Is There Any Point in Serving God?
This morning is the fourth and final message in our series, “God’s Message Through Malachi.” In the first message of the series, we saw how Malachi preached a message of pure obedience to God. You may remember how the people were bringing poor sacrifices to God, and how God responded that He would not accept these sacrifices, because He deserves the very best that we have to give. Then Malachi turned his attention to our marriages, and told us that if we truly love God, then we will place an extremely high priority on our marriages. We looked at seven key principles that every marriage needs to know to succeed. Then Malachi stepped on our toes a bit and told us that part of being obedient to God was giving back part of our resources to Him. Malachi gave us five key principles on why we should give back to God. All three of these lessons revolve around the notion that as believers, we must serve God with all of our hearts, even though serving God is sometimes inconvenient. But what about the times when serving God has seemingly no effect? What about when you give God your very best, but you still feel like nothing is going your way? What about when you honor God by developing healthy marriages, but your kids still rebel against you? What about when you make the commitment to tithe, but the very next day, your car breaks down and your washing machine bites the dust?
Sometimes it just seems like the good guys never win. It seems like the people who ignore the message of the Bible always end up with the nice houses and the perfect jobs. In the conclusion of the book of Malachi, Malachi addresses a group of people who are asking those same types of questions. Malachi now turns his attention to the people who are struggling to follow God’s commands, in the midst of a country of people who have simply stopped caring. Do you think we can relate to that here this morning? Please turn in your Bibles to Malachi 3:13, and we’ll be reading until the end of the chapter.
Your words have been stout against me, saith the LORD. Yet ye say, What have we spoken so much against thee? Ye have said, ‘It is vain to serve God: and what profit is it that we have kept his ordinance, and that we have walked mournfully before the LORD of hosts? And now we call the proud happy; yea, they that work wickedness are set up; yea, they that tempt God are even delivered.’ Then they that feared the LORD spake often one to another: and the LORD hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon His name. And they shall be mine, saith the LORD of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him. Then shall ye return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not.”
The title of my sermon this morning is, “Is There Any Point in Serving God?” In a little bit we are going to look at Malachi chapter four, but for right now I just wanted to read the last portion of chapter three. Let’s read verse thirteen one more time. “Your words have been stout against me, saith the LORD. Yet ye say, What have we spoken so much against thee?” God here is charging the children of Israel with speaking harshly to Him. If you’re reading from the King James Version, then your Bibles have the word “stout” here in verse thirteen. This word basically means “hard” or “harsh.” So essentially, God is saying that the children of Israel have been too hard on Him in their accusations. To this, the children of Israel reply that they have no idea what accusations they have made against God. In the next couple of verses, God proceeds to explain exactly what the children of Israel have been saying about Him.
Let’s read verse fourteen again. “Ye have said, ‘It is vain to serve God: and what profit is it that we have kept his ordinance, and that we have walked mournfully before the LORD of hosts?” In this verse, God is reciting some of the objections the children of Israel have had. They have been saying that it is vain to serve God. The word “vain” here references a Hebrew word that means “emptiness,” or “nothingness.” Another word for “vain” is “vapor.” The closest illustration I can come up with is going outside when it is really foggy, and trying to grab the fog right out of the air. I mean, you can see the fog really well, but you just can’t seem to grab it. The children of Israel are saying that the reward for serving God is the same as the reward for swiping your hand through the foggy air. Nothing. Your hands are empty, and you have gained absolutely nothing for your time and energy. The children of Israel are saying that that is what it is like serving God. They continue the verse by asking what is the profit of keeping God’s laws? They attempt to keep all of these laws that the neighboring kingdoms think are crazy, and now the children of Israel are starting to ask “why”? What is the point of circumcising our baby boys, and what is the point of giving God our lambs and our cattle?
I think if we are honest with ourselves, we can admit that very often, we ask the exact same types of questions in our lives. Why do we do things as Christians that we know are going to be mocked by non-Christians? Why do we bow our heads and pray before our meals, even if we are in a public place? Why do we subject ourselves to potential humiliation when we ask our relative if they know Jesus Christ as their Savior? Why do we preach that sex outside of marriage is wrong, and that getting drunk is a sin? These are the kinds of things that the majority of people outside these four walls simply do not understand about us Christians. So church, I ask you today, “Is there any point to serving God?” Let’s see what Malachi says.
Verse fifteen of our text reads, “And now we call the proud happy; yea, they that work wickedness are set up; yea, they that tempt God are even delivered.” In verse fourteen the people are complaining that they are not blessed for serving God, and now in verse fifteen, they claim that the people who ignore God are better off than they are. And to be honest, their claims here in this verse do have a ring of truth to them. Why are the people that are too proud to accept God’s help seemingly doing okay in this life? Why do the wicked prosper? This verse paints a picture of people who are deliberately defying the will of God. They are happily sinning in every way that they know how, and they have more money and more stuff than we do. Why do the wicked prosper?
