Lent 5 Midweek (Malachi 3:6–12)

Return to the Lord,Who Does Not Change
Malachi 3:6–12
Sermon Outline

  1. Children are dependent.
  2. Children are ungrateful.
  3. Children are blessed.

You Are Blessed to Be a Child of One Who Does Not Change.
Did you hear how the Lord referred to you? It was right there in Mal 3:6. “For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.” He called all of us children. That’s rather humbling. We are accustomed to putting someone in his place by referring to him as a child. “It’s time to grow up and be a man!” “Stop being such a baby.” Or when was the last time you heard, “You’re such a child.” We even have a sordid history of racism that was punctuated by calling African Americans “boy” as a term of derision.
Being called a child was even more humiliating in the biblical world. A child was completely dependent. They couldn’t tend to themselves, much less make a meaningful contribution for the well-being of others. This is why the disciples are indignant when little children are being brought to Jesus. In their minds, Jesus shouldn’t be wasting his time on lowly children. Jesus says otherwise. He puts his hands on the children and blesses them. Jesus takes the world’s upside-down way of viewing children and turns it right-side up. Jesus goes even further and says that we are to receive his kingdom as a child.
Jesus is teaching the same truth found throughout Scripture. We ever remain children. Throughout the Old Testament, God’s people are regularly called the children of Israel or the children of Jacob. In the New Testament, we are named as the children of God. We ever remain children because we ever remain dependent upon God. There is much that children—and that includes us—need. We need provision of food and clothing, house and home, all that we need to support this body and life. Remember the explanation of the First Article of the Creed in the Small Catechism. There you see the fatherly care of God as he gives you all his created gifts. Jesus teaches you to pray to God as “our Father” so that with all boldness and confidence you might call upon him as dear children call upon their own dear fathers. You ask much of him, including that he would supply your daily bread.
The Father delights for you to be his child so that he might provide for all your needs. Among the needs that every child has are safety and stability, which are provided through rules. Children may complain about rules, but in the end every child desires rules. It provides safety as they know that there are boundaries. They can go this far and all will be fine and safe. The need for law to regulate our behavior is inherent in us being children.
Yet children have a way of running from the very rules they crave. It happens in the home, at school, in society, and it happens among us, the children of God. Go back to v 7 of our text: “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?’” You are just like your fathers who rebelled against God. His statutes are not a burden but a blessing. The Lord sets forth right and wrong for your benefit. His rules are not capricious. They are all grounded upon what is good for you. His rules resonate with his created order, an order that is all about life for you. But you respond as a child. “Rules are made to be broken.” “All those rules are such a killjoy.” So you ignore the Lord’s statutes and do your own thing.
Malachi delivers a specific word about how you rebel against God. Malachi proclaims the Word of the Lord: “Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions” (v 8). It seems ridiculous. Man robbing God? You must outwit or overpower someone in order to rob them. You cannot overpower God, and you certainly will not outwit him. So how in the world could you ever rob him?
The Lord puts an exclamation mark on the impossibility of robbing God. He says, “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” (v 11). That means the Lord controls both the field that produces all your goods and the devourer who would destroy them. The only reason you have what is yours and the only reason it is not ravaged by disaster is because the Lord himself provides it and then shelters it. Yet we ignore that. In pride, we celebrate what we’ve earned, unwilling to acknowledge reality—namely, that the Lord provides and protects all we have.
That is precisely how we rob God. When our lives and words do not acknowledge his provision and protection, we rob him of the glory due his name. We pretend as if he had nothing to do with the goodness that overflows in our lives. But when grateful hearts acknowledge that all we have is a gift from God, then we respond accordingly. An appropriate response to God’s goodness is our financial contributions. Withholding your finances from the Lord communicates ingratitude. So the Lord brings us back to Mal 3:8. “Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions.”
What prompts us to withhold our tithes? What convinces us that we should minimize our financial contributions? Lack of gratitude. We withhold tithes because we are convinced that we cannot afford to give. We look at what we have and we see a little that must be hoarded rather than seeing the truth. We have an abundance supplied by our Father for which we cannot help but give thanks, knowing that we have more than enough so that we can give. We minimize our contributions when we tell ourselves that the church has gotten more than its fair share from us already. It’s not what the church has or has not received; it’s what you have received from the Lord that drives the contribution. In gratitude for the wealth given you by God, contributions flow.
Ponder anew what the Almighty has provided you. His provision is more than sufficient for this life. Jesus teaches you in the Sermon on the Mount that the Father causes the rain to fall upon both the righteous and the sinner. That is the provision that comes from the hand of a gracious God. Whether you are righteous and give thanks or you are sinful and ignore the giver of all good gifts, he still gives because that is the kind of God he is. He is your Father. So he not only provides you with all that you need and more, but he also protects what you have.
His provision is more than enough for the life to come as well. Both the righteous and the sinful enjoy the Lord’s good gifts in this life. But that is not enough for our Father. He would have you enjoy his goodness into eternity. So the Father sent his only-begotten Son into the flesh. The Son enjoyed his Father’s goodness in this life and then it was ripped from him. He was stripped of family and friends, house and home, food and drink; he was even stripped of his clothes. And then life itself was taken from him. All so that you might enjoy the goodness of God into eternity. That you might live in confidence that Christ has won the goodness of his Father in its fullness for eternity. He rose from the dead. In his resurrection, you see the goodness of the Father that awaits you. You have reason for gratitude. Being a child of the Father is a good thing.
Everybody else sees how great you have it as a child. “Then all nations will call you blessed, for you will be a land of delight, says the Lord of hosts” (v 12). When a child lives in the bounty of his or her Father’s home, the child can become blind to just how good they have it because they take it for granted. When overflowing blessing is the norm, we can lose sight of just how good we have it. Take a look at just how good you have it. Others can see it. They see the Lord’s provision, and they see that it doesn’t change. This is the immutability of God; he is who he is, and he does not change. Back to Mal 3:6, “For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.”
You are the child of the Father whose goodness does not fade. His goodness is yours now. You will overflow with his goodness in eternity because of his Son, Jesus Christ. That will never change.
You Are Blessed to Be a Child
of One Who Does Not Change.

