1, 2. (a) What beneficial choices can each one of us make? (b) The fulfillment of what prophecy has a bearing on the blessings we can enjoy?
OURS is a time of judgment and of blessing. It is a period of religious decay and of spiritual restoration. Surely you should want the blessing as well as the present and future good effects of the spiritual restoration! But how can you be assured of these? The answer involves a prophecy that had its major fulfillment soon after “the last days” began in 1914. (2 Timothy 3:1) Malachi foretold: “‘There will come to His temple the true Lord [Jehovah], whom you people are seeking, and the messenger of the covenant in whom you are delighting. Look! He will certainly come,’ Jehovah of armies has said.”—Malachi 3:1.
2 This prophecy that has crucial significance in your life is found in the last of the 12 prophetic books. As we conclude our discussion of them, what Malachi wrote is of particular note. His book includes vital instruction that allows you and others of Jehovah’s servants to receive “a blessing until there is no more want.” (Malachi 3:10) Let us take a closer look at chapter 3 of Malachi’s book.
THE TIME FOR SPIRITUAL CLEANSING
3. What development among God’s ancient people led to the choosing of “the Israel of God”?
3 Some five centuries after Malachi’s time, Jehovah, represented by Christ (God’s “messenger of the [Abrahamic] covenant”), came to the literal temple in Jerusalem to judge His covenant people. In general that nation had proved unworthy of continued favor, so Jehovah rejected it. (Matthew 23:37, 38) You can see proof of that in what occurred in 70 C.E. You can be just as sure that God chose instead “the Israel of God,” a spiritual nation of 144,000 taken from all nations. (Galatians 6:16; Romans 3:25, 26) Yet, that was not the final outworking of Malachi’s prophecy. It also points to modern times and has a direct bearing on your future prospects for “a blessing until there is no more want.”
4. What needed to be answered after Jesus was enthroned in 1914?
4 The fulfillment of Bible prophecy confirms that in 1914, Jesus Christ was installed as King of Jehovah’s heavenly Kingdom. Then came the time for Jesus to identify a group of Christians who merited divine approval. Who would stand the test of spiritual purity? You can find the answer indicated in Malachi’s words: “Who will be putting up with the day of his coming, and who will be the one standing when he appears? For he will be like the fire of a refiner.” (Malachi 3:2) When and how did Jehovah come to his “temple” for judgment?
5, 6. (a) When Jehovah came to his spiritual temple for inspection, what did he find among the majority of professed worshippers? (b) What did God’s spirit-anointed servants need?
5 Obviously, God did not come to a temple of stone and mortar. The last such literal temple for true worship had been destroyed in 70 C.E. Rather, Jehovah came to a spiritual temple, the arrangement by which humans can approach and worship him on the basis of Jesus’ ransom sacrifice. (Hebrews 9:2-10, 23-28) The churches of Christendom certainly did not constitute that spiritual temple, for they were part of a religious system guilty of bloodshed and spiritual harlotry, one that promoted false teachings rather than pure worship. Jehovah became “a speedy witness against” such, and you know that his adverse judgment was just. (Malachi 3:5) However, after God’s Kingdom was established, there was a group of true Christians serving in the courtyards of God’s spiritual temple who demonstrated their allegiance to God through severe trials. Nonetheless, even those anointed ones needed some purification. The writings of the 12 prophets pointed to such, for they contain heartwarming promises of spiritual and physical restoration among God’s servants. Malachi foretold that there would be a people whom Jehovah would “clarify . . . like gold and like silver.” They would “certainly become to Jehovah people presenting a gift offering in righteousness.”—Malachi 3:3.
6 According to substantial evidence available, from 1918 onward Jehovah provided the needed cleansing for anointed Christians, purifying their worship, practices, and doctrines.a They and the “great crowd” who later joined them have greatly benefited. (Revelation 7:9) As a united group, they continue to present “a gift offering in righteousness” that is “gratifying to Jehovah.”—Malachi 3:3, 4.
7. What can we appropriately ask ourselves about our standing with God?
7 That is true of God’s people collectively, but what about each of us individually? You might ask: ‘Are there aspects of my attitude and actions that still need refinement? Do I still need to refine my conduct, even as Jehovah has refined his anointed?’ We saw earlier that the 12 prophets highlighted negative views and conduct as well as positive traits and deeds. Their doing so has put you in a better position to know what Jehovah is “asking back from you.” (Micah 6:8) Note “from you.” That emphasizes why each of us should analyze whether some more refining or cleansing on a personal level is in order.