This is a theme that runs throughout several of the Psalms. These Psalms are called imprecatory Psalms, and they focus on challenging God on why bad things happen to good people, and why good things happen to bad people. And at this point, I feel like I need to make a disclaimer. So many times even we in the Church complain that we are not getting the things that we deserve. But you know what, we should praise God that we are not getting the things we deserve! Because the book of Romans says that there is none righteous, no not one. So far, I’ve been talking about how we often don’t get what we deserve. But what is it that we deserve, according to the Bible? We deserve death in hell, because we have rebelled against God, and we have all sinned against His holy standards. That’s what we deserve. So we should be extremely thankful that we are not getting what we deserve. But the point remains that the people who are flying in the face of God so often seem to be better off than we are. So now that the children of Israel have brought their complaints to God, God answers them in verses sixteen through eighteen. Let’s read those verses again.
“Then they that feared the LORD spake often one to another: and the LORD hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon His name. And they shall be mine, saith the LORD of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him. Then shall ye return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not.” So the question posed this morning is “Is there any point in serving God?” The first half of the answer is found right here in these verses.
What does the Bible say in verse sixteen? “Then they that feared the LORD spake often one to another: and the LORD hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon His name.” In this verse, Malachi says that God has heard the cries of the people for justice. God has heard the cries of His followers who are beginning to wonder why the wicked are better off than they are. This is the same type of plea that the Israelites cried out when they were enslaved in Egypt for more than 400 years. They constantly were begging God to free them from their oppressors, and to bring justice upon the Egyptians. David made a similar cry when he asked God why it was that Saul was the king, and why God was allowing Saul to pursue him across the country. It is the same cry that Hannah brought before the LORD when she was unable to have a child, and all she wanted was to have a baby. And the key in all of these Old Testament stories is that God heard their cries. God heard the cries of the enslaved Israelites, and He brought them out of slavery and into the Promised Land. God heard David’s cry, and eventually, He made David king. God heard Hannah’s cry, and a short time later, she had a baby boy named Samuel, who grew up to be one of the greatest prophets in Israel’s history. And Malachi is telling us in verse sixteen that God has heard the cries of His people. The Bible says that God has made a Book of Remembrance. Frankly, we don’t know exactly what this book is like. But what we do know for sure is that our God knows everything, and He will never forget His followers, or the things that they do.
Verse seventeen continues this line of thought. “And they shall be mine, saith the LORD of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him.” This verse claims that one day, God is going to reward the Christian who is faithful to Him. This verse says that God is going to “make up His jewels.” This phrase in the Hebrew means that God is going to “take up His special treasure.” The special treasure mentioned in this verse is us! If you know Christ as your Savior, then you are a part of the special treasure mentioned here by Malachi. So the idea here in the last part of Malachi chapter three is that God is not blind, and He is not deaf. God knows that His people go through hard times in their lives, and He also knows that the people that hate Him are sometimes very successful. But the message here is that God has not forgotten. As a matter of fact, you are a part of God’s special treasure, and He is not standing idly by while you suffer.
If you are here today, and you are suffering from physical pain, God knows. If you are here today, and you don’t know where the money is going to come from for that next trip to the grocery store, God knows. God has not forgotten you. In fact, the LORD has told us that He has written our names down in a special book, and that we are a part of His special treasure. So the question that we are trying to answer this morning is whether or not it is worth it to serve God. These verses at the end of Malachi chapter three have shown us that it is worth it because God has not forgotten us, and He knows what we are going through. Now that Malachi has said all of that, he moves on to chapter four, which is like the grand finale of his whole prophecy. Chapter four is a short passage of only six verses, so let’s quickly read through chapter four.
“For, behold, a day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the LORD of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch. But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness appear with healing in His wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall. And ye shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I shall do this, saith the LORD of hosts. Remember ye the law of Moses my servant, which I commanded unto him in Horeb for all Israel, with the statutes and the judgments. Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.”
Wow! It’s hard for me to fathom the power behind the words given here. Look at verse one again. “For, behold, a day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the LORD of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch.” What God is saying through Malachi in this verse is that one day all of the wicked are going to be destroyed. I think that this verse purposely uses similar language to that of the refiner that we talked about last week. Last week we saw how the refiner put in the ore, and after the fire burned off all of the excess, what was left was the pure material. All of the excess ore that fell into the fire represented all of the people who refuse to turn from their sins. It’s a similar scenario here. God is saying that there is going to be a day in the future when everyone that is evil is going to get what’s coming to them. And what else happens on that day? Look at verse two. “But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness appear with healing in His wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall.” Verse one was a grim picture of what is going to happen to God’s enemies. Verse two shows what is going to happen to God’s followers. Malachi says that the “sun of righteousness is going to appear with healing in His wings.” Notice that sun here is spelled s-u-n. But don’t let that fool you, because this verse is definitely a prophecy about Christ. This verse compares the righteousness of the coming Messiah to the brightness of the sun. And what is this sun going to do? He is going to heal the hurt and oppressed.