Lent 5 Midweek (Matthew 18:23-35)

Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Lebanon, OR
Lent 5 Midweek – April 5, 2017
Text: Matthew 18:23-35
The Fifth Petition
“Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
Of all the professions there are, debt collectors have to be among the most ruthless in carrying out their job.  It’s not just in recent years, but collecting on outstanding debts goes back to the first time someone didn’t pay what they rightly owed.
This is the language in the 5th Petition.  What we know as “trespass” is actually a clarification offered by the King James Version (and Luther’s German Bible, Schuld).  To trespass against God’s command is to sin.  Yet, the original word is opheleima, Greek for something which is owed—a debt.
Debt collectors threaten, sue, and show up with tow trucks all to collect on what is owed.  They’re good at what they do, too.  Their work is so feared that even the mention of “being sent to collections” strikes fear in our hearts.
What the 5th petition tells us, however, is that God is a debt collector.  Our sin against Him is a serious, insurmountable debt.  “24 When [the master] began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25 And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made.”  Send out the repo man, call in every credit service from coast to coast, and throw him in debtor’s prison.
But there’s a turn of events. They don’t show up at your door to make collection.  They show up at the cross of God’s own Son.  There, He makes full payment for your debts—the good you’ve failed to do and the evil you’ve gone right ahead and kept on doing.[1]  His holy blood is able to pay the price to settle accounts with God, and you come out debt-free.
But the grace of God is not like going to those companies that promise to wipe away your debt just to avoid the consequences, so you can go back to foolish ways.  That would be to abuse the Master’s kindness.  No, those who are truly repentant and grateful for the blood of Christ have a change of heart.
The children of God look at the load of debt—ten thousand talents, if you like round numbers—and they see the sacrificial loving kindness of God.  God, who had every right to demand great and frequent payment for our offenses, blotted them out of His ledger with the blood of Christ.  Then, they see the debts others owe them—financial, emotional, or spiritual.  If we’re thinking numbers, nothing can compare to the value of Christ’s redeeming work, but it far outshines whatever could be done to us.  If God in His infinite justice and righteousness, could forgive us our debts, how much less cost is involved to forgive our debtors?
God will not have His loving kindness treated lightly.  His Son bore the cost of the sins of the world so they could be taken away from us—“Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”[2]  If we, however, in our finite wisdom hold onto those sins and judge someone more harshly than God has judged us, we infuriate our Master.
32 Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ 34 And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. 35 So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”
And of our many sins, carrying grudges and uncovering old debts is one of the most persistent.  We all have our own private collection agency.  So, in this petition, we not only pray that God would forgive this wickedness, but that He would give us clean and renewed hearts to pay our debtor’s accounts with the holy blood of Christ.  If we can do this, we will know what the love of God is which He showed us.  We will be able to genuinely live as citizens of the kingdom of heaven and never be cast out.
God help us!  In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.
[1] Romans 7:19
[2] John 1:29, emphasis added