“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
Pastor Kenneth G. Smith preached on these words ten years ago in the congregation I serve as pastor. On that Lord’s Day, we gave thanks that the Lord had allowed us to continue as a congregation for forty years. Looking at these words from Malachi, Ken Smith mused on the words that the godly people of Malachi’s day must have spoken to one another in the midst of trouble times. The comfort, of course, is that the Lord paid attention and heard them and wrote a book of remembrance. God will not forget his people!
But what did those who feared the Lord say to one another? We do not know exactly, but they were obviously words that pointed one another towards God in the midst of an increasingly crooked and perverse generation. God will not forget his people, and we must not forget him either!
Pastor Smith exhorted us to speak to one another as members of the local body in three ways. He memorably (at least as clearly as my memory recalls) called us to:
- Respect God’s work done in the past.
- Inspect God’s work in the present.
- Expect God to work in the future.
Ten years later, we are still doing the same thing as a congregation. We are dusting off some of the old pictures, adding new ones to the archives, scanning the membership roll, the list of births, baptisms, marriages, officers, and telling stories in the process.
Remembering is always a very rich thing because we see progress in the Lord. In addition to the historical work of salvation wrought in Christ, we also see his past work in our lives. New converts have been added, maturing Christians have grown, boys and girls who have grown to become leading men and women, sincere repentance and forgiveness has been seen, and so on. Yet, history tells a difficult story, too. Old pictures reveal images of those who have gone to be with the Lord, or whose health is failing, or whose lives have been filled with disappointment, or who have drifted into sin and unbelief. We respect what the sovereign Lord has done in the past – the times of blessing and the times of chastening.
Most striking to me is that what we inspected of God’s then-present work ten years ago we now respect as his part work. What we expected him to do in the next ten years now must be respected as his past work, too. As we have spoken one to another in the last few weeks, a testimony of gratitude for grace - so very sweet to the people of God – has abounded.
Today, we talk with each other about the present work of God that we inspect with our own eyes. The people of God need to move their eyes from the past to the present. As always, there are reasons for discouragement, and reasons for gratitude. As we talk to each other about Jesus work, one thing is clear: Jesus is at work! It is easy to miss it if we live thoughtlessly, which is why we need to open our eyes, inspect what Jesus is doing, and reflect on it with others.
Finally, as we respect his past work and inspect his present doings, we cannot help but expect that he will do it again. Of course, his future work will not look exactly the same as his past or present works. But when the people of God take time to talk together about their Lord, their attention cannot help but be drawn to the future. We’re looking forward to the next half-century as a congregation and beyond. We pray that God will forever grant us grace to talk with one another about him and respect what he has done in the past, inspect his present doings, and expect that he will yet do great and mighty things knowing that he will not forget his people.