Monday, December 30, 2013

Sermon on Malachi 3:6-12

Here is my sermon from a couple of weeks ago.  I hope it is a blessing to you. :-D

Malachi 3:6-12
6 “For I the LORD do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed. 7 From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from my statutes and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you, says the LORD of hosts. But you say, ‘How shall we return?’ 8 Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions. 9 You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you. 10 Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need. 11 I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of your soil, and your vine in the field shall not fail to bear, says the LORD of hosts. 12 Then all nations will call you blessed, for you will be a land of delight, says the LORD of hosts
“For I the Lord do not change” is the basis of this entire passage and introduces some attributes of God.

“For I the Lord do not change”—God is a self-existent, eternal being in whom there is no shadow of change.

First, God is independent. Wayne Grudem offers a good definition.
God’s independence is defined as follows: God does not need us or the rest of creation for anything, yet we and the rest of creation can glorify him and bring him joy. This attribute of God is sometimes called his self-existence or his aseity (from the Latin words a se which mean “from himself “).

Lutheran theologian J.T. Mueller adds,
This means simply that God depends on no one for anything, that God is self-sufficient in His being and in His purposes. His divine aseity (aseitas), according to which God is absolutely of Himself and independent of anything outside Himself, Rom. 11: 36. ( 36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.)
W.G.T Shedd points out that, “(w)hen applied to God, aseity means that he has his existence in and through himself (a se), rather than being dependent in any way on another for his existence.”

Beyond His aseity, God exists eternally. He is eternal.
Grudem again offers our definition. “God’s eternity may be defined as follows: God has no beginning, end, or succession of moments in his own being, and he sees all time equally vividly, yet God sees events in time and acts in time.”

In Psalm 90:2 the Psalmist tells us that, “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.”

Edward Busch relays the teaching of Barth on this issue.
"Only God is eternal,"...The eternity of God means that he is "free to be constant," and the reason for this is that "time has no power over Him.... As the One who endures He has all power over time" (II/1 687 = 609). As the Eternal One, He "is not conditioned by time, but conditions it absolutely in His freedom" (11/1 698 = 619). He does not owe his existence to time, but all temporal being owes its existence to him.
Bruce Ware, in his great work on relaying deep theological truths to young minds, explains God’s aseity and eternity clearly.
God is eternal. This means that God’s life has no beginning, and it has no ending. Unlike everything else that has ever existed, God does not depend on anything else for his life, since he always lives and can never die. This is a very difficult idea for us to understand, since we do not know of anything like this—and that’s because there is nothing in all of creation that is like God. Your own life had a beginning, when you were first conceived, and then nine months later you were born into this world. And your mom and dad both began at some time, as has every dog, cat, lion, elephant, tree, and insect. Everything else has a beginning to its life. But this is not true of God. God has no beginning, since he always lives. And because life is part of what it means for God to be God, his life can never come to an end…When Moses speaks of God as living “from everlasting to everlasting,” he means that as far back as you can think (even before God created the universe and created time itself) to as far forward as you can think (imagine heaven that continues millions and billions of years from now), God has always lived and will always live. From the everlasting past to the everlasting future, God has always existed as God and always will. So, the true and living God has life in himself. No one has given him life, and no one can take away that life. Because God is God, he always lives.
Because God has life in himself, this also means that God has every-thing that he needs for his life in himself. After all, since God lives forever, it must be true that God has lived most of his life when there was nothing else. God lived before he created the world, and he was still fully God then. So, for God to have life in himself, it means that he also must have everything that he needs for his own life within himself. We can think of God, then, as being both self-existent (he has life in himself) and self-sufficient (he has everything he needs for his life in himself). This reminds us…that God has no need for the world, since everything God needs to be God is found in his own life. Because God is eternal, because he has life in himself, it also means that he has every good thing within his own life. Nothing can be added to the richness that God has because God has it all, without beginning and without ending.

An aspect of this eternal nature of God is that He is unchangeable. Grudem helps us again.

