|Posted by Lorraine Serra on August 14, 2010 at 11:17 AM|
As we come to the close of chapter 3 of the Book of Malachi, it becomes evident that the Hebrew children of Zion are of two different camps: those who blaspheme God in their arrogance, speaking against God, and those who honor God and express loving fear of the Lord.
Beginning at verse 13, God is calling the Jews out on the proverbial carpet, as it were, indicting them for speaking out so harshly against Him. Immediately, they respond like a child caught in the act of disobedience, “What have we spoken against You?” Did you ever hear a child blame his brother for something he did?
“It wasn’t me, dad. Mikey did it!”
Evidently, there was a small, but outspoken, group of Jews who spoke not directly to God, but about God, sort of behind His back (if that were at all possible) in disrespectful, rebellious terms, with one another. They spread their own gospel, implying that serving God was drudgery. Not so surprising, since corrupt minds tend to spread corrupt communications. They complained that serving God and obeying His ordinances required that they walk about like mourners, and what good had come of it?
Pointing to how the wicked seemed to prosper, this group of disgruntled Jews believed those who followed God’s ordinances were no better off for it. This position certainly resembles contemporary arguments for live hard, live fast, grab all you can, help yourself; live for today, he who has the most toys wins. I guess some things never change.
The human heart is self-serving at its most basic level. We are born selfish, and are gently nurtured to understand that we are part of larger family and community. Mutual love and respect are basic principles of family. Though this does not always play out as it should because of our inherently sinful nature, nevertheless, civilized people groups have built their lives on the expectation that we will treat others as we would like to be treated.
It is, in essence, the Golden Rule that Jesus taught, which all but the wicked do embrace. It is a fundamental truth of God, revealed through Christ, though many reject Jesus.
So, these Jews here were guilty of treason against the King of kings. In their pride and contempt of God, they spoke out against all that He had designed. They opposed His ordinances, and evidently had no fear of being called in to account. They freely whined and complained against the Almighty, and are not ashamed to do so.
Holy cow! Excuse me, but who are we to question the purposes of God? It would seem that the selfish, hard-hearted interpretation of God’s commands is at issue here. It appears that these folks had only focused on the external observances of the law and its rituals, rather than the inward part of the relationship with God.
God requires those who seek after Him to serve Him with gladness and to walk cheerfully before Him. The Psalms and Proverbs reverberate with the beauty of enjoying wisdom from God; wisdom’s ways are pleasantness, and wisdom is better than fine gold. Meditating on the deepest mysteries of life brings us to an attitude of awe and reverence and joy for what God has created. It should birth in us a heart of gratitude and a desire for connection with this covenant God.
The gospe lof Matthew records Jesus in chapter 15 indicting those who worship in vain. “They draw near with their mouth, but their hearts are far from me.” But, He promises, God is the rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. Jesus said His yoke was easy, and His burden light. Spiritual matters trump physical, but God still knows our physical needs and provides for the humble, the obedient and repentant.
These Jews were espousing wickedness in order to prosper. Yet, immediate gratification in wealth, power or position is a short-sighted goal. For, as the prophet Malachi continues in verse 16, the other camp, those who feared the Lord, spoke in ways which honored God in obedience and with sincere worship.
These had retained their integrity and zeal for God even in a corrupt and degenerate age. (Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?) The gracious God has taken note of these saints in Zion and will reward them for reverencing His majesty and submitting to His authority. These will have their names written in a book of remembrance . Isn’t this a beautiful metaphor for the Eternal Mind of God Who sees and knows all things? I find comfort in this picture of our gracious God keeping a record of our service, our humility, our love for Him and others.
God promises in verse 17 that those who honor Him will be called His own, and He will make them His jewels, sparing them as a man spares his own son. What a wonderful promise, but, conversely it suggests a coming judgment and punishment for those who have openly denounced Him.
God has clearly distinguished between the wicked and the righteous. He has written His laws on our hearts as evidenced by our basic recognition of good and evil, right and wrong, within families, communities and civilizations. To deny Him and reject Him is hard to justify and, as we will see in chapter 4, will result in severe consequences. God keeps calling us to know Him, believe Him even as we believe oxygen is keeping us alive, though we cannot see it.
Those who love the Lord are His special treasure. Man’s treasure is material and temporal; God’s greatest treasure is His people who take Him at His word; their reward is eternal life. And it is available to all. Through Christ, there is no record of wrongs, only forgiveness and a clean slate. This is the gift of salvation. This is the Good News.
Categories: MALACHI Study