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Malachi 8

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Malachi 8.

[P] Now isn’t that a cute picture? – maybe it is just a father’s bias. But it is a photo with significance. There is Hannah, under the age of two, and what is she doing? Tucking into the sweet-corn. There is photographic evidence – and no, it is not photo-shopped – that Hannah liked sweet-corn. Today, if you dish-up mixed veges to Hannah, the peas and beans will be consumed, and with a twisting of the arm, the carrots – but the sweet-corn gets left behind. Hannah does not like sweet-corn – I think she may have inherited it from her uncle. The thing is: what she once liked, she doesn’t any more – we change! [P] You probably have also detected a change in her appearance. It is not remarkable, we all change: our appearance, our likes and dislikes, our opinions and sometimes even our world-view. The world is not the same as when I was a kid. Things change – that is the way things are; and we are quite used to it. But read what it says in [P] [Malachi 3:6 “For I, יהוה, do not change; therefore you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed.] What a staggering, stupendous statement! I challenge you to find anything or anyone else for who that is true. “For I יהוה, do not change!” Hallelujah! Now I do not want to drag this verse out of context, and I will return to look at it in the setting of the prophecy; but it is a statement that stands alone. It is an eternal truth: GOD DOES NOT CHANGE! [P] Theologians like to make things sound complicated and deep, so they talk about: “the immutability of the Deity”! But God uses simpler language, He simply says: “I do not change”. We change but God does not – this contrast is beautifully seen in [P] [Psalm 90:1-17 A Prayer of Moses, the man of God. Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were born or You gave birth to the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God. [P] You turn man back into dust and say, “Return, O children of men.” For a thousand years in Your sight are like yesterday when it passes by, or as a watch in the night. [P] You have swept them away like a flood, they fall asleep; in the morning they are like grass which sprouts anew. In the morning it flourishes and sprouts anew; toward evening it fades and withers away. [P] For we have been consumed by Your anger and by Your wrath we have been dismayed. You have placed our iniquities before You, our secret sins in the light of Your presence. For all our days have declined in Your fury; we have finished our years like a sigh. [P] As for the days of our life, they contain seventy years, or if due to strength, eighty years, yet their pride is but labour and sorrow; for soon it is gone and we fly away. Who understands the power of Your anger and Your fury, according to the fear that is due You? [P] So teach us to number our days, that we may present to You a heart of wisdom. Do return, O יהוה; how long will it be? And be sorry for Your servants. O satisfy us in the morning with Your loving-kindness, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days. [P] Make us glad according to the days You have afflicted us, and the years we have seen evil. Let Your work appear to Your servants and Your majesty to their children. Let the favour of the Lord our God be upon us; and confirm for us the work of our hands; yes, confirm the work of our hands.] There we are, we grow old, we change, like grass that sprouts and withers; but God is eternal, unchanging, always the same! Glory to His Name! From everlasting to everlasting He is God! It is because He doesn’t change that He is eternal – I mean if you come into existence or cease to exist, you have changed! Haven’t you?! So יהוה’s eternity and immutability are intrinsically linked. This is what Scripture says in another Psalm: [P] [Psalm 102:25-27 Of old You founded the earth, and the heavens are the work of Your hands. Even they will perish [P] but You endure; and all of them will wear out like a garment; like clothing You will change them and they will be changed. [P] But You are the same, and Your years will not come to an end.] This is what it says of Him in Job: [P] [Job 23:13 But He is unchangeable, and who can turn Him back? What He desires, that He does. (ESV)] It is just the same in the New Testament, James says: [P] [James 1:17 Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. ] יהוה Himself doesn’t change, so that means that His plans and purposes stand. His will has not altered. He does not change His mind: [1 Samuel 15:29 “Also the Glory of Israel will not lie or change His mind; for He is not a man that He should change His mind.”] His will stands firm. Hallelujah! His original intention was for man to be in fellowship with Him in perfect peace without sin, death and destruction. That will has not altered one iota. What He says, He means and He will do it – it will come to pass just as He originally intended. [Psalm 33:11 The counsel of יהוה stands forever, the plans of His heart from generation to generation.] It doesn’t change because יהוה doesn’t change. [Proverbs 19:21 Many plans are in a man’s heart, but the counsel of יהוה will stand. ] יהוה is unchanging, [P] His purposes and will do not change. You can rely on Him and what He says because He is not capricious – you