Listen - I Am Speaking But Not for Long

Bible Book: Malachi  1 : 1
Subject: God's Word; Judgment; Listen to God
Series: Listen Up - God is Speaking - 8 Sermons
Introduction

When we were young, probably all of us had a parent say, “You listen to me when I am talking to you!” That, in essence, is what God is saying as the Book of Malachi begins.

Someone once said, "History repeats itself because no one listens the first time." God's people are often like that. They repeat the same mistakes generation after generation because they do not listen to what God said, nor do they watch what He did!

Dick Cavett, a television personality of a former time, once said, "It’s a rare person who wants to hear what he doesn’t want to hear." If we don't listen to what God says, we will have endure the results He has pronounced!

The Book of Malachi was penned about 400 years before Christ. It is the last book in the Old Testament and reveals a time not unlike our own. In what way can we say that Malachi's day as like the times in which we live today? In Malachi's day, like our modern times, there was a lot of talk about religion, but few people, including the priests, took God seriously. The government was corrupt. The people were cynical and irreverent. The people questioned everything God said to them, rather than acting in obedience and faith. The home was collapsing. The people were in love with money and materialism. There was a lot of pride and very little repentance for sin. The similarities of Malachi's times to our own are actually uncanny.

So what did the Lord do? He sent them a message through a prophet named Malachi. Malachi lived about 425 years before Christ was born. He was used of God to deliver the message contained in the Book of Malachi. Sadly, the people did not listen to Malachi. In fact, the people were so rebellious that following Malachi's ministry there was no prophet in Israel for 400 years - all the way up to the time that Jesus was born! That is the time span between the Book of Malachi and the Book of Matthew. Why was it necessary for God to discontinue His Word to His people?

1. Because they argued with Him.
2. Because they rebelled against Him.

We need to listen to God's message, lest the heavens grow silent and God withdraws His communication from us. The writer of the Proverbs knew how tragic it could be for God to cease speaking. He penned, "Where there is no vision (communication from God) the people perish (dry up and die) (Proverbs 29:18).

The message of Malachi was very simple, God had been speaking to His people through long centuries, but He was about to shut down the lines of communication for a lengthy period due to the rebellious ways of His people. To a child of God, nothing is as unthinkable as having no Word from God.

See Amos 8:11, “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord.” You see, if God ceases to speak to us, we will shrivel up and die. But the people in Malachi's day simply would not listen to God.

We can outline the entire Book of Malachi with just three phrases:

1. God's Love Was Doubted 1:1-5
2. God's Word Was Disobeyed 1:6-3:18
3. God's Warning Was Delivered 4:1-6

There are three things we can learn about God's communication with His people from this introduction to the Book of Malachi. So, consider with me today, God's Message to those who will listen. First, we see...

I. The Burden in this Message

A. The Burden of the Deity

The burden of the message begins in the heart of God. We see this in the Garden of Eden as God walked with Adam in the cool of the day so they might converse together. The songwriter penned,

"My God and I walk hand in hand together,

We walk and talk as good friends should and do."

Indeed, God desires to communicate with us. This is nothing less than amazing - that the God of the Universe wants to talk to you and to me. Yet, that is what we see throughout the Bible. God spoke to Abraham, Moses, David, and so many others. It can be said, in fact, that God has spoken to all humanity. In the Book of Hebrews we read, “God ... has spoken to us in these last days by His Son.” When Jesus came into the world, it was God's Word with a capital "W". Yet, when God speaks, we are often not willing to listen to Him. What a burden this creates in the heart of God!

See Luke 19:41-45, “As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, ‘If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace-but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God's coming to you.’ Then he entered the temple area and began driving out those who were selling.”

We note that the burden of Jesus was a burden that led to tears and temper from our Lord! This was the burden of Jesus and has been the burden of the Godhead from the beginning!

Long ago there was a great soldier named Bruce. He died and another general wanted to continue to spur on the troops with the life and courage of Bruce. So this general took the heart of Bruce and put it in a silver cask, had it sealed and carried it into battle. One day as the army was losing an important engagement against an enemy, the general took the silver cask and threw it toward the enemy lines while crying out to his troops, “There is the heart of your leader, follow it to victory.” Legend declares that the soldiers rallied, followed the heart of their former leader and defeated the enemy.

