Questions and Answers

We conclude our 16 prophets in 2016 with the book of Malachi. Most people only know one thing about Malachi – that of tithing and not to rob God of the 10%.  Malachi – about 400 years before Jesus is born, Malachi writes a very powerful book. While it is at the end of the Old Testament, its place should be somewhere between Ezra and Nehemiah. Malachi means “God’s Messenger.” We don’t know much about Malachi other than Yahweh uses him to bring multiple charges against Judah [Israel]. I count nine different questions of rebuttal from the charges God makes to His people. He begins with God telling them He has loved them. They come back with “How have you loved us?” The rebuttal questions whether God has actually loved them. It seems that because it was difficult times, and the voice of God seemed both distant and absent, that God had abandoned them. Jehovah declares His love through the “choosing of them” i.e. Jacob over Esau. 2nd, God tells them they have dishonored His name. “How have we despised your name?” They did so by not respecting Him through giving defiled sacrifices – in fact sacrifices they had stolen and wouldn’t even give to their friends.  Cain and Abel story fits here for Abel brought an acceptable sacrifice while Cain a marginal one. The attitude of “best versus good enough.”  Can we be guilty of just giving something rather than our best to God? Quickly the people come back with a “How have we defiled you You?”  Again it is in reference to the condition of the sacrifice – blind, diseased  and lame – in other words what they no longer wanted, so to get rid of it they give it to the LORD – and they [religious people] can’t figure out why God has issue them! Next God accused them of profaning His name. Instead of holiness and righteousness, they profane His name by conducting sacrifices without honor or respect to Yahweh. Going through the motions of “practice”. God was looking at their heart, He saw how they really felt about their homage to Him. The priests half-hearted in their service. He rebuke them and cause them to vomit up at their carnal feasts. A lukewarm performance and service to God and His people – preachers must be cautious of “routine” ministry”. God can take away our ministry and give it to another. In chapter 2, we find the recall of three covenants God has made with His people – with Levi as the priesthood, with Israel as His people and with the people as His bride. God’s word is eternal. God doesn’t forget His promises or covenants as man does. The marriage covenant brings to mind the story of Hosea and Gomer; Israel & Judah had both played the harlot with other gods and kings in hopes of satisfying their own fleshly lusts.  The marriage is a significant metaphor, Paul uses it in Ephesians and John’s Gospel and Revelation speak of the Marriage of the Lamb to the Bride. The metaphor is all about faithfulness of the Bride – we do commit spiritual adultery with God. We all have cheated on Him, by chasing after “lessor gods.” Divorce comes up because Ezra and Nehemiah both found that returning Jews were divorcing their wives and intermarrying with the gentiles.  The Father was witness to how the men were treating their wives, even though they wept with many tears, blessings didn’t come.  For some reason we think that we can be right with God and wrong with each other and God will bless. It just doesn’t work that way! In chapter 3, multiple metaphors are used to describe what God is going to do to “cleanse” Judah and the people. You would think that after 70 years in exile, that there would be a wake-up call to the people to get it right – man has a short memory and attention span! The fuller’s soap and the refiner’s fire will be God’s way of purifying the sin in the people and clergy [priests]. Return to Me is the clarion call from God – but they respond “How shall we return?” Then the famous “will man rob God?” Quickly the people come back with “How have we robbed you?” In tithes and offerings! Most people think of this as cheating on how much they gave, but really it is the attitude of their giving. Think of Ananias and Sapphira and their cheating God of what was right in Acts 5.  The last charge “your arrogant words against Me.” What – “how have we spoken against you?”  In that you make evil good and good evil; you pronounce blessing on evildoers.  The Book of Remembrance is a stark reminder that God misses nothing. He is keeping records of our deeds and the heart with which we do them. Look at Revelation 20:11-15, where the “books” are opened and each man is judges out of what is written in the books. This is not the “Book of Life” that is names of the beloved of God, those who present with the Lord because of salvation/repentance.  but God is not done yet – times  and times again where Jesus will return and set all things right – warning to be heeded by us and answers to questions our Lord ask about our service to Him. No half-hearted worship, offerings or service are acceptable to God , He demands  and deserves our best.

 

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