Book of Remembrance (Malachi 3)

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Service Notes

  • Order of Service: Divine Service 3
  • Hymns: LSB #549, 750, 621, 752, 763, 534

Theme Verse

Then those who feared the LORD spoke with one another. The LORD paid attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before Him of those who feared the LORD and esteemed His name. (Malachi 3:16)

Sermon Text

What was the Lectionary Committee thinking putting a reading from Malachi 3 after Malachi 4? They were following the ancient Jewish tradition that places this reading again after Malachi 4 so that the Scriptures don't end on a sour note. Ending with the promise of the distinction of the righteous and the wicked is much better than “a decree of utter destruction.” Still a note of judgment, but a nicer tone.

“A book of remembrance was written before Him of those who feared the LORD and esteemed His name.” God talks about books when it comes to Judgment Day. Daniel saw the Ancient of Days and the Son of Man standing in judgment over all creation based on the books open before them. The books contain the names of those who fear the LORD and esteem His name. Your judgment is based on your name's presence or absence in that Book of Remembrance.

As St. John sees the Great White Throne judgment, the books of all of man's deeds are opened. Everyone is judged by the deeds recorded. Another book, the Book of Life, is also opened. John's Book of Life parallels Malachi's Book of Remembrance because the same names are in each. Those who are remembered for fearing the LORD and esteeming His name are those who have life in Christ. Through the Book of Remembrance and the Lamb's Book of Life the righteous are distinguished from the wicked. What we want to happen in this life will happen in eternity. The righteous will be in Heaven. The wicked will be in Hell. And this separation and distinction will be eternal. We would love to have this happen in our world today. To be surrounded with just good and righteous people. But we don't have that. We have the righteous and the wicked mixed together like the wheat and the tares. Like good and bad fish. We're all jumbled together. The good and the bad. The righteous and the wicked.

But Jesus distinguishes between in His ministry and even in His death. We see this in the two thieves on the cross:

One of the criminals who were hanged railed at Him, saying, "Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!" But the other rebuked him, saying, "Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong." And he said, "Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom." And He said to him, "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise."

Two thieves. One on either side of Him. Both sides of the equation. One seeking physical rescue. One seeking eternal rescue. One speaking from the flesh. One speaking from the heart. A heart broken by his own sin and the crucifixion that it brought him: “We are receiving the due reward of our deeds.” But Jesus' actions on the cross illustrate what will happen on Judgment Day. The wicked will be ignored. The righteous will be rewarded.

Jesus doesn't say one word to the thief railing against Him. Completely ignores him. Doesn't say one word to him. Doesn't even speak of his impending condemnation. Simply leaves him in his tortures. This is the essence of Hell. Complete and total separation from God. Completely ignored by God and all the heavenly host. Nothing but the darkening flames of the eternal fires.

But Jesus turns His attention to the penitent thief. He speaks to him who confesses faith. No, we don't know much about him. Not even his name. Not if he was baptized or had ever heard Jesus preach before. What we do know is that he confessed his faith in Christ with his dying breath. And Jesus rewarded his confession with the promise of Paradise.

God pays attention to those who fear Him. The repentant thief found salvation while hanging on the cross next to Jesus. Saving grace and rescue found in the last moments of life. The first true death bed confession. However, it doesn't matter whether you were called to faith at the dawn of your life or at its sunset, the righteous are rewarded with Paradise. They will sit before God's throne because they have taken refuge in Him.

“God is our Refuge and Strength, a very present help in trouble.” “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” This is the life Jesus would have you live. A life of light and joy. “Don't weep for Me,” He says. “I have overcome the world.” He overcame the world through His cross and resurrection. Offering forgiveness for those who nailed His hands in place. Granting entrance into Paradise to a hardened sinner who came to faith just before it was too late. Jesus is a “very present help in trouble.” He helps all who hail the power of His name. His name is only esteemed by those who take refuge in Him. All others are just pretenders.

Your refuge is in God. Having refuge in Him, you can be still and know that He is God. He has everything under control. Even when, maybe even especially when, things seem completely out of control. He is working all things for good for those who love Him. For those whose name is written in the Book of Remembrance. Your name is written in that book. Written in the blood of the Lamb when you were baptized. When you first took refuge in God. When you first esteemed His name. And you continue to esteem His name as you come to praise Him in worship.

God distinguishes the righteous from the wicked by the Holy Spirit within the righteous. He urges you to come and worship God even when your flesh wants to say, like the ancient Israelites, “It is vain to serve the God. What is the profit of our keeping His charge or of walking as in mourning before the LORD of hosts?” You know the profit of keeping His charge. You know that you may walk in joy before the LORD because your name is recorded in His Book of Remembrance. Amen.