I think it’s interesting to point out the different things that the sun (S-U-N) does. For one, the sun is hot enough to destroy anything that comes too close. But besides having the ability to destroy, the sun is also a life-bringer to everything here on planet Earth. I’ve heard that if the sun were to flicker out right now, it would only take eight minutes for everything on this planet to freeze to death. Eight minutes, can you believe that? But the point is that Jesus Christ is going to come back one day, and He is going to destroy everyone who has not trusted in Him, and He is going to heal everyone who has trusted in Him.
Malachi proceeds on from there to close out his prophecy by reminding the children of Israel in verse four to keep all of the laws of Moses. Then Malachi tells them that God is going to send Elijah the prophet, and he is going to turn the hearts of the children to their parents, and the hearts of the parents to their children. And then after that, the book ends. Finished. No more. I wonder what the people thought after Malachi had finished his prophecy. I imagine that the people who did love the LORD were so excited that soon God was going to make everything right. I wonder how soon they thought this coming Messiah would bring justice to the world? They didn’t know how long it would be, so they waited. First a week passed, and then a month, and then months turned into years, and years turned into generations, and generations turned into centuries. I imagine the children of Israel probably forgot once again that God was paying attention. Maybe they began to ask those same old questions about whether or not there was any point to serving God. God had clearly forgotten about them, right? But finally, more than 400 years after Malachi had finished his prophecy, there was a little baby born in the town of Bethlehem. That baby was named Jesus, and He would proceed to turn the world upside down. Like the prophecy in verse two, this God-man, with righteousness brighter than the sun, brought healing to the masses. But He also brought condemnation to the Pharisees who, like the people of Israel in Malachi’s day, were simply going through the motions in their service to God.
And then the nation of Israel took Jesus, and they killed their promised Messiah. He died, He was buried, and then on the third day, our Savior rose again from the grave. When He came out of that grave on Easter morning, He forever broke the power of sin and death. But then Jesus went back to Heaven, and His immediate followers went out and preached the gospel throughout the Roman world, and they wrote what we now know as the New Testament. And the Apostle John wrote the book of Revelation, and in it God promised that Jesus Christ was going to come again, and then would be the ultimate fulfillment of Malachi’s prophecy. Jesus is going to come and make everything right. The unrepentant are going to perish, and the saved are going to spend an eternity with the One who saved them.
But then Revelation ended, too. And now, more than 1900 years after the final word in Revelation was penned, we are still waiting for Jesus Christ to come again and make everything truly right. And now, once again, just like the Israelites in the days of Malachi, people are wondering if there is any point in serving the Lord. That’s the question that we’re trying to answer this morning. Is there any point in serving God? The end of Malachi chapter three sure says so. Those verses claim that God remembers everything that is happening to His people, and He’s even keeping a record. And then chapter four says that one day in the future, Jesus Christ is going to make everything right again. He is going to come and defeat the oppressor, and redeem the oppressed. And that fact should give us great cause for rejoicing! Our Savior is coming again, and He is going to reward those that are faithful to Him!
But there are two extremely important things that we need to remember about that day. The first thing we need to remember is that there is only one difference between the people of God and the enemies of God. The only difference is that we have accepted the forgiveness granted by Jesus Christ. He died on the cross so that we could have life. So we should never be arrogant because of the fact that one day our side is going to win. No, we should humbly remember that we, too, were once wicked; and it was only by the grace of God that we were saved. But the second thing that we need to remember is that God does not want to punish the wicked. Peter wrote that God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. The fact that there is a coming judgment day should not only make us thankful, but it should light a fire within us to tell everyone we know that Jesus Christ can forgive them of their sins. Is God going to one day punish the wicked? Yes. Is God going to one day reward the righteous? Absolutely. But let us not forget that we are only righteous because Christ has given us His righteousness, and let us not forget that the wicked are still wicked only because they have not accepted His gift.
So I ask you one more time, is it worth it to serve God? The only possible answer is a resounding Yes! Not only has God promised to remember all of the troubles we have here on Earth, but He has also promised to one day come and reward us for our faithfulness. But not only that, God has promised that He will punish the wicked if they do not repent. And you know what? God has charged us with telling them the saving knowledge of the gospel. So if we are faithful to serve God, He will use our faithfulness to show a lost and dying world what it means to be a follower of Christ. So I challenge you this morning to keep fighting the good fight. Never give in to the temptation to stop being so different. God sees you, and He is proud when you make the decision to serve Him, even if doing so makes you look ridiculous in the eyes of the world.
But if you are here this morning, and you have never accepted Christ as your Savior, I hope these two passages from Malachi were a powerful reminder to you that God will not wink at your rebellion. He demands an extremely steep price to avoid His punishment, and that price is absolute perfection. But the good news is, Jesus Christ paid your price for you, and He freely offers to forgive you of your sins, and make you right in God’s eyes. All you have to do is turn your life over to Him. Make Him the Lord of your life. If you would like to talk about what it means to become a Christian, I invite you to call me any time, or talk to anyone of our members here this morning.
Let us pray.
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