12/30/Th – The River of Life

Malachi 3:1-18; Revelation 22:1-7; Psalms 150:1-5; Proverbs 31:10-24

OT: ““See, I am going to send my messenger, and he will clear the way before me. Then the Lord you seek will suddenly come to his temple, the Messenger of the covenant you delight in — see, he is coming,” says the Lord of Armies. But who can endure the day of his coming? And who will be able to stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire and like launderer’s bleach. He will be like a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver. Then they will present offerings to the Lord in righteousness. And the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will please the Lord as in days of old and years gone by… “Since the days of your ancestors, you have turned from my statutes; you have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the Lord of Armies. Yet you ask, “How can we return?” “Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing me!” “How do we rob you?” you ask. “By not making the payments of the tenth and the contributions. You are suffering under a curse, yet you — the whole nation — are still robbing me. Bring the full tenth into the storehouse so that there may be food in my house. Test me in this way,” says the Lord of Armies. “See if I will not open the floodgates of heaven and pour out a blessing for you without measure. I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not ruin the produce of your land and your vine in your field will not fail to produce fruit,” says the Lord of Armies.” (‭‭Malachi‬ ‭3:1-4, 7-11‬ ‭CSB)

As Malachi continued rebuking the priesthood of his day – saying that they were dishonoring the Lord with their lackluster offerings and not serving as the messengers of the Lord they were called to be – Malachi declared that God was going to send a messenger to prepare the way, and then send the Messenger of the covenant to minister in His temple. The first messenger that Malachi spoke of was John the Baptist. The Messenger of the covenant that Malachi spoke of was the Messiah, Jesus Christ. Malachi declared that when Christ came, He would be like a refiner’s fire and a launderer’s bleach. He would refine and purify God’s priesthood, wash them clean and make them white as snow. Then those who were refined and redeemed by Christ would offer sacrifices and offerings that were truly pleasing to the Lord.

In response to that word, Malachi called the priests of his day to return to the Lord. If they truly returned to the Lord, then the Lord would return to them. When the priests asked, “How can we return?” The Lord’s response was, “To start with, stop robbing from Me… stop withholding the tithe that I commanded, and bring the tithe into the storehouse of the temple so that there may be food in My house… both spiritual and physical food.” During Jesus’ earthly ministry, he taught that where your treasure is, there your heart is also (Matthew 6:21). By withholding the tithe and keeping the resources for their own use, the priests were demonstrating that their heart was far from God… that they didn’t feel it necessary to honor God for his faithfulness, nor did they trust Him to provide for their needs. By paying the tithe, they would take their prosperity and well-being out of their own hands and place it in God’s hands. As long as the priests and the people of Israel withheld the tithe – which was the first 10% of their earnings – they would keep themselves removed from God’s provision and protection. But as soon as they demonstrated their trust in God by releasing that first 10%, they would come under His hand of provision and protection. With God being their provision and protection, their barns would not be empty and their fields would always be fruitful.

There are many people who claim to be followers of Christ. They do all the right things outwardly to appear like their heart belongs to the Lord, but they don’t fully trust the Lord with their finances. When things get tough, instead of trusting the Lord through the lean times, they stop trusting, retract their faith and withhold that minor 10% from God’s use. Do we truly trust the Lord? Do we truly believe His word? God doesn’t call us to give frivolously. He doesn’t call us to give foolishly. What He calls us to do is dedicate that first 10% of our increase to Him, and then give generously with the abundance that He provides on the other side of the tithe. God is faithful to His word. Test Him in this and see if it doesn’t come true.

NT: “Then he showed me the river of the water of life, clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the city’s main street. The tree of life was on each side of the river, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree are for healing the nations, and there will no longer be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. Night will be no more; people will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, because the Lord God will give them light, and they will reign forever and ever.” (‭‭Revelation‬ ‭22:1-5‬ ‭CSB)

At the end of Malachi 3, Malachi said that the priests were actually saying that it was useless to serve God… that they hadn’t gained anything by being faithful to God’s word, will and ways, and that the wicked were prospering instead. The sentiment expressed by the priests, though perceivably factual at the moment, was actually quite short-sighted and faithless. They no longer placed their faith in the Lord, therefore they were blind to the Lord’s faithfulness and the sure hope they had in Him. How many times have I heard someone say to me, “Well… I tried that whole Christianity thing for a while, but it didn’t work for me, so I gave up.” Trying Christianity is not the same as placing complete saving faith in the Lord. The way of God works by grace through faith. As we keep our faith fully rooted in Christ, there is sufficient grace for all the trials and tribulations of our journey, with many joys and payoffs. And then, at the end of this present age, comes the fullness of all that we have hoped for, provided we endure until the end.

John wrote this letter to Christians in Asia who were undergoing enormous tribulation for their faith. I’m sure it looked to them like their faith was pointless and that the wicked around them were prospering. So the Lord gave John a peek into the sure future that lay ahead for all who endure in faith. Revelation 22:1-5 described that glorious payoff that was sure to encourage the believers of the first century – and should encourage us as well.

John’s vision paralleled the vision that Ezekiel saw in Ezekiel 47:1-12. There in the New Jerusalem, flowing from the throne of God and the Lamb, is that same river of life. The everlasting river of life provided water for the ever-fruitful tree of Life. The tree that Adam lost access to was now freely and fully available to all who were redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. There in the New Jerusalem, all the saints of God will have full and abiding access to the presence of the Lord, the fullness of life, the fullness of light, and the fulfillment of promises and purpose as we rule and reign with Christ forever and ever. When we give ourselves fully to the Lord in faith, this is our sure future as God makes good on all of His promises.

Prayer: Lord, You are the ever-faithful one. You are always faithful to Your promises. Even if I don’t see fulfillment right now, I know through faith in Your word that all the promises of God are “Yes” in Christ, and in Him, “Amen.” I can, without hesitation, place my faith in You and trust that You will always provide, You will always protect, You will always supply sufficient grace, and in the end, will bless me with everlasting light and life. Help me to see through eyes of faith and keep my eyes on eternity, despite what things may look like now. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

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