We can define the unchangeableness of God as follows: God is unchanging in his being, perfections, purposes, and promises, yet God does act and feel emotions, and he acts and feels differently in response to different situations. This attribute of God is also called God’s immutability.

John Macarthur, in his introduction to Lawson’s brilliant “Foundations of Grace”, shows many of the consequences of God’s immutability.

The Bible repeatedly and unapologetically underscores the fact that God does not change. In fact, He cannot change because He cannot improve on absolute perfection or decline in His eternally fixed nature. His person does not change: “‘For I the Lord do not change’” (Mal. 3:6). His plans do not change: “The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations” (Ps. 33:11). His purpose does not change: “So when God desired to show more convincingly . . . the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath” (Heb. 6:17). God does not change His mind: “‘The Glory of Israel will not lie or have regret, for he is not a man, that he should have regret’” (1 Sam. 15:29); or His words: “The Holy One of Israel . . . does not call back his words” (Isa. 31:1–2); or His calling: “The gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable” (Rom. 11:29; cf. Heb. 13:8; James 1:17). There are absolutely no changes in God, no variations, and no surprises (cf. Ps. 102:27). God does not increase or decrease. He does not improve or decline. He does not change due to some altered circumstances—there are no unforeseen emergencies to the One who is eternally all-knowing. His eternal purposes stand forever because He stands forever (Ps. 33:11). He does not react, He only acts—and He does so however He pleases (Ps. 115:3).

God is unchangeable in His:
a. Being—Who He is never changes
b. Perfections—His attributes never change
c. Purposes—What He seeks to accomplish never fails
d. Promises—What God promises always comes to pass.

3:6 I the LORD do not change implies that God’s character and eternal purposes do not change, which gives a solid foundation for his people’s faith and hope.

This truth, God’s immutability and the inability of any of His promises ever to fail, is the backdrop of this initial statement Malachi relays in chapter 3.

“For I the LORD do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed

2 questions arise from this statement:
1. What has Israel done that would invoke the consuming wrath of God
2. What, in accordance with God’s immutability, is keeping God from executing justice on the faithless Israelites?

Let’s answer the second question first, since it requires venturing beyond simply this text.
I believe we can see the answer to this in how the Lord addresses the people

“Children of Jacob”
What is God doing in referring to the Israelites as “Children of Jacob”?  The term “Children of Jacob occurs 4 other times in Scripture, and one is a quote, which itself is very interesting.

2 Kings 17:34-- 34 To this day they do according to the former manner. They do not fear the LORD, and they do not follow the statutes or the rules or the law or the commandment that the LORD commanded the children of Jacob, whom he named Israel.

God made a covenant with Jacob and changed his name to Israel. Not only that, his descendants are known by that changed name, looking back to the promises made to Jacob by God.

Psalm 77:15--15
You with your arm redeemed your people, the children of Jacob and Joseph.
The use of Joseph in this context has to alert the hearer to the protection and provision of God in the story of Joseph, a story that is ultimately about showing that God works all things for the good of His people and the glory of His name. This reference would allow the reader to remember God’s allegiance to His promises and how His promises have always come to pass, even when from an earthly perspective their fulfillment was impossible.

1 Chron 16:13(10-18)—
10 Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice!
11 Seek the LORD and his strength;
seek his presence continually!
12 Remember the wondrous works that he has done,
his miracles and the judgments he uttered,
13 O offspring of Israel his servant,
children of Jacob, his chosen ones!
14 He is the LORD our God;
his judgments are in all the earth.
15 Remember his covenant forever,
the word that he commanded, for a thousand generations,
16 the covenant that he made with Abraham,
his sworn promise to Isaac,
17 which he confirmed to Jacob as a statute,
to Israel as an everlasting covenant,
18 saying, “To you I will give the land of Canaan,
as your portion for an inheritance.”

