Calvary Road Baptist Church

“THE THOUGHTS OF THE GODLY” Part 1

Malachi 3.16

 

Turn to Malachi 3.13-16, and stand for the reading of God’s Word:

 

13     Your words have been stout against me, saith the LORD. Yet ye say, What have we spoken so much against thee?

14     Ye have said, It is vain to serve God: and what profit is it that we have kept his ordinance, and that we have walked mournfully before the LORD of hosts?

15     And now we call the proud happy; yea, they that work wickedness are set up; yea, they that tempt God are even delivered.

16     Then they that feared the LORD spake often one to another: and the LORD hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon his name.[1]

 

Malachi is the last of the great succession of prophets who foretold the coming of the Messiah for one thousand years. Nothing is known of the man, not even his name, for sure. “Malachi” is the Hebrew word for “my messenger,” which is not a proper name at all.[2] The prophet was a contemporary of Nehemiah, who himself was the governor at the time of the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem. Malachi was disturbed by the same issues that were so disturbing to Nehemiah.

The Jews who returned from captivity were spiritually cold, without any real awareness of the great love God displayed toward them, unaware and unconcerned about the enormity of their departure from the will and the ways of God, and generally apathetic toward the things of God in general. They were so lacking in spiritual perception that, when their deeds were pointed out to them, they saw no harm in any of the sins they were committing. Their attitude toward the Lord is revealed by their challenging responses to His accusations, to which they characteristically responded with denials that began with the word “Wherein?”

Rather than outline the entire book, I will simply highlight several things in the passage we have read before pointing out our text:

 

First, THE LORD ACCUSES THE WICKED

 

Verse 13 begins, “Your words have been stout against me, saith the LORD.” Consider these words. God, Himself, has leveled a serious charge against His people returned from Babylonian captivity. They have spoken against God, strongly against God. He is taking it personally, which should not surprise us, since He is a personal being. Consider this situation. What type of reaction to such a rebuke would you expect of someone, anyone, who feared God? How would Abraham, or Job, or Moses, or Joseph, or David, or Samuel, or Elijah, or any God-fearer have responded to this charge?

Yet, notice the response of these people: “Yet ye say, What have we spoken so much against thee?” Is this not a defiant response? Is this not a challenging reaction? Is there any indication from these words that these people fear God, that they are humble toward God? These words are blasphemous. They are so much as saying, “Prove it!” to the LORD’s accusation of wrongdoing. In other words, they display an attitude of defiance toward God.

Displaying an astonishing amount of long-suffering toward His people, the LORD responds, rehearsing to them what they have said against Him:

 

14     Ye have said, It is vain to serve God: and what profit is it that we have kept his ordinance, and that we have walked mournfully before the LORD of hosts?

15     And now we call the proud happy; yea, they that work wickedness are set up; yea, they that tempt God are even delivered.

 

They actually insisted that it was a waste of time to serve God, verse 14, and wondered what possible profit there was in keeping His ordinances. What are you telegraphing to others about serving God being a waste of time if you, yourself, are unfaithful in your own service to God? Those were their words. Notice, also, their attitude, at the end of verse 14. They also wondered why they should walked mournfully before the LORD of hosts for their sinning. In verse 15, we see more of what they said. Instead of pride being seen by them as a very sinful attitude, they were happy to be proud, thought there was benefit to working wickedness, and were convinced that a person who tempted God could actually get away with it. In other words, those people were very much like most people are today.

 

Now, Please, Notice GOD ACKNOWLEDGES THE GODLY

 

Verse 16: “Then they that feared the LORD spake often one to another: and the LORD hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon his name.”

 

Those who feared the LORD talked to each other frequently. That speaks of communion with the saints, gathering for worship where there is preaching and singing, and the mutual exhortation of one another.

Notice that God took note of their actions, listened to their words, and wrote their deeds in His book of remembrance. Ah, God’s book of remembrance. Do you take comfort in God’s book of remembrance, or do such records of your deeds fill you with foreboding and dread?

What, precisely, did the godly do that God took note of here? Notice the two descriptions of the godly in the last half of the verse: “. . . them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon his name.”

My sermon will focus on “them . . . that thought upon his name.” That is a great key to fearing God and godliness.

 

SERMON:

 

My text for this evening, and next Sunday night, Lord willing, is the phrase, “them . . . that thought upon his name.” What does it mean to think on His name? It means to fix your thoughts on His essence, to meditate upon His glorious attributes. Do you ever do that?

We know from the beginning of Malachi 3.16 that the godly speak often to one another. It is, therefore, not a stretch to surmise what they talked about. They talked about God. However, you must think about what you talk about. As well, if you talk about someone, you must think about that someone. Ergo, in order to talk about God you must also think about God. The two activities are connected.

