Meditations in Malachi : 33. Some Respond
Mal 3:16 Then those who feared the LORD talked with each other, and the LORD listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the LORD and honoured his name.
Trying to understand the big picture is often difficult. In the previous meditation we noted the recognition of the state of the nation and the difficulty in maintaining a right attitude before God when the world all around us seems to be degenerating into a godless and unrighteous mess. Being aware of the state of many churches in the area in which I live, it is easy to write off the church as being powerless, ineffectual and, as far as the rest of society is concerned, irrelevant! And in fact, as institutions I believe that by and large that is a true assessment and the result of it is that rarely do we seem to be salt and light and having a purifying effect on society. But so far, this is all a generalisation. A generalisation in Malachi’s day was that by and large, Israel as a post-Exile nation, were not doing very well – hence God’s challenges that fill the book.
But what is true of churches as institutions isn’t necessarily true of individuals within them. So far in this book it has been mostly negative with a little hope for the distant future thrown in but now, suddenly, we find the prophet recording a response by some of the people at least. In other words, not all the people are indifferent or complacent; some of them have heard what the prophet has to say and they are concerned. Who? Those who “feared the Lord”! That simply means that there were those who still maintained a right attitude towards the Lord. In the midst of the majority who were complacent, there was a minority (we assume from what follows) whose hearts were right before God. They reverenced Him and were concerned about the state of the nation and it would appear were those who responded to all the prophet had been saying.
Notice what they did. They “talked with each other.” Talking is a second response. The first is to think but that is quickly followed by talking. Talking indicates that there were a number of them and they weren’t afraid to be open about what they felt. But, I would suggest, it didn’t stop there for later in the verse there is the indication that they “honoured his name,” which would suggest that they did things in response to what they had thought and then said. True repentance doesn’t stay in the mind; it produces words and then action.
Now this tells us that the prophet’s words did not fall on deaf ears. There were some who heard and responded and the truth is that throughout the Old Testament, and through all the churches that I referred to earlier, there is a remnant, there are people whose hearts are for God and who hear His word and respond to it. It is very easy to become over-negative. Elijah at a low moment succumbed to this: “He replied, “I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.” (1 Kings 19:10) That was inaccurate as the Lord indicated: “Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel–all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and all whose mouths have not kissed him.” (1 Kings19:18) There is always a faithful remnant; they just need looking for. It doesn’t matter what church grouping it may be and what negative feelings we may have about them generally, there will be within them a faithful remnant who are wholly for God.
But there is something else here: “the LORD listened and heard.” We may feel we are alone and isolated but the Lord sees and He hears what we say. Remember that! But note what He does about them: “A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the LORD and honored his name.” Why should God write down their names? So that they will not be forgotten! Does God forget? No He doesn’t but this is almost an act of solemn remembrance that says to everyone, “These people are to be honoured in heaven for having stood out on earth. This recording of their names is to ensure that heaven and earth honour them for their response to God. This is God saying, you will not be forgotten; your faithful acts will be recorded, remembered and rejoiced over! Always bear that in mind. You may think that no one sees your faithfulness, but the Lord does and the Lord will make sure your faithfulness will not be forgotten. Hallelujah!