In referencing to the nation as “Children of Jacob”, God is reminding the people of the fact that they are His people. In Psalm 105 the Psalmist quotes extensively from 1 Chronicles 16, including the passage just read. The way the Psalmist quotes 1 Chron 16:13 in Psalm 105:6 makes explicit what is implicit in the others, the Children of Jacob are heirs to the promises given to Abraham.
Quoted in Psalm 105:6(4-11)
4 Seek the LORD and his strength;
seek his presence continually!
5 Remember the wondrous works that he has done,
his miracles, and the judgments he uttered,
6 O offspring of Abraham, his servant,
children of Jacob, his chosen ones!
7 He is the LORD our God;
his judgments are in all the earth.
8 He remembers his covenant forever,
the word that he commanded, for a thousand generations,
9 the covenant that he made with Abraham,
his sworn promise to Isaac,
10 which he confirmed to Jacob as a statute,
to Israel as an everlasting covenant,
11 saying, “To you I will give the land of Canaan
as your portion for an inheritance.”

The interchangeable use by Biblical authors shows that when the term “Children of Jacob” is used in Malachi, God is reminding the readers of the promises He gave to Jacob’s grandfather, Abraham.
What did God promise Abraham? Basically God promised that He would make a nation from Him that is countless, eternal, and a blessing to the world because kings, and eventually The King, would come from his line.

Genesis 12:1-3—
Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed
4 “Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. 5 No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. 6 I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you. 7 And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. 8 And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God.”
15 And the angel of the LORD called to Abraham a second time from heaven 16 and said, “By myself I have sworn, declares the LORD, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, 18 and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.”
So we see, at the very core of the relationship, the unilateral, universal promise God has made to Abraham and his offspring.
In Malachi 3, God refers to them as “Children of Jacob” to remind them of the promise He made to Abraham and that they would be His people. God, speaking to His covenant children, basically lets them know that the only reason he is not smiting them with unflinching justice and righteous vengeance is because He has made a promise, a promise to them that will never, and can never, fail.

“For I the LORD do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.

“ Therefore implies that God’s purpose to bring blessing to the world through Abraham’s descendants and through a Davidic Messiah will not be defeated, and thus the children of Jacob are not consumed: their existence as the restored community is evidence of God’s faithfulness. ”
God is saying, regardless of how faithless they may be, He remains faithful to them but ultimately to Himself. God’s promises never fail, that was a comfort to the Israelites and it is a comfort to us today, even more so when we stand on this side of the cross of Christ, looking at the promise through the fulfillment.

“The changelessness of God’s character also forms the basis for the certainty of God’s continued faithfulness to his covenant people Israel. His commitment to love them uniquely is inviolable because it is an expression of his very nature, which cannot change.”—Bruce Ware, quoted from Lister’s God is Impassible.

So this is the reason that the holy, righteous God is restricting Himself from executing judgment on rebellious sinners, because He is good and unchangeable and faithful to keep His promises. But what about the other question we had from the text. What has Israel done that would invoke the wrath of God so?

The answer to this question can be found in the text itself. The Israelites were not consumed because God is faithful to His word, to His promises. The reason the Israelites warranted divine wrath is because they were faithful in being faithless.

"From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from my statutes and have not kept them."

The Israelites were people of promise, called to obey God.  Why?  First, God is inherently worthy of faithful obedience.  He is inherently because of his position.  God is worthy of obedience  for simply being who He is.  God just being God warrants eternal and unflinching allegiance and obedience.  He is God.  If anyone can genuinely pull a "Because I say so" card, it is Him.

Not only is He inherently worthy of obedience due to His position, His character makes Him worthy of eternal, faithful, love-filled obedience.  Who He is, all of His attributes, show Him to be more than worthy of all of our obedience.

Beyond His inherent worthiness of obedient faithfulness, God is historically worthy of their love-filled obedience.  His actions throughout the history of the people of Israel showed how utterly and completely faithful He remained to the relatively faithless Israelites.  God's actions in history, which are really just a demonstraton of His position and character, reiterated His promises and His love towards these chosen people.