What about thinking about God. Is it good to think about God? Proverbs 12.5 reads, “The thoughts of the righteous are right.” What could be more right to think about than God? The question I would ask you, this evening, is whether or not you think about God.

In Second Timothy 4.2, the Apostle Paul charged young Timothy to “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.” Therefore, with respect to thinking about God, keeping Him in your thoughts, let me reprove those of you who do not have God in your thoughts, and then exhort you who do have God in your thoughts.

Tonight I will concentrate on rebuking those of you who do not have God in your thoughts. Though you may admit that it is a good thing to think about God, you do not think about God yourself.

In light of this matter of thinking on God, what is our text to you?

 

First, It Is A REBUKE TO THOSE WHO DO NOT THINK ON GOD’S NAME

 

It is about the wicked that the psalmist writes, in Psalm 10.4, “God is not in all his thoughts.” This person endeavors to expunge and blot God out of his mind. Is this what you are like? When a message from God’s Word is preached, and your thoughts are turned by the preacher to God and the things of God, how long does it take you to pull your mind away from the thoughts of God? Are you, therefore, such a fellow who would admit that God is not in all your thoughts?

This is also the fellow who is quite willing to draw his breath from God, yet he still does not think of Him. Think about that for a moment. What ingratitude. What a lack of appreciation. Each breath made possible by God, but still He is not worthy to you of your thoughts. Are you not, then, an enemy of the cross, “Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things,” Philippians 3.19?

Certainly, God is a worthy subject to think about. Is there anything so excellent in the world as God? If anything in this world is worthy of your thoughts, what about the God that made it? He gives the star its beauty, He gives the flower its fragrance, and He gives your food its pleasantness. Yet, through all of that, you do not think of Him?

If there is anything of value in any created being, what must there therefore be in God. Surely, He must be better than anything He has made. Shall I admire the drop of water and take the ocean for granted? Shall I think of something beautiful, and not of the Artist that made it? Who would admire the Mona Lisa, while despising the genius of Leonardo da Vinci?

You see, do you not, that this neglect of God is the fruit of original sin. Sin has warped your soul, and knocked it off course from the proper object of your attention. You grant that as the truth, do you not? God created man in His image and after His likeness, to admire admirable things, to glory in glorious things. Therefore, when one does not admire God, glory in God, giving no thought to God, there is something terribly wrong.

 

Next, OUR TEXT IS A REBUKE TO THOSE WHO THINK OF GOD, BUT WHO DO NOT HAVE THE RIGHT THOUGHTS ABOUT HIM

 

This is illustrated in the case of one of Job’s comforters, Eliphaz, in Job 42.7, where the LORD spoke to him and said, “My wrath is kindled against thee, and against thy two friends: for ye have not spoken of me the thing that is right, as my servant Job hath.” Some people think of God, but they do not think of Him the thing that is right. Eliphaz thought wrong thoughts about God, leading to him saying wrong things about God.

On one hand, they have what are properly described as unworthy thoughts about God. For example, there are those who imagine God to be as they are. In Psalm 50.21, the mighty God says, “thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself: but I will reprove thee, and set them in order before thine eyes.” My friends, though we are in some small ways somewhat as God is, we need to keep in mind that God is not as we are. Consider God’s thoughts, according to Isaiah 55.8-9:

 

8      For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.

9      For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.

 

Therefore, you see, God does not think as you think. Next, consider fully God’s deeds. Do you realize that in six places in the Bible, God describes Himself as holy? He is holy because it is His nature, and it is reflected in His deeds. No wonder we read these words, in Genesis 1.31: “And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.” As well, it would not hurt us to keep in our minds what those disciples knew on the day of Pentecost. Acts 1.24 records their words: “Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all men.” Listen to what Peter said, in Acts 15.8: “And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness.” God is different. He is good. He is holy. He knows everything. Do not forget that, as Creator, He has shown Himself to be wise and to be omnipotent. Therefore, to reduce Him and to diminish Him in any way is to think unworthy thoughts about Him.

However, that is not all. Not only are unworthy thoughts possible, but there are some who have injurious thoughts of God. On occasion, men, erroneously, believe God to be guilty of treating people unjustly. How many times have you heard people relate to you how unfair God is, and how unfairly He treats them? This is not a new thing. Ezekiel 18.25 reads, “Yet ye say, The way of the Lord is not equal. Hear now, O house of Israel; Is not my way equal? are not your ways unequal?” Remember, also, what I mentioned earlier, when I pointed out the Jews of Malachi’s day thought His ways are not profitable: “What profit is it that we have kept his ordinance?” Malachi 3.14.

