A Study of Malachi 3:16-18
“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.” (Malachi 3:16-18)
How true, there is a people taught by God. There ever have been a few in all ages, in the dark days of the congregation’s history. It was a dark day in which Malachi lived, and we have solemn things brought before us in this book. God’s people departed from Him, and corrupted their ways. But we find there were a few who feared God – and they spake to one another, and the LORD heard their conversation, and a book was written before Him concerning these few that feared Him. And He said: “They shall be mine in the day when I make up my jewels. Then shall ye return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked.”(v.18) It is hard sometimes to discern between the righteous and the wicked. We are living in solemn, dark days. I do not know whether you feel it so, but I do. There are not many in the day in which we live that fear God, that know the grace of God in the heart:
An unctuous light to all that’s right,
A bar to all that’s wrong. (Joseph Hart)
My soul has been somewhat exercised in these words: “His eyes were as a flame of fire.” (Revelation 1:14) Nothing is hid from God. A professor may hide many things from a possessor, but he cannot hide it from God. O to be right! Are you exercised day by day as to whether you may be right in God’s sight? O to be taught by God! That is no small mercy.
Teach me to live that I may dread the grave as little as my bed; And joyful rise at the awful day.
O to have a right religion! No man is right in God’s sight unless he fears the LORD. The LORD fulfils His covenant promise in the experience of souls afore ordained unto glory. He puts His fear in their hearts. Has God put it in your heart? His fear is deeply rooted in the heart – He hides it there, if I may so speak. A man is rich indeed who possesses the fear of God in the heart. And you will feel something of spiritual poverty, and you will mourn over this. The fear of the LORD is as a treasure, and where He puts this fear, that soul will not finally depart from Him. It is impossible, because the fear of the LORD is in the heart. God’s people have their slips and falls, and those recorded in His Word are written for our learning. And if we have the fear of God in the heart, we shall give heed to these things. We shall say, Keep Thy fear in my heart. O let Thy fear ever be in exercise in my soul – An unctuous light to all that’s right, A bar to all that’s wrong.
O friends, it is a mercy to have one grain of godly fear in the heart. I would rather posses the fear of God in the heart than all the gold and silver of this world. Time things will soon come to an end. “The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, to depart from the snares of death.” (Proverbs 14:27) He hates evil and pride. You say there is some pride in you! But you hate it; you hate every evil way. You love the things of God, and have an eye to the glory of God when this holy fear is in exercise. That comes very close. Do you, do I, shun every evil way? I do, say you, when this fear is in active exercise in the soul. Keep me from evil; preserve me in thy fear. The man that fears God is a blessed man.
Sometimes you may see a child of God overtaken in a fault, and you wonder whether that man possesses the fear of the LORD. “Hold up my goings in thy paths, that my footsteps slip not.” (Psalm 17:5) A child of God may fall, and never be received as in days gone by, but he will go with broken bones to heaven. Perhaps you have said, “I possess the fear of the LORD. A pretty man, me, to make a profession!” I remember many years since going to a music hall once, and only once in my life. I thought the very building would crush me, and God would have been just.
O to be kept in the fear of the LORD, to walk worthy of the vocation wherewith we are called! If a man fears God he takes heed of God’s Word. “Shew me thy ways, O LORD; teach me thy paths.” (Psalm 25:4) Help me to walk in the Spirit; let it be manifest that I am a man of God. Sometimes men may say that a man has been with Jesus, but perhaps another day they may wonder whether they have made a mistake. We need grace every moment. You look at the Word of God, and you find some of the experiences of the saints of God, and you say, “Blessed man! godly man!” And in another chapter you begin to see that they were men of like passions as we are; they were left to fall away. You look at Jonah. He says he fears God, and yet he is fleeing from God. It did not look as though he feared God, and so it is when sinners are left to go contrary to the LORD. Look at David, when he committed adultery, and how solemnly God dealt with him. You hear David cry unto the Lord: “Deliver me from bloodguiltiness.” (Psalm 51:14)
Look again at Peter. He feared the LORD. “Simon, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat.” (Luke 22:31) Satan desires to sift every one who fears God. Simon says: “Though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will I not deny thee.” (Matthew 26:34) There was fear and love, and he meant what he said, but he had to learn solemn lessons. Very soon he denies Christ: “I do not know the man.” (Matthew 26:72-74) “And Jesus looked upon Peter.” (Luke 22:61) O I have thought of that look; I have tried in my mind’s eye to see Jesus and Peter – that is, poor fallen Peter, as it has just come to pass according to the word of the LORD. This look broke Peter’s heart. What did he do? Go out and hang himself? No! Judas did – he had betrayed innocent blood. There is a discerning between the righteous and the wicked here. Judas was a disciple, but he denied his Lord and Master, and went and hanged himself. Jesus looked upon Peter, and it broke his heart, and he went out and wept bitterly. Would we have had Peter’s epistles, had he not known something of Satan’s sieve? I trow not.
We need grace to watch unto prayer, to be sober, and to be vigilant. I have said there were very few in the days of Malachi who feared God, and were looking for His coming. And they believed He would come, and they were solemnly exercised whether they would abide the day of His coming. And there are few in our day who believe these things, and they wonder how it will be with them too. They fear the LORD, and they think upon His name. Every soul that fears God thinks upon His name. You may have such feelings as this: “I think upon His name, but do I fear Him?” How do you think upon His name? “As a holy, merciful, gracious, longsuffering God, and that I must one day appear before Him. And I wonder how I shall appear before Him.” Are these your thoughts? If you do not dare to say you fear the LORD, then I take it upon myself to say it for you. You say: “I have feared that I should not be numbered with His people, and I fear lest hell will be my portion. I have trembled at God’s holiness. I have known what it is to believe that He has power to cast my soul into hell.” Every soul that possesses a filial fear has known something of this in measure. I am not going to set up a standard. Sometimes you fall before His blessed majesty, and you say: “LORD, Thou knowest I would fear Thee; I would love Thee, and know the power of Thy grace, and be formed for Thyself. With them numbered may I be, Now, and through eternity.” O blessed soul, you do fear God, and you do think upon His name, and you do say: “Jesus, Friend of sinners – there is no name like that name to me!”
In Him the world no beauty sees, No form nor comeliness; Rejected and despised He is,
And plunged in deep distress.
Then how is it that you have different feelings concerning the Son of God? Think of Him as Jesus in His humility, as a Man of sorrows, acquainted with grief. He became poor that you might be made rich. And you are rich in the fear of the LORD, which keeps you as a poor sinner at His blessed feet. You are a humble walker, not a big talker. And you love to hear His name mentioned, and to go into the company of His people. You esteem them as the excellent of the earth. A man is known by the company he keeps. If you see a man going into the public house, and seeking the pleasures of sin, you say that man is a wicked man. Perhaps the thought comes to you: Who makes me to differ? You cannot do the things you once did. You say you do not know anything aright, but do not do as you once did. You would answer: I am ashamed of the things I have done.
“What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death.” (Romans 6:21)
“God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you.” (Romans 6:17)
Those that think upon His name serve God when they least think they do. You go perhaps into the company of the ungodly, (confessing Jesus Christ). You ask them to read His Word, or else you lay it where they will pick it up and read it. You have an eye to the glory of God in this. That is serving God, to do what may be the means in the hands of the Holy Spirit of bringing some soul to a solemn concern.
– Henry Haddow