“TEST ME OUT, PLEASE”
8. What invitation has Jehovah extended to his people?
8 Consider what Jehovah goes on to say through Malachi in chapter 3, verse 10. There you will find this warm invitation: “‘Bring all the tenth parts into the storehouse, that there may come to be food in my house; and test me out, please, in this respect,’ Jehovah of armies has said, ‘whether I shall not open to you people the floodgates of the heavens and actually empty out upon you a blessing until there is no more want.’” That offer is extended to God’s people as a whole. Do you feel that it is also a personal invitation to you?
9. What kind of offerings and tithes can you present to Jehovah?
9 How can you give “the tenth parts” to Jehovah? Of course, you are not obliged to present literal offerings and tithes, such as prescribed under the Law. Offerings of a spiritual kind are what God now expects. As discussed in the preceding chapter, Paul described your witnessing work as an offering. (Hosea 14:2) The apostle then mentioned another type of sacrifice, writing: “Do not forget the doing of good and the sharing of [material] things with others, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.” (Hebrews 13:15, 16) It is thus obvious that “the tenth parts” mentioned at Malachi 3:10 represent spiritual and material offerings. As a baptized Christian, you are fully dedicated to Jehovah, but your tithe represents the portion of what is yours that you are able to bring to Jehovah, or use in his service. It includes the time, energy, resources, and material contributions that you make available for use in Jehovah’s service.
10. In what sense can you fittingly ‘test Jehovah out’?
10 How appropriate it is that you offer such symbolic tithes to Jehovah with feelings of devotion and love! A sense of urgency is also involved. You realize that the great day of Jehovah is fast approaching and that it is “very fear-inspiring.” (Joel 2:1, 2, 11) Lives are at stake. God extends an invitation that you can personally respond to. Jehovah asks you to ‘test him out.’ Of course, no lowly human should dare put Jehovah to the test as if God were untrustworthy. (Hebrews 3:8-10) But you can humbly test him in a proper sense. How? He promised a blessing. When you obey him, you make a test of God, as if asking ‘Will he bless me?’ In response, he puts himself under obligation to do so, keeping his promise. Thus, God’s allowing you to ‘test him out’ underscores your conviction that he will bless you abundantly.
11, 12. What blessings from Jehovah upon his people have you personally witnessed?
11 You can see that Jehovah’s people have made generous material offerings and spiritual sacrifices. And Jehovah has poured out “a blessing until there is no more want.” You may have observed that blessing being bestowed upon God’s people, as reflected in the dramatic numerical growth that Jehovah’s Witnesses have enjoyed from the early part of the 20th century down to our day. You have also seen a marked increase in the understanding of “the deep things of God.” (1 Corinthians 2:10; Proverbs 4:18) Think, though, of this from another angle: How have you personally been impacted?
12 At one time you may have been a church member, or you may have been one who had just begun attending the meetings of Jehovah’s Witnesses. At that point, how much of the Bible’s basic truths did you grasp? Now contrast that with what you have learned since then and can prove directly from the Scriptures. Or think of deeper things you have come to understand, including prophecies that are now being fulfilled. And consider your progress in applying certain Bible passages in practical aspects of life. What steps forward you have made! In your own case, you can say, as did the apostle Peter: “We have the prophetic word made more sure.” (2 Peter 1:19) The point is: You have personally been “taught by Jehovah” and are among a people who practice real Christianity and want to serve Jehovah forever. (Isaiah 54:13) Already you can validly say that he has greatly blessed you.
YOUR NAME IN THE BOOK OF LIFE
13. How is it possible to have one’s name recorded in God’s book of remembrance?
13 You find further blessings from Jehovah mentioned at Malachi 3:16: “At that time those in fear of Jehovah spoke with one another, each one with his companion, and Jehovah kept paying attention and listening. And a book of remembrance began to be written up before him for those in fear of Jehovah and for those thinking upon his name.” Both the anointed and those of the great crowd manifest this reverential “fear of Jehovah.” Do you not consider it a privilege to be one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, a part of a happy people who think upon Jehovah’s name and magnify it globally? How content you can personally be, having the assurance that Jehovah remembers your faithfulness!—Hebrews 6:10.
