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What is the divine purpose in refining and purifying the so-called “sons of Levi” in Mal. 3:3? The prophet tells us the reason: “so that they may present to the Lord offerings in righteousness.”
Why is this so important? The next verse tells us:
4 Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord, as in the days of old and as in former years.
Apart from priestly integrity (and real faith), their offerings carry no weight with God. Offerings are valued according to the condition of the priests’ hearts. So what is the purpose of the offering? What stands to be gained by having a true offering by a priest with integrity?
The answer is given in verse 5,
5 Then I will draw near to you for judgment [mishpat]; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers and against the adulterers and against those who swear falsely, and against those who oppress the wage earner in his wages, the widow and the orphan, and those who turn aside the alien, and do not fear Me,” says the Lord of hosts.
The Hebrew word mishpat means a verdict, favorable or unfavorable. It is the sentence of a judge, the act of judging in a court of law. God is the Judge in this case. The priests, by offering sacrifices, are making an appeal to the divine court in order to obtain a favorable verdict. To a priest with integrity, a favorable verdict would result in righteousness in the earth. God would decree and implement this.
There has never been any doubt that God could implement righteousness any time He sees fit. The question has always been when, how, and what it would take to bring this divine intervention. We see, then, that the solution to the corrupt kingdoms in the earth is a favorable verdict in the divine court, which can be decreed only when priests with integrity make proper appeals at the appointed times.
To do this, we must learn divine court procedure and be able to hear His voice and function in the heavenly realm. This is, in theory, open to all, but unfortunately, very few have spiritual discernment, and even fewer know their way around the divine court.
Fortunately, it does not take a multitude of people to get the job done. In fact, it can be done by even one person who has been refined in the fire and who is truly led by the Spirit.
The main reason that refinement and discernment are so vital is that most people look for ways to establish their own will in the earth, rather than the will of God. They lean on their own understanding (Prov. 3:5), not realizing that their understanding is limited. So they make appeals that God will do what is “good,” and they ask for blessings without understanding all the background reasons for the current “evil” in the world.
They assume that all evil is caused by the devil, and all the good comes from God. They do not understand that evil is a divine judgment, not necessarily for one’s own personal sin, but for the sin of generations past, all of which began with Adam’s first sin.
There are many biblical examples of God’s judgment being pronounced upon men and nations. Such judgments are the cause of much death, disease, and destruction. Judgment upon Adam brought death to all (Rom. 5:12). Judgment upon Israel left them wandering in the wilderness for 40 years (Num. 14:34). Amalek’s unprovoked attack brought a verdict of ultimate extermination of the nation (Ex. 17:14).
Prayer—even from a righteous man—could not change these verdicts. Righteous people throughout history have all died. Moses and Joshua were required to remain with Israel during the entire 40 years. Amalek will not remain as a nation, or national unit.
Righteous individuals within a divinely-judged nation may certainly find the blessing of God within the context of the overall judgment. Abraham was blessed, even though he died on account of Adam’s sin. Moses and Joshua were blessed in spite of Israel’s rebelliousness as a nation. Daniel was blessed by God, though he was required to serve under the kings of Babylon and Persia.
The point is that when we go before the divine court, we should not ask God to reverse a prior verdict, but to find some smaller accommodation that does not violate the prior verdict. If a time limit expires for a past verdict, only then is it proper to ask for a new verdict.
For example, in Daniel 9 the prophet understood that the 70-year sentence against Judah and Jerusalem had expired, so he appealed to God for an end to the captivity. His request was granted, but only insofar as the Babylonian captivity was concerned. The iron yoke (captivity to a foreign land) was reversed, but not the captivity itself, which was to continue under other beast nations.
The long “seven times” captivity had been established by law in the time of Moses, so even Daniel could not appeal to have it shortened. It was not until October of 2014 that the time of judgment finally expired, and then we were led to present a new case to the divine court.
In 1993 we were first led to appeal to the divine court in our Jubilee Prayer Campaign. However, that year was the end of a shorter judgment period. It had been 46 years since Jacob gave the birthright back to Esau (Nov. 29, 1947). It was also the end of the 40-year reign of “Saul” (that is, 40 Jubilees since 33 A.D.). Though we won our case in 1993, receiving the authority from “Saul” and the birthright from “Esau,” our success was still overshadowed by the greater issue of the captivity to the beast nations, which remained unresolved in 1993.
No matter how righteous or qualified a person is to go before the divine court, he or she still must submit to all the past court decisions and work within that legal framework. If anyone is ignorant of those past verdicts, he may find himself losing his appeals in the divine court and not being able to figure out why.