The Israelites also owed God their obedience because they belong to Him.  As His creation, they belong to Him.  Beyond that, God chose them as His special possession to be His and to have Him as their very own.  The Israelites belong to God because He created them and because He chose them to be especially His own.  They desperately owed Him their unapologetic, unflinching, eternal and perfect allegiance.

But these Children of Jacob have consistently and persistently rebelled against God—highlighted in their faithless use of God’s provisions.  Although they owe Him utter and complete allegiance, they have not offered this to Him.  So God tells them to return.

Return to me, says the Lord.  How are they to return.  By ceasing their robbing of God.  How were they robbing God?  By not bringing the tithes to the storehouse.  God had mandated that 1/10 of their prospering be devoted to the Lord, given to the Levites to maintain their ministry.  And the Israelites were incredibly faithless in this area, and God called them to repentance.

How does this apply to Christians today?
A very persuasive argument can be made that we do not have the same tithing mandate as the Israelites did. Operating as a Theocracy, the administrative laws that rule the physical nation of Israel do not necessarily apply, definitely in the same ways, to the spiritual Israel, scattered amongst the nations, the Church of Jesus Christ.

But far from lessening the requirements for born-again believers, we have been set free from the Law of sin and death to live under the Law of liberty…God expects and requires more of those indwelt by the very Spirit of God, not less.

Jesus came and taught quite explicitly that the laws ruling physical, national Israel were not as extensive as need be and quite often missed God’s point almost entirely.

Murder… not murder, sure, but that is not enough.(Mt 5:21-26)
Adultery….do not commit adultery, sure, but that is not enough.(Mt 5:27-30)
Jesus preaching was wrought with the formula of “You have heard, but I tell you….”where He clarified and strengthen the commandments of God in the lives of those who followed Him.

The same is true for how we approach our giving, especially the issue of “tithing”.
A poor example of Christian generosity and Christian giving can be seen in the story of “Pastor” 10%.

This pastor took a large group from her church to dinner. She was upset that she had to pay a mandatory gratuity for a large group and after unsuccessfully trying to get out of paying it, she scratched it out, wrote, in essence, “I give God 10%, why should you get 18%,” and then signed it “Pastor” so-and-so.
This pastor had become convinced that God required her to give 10% and that was it, the other 90% was hers to do with as she pleased. And, if the God of the universe only required 10% from her, then why would a server require 18%?

She, for whatever reason, thought that God required her to give back 10% and the rest was hers.  Her misunderstanding of the Law of God led to a misunderstanding of the grace of God which led to a misunderstanding of how she should deal with those of a lesser financial status and she couched it all in Bible-speak and used God as her scapegoat for being cheap. She had paid her tithe, but she was still robbing God.

So while it seems to be a fair argument that believers are no longer bound by the tithing laws of the Old Testament community, we most certainly are called to generous giving. The people of Malachi’s day were robbing God because they were not giving what was required; we rob God in the same way.

We rob God when:
We don’t support ministry
1 Cor 9:14— 13 Do you not know that those who are employed in the temple service get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in the sacrificial offerings? 14 In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.

We don’t care for the poor and needy
1 Cor 16:1—Now concerning the collection for the saints: as I directed the churches of Galatia, so you also are to do.
2 Corinthians deals extensively with the collection for the impoverished and afflicted Christians in Jerusalem.
Gal 2:10— 9 and when James and Cephas and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given to me, they gave the right hand of fellowship to Barnabas and me, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. 10 Only, they asked us to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.
James 1:27—27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction [in their poverty and pain!], and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

We give under compulsion and not with a cheerful heart.
2 Cor 9:7-- 7 Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

We doubt God’s desire/ability to supply all our needs
2Cor 9:8— And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.
Phil 4:19— 19 And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
We don’t recognize that God is the source of all we have
2 Cor 9:10— 10 He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness.
We do not bear the image of God as generous beings.

So why was the tithe the sin singled out in Malachi? Why is God so concerned with our money?