14. How have the 12 prophets helped you to see what attitudes and practices Jehovah abhors?
14 Yet, how can you as an individual qualify to have your name included in that “book of remembrance,” which is even now being written before Jehovah? Recall some of the wise counsel that we have found in the books of the 12 prophets. We gained insight into conduct, qualities, and attitudes that displease Jehovah. For example, the prophets alerted us to practices that God says conflict with his righteous standards and can ruin our lives, such as “loose conduct” and the “spirit of fornication.” (Hosea 4:12; 6:9) God detests those who deal treacherously with a mate or, by extension, other family members. (Malachi 2:15, 16) Jehovah inspired the prophets to emphasize that he takes no pleasure in violence, whatever its form. (Amos 3:10) He likewise had them highlight the need to avoid injustice or dishonesty in business and financial dealings. (Amos 5:24; Malachi 3:5) And the 12 books stressed how important it is that men entrusted with authority not allow their judgment to be clouded by partiality or selfish interests.—Micah 7:3, 4.
15. What are some fine benefits you will receive from following the exhortations of the 12 prophets?
15 The prophets, though, did more than draw our attention to things we ought to avoid. They spotlighted benefits we can enjoy by upholding God’s standards. Our relationship with Jehovah will be more intimate. (Micah 4:5) Our congregation will be more stable and active when righteousness thrives. Our marriage will be stronger, and our family will be more united, more centered on spiritual things. (Hosea 2:19; 11:4) By acting justly and honestly, we will gain others’ respect. In imitation of Jehovah’s mercy, we will display compassion and loving-kindness and experience such in return from our brothers and sisters. (Micah 7:18, 19) Yes, we will be surrounded by spiritual people, brothers and sisters who love truth and peace, and above all, we will have gained Jehovah’s friendship. (Zechariah 8:16, 19) Do you not agree that these are blessings that you already experience?
16. What distinction is evident today, and what will this mean at Jehovah’s day of reckoning?
16 As a result of what we have just considered, it is so true that “the distinction between a righteous one and a wicked one”—between true and false Christians—is plainer than ever. (Malachi 3:18) We are striving to measure up to Jehovah’s standards while the world in general descends deeper into a mire of ungodliness. And you know that this difference will have serious implications when “the great day of Jehovah” arrives.—Zephaniah 1:14; Matthew 25:46.
17. In the future, how can you use the information in this book?
17 Clearly, then, the counsel of the 12 prophets is timeless. As you face specific challenges or decisions, you may want to review the practical information presented in the chapters of this book. Thus you can show your continuous desire to be instructed in Jehovah’s ways and to “walk in his paths.” (Micah 4:2) Walking in that way, however, involves more than the here and now. Your earnest desire is to have your name written in Jehovah’s book of remembrance permanently, is it not? The books of the 12 prophets can help you to that end.
FAITH LEADS TO SALVATION
18. What vital requirement do you find at Joel 2:32, and what did the apostle Paul add to that requirement?
18 Underscoring a major factor that can bring you God’s lasting approval, Joel stated: “Everyone who calls on the name of Jehovah will get away safe.” (Joel 2:32) Two apostles, Peter and Paul, quoted this vital requirement. (Acts 2:21; Romans 10:13) Paul added another facet to that exhortation when he asked: “How will they call on him in whom they have not put faith?” (Romans 10:14) As for you, surely you want to call on the name of Jehovah and exercise faith in him now and forever!
19. What is involved in calling on the name of Jehovah?
19 Calling on Jehovah’s name involves more than just knowing and using God’s personal name. (Isaiah 1:15) The context of Joel 2:32 stresses true repentance and trust in Jehovah’s forgiveness. (Joel 2:12, 13) Calling on God’s name implies truly coming to know him, trust him, obey him, and put him first in our life. Yes, serving Jehovah becomes our top priority. That, in turn, greatly contributes to a satisfying and lasting life, which is a blessing from God.—Matthew 6:33.
20. As you exercise faith, what marvelous reward becomes possible?
20 Jehovah stated through Habakkuk: “As for the righteous one, by his faithfulness he will keep living.” (Habakkuk 2:4) Be sure to fix that deeply in mind and heart. It is one of the Bible’s central truths. Paul pointed to that scripture three times in his inspired writings.b (Romans 1:16, 17; Galatians 3:11, 14; Hebrews 10:38) This truth calls on you to exercise faith in the sacrifice that Jesus Christ offered for our sins. Jesus explained: “God loved the world so much that he gave his only-begotten Son, in order that everyone exercising faith in him might . . . have everlasting life.” We also read: “He that exercises faith in the Son has everlasting life.” (John 3:16, 36) That sacrifice provides for the healing that only our Redeemer can offer. After recording Jehovah’s statement of what His great day will do to Satan’s wicked world, Malachi continued: “To you who are in fear of my name the sun of righteousness will certainly shine forth, with healing in its wings.” Yes, Jesus will shine forth with healing. That involves the spiritual healing that we experience now. Yet, how thrilling it is to think that it will extend to full physical healing in the new world!—Malachi 4:2.