Perhaps you think on God. However, do you imagine God to be unkind, mean, hateful, petty, unjust, or anything short of the kind, good, gracious, generous, long-suffering, holy, righteous, beautiful, majestic, and glorious God that He describes Himself in scripture to be, and has shown Himself in history to be? If so, our text is a rebuke to you.

 

Third, OUR TEXT REPROVES THOSE WHO, INSTEAD OF THINKING ON GOD, HAVE THEIR MINDS WHOLLY TAKEN UP WITH EMPTY AND USELESS THOUGHTS

 

Do you know anyone who refuses to think on God, but whose mind is always on a video game? Perhaps you know someone who refuses to think on God, but his mind is always on his girl friend, or her mind is always on her boy friend. How about the mindless wonder that devotes himself to trashy music, but has only contempt for the God whose praises shall be sung by angelic choirs forever?

In Jeremiah 4.14, God says, “How long shall thy vain thoughts lodge within thee?” I do not deny that vain thoughts may sometimes come into the best hearts, but the godly take care to turn useless thoughts out, so the valuable space that comprises their thoughts and memories is not crowded with that which is not just useless, but that which is also harmless because it displaces thoughts of God.

Jeremiah 16.19 speaks of “vanity, and things wherein there is no profit.” Are those the kinds of thoughts that take up residence in your mind? Do you fill your head with things that are of no benefit to your heart, and which will provide no man comfort when he dies, “In that very day his thoughts perish,” Psalm 146.4? The problem with empty and useless thoughts is that they are destructive in a way not immediately recognized, subtly hardening the heart and desensitizing it to the things of God by taking up space and time that should be occupied with God, Himself.

 

Finally, OUR TEXT REPROVES THOSE WHO HAVE NOT ONLY VAIN THOUGHTS, BUT VILE THOUGHTS

 

First, consider proud thoughts, lofty thoughts of self, thoughts devoted to yourself. The famous rabbi, Gamaliel, referred to such a situation, in Acts 5.36: “For before these days rose up Theudas, boasting himself to be somebody; to whom a number of men, about four hundred, joined themselves: who was slain; and all, as many as obeyed him, were scattered, and brought to nought.” We all know what must happen to the person with proud thoughts. However, thoughts that focus on God, His might and majesty, His glory and goodness, typically finds proud thoughts more difficult to embrace.

Next, consider impure thoughts. Those with impure thoughts are people whose attention is focused on the gratification of their lusts. They “make provision,” or as the word signifies, become “caterers” for the flesh. Romans 13.14: “But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.”

 

Why are thoughts so important? Why is the failure to think on God so dangerous? Because sin begins in your thoughts. Micah 2.1-2 well illustrates the terrible progression from thoughts to deeds:

 

1      Woe to them that devise iniquity, and work evil upon their beds! when the morning is light, they practise it, because it is in the power of their hand.

2      And they covet fields, and take them by violence; and houses, and take them away: so they oppress a man and his house, even a man and his heritage.

 

Is this not exactly what happened when wicked Jezebel conjured up a scheme to murder Naboth, so she could steal his vineyards that were coveted by her husband, Ahab? Thoughts are dangerous, my friend.

A man may deny God in his thoughts: “The fool hath said in his heart there is no God,” Psalm 14.1.

A man may commit adultery in his thoughts: “Whosoever looks on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her in his heart,” Matthew 5.28.

A man may murder another man in his thoughts: “Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer,” First John 3.15.

Oh, how we should tremble at sinful thoughts. We startle at gross sins, but we are not so much troubled by sinful thoughts. This is a mistake, because sins may be committed in the thoughts, though they never blossom into outward acts: “The thought of foolishness is sin,” Proverbs 24.9. This being the case, God will punish sinful thoughts. Why so? For two reasons: First, because sinful thoughts are themselves sinful. And, second, because sinful thoughts invariably lead to sinful deeds.

Therefore, it is to your advantage to think on God, to think well on God, to think well of God, and to think of God instead of dwelling upon yourself, instead of dwelling upon your appetites, and instead of dwelling upon obvious sins.

May I close by suggesting how to think upon God? Meditate upon Him. Psalm 119.11 reads, “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.” Select a verse dealing with the goodness and greatness of God that jumps out at you during your daily devotional Bible reading, commit them to memory, and then meditate upon God by rehearsing those verses in your thoughts.

Here are two verses to memorize and meditate upon that speak directly to the veracity of both God and the Bible: 

·         John 17.17:  “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.”

·         Titus 1.2:  “In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began.”



[1] I am indebted to Thomas Watson, The Great Gain Of Godliness, (Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2006), pages 78-81.

[2] Charles L. Feinberg, The Minor Prophets, (Chicago: Moody Press, 1990), page 249.



Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org