3:16 – The Rest of the Story – Our Response 18: Malachi

A Bible Study exploring all the 3:16s in the Bible as they illuminate

  • the Human Condition
  • God’s Revelation of His Plan
  • God’s Fulfillment of His Plan
  • Our Response (Current location of study)

Then those who feared the LORD spoke with one another. The LORD paid attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who feared the LORD and esteemed his name.” – Malachi 3:16

I’ve been adding to this blog for about five years now. While my original plans for starting it have changed somewhat, it still provides me with a venue to share my thoughts and updates on what’s going on in our life and a venue to continue writing Bible studies, which I really enjoy. It’s also become a place in which I can look back and review the events of the past five years and remember what has transpired. This week’s 3:16 verse references a similar “book of remembrance” that God promises for His peoples’ future.

As we draw near to the completion of this lengthy “3:16” topical Bible Study (going since September 23, 2020), we come to the final book of the Old Testament – Malachi. This book was written about a hundred years after the Israelites were released from their exile and captivity in Babylon. They were allowed to return to their homeland and rebuild the temple (the one Solomon built) that had been destroyed.  

Malachi was delivering a message to the people (who were no longer a recognized, sovereign nation) from God condemning their laxity in obedience and faithfulness, and warning them of God’s judgment. While this is a fairly typical message of the prophetic books, this one is unique in that it is the last word to God’s people before his initiation of the new covenant through His Messiah (Jesus) and the beginning of the last days before final judgment.

The short book is broken into six disputes that God had with the peoples’ practices. The first three disputes are in regard to Israel’s abandonment or ignorance of the requirements of the Mosaic Law. The second three disputes are in regard to the coming events and judgment associated with the promised Messiah. The following table from the online ESV Study Bible, outlines the main foci of the book.

11:2-5Malachi defends God’s love for Israel. The proper response to his love is covenantal obedience and sincere worship.
21:6-2:9Malachi exposes offenses related to worship and criticizes the priests for allowing them.
32:10-16Malachi condemns marriage to an unbeliever as unfaithfulness to Israel’s covenant with God. He also condemns unjust divorce as a violation of the marriage covenant between husband and wife, to which the Lord is witness.
42:17-3:5Malachi promises that God will demonstrate his justice. He will do so when “the messenger of the covenant” comes to judge the wicked and purify his people.
53:6-12Malachi returns to the subject of Israel’s wicked offerings. The difficulties the people are experiencing are punishment for their sin.
63:13-4:3Malachi assures the people that evildoers, who seem to escape divine justice, will be judged. The Lord will deliver his people.
Summary4:4-6Malachi summarizes the main points of his prophecy: keep God’s law (the focus of disputes 1–3), and remember the promise of a coming prophet like Elijah and the coming day of the Lord (the focus of disputes 4–6).

I want to focus just on the dispute and summary that includes this week’s 3:16 verse (Malachi 3:13 – 4:6).

Your words have been hard against me, says the LORD. But you say, ‘How have we spoken against you?’ You have said, ‘It is vain to serve God. What is the profit of our keeping his charge or of walking as in mourning before the LORD of hosts? And now we call the arrogant blessed. Evildoers not only prosper but they put God to the test and they escape.’”

These people sound just like the “scoffers” that Peter wrote about in 2 Peter 3 (and which I wrote about here.) They said, “‘Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.’ For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished.” Now Malachi was writing to Israel, and Peter was writing to the Church. However, both represent God’s people in their respective context. Christians should be careful about adopting specific words or promises to Israel and assuming that they equally apply to them. However, Malachi’s word to Israel continues with the following (including our 3:16 verse, bolded,) which points to a time still in the future and encompasses ALL of God’s people.

Then those who feared the LORD spoke with one another. The LORD paid attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who feared the LORD and esteemed his name. ‘They shall be mine, says the LORD of hosts, in the day when I make up my treasured possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him. Then once more you shall see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him.

Notice that these remembrances will be used to demonstrate the distinction between the righteous and the wicked.

I just finished reading Randy Alcorn’s 2004 book Heaven. In it he talks about what the Bible says about our lives in eternity. In the chapter called “What will we know and learn?”, Alcorn discusses the presence of books and literature, including the possibility that some of the works of literature from human history may be preserved and utilized there. His discussion of Malachi 3:16-18 is shown below:

“Malachi 3:16-18 is a remarkable passage that tells us God documents the faithful deeds of his children on Earth: … God is proud of his people for fearing him and honoring his name, and he promises that all will see the differences between those who serve him and those who don’t. Those distinctions are preserved in this scroll in Heaven. The king often had scribes record the deeds of his subjects so that he could remember and properly reward his subjects’ good deeds (Esther 6:1-11). While God needs no reminder, he makes a permanent record so that the entire universe will one day know his justification for rewarding the righteous and punishing the wicked. There’s no hint that God will destroy any or all of the books and scrolls presently in Heaven [note: Randy is talking here about when the new Heaven and Earth are brought into existence]. It’s likely that these records of the faithful works of God’s people on Earth will be periodically read throughout the ages. The books contain detailed historical records of all of our lives on this earth. Each of us is part of these records. Obscure events, words heard by only a handful of people will be known. Your acts of faithfulness and kindness that no one else knows are well-known by God. He is documenting them in his books. He will reward you for them in Heaven. How many times have we done small acts of kindness on Earth without realizing the effects? How many times have we shared Christ with people we thought didn’t take it to heart but who years later came to Jesus partly because of the seeds we planted? How many times have we spoken up for unborn children and seen no result, but as a result someone chose not to have an abortion and saved a child’s life? How many dishes have been washed and diapers changed and crying children sung to in the middle of the night, when we couldn’t see the impact of the love we showed? And how many times have we seen no response, but God was still pleased by our efforts? God is watching. He is keeping track. In Heaven he’ll reward us for our acts of faithfulness to him, right down to every cup of cold water we’ve given to the needy in his name (Mark 9:41). And he’s making a permanent record in Heaven’s books.”

Malachi finishes his book with chapter 4. He writes, regarding the end of the present earth:

For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble. The day that is coming shall set them ablaze, says the LORD of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall. And you shall tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet, on the day when I act, says the LORD of hosts.

We have the assurance from the Creator that the day of judgment is coming. We who are a part of His family (through faith in Jesus) will stand firm in that day on the assurance of God’s salvation. Malachi summarizes his book with the final 3 verses.

Remember the law of my servant Moses, the statutes and rules that I commanded him at Horeb for all Israel. Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.

John the Baptist is identified in the New Testament as the promised messenger (Elijah) sent to prepare the way for the Messiah (Jesus). God has ushered in the final days and we who trust in Him will live with Him for eternity! Keep adding to that book of remembrance!

We have two more studies left in this 3:16 series. The next one is from the book of Daniel.

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