3 Nephi 24 (see also Malachi 3)
It’s hidden in the footnotes and the context of this chapter, but the offering, that the Sons of Levi are to offer, is a book of remembrance. It’s a completed family pedigree of the history of the world. How will this happen? It seems impossible without Divine influence and assistance.
Tithing (and other offereings) is presented here in a broader, more encompassing context than I had heretofore considered. Before the question is asked “Will a man rob God?”, the question is asked “Wherein shall we return?” Suggesting that the people had strayed from the ordinances of God, particular as it pertains to caring for the poor.
Going back to verse 1, it talks about messengers. The footnotes point to the Gospel itself as being the messenger sent to prepare the way for Christ, who is also called the messenger of the covenant. (I’ve always looked for an individual to assign as the messenger, like John the Baptist or Joseph Smith.) Indeed, Christ is also called the Word in the book of John. This verse talks of the Lord’s return to the temple when he does return. Then there is also this interesting context of description. The Lord is described as “the Lord whom ye seek”, and later “whom ye delight in.” So this revelation is being delivered to those who seek the Lord and delight in Him.
Verses 2-4 have deeper meaning to me now if am correctly understanding the offering that the sons of Levi are to offer up to the Lord. Because Malachi is the same prophet who just one chapter later says that the hearts of the fathers shall be turned to the children and visa versa, lest the whole earth should be destroyed, it is quite conceivable that the final offering of the sons of Levi (who will have withstood the refiner’s fire and all the purging to happen before He comes again), that offering may be a book of remembrance, as suggested in verse 16. It seems to me that this is the righteous offering that the Lord is looking forward to receiving at his coming.
(I just shared this with my wife and that opened up a larger box of possible understandings in connection with family history, science and its true purposes [DNA], healing, and really compelling stories.)
Repentance and change are the primary actions of mortality because we are sent here to become as Christ, which can only happen through our repentance and change. Malachi describes the Savior as a refiner’s fire and like fuller’s soap. His purpose is to purify those that come to Him. (See verse 2 & 3)
Verse 5 talks about the judgment of the Lord against all those that seek their own self interests above the Lord’s. He names specifically that he will be “a swift witness against” the following :
- False Swearers
- Those that oppress
- the hireling in his wages
- the widow
- the fatherless
- Those that turn aside the stranger
- Those that fear not the Lord.
I feel like what this chapter is reinforcing in my mind is the reality that God makes covenants with his children, and that he is mighty to uphold those that honor their covenants before Him.
I’ve given only a cursory treatment to the verses on tithing, as these are very familiar verses to me out of context. However, in context they seem to have even more power and weight. God is saying to pay tithes and offering as a part of our covenants.
Verses 10 – 12 appear to be directly correlated with having paid tithes and offerings, but in the broader context of the whole chapter, it is more apt to say that these blessings (windows of heaven being opened, rebuked the devourer for our sakes, not destroy the fruit of our ground, and all nations to call us blessed) are rather the result of making covenants with the Father (who is mighty to save). The covenants are where the power lies.
Verses 13-15 address another grievance against the children of Israel. This grievance is more an issue of perspective. The Lord calls them out for the complaint, to which these would-be disciples pretend to have not complained. What was their complaint:
It is vain to serve God, and what doth it profit that we have kept his ordinances and that we have walked mournfully before the Lord of Hosts?
And now we call the proud happy; yea, they that work wickedness are set up; yea, they that tempt God are even delivered.Verse 14-15
The challenge here is that this complaining appears to come from those that are followers of Christ, or children of the covenant. But then verse 16 offers a decisive proof between those that would appear to be following God and those who actually are. What is the difference? True believers are “they that feared the Lord.” In contrast, it might be said that the former group feared men more than God. Clearly, they saw the proud as being happy, the wicked as having the advantage, and those that oppose or “tempt God” as being delivered. To that last claim, I would ask “from what?” What are the wicked being delivered from, and surely it is not their own self-destruction?
And what true disciple has not experience the deliverance from the unseen forces of evil, or the shackles of sin, when there was not immediate relief the temporary bonds of a physical opposition. No wicked man ever experienced deliverance from their own sins, because only God can provide such.
The last three verses of this chapter tell of the Lord’s deliverance of the righteous, or of a separation between the wicked and the righteous. In verse 16, they that feared God (the righteous) gathered together often and a book of remembrance was kept among them “for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon his name.” Verse 17 states that from these he will take ownership and make them his jewels. It goes further to say that the Lord will spare them “as a man spareth his own son that serveth him.” This idea of the righteous being those that serve God is reinforced further in verse 18 where it plainly states:
…discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not.Verse 18
In other words, the difference in understanding between the righteous and the wicked is as simple as understanding who serves God and who does not. End of discussion.
But it’s actually not the end of the discussion. I actually had a lively debate with my wife on this point of terminology, and as I go back and look at how I just categorized or classified between wicked and righteous persons with a simple statement of fact, it causes me to consider perhaps how quick I have been to judge without knowledge.