
Malachi's hearers were required to obey the Law of Moses, because only if they did that, would God keep His part of what was called the Covenant of Levi; (2:4). These were the requirements that the people had to observe, which was their part of the Covenant. (Malachi 4:4). That is what Malachi was trying to make clear.
Malachi’s audience already knew that they had to observe the law, so he doesn’t go into great detail about it, but simply warned them that as they were under the law of the “Covenant of Levi”, they were required to observe it.
Although we know the Old Covenant was finished with very few argue about circumcision being necessary, anymore. We know that was finished with once the Old Covenant was replaced, as Paul explained said so. And yet although most Christians are aware of this, some preachers use and abuse Malachi’s message by cherry-picking the bits of the Law which required tithing, which Paul said was no longer “under compulsion” (2 Cor. 9:7).
(But Paul did go on to teach ‘giving’.) We are now under the NEW Covenant, which replaced the Covenant of Levi - as it served its purpose and was finished with.
The law which Malachi had to remind them of can be found in Deuteronomy 26:12. “When you have finished setting aside a TENTH of all your produce in the THIRD year – the year of the tithe – you shall give it to the Levite, the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow, so that they may eat in your towns and be satisfied”. (That was also why Naomi told Ruth to pick up the leftovers from the fields being harvested, as that was also part of the social conscience laws.)
In other words, God required that "giving" must be part of the social conscience from those with an income, in order to help the poor. That law put them thousands of years ahead of the rest of the world. Notice that Moses explained in Deuteronomy 26:12, that:-
(a). Tithing was to be every three years at harvest time; and
(b), that the proceeds were to be for ‘the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow – so that they too may eat in your towns and be satisfied’.
It was THIS tax that was called ‘tithing’, meaning 10% of their profit. This was the national tax, imposed on every income earner to provide social welfare.
Malachi reminded people to pay the taxes that God set aside for the needy. (The poor depended on it, just to live.) God did not want anyone in His kingdom to scratch around like a chicken as it was a place which God had put His name to. It was a place where the widows, orphans and foreigners were at least fed and watered, (whilst also feeding the Priests who were not allowed to own land.) THIS was the law of ‘tithing’. That is the law which we are no longer under, as we are under the New Covenant.
But it has been plucked out of its context today by some religious leaders for financial gain, even though Paul tells us we are no longer under that tithing law. (He does have something to say about believers giving from the heart to the needy, to show our gratitude for what God has done….
The New Covenant…
Under the New Covenant Paul teaches in 2 Corinthians 9:7; “Each of you should give what you have decided IN YOUR HEART to give, not reluctantly nor under compulsion for God loves a cheerful giver”.
This tells us 3 things about giving in the era of the New Covenant.
- Giving is to be a decision made from the HEART, before God.
- God only wants what is given cheerfully, out of gratitude to God for what He has done for us.
- Giving is NO LONGER a requirement ("under compulsion") as it once was. (Under the “Law of Moses” tithing was as compulsory, just as taxes are today. It was the social welfare department of Israel, administered by the priests. There was even a special store room adjacent to the Temple to store all the Tithes.)
As we are under the New Covenant, we are no longer under the Old. If you have ever had the misfortune to hear a religious leader quoting Malachi 3:10 as the excuse for shaking you upside down to see what falls out of your pockets, ask them if they have enough integrity to use that social tax for the purpose for which God dictated for it in Deut. 26:12, by giving it all to the orphans, the widows and the foreigners. Under that law, the religious leader may only keep enough to buy food as it is instead of owning property, so if they want to try to use to impose on others, the least they can do is to keep the other half, and give it all away to the poor and needy.
Now, in spite of the end of the old "Covenant of Levi", Paul does teach us that giving under the New Covenant needs to reflect our gratitude to God for what He has done, (because he promptly goes on to ask for what we might call “a whip round” today, for the famine relief of the Christians in Jerusalem, who were being persecuted and were literally starving.) So Paul does still teach giving, but it’s just that it is no longer part of the New Covenant, just like circumcision is no longer part of it.
As we are under the New Covenant, we are no longer under the Old. If you have ever had the misfortune to hear a religious leader quoting Malachi 3:10 as the excuse for shaking you upside down to see what falls out of your pockets, ask them if they have enough integrity to use that social welfare tax for the purpose for which God dictated for it to be used for in Deut. 26:12 - for the poor in the church, the orphans, the widows and foreigners!!!
Under that old law, the religious leader may only keep enough to buy food as he was not permitted to own property.
So if religious leaders want to try to impose that law on others today, the least they can do is to observe the reasons God wanted the tax to be used for - to give it all away to the poor and needy.
As Paul does teach us that giving under the New Covenant needs to reflect our gratitude to God for what He has done, there is the teaching of obedience in this book, for us to observe. (Paul goes on to ask for what we might call “a whip round” today, for the famine relief of the Christians in Jerusalem, who were being persecuted and were literally starving.) So Paul does still teach giving, but it’s just that it is no longer part of the New Covenant, just like circumcision is no longer part of it. It is all about the heart now…
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This is John Dunning signing off from “Thoughtful Thoughts” for another week.
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