know? – one moment one thing and another time completely different. Because יהוה does not change there is a constancy to Him. [P] But that not changing does not mean that He is utterly predictable, like a programmed machine or computer – always doing exactly the same predictable thing. There are times where the Bible speaks of יהוה repenting or changing His mind. In Noah’s day He repented of making man, and He regretted making Saul king. Scripture portrays God as immutable, yet as acting, feeling emotions, and responding differently to various situations. In all such actions, feelings, and responses, God is constant and consistent. On the surface it appears that some biblical passages represent God as changing. For example, He repents; changes His plan (remember He did not destroy Nineveh in Jonah’s day as He said He would); He becomes angry and then turns from His anger. It seems that He does in fact change. And clearly the answer is this: God’s character never changes, but His dealings with people change. What the Bible asserts everywhere, is that God, in His character, in His being, is always eternally the same, but, obviously, in His dealings with human beings, God varies His procedure according to whether they repent or not. In other words, when we use a term like ‘immutability’ we must be very careful that we do not deny the idea of the personality of God. As someone once put it, I think very well, ‘The immutability of God is not the immutability of a stone.’ A stone is immutable; it never changes at all. A stone is always a stone and never will be anything else. But that is not the immutability of God. His is not the immutability of lifelessness or a machine. His is the immutability of absolute perfection. Because God is personal in His dealings with men and women, He varies His actions. Sometimes it appears, to mere humans, that יהוה alters His intention but He never wavers or changes in His nature, purposes, or promises. His essential nature and character and being; who He is does not change; In fact, constancy is the chief characteristic of truth. Truth, by definition, does not change, if it did it wouldn’t be true. The truth is the truth because it never alters, it is consistently the same. It is constantly the same, a pillar that stands when all else alters. When Jesus said [John 14:6 “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.] – His claim to be the truth was a statement that He does not change. God is not capricious – unlike humans. Some people are more consistent than others; but I’ve known some people who it is like walking on egg shells – you never know how they are going to respond. But God is consistent, faithful – you can rely on Him being who He is and reacting in accordance with His character. He consistently hates sin; He consistently loves righteousness, He is consistently is good and full of loving-kindness. He is gracious. That is not going to change because He is not going to change. There is great comfort and assurance in that stability. The Psalmist often talks of Him being a Rock – dependable, unchanging, fixed, unmoving, unchanging, utterly secure. God’s immutability is a great source of comfort to us as believers. Whereas God is constant in His wrath against sin, He is equally constant in His forgiveness in response to faith and repentance. God’s immutability grants the assurance that [Phil 1:6 He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion]. In a world that is in constant change, the believer finds peace in a God who does not change, knowing that that truth and values are grounded in the nature and character of an unchanging God. That constancy is our security, the fact that what He has said is not going to change. It says in: [Hebrews 6:18 so that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us.] You can count on God and His promises. That stability, reliability is essential to His character – He is FAITHFUL! [P] Hallelujah! The Hebrew word “אֱמֶת” is interchangeably translated “faithful” or “truth”. We take refuge in it, in Him! You can depend upon Him – that what He says He will do! [Psalm 119:89-91 Forever, O יהוה, Your word is settled in heaven. Your faithfulness continues throughout all generations; You established the earth, and it stands. They stand this day according to Your ordinances, for all things are Your servants.] The stability and continued existence of everything depends upon that faithfulness. His will endures: [Ecclesiastes 3:14 I know that everything God does will remain forever; there is nothing to add to it and there is nothing to take from it, for God has so worked that men should fear Him.] His promises are sure. How often do we say things that we don’t mean or want to take back what we said, or we go back on our word? He does not say something and then go back on it. [Numbers 23:19 “God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent; has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?] What He says He will do and none can prevent it. God does not change and no one can change Him. Remember Balaam being called to curse Israel – he could not do it: [Numbers 23:20 “Behold, I have received a command to bless; when He has blessed, then I cannot revoke it.] Our security and hope is based upon יהוה’s faithfulness – the fact that He does not change. A perennial favourite hymn that we all know, reads: [P]

