I don't know about you, but I think the book of Malachi is about as convicting as they come. I love that this little book is written in a dialogue format. The people keep interrupting the prophet (or God) to say, "Wait, wait, wait. When did we ever do that?" They protest their innocence and want to look good before God. And then God nails them with the selfish, deceitful, lazy heart of their actions.
As we read, we might be tempted to excuse ourselves from such rebukes. I mean, the people were after all bringing sick, crippled, or stolen animals to God. In a day and age where we are no longer required to bring animals as an offering, it is all too convenient to look back and say, "Who would do that?" But then God nails us with truth and says, "You do." So for all of us who protest and say "When did we ever bring you left-overs as a sacrifice?" I offer this list.
Have we ever
- Said we're too busy for church.
- Withheld a tithe or offering from God because money is tight.
- Not had time to read our Bibles or pray because we are too tired.
- Used all our best hours to make money.
- Carved out time to watch our favorite show but not to be in a small group.
- Sacrificed and saved to buy a house, car, or boat but never to give it away.
- Stopped singing or worshiping because we didn't like a song or the way it was done.
- Made our kids get up early for a game or practice but then skipped church because we slept in.
My guess is I could keep going, but I am also guessing that by now most of us are feeling like, "Stop, stop! I get the picture." Truth is, I have seen myself in most of these areas at one time or another. So what's the good news? There is none.
Ha! Just kidding. But the good news can be hard to stomach here because it really takes work. It's not a simple, do-three-things-to-make-it-all-better kind of approach. The message from Malachi is that we must learn to FEAR God. (3:16, 4:2)
In our modern language, we have a difficult time understanding how fear can be anything but negative- terror, anxiety, panic, worry, doubt- all these words play into our modern definition. But what Malachi is telling us when he says to fear God is this: "You should be a whole lot more concerned about whether or not you are listening to and obeying God than absolutely anything else in life." There, now that makes a lot more sense, doesn't it? Using the single idea "FEAR God" is good short-hand, though.
Do you fear God? Do I? And the real questions is do we arrange and rearrange our lives in such a manner that it actually shows we fear God? This my friends is where faith gets real.
Hoping you'll wrestle with this as you journey today-