God took His heart and threw it into a world of sin when He sent His Son into our world. We must follow the heartbeat of God and we can hear and heed that which He tells us to do. No enemy will be too great, no price too high, and no task too difficult for those who will listen and obey the Lord.

B. The Burden of the Clergy

Malachi was called to deliver the message, but he also had to bear the burden of that message. God does not call one to deliver a message he cannot feel. We ministers often get chided for our long-windedness and rousing emotions, but pray tell, what should excite one more than a message from the Lord?

Back in the days when organs were operated by air chambers that had to be pumped by an attendant, a funny incident took place. A visiting minister was at the church on a particular Sunday and the organist wanted to do an exceptional job on the organ. She knew it would take a lot of air for the number she planned to play, so she sent a note to the attendant who was to keep the organ pump going. The attendant misunderstood and thought the note was for the visiting minister. He handed the note to the minister who opened it while sitting on the podium and read these words, “From the organist, just keep blowing away till I give the signal to stop.” We preachers sometimes keep blowing away even when someone does give the signal to stop!

A preacher said one Sunday morning, “While shaving this morning, I was thinking about my message and I cut my face.” After the service a man came up to the preacher and said, “Next time, why not think about your face while you’re shaving and cut your message.”

The true messenger of God always feels very deeply the burden that is in the message he delivers.

The Lord's burden was for the people to return.

The messenger's burden was for the message he had to deliver.

The people's burden was for the impending judgment that was being pronounced.

Malachi experienced a burden in the reception of God's message. It takes great energy to get a Word from God. Spurgeon said that preaching is like an artesian well; one must tap into the source before he can deliver the Water of Life. Indeed, the preacher of God's Word must be willing to dig deep into the Word of God and into his own heart, using all the energy he has, in order to tap the great source of God's message to the people.

Malachi experienced a burden in the delivery of the message, due to the fact that the reception some will fail to give to it, a message from God can be a terrible burden. It can be a burden also because of the sense that the one who is called to deliver it will face a judgment if he fails to faithfully do so. Finally, it can be a burden because the messenger feels the burden with the Message-Giver for the souls that hear and do not heed!

Malachi experienced a burden in the nature of the message.

God's Word reveals sin.
God's Word rebuffs pride.
God's Word refutes the intellect.
God's Word regards judgment.
God's Word can, by its very nature, creates a burden in the heart of the man of God who must deliver it!

You will never know the burden a preacher of God's Word feels when he delivers God's message. Someone asked me recently if I still got nervous when I preach. I hesitated for moment and answered, “Yes and no.” I said that because I do not really get nervous in the traditional sense. Nerves are often associated with whether you will do a good job or whether you will be liked after the message. That does not make me nervous. But I have always felt, and still do feel, the awesome responsibility of standing for God and speaking a word from Him and for Him. It sometimes overwhelms me! I never take it for granted. I have sometimes felt through the years that I might not be able to continue preaching for feeling the sheer weight of responsibility on my shoulders. But I am like Jeremiah; I cannot help but preach for it is a fire in my bones! Malachi must have felt something like that.

C. The Burden of the Laity

Sadly, in the day of Malachi there was little burden in the hearts of the hearers. This is sad and disappointing. O friend, if God is burdened with a bad temperament and tears as He sees the sins of our lives, the sores on our souls, the hurts of our hearts, should not we sit under the delivery of His message with a sense of awe and wonder? Should we not gather to the edge of our seat as God's Word is delivered? So often no burden is present in the listener - and this was the guilt of the people in the day of Malachi.

Note secondly that we see...

II. The Blessing in this Message

Why must listen with intensity to God's message? First because of who He is. Also, we should listen because of the blessing that comes with a message from God. Here is what a message from God tells us.

