March 10, 11:30 a.m.
Speaker: Mike Riccardi
Topic: The Hope of the Remnant
Passage: Malachi 3:13–4:3
We live in a time when we hear much about the concept of deconstruction. Our world today rejects the existence of truth altogether. This has resulted in a descent into pure subjectivism, relativism, and even outright absurdity.
But “Christianity” is defined by definite and specific beliefs—chief among them the inerrancy and authority of the Bible. You can’t claim to follow Jesus while rejecting what He’s said.
Yet that’s what the deconstructionists do: they disown Jesus’ Word while seeking to retain Jesus’ name. The result is that more and more people are calling themselves Christians who are no such thing. The number of the truly faithful seems to shrink smaller and smaller so that there is only a remnant of faithfulness.
We expect that the church will be outnumbered by the world, but when the faithful start to feel like the minority even within the visible church, we can be tempted to discouragement. We can wonder, “Is it even worth it, when so many who are calling themselves Christians are compromising?
Well, something similar was happening in the days of the prophet Malachi. God had made magnificent promises of revolution and restoration to the nation of Israel, but in 80 years, Israel had not seen those promises fulfilled.
And so the people began to distrust the faithfulness of God. They became disillusioned, apathetic, and even insolent. They were hardened in their disobedience—they deconstructed their faith. And rather than being honest about their defection from the pure worship of Yahweh according to the covenant law and separating themselves from God’s nation, they remained within the nation and continued to call themselves God’s people. They gave voice to their disillusionment, complaining against the character of God for what they believed was His failure to keep His promises to them.
In response, God sent them the prophet Malachi. God comes to argue with His people—to demonstrate that their accusations against Him are unjustified, that His promises to them have not failed, that His covenant remains sure, and that their disobedience must be repented of, lest they be judged.
He doesn’t only rebuke the treacherous deconstructionists. He also brings comfort to the faithful remnant within the covenant nation, by reminding them of the Great Day of Justice, when Christ will come and judge the wicked, purify His people, and reward the righteous. We need that same message in our day as much as the people of God needed it in Malachi’s day.
The Complaint of the Treacherous
The wicked claim that it is worthless to devote themselves to the worship of Yahweh because, in their perception, the righteous are not being rewarded and the wicked are not being punished.
Sometimes, we can be tempted to have the same attitude. We can be envious of the unbelieving because sometimes, it seems like things are easier in this world for those who belong to this world. Even though a life lived in submission to Jesus overflows with blessing, it only makes sense that a world that is not our home will treat us as if we’re pilgrims.
And so sometimes we are confronted with this same temptation: to become lax in our pursuit of holiness and to compromise faithfulness to God’s Word. We start thinking about what obedience causes us to miss out on. We can be tempted to question, “Does it really matter that I obey? Especially when those who disobey seem to suffer no consequences?”
The Response of the Faithful
Within Israel, there were the treacherous, who forgot Yahweh’s law, disregarded His covenant, and questioned the very goodness of His character. And they seemed to be the majority.
But then there was also a minority—a remnant—of those who “feared Yahweh”—those who worshiped Him in spirit and truth; revered and esteemed His name; and regarded Him as worthy, weighty, and glorious.
This remnant of true believers in Yahweh came together to repudiate the complaints of the treacherous, reaffirm their faith in God’s promises and character, and resolve to walk in faithfulness no matter what the majority would say or do.
This is how the faithful are to respond when those who profess to be God’s people begin deconstructing the faith. When the treacherous complain of God’s injustice or faithlessness to His covenant, the faithful respond by examining their own lives, confessing and repenting of sin, and renewing their commitment to trust in God’s character and walk obediently to His Word. The faithful don’t seek to compromise with the treacherous. The faithful don’t negotiate. They double down on faithfulness to God’s Word.
And God says that He remembers that faithfulness. The complaint of the treacherous is that Yahweh has forgotten them, but God says here that He does remember. He does see and He does take notice.
God will not forget the way that you have magnified His name in the midst of opposition and persecution, amidst slander and betrayal, even when you had to stand alone.
The Day of Distinction
There is a day of distinction coming and God’s people are to live in light of that day. Whatever the circumstances are today, our eyes are to be fixed on that day.
Unbelieving Israel’s complaint is that it makes no difference whether or not they serve God because He makes no distinction between the righteous and the unrighteous. But God says, “There is a day coming when you will again distinguish between the righteous and the wicked” (Mal 3:18).
This is what deconstructionist mockers and scoffers don’t realize: judgment is certain. You may be disillusioned with the unfaithfulness of the church, but Christ loves His bride He will ever and always remain united to her. And so, because Christ never leaves or forsakes His bride, Christ’s people can never leave or forsake His bride. To depart from His people is to depart from Him, to depart from eternal life.
But what of the righteous?
The righteous will be spared—God will be compassionate and merciful to His people, forgiving their sins and sparing them from the terrible judgment they deserve. The claim of God’s people is not our own righteousness. The righteousness that we plead on that day is the righteousness that is counted to be ours through the perfect obedience of Christ. Having been accepted for the sake of His perfect obedience, our imperfect obedience will be received for Jesus’s sake.
The righteous will be justified—The healing God offers stems from the imputation of a righteousness that is not our own, won for us by the Son of God Himself. Jesus is Yahweh, our righteousness.
The righteous will be blessed—They will be filled to overflowing with joy. In this world, you are strangers and exiles—pilgrims in the land that lies in the power of the evil one—with no place to truly call your own. You mourn and weep and battle the temptation to envy the wicked. But in that day, you will be in the presence of the One in whose presence is fullness of joy, in whose right hand are pleasures forevermore.
The righteous will be treasured—We who ought to be disowned as the offscouring of the world are now called the treasured possession of the God of all holiness, beauty, and righteousness.
The righteous will be triumphant—Christ will destroy the wicked. But once Christ has struck them down, the righteous will triumph over them as those who have been spared, justified, beatified, and are treasured.
The remedy for the believer’s envy of the wicked is to look at the present with the eye of eternity. It is to perceive our end and remember that the day of distinction is coming, when all will be put to rights.
When the unrighteous within the visible “church” lose faith in the goodness and justice of God, when they envy the wicked so much that they betray God’s Word by “deconstructing” their faith in an effort to remain relevant or acceptable to the world, it belongs to us who would quit ourselves faithful to rebuke those on the path of apostasy and to reaffirm our trust in and loyalty to Christ and scripture.
Because heaven will make amends for us all, we can be strengthened to be the faithful remnant—to be in the minority—sadly enough, even among those who call themselves the people of God.