Part of what we see in God’s attribute of aseity, His self-existence, is that God does not need anything, including your wealth. And, as we can see clearly in the life and ministry of Jesus, He could care less objectively about a piece of paper with Ben Franklin’s face on it or a coin with Caesar’s or a note with your signature The one through whom all things have their being remains relatively unimpressed by a bank balance with a lot of digits, but He does care about your heart.

He cares about your affections, your allegiance and our wallets are a great measuring stick of the state of our hearts. This is why this sin was singled out from amongst the other sins, in Malachi, because it is symptomatic of something greater. Our bank ledger is a play-by-play of our affections, a telling sign of what we care about, of what we love, of what we are invested in the most. Where our money resides is where our heart is because where we invest in what we treasure. The Israelites were guilty of half-hearted obedience and false worship and this was shown most clearly in their refusal to love the Lord with their wealth. They were settling for the evil and the lesser good. God desperately desires our heart…for our good and for His glory.
So he says, “Test me”. He told the Israelites to test him and obey how they were told to obey and see what he would do for their nation.

Malachi 3:10-12
10 Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need. 11 I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of your soil, and your vine in the field shall not fail to bear, says the LORD of hosts. 12 Then all nations will call you blessed, for you will be a land of delight, says the LORD of hosts
He tells the believer the same thing. Test Him. Focus you attention on the Lord. Give Him your affections. Swear to Him your allegiance and see what He will do.

He has promised to give you the greatest gift you could ever desire…Him. He has promised to meet the greatest need you could ever experience by restoring your communion and fellowship with the only one worthy of eternal allegiance. He doesn’t want you satisfied with the lesser goods of money, health, temporal success because He loves you too much and paid too great a price for you to allow you to fall to that level.
By His grace, for many of us, he will take that away and allow us to see Him as the only treasure to be sought and the only treasure worth desiring. And what is greatest, this eternally perfect being who needs nothing for His existence sincerely desires the love and faithful obedience of His creation.

Daniel Hyde puts it well when he says: “the God who is eternally self-sufficient and who needs nothing beyond Himself (His attribute of aseity) proclaims to us in His Word that He actually desires—indeed, He is eager—to hear us cry out to Him.”

So God told the children of Jacob to turn their hearts back to Him. To stop offering halfway obedience and to slay the idol of material possessions that entrap us all. He called them to repent, to turn their heart away from their weal and to turn towards Him.

But I must stress that this passage, like the whole of the Bible, is not ultimately about you or I, or the Israelites for that matter. The Bible is a revelation of God and about God given to us, and this passage is no different. We see something very interesting, and even a bit confusing about God in this passage of Malachi. Although the Israelites have been robbing God, due to His unchangeable nature and the promise He made, He has not consumed them. This leaves us with an issue.

They have been sinning. God is just and holy. Sin must be punished, although He is not bringing death upon them like their sin deserves. This presents a problem.

Many people claim that the reason they will not believe in the God of the Bible is because they are unable to consider a God who would damn anyone to hell. They cannot fathom a being that is love punishing a creature eternally for “mistakes” that are temporal. For someone as acclimated with the Hebrew Scriptures, and the God presented therein, such as Paul, the real shock is that God would pardon any who have so willfully and ceaselessly rebelled against His rightful authority and reign. The scandal of the Scriptures is not that God would not forgive all, but that He would forgive any. Even the fact that He would show Himself longsuffering and bear with the sins of man, AT ALL, is an offensive position when we think about the truth that God is perfectly holy and perfectly just. Longsuffering mercy and ultimate forgiveness for His people seems odd, scandalous, offensive. It is a shock that God would forgive any.

But He has. And He has been patient with all, bearing with the sins of many. Bearing with the sin of man, bearing with the sins of the Israelites robbing him of the obedience He is due. The just judge of the universe has delayed judgment, offering mercy in its stead. But a holy, just judge cannot let sin go unpunished, in doing so He would be unjust; He would go against His very nature.