A. The Blessing of God's Care

Year ago, when every minute in long distance calls incurred a fee, my wife and I seemed to have a problem holding down the time we spent on the phone with our family who lived out-of-state. We meant to get off the phone after a few minutes, but the calls lingered longer and longer. Why did that happen? The conversation went on too long because we were talking to people we love. When you love someone, you don’t tire of talking to them. We stayed on the phone too long just to talk to our granddaughters about their three cats. Now, you know that cannot be a very important, critical conversation, but it was to us because we love our granddaughters.

You see, God cares for you. He speaks to you in many ways. He wants you to love Him enough to count His message as important to your heart and life. God's Word delivered to you tells you that God cares for you. Even a word of discipline or warning carries with it a message of concern from God's heart.

B. The Blessing of God's Conviction

Sometimes a word comes from God which brings conviction to our hearts, but that is good also. I have read somewhere that lepers do not lose their fingers and toes simply because of the erosion caused by the disease. The disease numbs the extremities, and as a result the leper can pick up an extremely hot pan, severely burning his hands, and not even realize that his hands are being scorched. The result is the loss of flesh from the fingers and hands. The sense of pain in our bodies is good, for it warns us when something is wrong; and if we are smart, it sends us to someone who can help us.

Conviction is nothing but sensitivity of the soul. It tells us that something is wrong spiritually in our lives. It tells us to avoid the hot, burning damage that sin can do to our souls, careers and relationships - especially our relationship with God. It sends us to the only One who can forgive, cleanse and set things right in our lives. We should thank God for conviction of sin.

C. The Blessing of Consolation

Sometimes God speaks to us to console us, to comfort us, to give us peace that goes beyond understanding. God said to Isaiah, “Comfort ye, comfort ye, my people.” God's message, even one with a warning, has at its root a word of comfort. God never confronts us with the goal of harming us or demeaning us, but rather he does it so that we can find in Him our consolation and peace. Jesus said, "Come to me, all you who labor and are weighted down with cares, sorrows and sinful habits, and I will give you REST!" Listening to God always blesses the hearer!

Now, note one more thing we see in Malachi 1:1...

III. The Boldness in this Message

A. It is a Clear Message

A word reveals and some words reveal more than others. God's Word is always given to show us who God is and what He requires. God has never apologized for the clarity of His Word. He is not a diplomat trying to say things just to impress you. He is not like a politician who says what his hearers wish to hear so that they will vote for him. No, God speaks the truth to you whether it is all warm and fuzzy or whether it is steaming with the heat of chastisement. God tells us the truth and He does that because He loves us. His Word is not like an advertiser trying to get us to buy a product. His Word is bold and clear. Jesus said, "Except you repent, you will all likewise perish." God's Word is true, faithful, precious, enlightening, saving and eternal!

B. It is a Correcting Message

God's Word should have a correcting effect upon us. It should either make you sad or make you mad that you have sinned; sad because you are disappointed in what you have thought, said or done. I ought to make you mad that you have failed God and even failed to maintain your own set of values. But, His correcting message can make you glad! You can find the joy of healing and cleansing. He comforts the broken hearted and promises hope to us as sinners through the blood of Christ. The true Word of God can never be stale or sterile.

C. It is a Closed Message

You can't add anything to God's message or take anything away from it. Look at Revelation 22:18 and 19, "I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book."

You cannot improve on God's Word. Nothing can be said to make what God says any better. The preacher only seeks to proclaim the Word. He seeks to impress the Word of God upon the hearer, but He cannot maker it better. In fact, some of us who preach can make His Word sound worse than it should sound, but we cannot make it better.

The Word is God's Word and it is the final Word!

Conclusion

Are you listening to God today? If you are, you may well be hearing the call of God to salvation. The songwriter penned, "Jesus calls us over the tumult.” Yes, over all the noise of this world, His voice rings out a call to be born again.

Maybe He is calling you back home. You belong to Him, but like the Prodigal Son, you have wandered away. Come home. He is calling you home!

Then again, maybe you need to hear His word of cheer and comfort. He says, “Come unto to me and I will give you rest.” You can cast your cares on Him; He truly does care for you. Whatever He is saying to you, do it! Obey it!