As we enter a new year a fitting verse for us to remember is Malachi 3:6: ‘For I the LORD do not change; therefore you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed’.
The brightness of the stars is appreciated most of all during the darkness of the night. Malachi’s time was exceedingly dark in a spiritual sense. This being so, how greatly must God’s people then have appreciated the beam of light and hope which this verse gave them!
We tend to think that no time could be worse than our own; yet Malachi’s day mirrored ours.
Then, as now, God was not generally honoured or feared; divine worship, when it occurred, was lax, slipshod and contrary to Scripture. Then, as now, there were apostate religious leaders; adultery, divorce, falsehood, oppression and cruelty were rife.
In those days, too, religious apathy prevailed and, as a consequence, the law of heaven was exchanged for the lawlessness of hell.
Amid the gloom, fear, perplexity and uncertainty, God spoke. He spoke through his servant Malachi – a name which fittingly means ‘my messenger’.
God assured Malachi – and reassures us – of three divine realities: God’s constancy, God’s community, and God’s clemency.
‘I the Lord do not change’. Such a statement is an encouragement to faith. In changing times we have an anchor for our souls in the Lord, our rock and our redeemer.
He alone remains constant, faithful and dependable. With him ‘there is no variation or shadow due to change’. In changing times wehave an unchanging and unchangeable God.
And what is true of God the Father is equally true of God the Son, for ‘Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and for ever’ (Hebrews 13:8).
Yesterday, today for ever,
Jesus is the same.
All may change, but Jesus never,
Glory to his name.
Whatever changes we may face, we can rely on an unchanging God. ‘If God is for us, who is against us?’ demands Paul(Romans 8:31). The One who is ‘for us’ – on our side – is unchanging in his being, wisdom, power, purpose, holiness, justice, goodness and truth.
This unchanging God has promised never to fail us or forsake us, so we may face the future with confidence (Hebrews 13:5-6).
The verse refers next to ‘the sons of Jacob’. Here we have God’s community – a community of sinners saved by grace.
It reminds us that no matter how dark the era, God still has his people, even if they only seem a remnant. In Malachi’s day, as in ours, there were those who genuinely belonged to God and could testify to his saving grace.
Malachi 3:16 tells us that ‘those who feared the Lord spoke often with one another: the Lord heeded and heard them and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who feared the Lord and thought on his name’.
God sees to it that there will always be a community of his people on earth. He made a covenant with Abraham to be God to him and to his descendants after him (Genesis 17:7). The ‘sons of Jacob’, redeemed by the Passover lamb, constituted this covenant community in their day.
Christ’s new covenant people are, in a spiritual sense, the linear descendants of that community. They are the people of God on earth, redeemed by the blood of the Lamb.
Galatians 3:29 says: ‘If you are Christ’s then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise’.
Yes, the world may seem dark and ungodly – yet it cannot put out the light of God’s saving grace. He will always have a people for himself – a company who rejoice in his salvation.
Jesus said, ‘I will build my church and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it'(Matthew 16:18). If you are a member of this Church, you have every cause to thank God and take courage.
Finally, our verse reveals the clemency of God and his amazing mercy to sinners. Why did he not ‘consume’ the sons of Jacob in his wrath? Because there is clemency – an abounding mercy – with him.
The God of the Bible revealed himself to Moses in these words: ‘The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness’ (Exodus 34:6).
It is because of his great mercy that none of us are consumed by his anger. And living this side of Calvary and the empty tomb, we understand God’s mercy more clearly than the prophet.
Yet Malachi prophesied that Messiah would come – and Christ, the Messiah, did come. In the Lord Jesus Christ, God’s mercy became incarnate.
For it is Jesus alone who saves us from the wrath of God and transforms those who were ‘children of wrath’ into the blessed children of God and heirs of eternal life (Ephesians 2:1-8).
John adds: ‘In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his son to be the propitiation for our sins'(1 John 4:10).
Till time shall cease, God’s mercy awaits the repentant sinner and bestows the gift of saving faith in Jesus, the Saviour of sinners. For ‘the Lord … is forbearing toward you, not wishing that any should perish but that all should reach repentance’ (2 Peter 3:9).
Paradoxically, God’s mercy did not spare his Son – but it spares us! ‘He who did not spare his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? … it is God who justifies’ (Romans 8:32-33).
Thank God, then, for his unchanging promise in a changing world: ‘I the Lord do not change, therefore you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed’. With God there is a dependable constancy, a delivered community and a divine clemency.
With this promise we may step out confidently into the unknown year, trusting in a known God – who is already there!
Before the hills in order stood
or earth received her frame,
From everlasting Thou art God
to endless years the same.
O God our help in ages past,
our hope for years to come,
Be Thou our guide while life shall last,
and our eternal home