Many also assume that their position in Christ means that they ought to receive a favorable verdict for everything that they ask in the name of Jesus. While this sounds plausible, it is simply not true. Our position in Christ means that we are in submission to Him and follow His lead, rather than our own. In other words, one’s position in Christ means that he or she is compliant with the will of God and with the timing of the divine plan.
I have spoken with many who do not understand, nor do they agree with God’s timing. They believe that because Christ overcame all things by His resurrection, they ought to be able to reverse all prior verdicts of divine judgment immediately. When this does not happen, they think they must acquire more faith in order to succeed.
Yes, certainly they must have an increase in faith. Faith comes by hearing (Rom. 10:17). They must hear and learn before they try to reverse a prior verdict from the divine court. Hearing is what gives us the knowledge of God’s will, as well as the timing for its implementation. If these are not open to learning about God’s timing, it is not likely that they will ever come to a realization of the truth and find success in the divine court. They will be ruled by impatience and led by frustration.
The day is coming, says Malachi, when purified “sons of Levi” will offer an appeal (“sacrifice”) that will cause God to render a favorable verdict. When that happens, God will judge the lawless ones, that is, the sorcerers, adulterers, the perjured ones, the oppressors, and those who mistreat aliens (Mal. 3:5). Conversely, as long as there are no purified priests to make such an appeal, the lawless ones will prevail in the earth.
Why does God not do something to stop such sinners from perpetrating their ungodly injustices upon others? The answer is found in the next verse, Mal. 3:6, which says,
6 For I, the Lord, do not change; therefore you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed.
This was a lesson that Balaam had to learn. When he lost his appeal to the divine court on one mountain, he went to another mountain to try to get a favorable verdict. The answer that Balaam received was spoken out of his own mouth in Num. 23:19, 20,
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? 20 Behold, I have received a command to bless; when He has blessed, then I cannot revoke it.
So what was God referring to in Mal. 3:6 when He reminded the people that He was unchangeable? It means that God’s requirement for blessing has not changed. We see this in verse 7,
7 “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…
The requirement is to recognize that God has the right to be obeyed. As the Creator, He owns the earth and all that is in it. God’s legal rights must be recognized. Men do not have the right to ignore or to put away His laws, commands, and statutes. Yet this was precisely what Israel and Judah had done, and their disobedience had resulted in captivity.
In the narrower context of Malachi’s prophecy to Judah and Jerusalem, the people were complaining because they had not received “God’s favor” (Mal. 1:9). A contemporary prophet tells us that the people were not receiving good harvests (Hag. 1:6) because of drought (Hag. 1:11). Both Haggai and Malachi told them that obedience to God was the key to divine blessing.
This was what Moses had told them in the beginning. Deut. 28:2 says,
2 And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you will obey the Lord your God.
Conversely, we read in verse 15,
15 But it shall come about, if you will not obey the Lord your God, to observe to do all His commandments and His statutes with which I charge you today, that all these curses shall come upon you and overtake you.
These laws are expressions of God’s character, which is the standard of righteousness in the earth. Because Jesus was the express image of the Father (Heb. 1:3) and was without sin (Heb. 9:28), it is clear that Jesus never once violated the law, though some without understanding accused Him of this. But Jesus violated only the traditions of men, that is, men’s incorrect interpretations of the law.
The unchangeable God of heaven still requires obedience. Jesus Christ did not come in order to give men the right to violate the law of God. Instead, He came in order to fulfill His New Covenant promise to write the law in our hearts, thereby conforming us to the image of Christ (Heb. 8:10).
When rebellious men believe that they have the right to disobey God or to overrule any law that is disagreeable to them, they rob God of His rights as the Creator and Owner of all things. So the prophet then launches into a revelation about robbing God.
Mal. 3:7-9 says,
7 … “Return to Me, and I will return to you,” says the Lord of hosts. “But you say, ‘How shall we return?’ 8 Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing Me! But you say, ‘How have we robbed Thee?’ In tithes and offerings. 9 You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing Me, the whole nation of you!”
The first thing we notice is that most of the people seemed unaware of their lawlessness. They did not even know that they were robbing God. But the prophet chastises them for withholding “tithes and offerings” that were owed to God.
This verse is often used today to increase church budgets, and yet most of those churches do not really understand the law of the tithe. That is because so many churches put away virtually every law except tithing, which somehow slipped past the cross. It seems hypocritical, though, for those who put away the law to preach about tithing.
The law of the tithe is based upon the fact that the Creator owns all the land that He has created (Lev. 23). He has seen fit to give each man a portion of His land, not only to have a place to live, but also to make the land productive and to increase one’s wealth.
This is like a business partnership. God provides the land, the sun, the rain, and the air, while men provide their labor to work the land. Man gets to keep 90% of what is produced, while God asks just 10% for His labor in creating land. For this reason, Lev. 27:30, 32 says,
30 Thus all the tithe of the land, of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the tree is the Lord’s; it is holy to the Lord… 32 And for every tenth part of herd or flock, whatever passes under the rod, the tenth one shall be holy to the Lord.
