God's Gracious Regard to the Righteous
William Nicholson, 1862
"Then those who feared the Lord spoke often one to another, and the Lord hearkened and heard; and a book of remembrance was written before him for those who feared the Lord, and thought upon his name." Malachi 3:16
Christians are called the light of the world and the salt of the earth — their influence is enlightening and preservation. Hence their influence is always valuable. It appears so especially in dark seasons — -when religion has declined, and when few enjoy it.
Christians are always dear to God, in every state and circumstance. If he sees his image in them; if they fear him and think upon his name, and love his cause — then "the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those that hope in his mercy." At the time the prophet wrote these words, there were few of this character. Even the priests were corrupt, and they had corrupted the law. They were enemies to true religion, and nearly all the people were like them. They said it was "vain to serve God." The text contradicts such a statement.
I. The Character of God's People.
1. They feared the Lord. While all around them were practical atheists — they felt the importance of true religion. This fear is not a slavish fear, but a filial one. The former is destroyed by faith in Jesus the Savior, who delivers the soul from guilt and condemnation, etc.; the latter is induced by adopting love, which gives confidence in God, assurance of his constant care and mercy and love, Romans 8:15.
True Christians are like . . .
Obadiah, who "feared the Lord greatly;"
Abraham, of whom the angel said, "I know that you fear God;"
the primitive church, "they walked in the fear of the Lord;"
Cornelius, who was "a devout man, and one that feared God with all his house."
This divine principle, far from being the produce of the barren soil of nature, is wrought in the soul by the Spirit of God, according to the promise of the new covenant, "And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from doing them good; but I will put My fear in their hearts so that they will not depart from Me!" Jeremiah 32:40
The saints fear and reverence the majesty of God — and the authority of God, Matthew 10:28. This authority is so extensive, that it reaches to our present existence, and to our eternal destinies. They are afraid of displeasing him. They "stand in awe, and sin not."
2. They delighted in Christian conversation and fellowship. "They spoke often one to another." They loved the sanctuary where their brethren worshiped; and all the means for social prayer and praise.
"They took sweet counsel together," etc. No doubt they spoke of the best things. They spoke of Christ, and the glories of his kingdom — of his delivering power, and said, "Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will tell you what he has done for my soul!" They spoke of his precious promises of everlasting glory.
The brother in adversity was cheered;
the sick and the languid were animated and resigned,
the tempted were succored and fortified,
those ready to halt were induced to persevere and to hold fast, etc. Romans 15:1; 1 Thessalonians 5:14.
3. They thought upon the name of the Lord. His name was sacred to them — a fruitful source of profound and edifying meditation. The name of the Lord, is God himself in the plenitude of his power, omniscience, justice, goodness, mercy, and truth.
The Lord's name was dear to them; they were concerned for its glory, and grieved for its dishonor.
(1.) To think on the name of the Lord, also implies a deep solicitude for the prosperity of God's cause in the world. The name of the Lord is intimately connected with this. When David thought of his name, his heart was fixed on the prosperity of the Messiah's kingdom. Here God is glorified in the highest.
(2.) To think on the name of the Lord, also implies the employment of our individual instrumentality to promote the Divine glory. We may be zealous in holy duties, etc., in order to raise our own name. This is vanity. A true Christian consecrates his talents and powers to promote the glory of God, and he feels that, after having done all, he is but an unprofitable servant. "Not unto me, O Lord, not unto me, but unto your name be all the glory."
II. The Divine Approbation of the Righteous."The Lord hearkened and heard; and a book of remembrance was written before him for those who feared the Lord, and thought upon his name!"
1. He graciously noticed them and their services. "He hearkened and heard." They met together, perhaps privately, as the sorrowful disciples did for fear of the Jews; but there was one that hearkened heard and approved.
Christians may be poor and illiterate;
their services very imperfect;
they may be despised, and ridiculed by the world
— yet the Lord "hearkens and hears" all their ministrations, their breathings of prayer, and their lispings of praise. Miserable may be the place where they assemble, but the Lord loves the gates of Zion, etc. He takes pleasure in the prosperity of his servants. Graciously he attends to the groanings of the prisoners, to the cries of the needy, and the conversation of pilgrims bound for Heaven.
God knows and approves the way of the righteous.
2. He granted them a share in his affectionate remembrance. "And a book of remembrance was written before him." Here is an allusion to the records kept by kings of all that was done for their honor, Esther 6:1. And so God will "render to every man according to his works."
What a glorious privilege for Christians to have their names and their deeds written in the book of remembrance — never to be forgotten!
They merit not such an honor, but grace gives it to them. To be remembered by one who is unable to do us any good, would answer but little purpose. Pharaoh's butler could do but little for Joseph while he was in prison; but, said he, "When it is well with you, remember me." To have a friend in the king's presence would be of some advantage. Hence the prayer of the dying thief, "Lord, remember me when you come in your glory!"
God is all-sufficient, having at his command all the blessings of nature, by which he can amply repair every loss we may sustain for his sake; and all the blessings of grace, by which he can abundantly recompense and console us under all our sufferings. He has Heaven and glory at his disposal. Prophets, apostles, martyrs, all the servants of Christ, have been remembered.
At the great last day, he will produce the book that was written before him, and read it in the presence of an assembled world, Matthew 25:19-23, 34, etc.
The following verse declares that then he will own them as his most valued treasure; "They will be mine," says the LORD Almighty, "in the day when I make up my jewels. I will spare them, just as in compassion a man spares his son who serves him!" Malachi 3:17. As base as they have thought themselves to be, they shall be mine — mine forever!
1. The nature of true religion. It consists not in pomp and splendor, nor in rites and ceremonies — but in filial reverence of God — fellowship with his people, and love to his mime. All other religions are false.
2. Let your conduct, through Divine aid, be such as will bear the scrutiny of God, and such us he will remember.
3. Anticipate the day for "the manifestation of the sons of God." Then all those who are accounted by the wicked as the offscouring of all things, and the filth of the world — will be owned by Jehovah as his jewels, a figure expressive of infinite and everlasting endearment!