The prophecy of Malachi is the last book in the Hebrew Scriptures. It is God’s last word before His last Word – Jesus.
In this short prophecy Malachi points out a number of ways in which the lives of His people were displeasing to God:
- They were marrying wives outside the community, thus introducing ideas that were contradictory to Judaism.
- They were divorcing their ageing wives so that they could marry younger ones (2:10-11)
- They were being careless in their offerings (1:6-2:9)
- They were failing to pay their tithes (3:8-10)
- They were being neglectful towards the poor (3:5)
Overall things were not good. And so God sends Israel a messenger to remind them of His love, grace and expectations (like any good parent).
The prophecy is set out as a series of questions and answers. For example, in Malachi 3 God challenges His people to return to Him. The people ask, ‘how are we to return?’ It’s a fair question that receives an interesting answer. I mean, if you asked me how you were to return to God I’d suggest things like repentance, prayer, studying the Bible, and being connected to a good church. But God addresses their giving – or rather their lack of it.
The same happened when people came and asked John the Baptist about how they could get right with/return to God (see Luke 3:7-14). No one asked him about money and yet the three answers he gave all addressed the people’s attitude to money – including giving, greed, contentment and sharing.
When the people of Malachi’s day asked the question, ‘how are we to return?’ God answers with another question, “will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me. But you ask, ‘how are we robbing you?’ “In tithes and offerings.” You are under a curse — your whole nation — because you are robbing me.”
That’s the problem, now for the solution:“bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.”
The remedy for spiritual drifting was for the entire community to recognize their responsibility. The WHOLE nation was to bring the WHOLE tithe. This was something the WHOLE community was to do, “that there may be food in my house.” When they all did this the WHOLE community would be blessed.
God throws out the challenge, “test me in this.” The Hebrew word for test, Bachan, refers to the testing of metals to see how valuable they are. God is challenging His people: you be generous with your tithes and offerings to me and my work and see how valuable I will be to you in return. I will “throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.”
In Scripture, the phrase the floodgates of heaven is used in relation to Noah’s flood (Genesis 7:11; 8:2) and the supply of Manna for Israel in the desert (Psalm 78:23-24). Both are acts of abundance.
And so to apply this prophecy to the New Testament church: bringing the whole tithe, in addition to offerings, is the responsibility of all believers in order to make sure the Church community that they are part of is fully provided for, healthy & effective in outworking the vision God has given it. In return, God promises to abundantly bless and protect that community to such an extent that even those outside the community will take note.
Being part of a church community is an enormous blessing, and every blessing carries with it responsibilities. I encourage you to take the responsibilities of tithing, generosity and giving offerings seriously. You won’t be disappointed!