21. Why can you have faith in Jehovah’s ability to accomplish his will?
21 It is also vital to put faith in God’s ability to accomplish his will. In Micah’s day, it was difficult to trust fellow humans. The prophet noted: “Do not put your faith in a companion. Do not put your trust in a confidential friend.” Still, Micah had no problem trusting in Jehovah; neither should you. Micah stated: “As for me, it is for Jehovah that I shall keep on the lookout.” (Micah 7:5, 7) Unlike unpredictable humans, Jehovah has the will and the power to fulfill his purpose for the vindication of his sovereignty and the lasting welfare of men of faith.
22. Those calling upon the name of Jehovah in faith can experience what outcome?
22 You can confidently echo Habakkuk’s words: “I will exult in Jehovah himself; I will be joyful in the God of my salvation.” (Habakkuk 3:18) The prophet Joel makes clear a reason for joy on the part of those calling upon Jehovah’s name in faith: They “will get away safe” or, as Paul expressed it, “will be saved.” (Joel 2:32; Romans 10:13) Safe, or saved, in what sense? Your exercising faith has already saved you from the crafty acts of Satan and the many painful experiences that the wicked must face. (1 Peter 1:18) More than that, though, you can look forward with confidence to salvation through the catastrophic end of this wicked system of things. That will open the way for you to enjoy a host of blessings that were pointed to by the 12 prophets.
GLIMPSES OF PARADISE
23, 24. (a) What are some glimpses of Paradise offered by the 12 prophets? (b) How has your outlook on the future been affected by what the 12 prophets wrote?
23 There are lasting blessings in store for those “in fear of Jehovah.” (Malachi 3:16) Some of the 12 prophets provided vivid glimpses of the earthly Paradise just ahead, descriptions that can fill you with joy and anticipation. For example, Micah wrote: “They will actually sit, each one under his vine and under his fig tree, and there will be no one making them tremble.” (Micah 4:4) Truly, under God’s Kingdom, you will feel secure and will reap the fruits of your labor!
24 It is not mere wishful thinking for you to look forward to the end of sickness, grief, and even death. Imagine the joy that will come to those raised back to life with the prospect of attaining human perfection! They will experience in an extended way on earth what Hosea 13:14 points to: “From the hand of Sheol I shall redeem them; from death I shall recover them. Where are your stings, O Death? Where is your destructiveness, O Sheol?” Paul applied that verse to the heavenly resurrection.—1 Corinthians 15:55-57.
25. You will have what feelings in the new world?
25 It should not be too difficult to believe that an earthly resurrection will happen. (Zechariah 8:6) When Amos and Micah foretold that God’s people would return from exile, that may have seemed hard to believe. Yet, you know that it did happen. (Amos 9:14, 15; Micah 2:12; 4:1-7) The returnees responded: “We became like those who were dreaming. At that time our mouth came to be filled with laughter, and our tongue with a joyful cry. . . . Jehovah has done a great thing in what he has done with us. We have become joyful.” (Psalm 126:1-3) That is how you will feel in the new world upon experiencing “a blessing until there is no more want.”
Jehovah’s servants are surrounded by those who love truth and justice
26. What awaits those who live with Jehovah’s day in mind?
26 After “the day of Jehovah” cleanses the earth of wickedness, “the kingship must become Jehovah’s” in a fuller sense. (Obadiah 15, 21) Will that not be a marvelous blessing for all his earthly subjects? And you can be among those to whom the words of Malachi chapter 3 will apply: “‘They will certainly become mine,’ Jehovah of armies has said, . . . ‘And I will show compassion upon them, just as a man shows compassion upon his son who is serving him.’” (Malachi 3:17) Clearly, your faithfulness, which now puts you in line to be saved, will then open to you “a blessing until there is no more want.” What a marvelous prospect!
b Paul quoted from the Greek Septuagint, where the wording differs slightly from the Hebrew text.