Jesus, our Lord and our God came to the earth and lived in a way which helps us understand who God is and how He wants us to live in fellowship and worship of Him. Jesus Christ our Savior was an example of living worship. But He didn’t only come to teach us how to be right with God, He came to make us right with God. He paid for our sins with His life. Those who do not accept that gift now, will pay the price for their sin soon, with their own lives. Verses 1-2 read,
“Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. 2 But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner's fire and like fullers' soap.”
Jesus doesn’t just forgive sins and hope we figure it all out. We have God’s Spirit within us and He works in us and transforms us. He is a fire which removes the dross, the stuff that is not like Jesus and replaces it with the treasure and perfection of Jesus. Very often it is the fiery trials and tribulations of our lives which He uses to transform us. Verses 3-4 read,
“He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the Lord.4 Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years.”
It is through our relationship with God that we learn to walk like Jesus and are transformed to be like Him. It is the Holy Spirit doing all that in us which enables us to worship God in spirit and in truth, the way He wants. Worship cannot be just any old way we want. God is worshipped through a relationship, through obedience of His commands. Those are to love Him with our entire beings, to love people the way we love ourselves, to love one another as He loves us, and to make disciples. (Matthew 22:37-40, John 15:12, Matthew 28:16-20). To worship God in some other way is not truly worshipping God. It is idolatry. John 4:22-24 puts it like this,
“You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”
What is it to worship God in truth? What does it look like? How do those commandments look played out in our lives? They look like love and justice. They look like concern for people and wanting salvation for all men. They look like Jesus We are given some examples of what it doesn’t look like in verse 5.
“Then I will draw near to you for judgment. I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired worker in his wages, the widow and the fatherless, against those who thrust aside the sojourner, and do not fear me, says the Lord of hosts.”
God’s judgement will wipe away those people who live as verse 5 describes. We are called to live in opposition to those sins and to tell the people the truth before it is too late. Real love doesn’t live and let live. Real love says, “Turn to the Lord, He loves you, He died for you, He rose from the dead for you.” Real love cares about the oppressed, the widows and the orphans. Real love takes action and does not sit idly by while evil prevails.
We were created to do good things for people. (Ephesians 2:10). We were created to lead people to Christ, give to those in need, and help those who need help. When we do not do the good works we were created for we are not worshipping God in spirit and in truth. We are giving Him a partial offering, an offering of less than the best, and offering that God does not want. That is the offering He refers to as dung. (Malachi 2:3). We are robbing God of the worship which is His. Verses 6-12 are about more than money, although it includes money. It is about our lives as living sacrifices, our offerings of praise, and our offerings of obedience. Read these verses in light of loving God with our whole heart, soul, mind and strength.
“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.”
Giving God our all may seem frightening if we do not have the faith to trust Him. But God says that if we give it all to Him, He’ll pour it all back out on us. We bless God and He gives us bliss. We spend time with Him and learn about Him and He makes our faces shine with His glory. (Ecclesiastes 8:1). We give our money generously, we do good works and we’ll always have enough. 2 Corinthians 9:9-15 says,
“As it is written,
“He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor;
his righteousness endures forever.”
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.11 You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. 12 For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God. 13 By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission that comes from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others,14 while they long for you and pray for you, because of the surpassing grace of God upon you. 15 Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!”
A relationship with God is the most precious thing I can imagine. We serve God out of thanksgiving and overflowing faith and joy. But He gives us so much more. The more we are thankful, the more reason He gives us to be thankful. It is not futile to serve Him. There is a great purpose that the world can’t see. I doubt the person who thinks following Jesus is about getting blessed or who thinks serving God is a way to earn salvation sees it as valuable. Most people think we are pretty foolish for our faith. They prefer to think about this temporary life than their eternal lives. Verses 13-15 read,
“Your words have been hard against me, says the Lord. But you say, ‘How have we spoken against you?’ 14 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? 15 And now we call the arrogant blessed. Evildoers not only prosper but they put God to the test and they escape.’”
But we know there is value in serving God. Salvation means eternal life. One day we will be perfected and we will live with Jesus in paradise forever. That is not futile. But eternal life begins now and the treasure of salvation are countless. Transformation begins now. God is with us. He is in us and when we talk together, teach each other, and pray with each other, God is with us and in our midst. Serving God now, living our eternal life with Jesus now means we will be saved from the horror and terror of God’s wrath on the Day of the LORD. God keeps us safe and guarded, sealed with His Holy Spirit. Verses 16-18 read,
“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. 17 “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. 18 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.”