Paul knew this and this is the point He is making to the Christians in Rome. Romans 3.
21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
Leon Morris shows us in this passage that,
“In the forbearance of God” in the Greek of this verse refers back to the previous expression. “Forbearance”, of course, means God’s withholding of punishment when he might have inflicted it. Paul sees this as a problem solved by the cross of Christ. Once again he says that God brought about salvation in Christ to demonstrate his justice. Clearly the point means a good deal to him. At the present time stands over against “the sins committed beforehand”. The sins were done at an earlier time, but the demonstration of God’s righteousness is present. The saving act, Paul says, is in order to bring about the demonstration. God’s righteousness (or justice) is manifested in order that he may be (and, of course, be seen to be) just and the one who justifies. We should take and in the sense “and also” rather than “and yet”, “although” (as Shedd, Hodge, Cranfield). There is no antithesis between God’s justice and his mercy. Paul is saying that it is not simply the fact that God forgives that shows him to be just. Indeed, that fact by itself raises a question about God’s justice. As Barclay puts it, “The natural thing to say, the inevitable thing to say, would be ‘God is just, and, therefore, condemns the sinner as a criminal.’ ” But if God had simply punished sinners, while that would have left no doubts about his justice, it would have raised questions about his mercy, and the God of the Bible is both just and merciful. What Paul is saying is that the cross shows us both. It is the fact that he forgives by way of the cross that is conclusive. Grace and justice come together in this resounding paradox (cf. Ps. 85:10; Isa. 45:21; Zech. 9:9). God saves in a manner that is right as well as powerful. The claims of justice as well as the claims of mercy are satisfied.
Collin Kruse adds,
By presenting his Son as an atoning sacrifice God demonstrated that he has not compromised his righteousness. Paul asserts: he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time. This is the second of two purpose clauses dependent upon the opening statement of 3:25: ‘God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement’). The first is ‘to demonstrate his righteousness’ in the light of having passed over sins committed beforehand, and the second here is ‘to demonstrate his righteousness’ at the present time when he justifies those who have faith in Jesus.
In the past God may have appeared to be unrighteous because he left sinners unpunished, but ‘at the present time’ he has put forward his Son as an atoning sacrifice ‘to demonstrate his justice’ (lit. ‘for a demonstration of his righteousness’). Sins have not been merely ‘passed over’. It is worth noting that the death of Christ is not only a demonstration of God’s love for sinners (5:8) but also a demonstration of God’s justice. Atonement has been made, hence God can be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. There is no abrogation of his justice when he makes salvation available to ‘those who have faith in Jesus’. When God justifies those who have faith in Jesus, it does not mean that he recognizes in them some ethical achievement or character that leads him to justify them. Rather, Paul says, employing the imagery of the lawcourt,56 he rules in favor of repentant sinners ‘who have faith in Jesus’57 only because he has presented his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

This is what Luther called “the center of the Bible”. God is just AND the justifier of the one who has faith. The cross is where grace and justice, holiness and mercy, meet. This is the hope the Jews look to, this is the hope we look back upon.

“For I the LORD do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed."

God does not change. His promises are true. That is why the children of Jacob were not consumed for their sin…God had promised to send a Savior and to make Abraham’s seed a blessing to all nations and His word will come true, regardless of the disposition of the children of Jacob in Malachi’s time.

God does not change. His character is pure. That is why the sin of the children of Jacob had to be borne; it had to be accounted for. And it was. The one who “knew no sin, became sin” so that those who have faith in Christ Jesus can withstand the presence of a holy, just God and be raised to life on that last day.

God does not change. Sin is condemned. For those who are united with their sin, the condemnation will be borne by them. For those who are united with their Savior, their sin has been borne by the sinless one, and there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Today is the day of salvation. Repent of your sin and believe in the one, the Lord Christ Jesus, who sits on a heavenly throne as Lord of all because of who He is, God’s eternal Son, and what He has done in His faithful, sacrificial, loving, and received obedience to His Glorious Father.