“Great is Thy faithfulness Oh God my Father;

There is no shadow of turning with Thee.
Thou changest not Thy compassions they fail not

As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.” [P]

We get fed up, pack it in; but He is eternal – unchanging: [Isaiah 40:28 Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, יהוה, the Creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired. His understanding is inscrutable.] יהוה doesn’t change because He is perfect! Praise His Name! [P] If something or someone is perfect and you add to it; then it is no longer perfect. If take away from it; then it is no longer perfect – if it changes, then it is no longer perfect. We may need to improve ourselves, to change – but יהוה does not. The fact that He is perfect means that He does not need to change and in fact cannot change without destroying that state of perfection. God is always everlastingly the same. It is never possible that God should differ in any respect from what He always is and always has been. One of His great names suggests that: the name of יהוה — it means: “I am that I am” or “I will be who I will be” —which means, I am always the same; I am the unchangeable One. Despite what your husband may claim, none of us is perfect. We ourselves are very changeable; we are one thing one day and something else another day, though we are still the same person. We are not immutable—we are mutable. But that is something that is inconceivable in God. God in His absolute perfection is always the same. Martin Lloyd Jones said of the immutability of God: “Now this is, I think you will agree with me, one of the most profound and glorious doctrines of all. I know nothing, in a sense, in my Christian life and experience which is so comforting as the doctrine of the eternity and immutability of God. Of course, to the sinner it is one of the most terrifying of all the doctrines. In other words, God is eternally righteous. God is eternally holy. Is there anything more wonderful, especially in the modern world as it is?

Change and decay in all around I see,

Oh Thou who changest not, abide with me.

Is it not a wonderful and a glorious thing to know that God never changes? We are so changeable; other people are so changeable; everything is changeable. But you can be absolutely certain that the everlasting God is always the same. High doctrine, yes, but a most practical and comforting doctrine.” What a comfort and security in the truth in: [Romans 11:29 the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.] God does not change; His choosing and calling of you will not change. His calling of Israel has not altered despite all their rejection of Him. He does not go back on His promises. Because God alone is perfect, this quality of immutability (not changing) is a characteristic of God alone so when Hebrews says: [P] [Hebrews 13:8 Jesus Christ is the same [P] yesterday and today and forever.] it is ascribing to Jesus a quality that is God’s alone! Jesus does not change, He is the same. Therefore Jesus is God! – He is immutable! Unchanging! Eternally! Many years ago at CSSM children’s beach mission we used to sing: [P]

Yesterday, today, forever,

Jesus is the same;

All may change but Jesus never;

Glory to His Name.

Glory to His Name;

Glory to His Name.

All may change

But Jesus never

Glory to His Name.”