One-tenth is “holy,” that is, it is set aside for the Lord’s work to support His government and His Kingdom. God requires a return on His labor (creation). It is a “tax return.” God’s 10% tax is not unjust. It is payment for services rendered when men use God’s land (and labor) to build wealth. Anything more than this is a voluntary offering, a donation or contribution that is based on one’s generosity and love, but is not required by law.
Most people, even Christians, have long forgotten the original purpose of the tithe. Their view of the tithe is based upon what they have observed in the kingdoms of men. Men’s kingdoms overtax people, going far beyond the tenth, and they treat all tax as if they deserve it as payment for their divine right to rule. The people end up paying to be oppressed, not knowing that God does not authorize men’s governments to tax people beyond a 10% rate on actual production from the land and nature as a whole.
Secular governments, which compete with God over land ownership, then claim God’s law to be oppressive. In this way they use patriotism to usurp the land and all natural resources from the Creator and rightful Owner of all. When a human government refuses to recognize God as the Higher Power, it creates its own laws to benefit itself and soon considers itself to be a god—the highest power in the land. As a god, such a nation confiscates all tithe (tax) and uses it to increase its own power and enforce its own laws.
When the government takes all the tithe (and more), the church then finds it necessary to ask the people to tithe over and beyond what the government has already stolen from God. Not understanding that the tithe was meant to be a 10% tax on production directly from nature, the church demands that people tithe on all earned money, including wages that were not directly derived from the use of God’s land.
So the people are oppressed even more—first by men’s governments, and again from church governments. Few understand that the government of God is based upon God’s rights as the Creator and Owner of all land that is being used for production of wealth. Tithe is owed only on the first level of production, a tenth of the crops, herds, fishing, mining, lumbering, power plants, etc. Everything else is earned by one’s own labor that is exchanged equally for another man’s goods or money.
All of this robbery is justified by those who claim the land for themselves. That is, they usurp the land and treat it as if the government was the creator of its own land. Men’s governments are then offended by those who work to establish God’s rights, for they resent competition.
Secular governments, by their very definition, usurp the land and rob God of His right to rule. But “Christian” governments usually do the same, for they follow the pattern of King Saul, the religious king who refused to serve as a steward of Christ’s throne. Other religions also usurp God’s land when they do not recognize Jesus Christ’s right to rule the earth.
A godly nation, on the other hand, uses all tithes for the glory of God, to recognize Jesus Christ’s right to rule, and to enforce His laws defining the rights of God and men. In my view, no church or ministry or religion has the right to ask for tithes or offerings unless they support Jesus’ claim to the throne, His government, and His laws.
God thus speaks through Malachi that the people of Judah and the nation itself were under a divine curse for robbing God. In other words, God had a case pending against them in the divine court. They were under the curse of the law for their sin—in this case, for robbery. Until they cleared this issue and found justification (grace) for their sin, they would remain “under the law” and be liable to whatever penalties the law prescribed for their theft.
Keep in mind, too, that Malachi is the transitional prophet between the old and new covenants. The problems that he brings to our attention were already well advanced in the time of Malachi, but were worse in Jesus’ day.
Hence, when Jesus came to claim His throne rights, the priests usurped His throne and induced the people to support their right to do so.
Mal. 3:10 continues,
10 “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this,” says the Lord of hosts, “if I will not open for you the windows of heaven, and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows.
It is particularly hypocritical when ministers use this verse to induce people into giving money to ministries that put away God’s law, with the promise that God will bless them for their generosity. Such ministries reap all the benefits but take no responsibility when the givers simply become poorer. Malachi continues,
11 “Then I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it may not destroy the fruits of the ground; nor will your vine in the field cast its grapes,” says the Lord of hosts.
The Kingdom of God is almost totally untried up to now, so we have few examples to prove that recognizing Jesus Christ as King and being obedient to His law actually increases prosperity. Yet we have many promises of God about the blessings of obedience in Deut. 28:11, 12,
11 And the Lord will make you abound in prosperity, in the offspring of your body and in the offspring of your beast and in the produce of your ground… 12 The Lord will open for you His good storehouse, the heavens, to give rain to your land in its season and to bless all the work of your hand; and you shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow.
Malachi closes this section by saying in Mal. 3:12,
12 “And all the nations will call you blessed, for you shall be a delightful land,” says the Lord of hosts.
True prosperity comes when we take God seriously enough to obey His laws. These laws were never meant to oppress men but to bring peace and prosperity to the nation. The only ones who feel oppressed are those who desire to sin.