There is great theology in children’s songs, or at least there used to be; even if the music was not so hot. Again this immutability is intrinsic to His eternal being; Jesus is: [Hebrews 12:2 the Author and Perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.] – the start, the end; the One who conceived the plan and then the One who carries it out to completion. A purpose that has not altered and will be brought about. Jesus Himself claims: [Revelation 1:8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”] and again in: [Revelation 22:13 “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”] He is eternally the same – from everlasting to everlasting He is God! Hallelujah! Glory to His Name! There is the great and wonderful truth that יהוה, our God does not change [P] – but that is only half of the verse – you notice, that there is a consequence [P] that follows on from this truth. [Malachi 3:6 “For I, יהוה, do not change; therefore you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed.] – the consequence of God not changing is that the sons of Jacob were not consumed [P]. The implication is: that if it weren’t for the unchanging nature of יהוה, His constancy, His faithfulness, His perfection – if it weren’t for that, they would be wiped out. The only reason that Israel, or any one of us, continues to exist is solely due to the immutability of יהוה! If you have a KJV or a NKJV then your Bible will read in [Lamentations 3:22 Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. NKJV] So let’s go back and set this verse in the context of the prophecy in Malachi 3. If you took notes, or have a very good memory, you will recall the situation [P] that we looked at last time; the situation that existed in Judah in the days of Malachi that יהוה was addressing. There was an utter absence of faithfulness –the people were “dealing treacherously” [P] – with their brothers, ripping each other off and breaking agreements; they were unfaithful to their wives, dealing treacherously by breaking the covenant that they had made with them; and they were unfaithful to יהוה, breaking their covenant with Him, abandoning Him for idols. When יהוה tried to address issues with them, they kept answering Him back [P], denying that what He said about them was the case – forever saying, when יהוה pointed out a failing: “like how?” They didn’t think that they had done anything wrong – they had their own definition of what was acceptable [P] – they redefined what was right and what was wrong. They ignored God and His attempts to turn them back to the right way – they just carried on with their own way, denying that judgement would come [P] – “Where is the God of justice?”, they said. We don’t see any judgement so we will carry on with our own way. Like ostriches with their head in the sand they shut their eyes to the consequence of what they were doing. So things were not in a good state! People were living for themselves and ignoring God and their responsibility to Him or anyone else but themselves. Sounds a bit like our society today, doesn’t it? In terms of their relationship with יהוה they were in a terrible state! They were ripe for judgement! No matter what יהוה said, it had no impact! יהוה was fed up! They had “wearied Him with their words” (2:17). He had every right to blow a fuse – just wipe them out and destroy them in judgement! That is what they deserved! If I had a car that was as unreliable as them and gone wrong like they had, I would have long since sent it to the wreckers! [P] They deserved to be CONSUMED! And let me quite frank: I am no different, and neither are you! It is of יהוה’s loving-kindness that we are not consumed. If it were not for the fact that יהוה does not change they would be wiped out, consumed! But, praise God!, יהוה does not change. The “gifts and the calling are irrevocable”! יהוה made a promise to Abraham and that will not change because יהוה does not change! Hallelujah! God chose me and called me, He redeemed me, gave me the life of Christ, adopted me, promised to return and take me to Himself, to present me before Him holy, spotless and without blemish. Bless His Name! And what have I done? Let Him down times without number! Praise God that He does not change! That He is not capricious, that He does not alter His promises, that He does not change His calling, take away His gifts, go back on His word! He has every right to BUT, Praise God! “I יהוה do not change, therefore you are not consumed Oh sons of Jacob[P] They were sons of Jacob, you know the twister, the deceiver, the one who tried to engineer everything to go the way he wanted. And I am more often a son of Jacob than I am a son of Israel. Despite being made a new creature, I go my own way. I am fickle, one moment hot for God, other times acting as if He were not even there or mindful of what I am doing. יהוה was going to purify the sons of Levi, refine them – why did He bother when they were so treacherous and traitorous? Because His purpose hadn’t changed, His calling hadn’t changed, He hadn’t changed! – that is the reason that they were not consumed. [P] [Malachi 3:7 “From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from My statutes and have not kept them. (that is what יהוה was faced with: inveterate rebellion, failure to keep His requirements, persistently going their own way) Return to Me, and I will return to you,” says יהוה of armies. (and there is the solution: “Return to Me!” [P] It is the Hebrew word “שׁוב” – it occurs three times in this verse and it means to turn around, it is the word for repentance. What is the solution when we have gone away from God? Repentance. [P] God does not change – it is we who need to change, need to turn around. How are we saved? – through repentance and faith. If we repent and turn back to God, He is faithful, He hasn’t changed; we can depend upon Him to turn back to us. [1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.] There was a saying: “Does God seem far away? Guess who moved!” The need is for us to return to Him, to draw near: [James 4:8-10 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. (we turn back to God and He turns back to us – but it is funny how we stop there, mid verse – it goes on to say:) Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom. (It is talking about repentance) Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.] Because יהוה does not change, His purpose stands, He will turn back to them. That is what יהוה calls for, for them to turn back, to return.) “But you say, ‘How shall we return?’] Still they answered back! They were not aware of anything wrong in themselves – they could not see how they had gone astray, they could not see what they needed to do to turn back to God. It is a dangerous place to be in when you are so convinced of your own right standing with God that you see no need for repentance, for change, for getting closer to God. That is the position that the Pharisees were in; in Jesus’ day here on earth. And there is a doctrine abroad about reaching a state of sinless perfection and there is also a teaching of grace, popular today; that paints a picture of our sinless state that requires no change, there is no concept that we need to return or repent. We are mutable, we need to be changed – but God can do nothing with us if we see no need to change. When we are in that state, we are no longer teachable, we can no longer be taught by the One who is immutable. Such arrogance! Such pride! Such strong religious standing! All would be consumed in יהוה’s refining fire but for the sake of His unchanging purpose, His immutability. He has called a people for Himself – that purpose has not changed. He will bring it about. Our security is in the immutability of the Deity. Because He does not change, we are not consumed. What He promised, He will accomplish. He called us, bless His Name: [P] [1 Thessalonians 5:24 Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass.] or as it puts it in the ESV: [1 Thessalonians 5:24 He who calls you is faithful; He will surely do it.] It is all His doing! All Praise and glory be to Him who does not change!

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