November 14: The Day of Judgment

Read Malachi 1:1-5, 3:1-18

The people of Israel had grown lax in their worship. They had become apathetic about God’s standards. They’d gotten remiss with their words and forgotten that He will bring justice.

Yes, God’s chosen people had fallen short of the pure and wholehearted devotion that He demanded and still demands.

But Almighty God used Malachi to assure them that He knew their hearts. He demanded nothing less than purity and righteousness.

His name means “my messenger.” It precluded Malachi’s job: to report the word God gave him. Malachi was to deliver the message of the coming Day of the Lord. The day when Jesus Christ would return to bring judgment and justice. His directive was to convey the truth of God’s demand for pure hearts and wholehearted devotion from those He called His own.

God would provide their righteousness in the Savior His Son, Jesus Christ. Then He would provide a day to serve justice. For Almighty God is full of grace as much as He is full of truth and justice.

Malachi spoke of the Day of the Lord, the day Jesus will come back to judge those who will not look to Him as Savior. Pastor J. Vernon McGee wrote, “if you will not have Him as your Savior, you’re going to have Him as your Judge whether you like it or not.”

It was true for the people of Israel when Malachi wrote the book, and it is true for us today.

The Day of the Lord will come one day. Whether we like it or not, we will one day face the one true and holy God, the Lord Jesus Christ. If we don’t trust Him to be our righteousness, we will face Him as Judge on that day, the Day of the Lord.

We have a choice. Will we look to Him to be our righteousness or find Him as our judge on that day? Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is the only way to be made clean, the only way to true purity.

If we don’t look to Him as Savior now, we will only know Him as Judge later. Let us make no mistake, judgment will come. I know I will be ready, standing in the righteousness that Jesus alone has given me. Will you be standing there with me?

brw

November 13: The Story of Jonah

Read Jonah 1:1-17 and 3:1-4:4

God’s creativity shines brightly in this prophet’s story of the ever-sovereign, full-of-grace God Almighty. He is the perfect poet who writes an altogether different story than any man or woman could dream up. It’s the story of Jonah.

God’s compassion compels Him to provide a way of repentance for Ninevah, a city so big it takes three days to see the whole thing. So He sends His man, Jonah, to “preach against it” (1:2).

But Jonah doesn’t want to go, so he runs the opposite direction and tries to shake God’s presence.

It’s a story about God’s authority, really. He appointed Jonah to do His bidding in Ninevah. He directed a great fish to get Jonah back on track when he ran the other way. He commissioned a vine and a worm and even a terrible wind storm to teach Jonah His ways. God will choose whomever He wants to receive His compassion. He will always prevail.

If only Jonah would have seen that. If only he could have gotten over himself and his own expectations.

It’s easy to read Jonah’s story and criticize his stupidity and selfishness. How foolish to think he could outsmart the omniscient God and run away from His everywhere-presence!

But how many times have we done the same? We think we have God figured out.

Then he shows us a neighbor’s need. A neighbor whom we’ve never met. We try to bargain with Him and justify our need to stay inside our comfort zone, but God wants more — for us and for our neighbor. So He calls us to befriend her and help her and maybe even tell her about Jesus.

Or He asks us to give money for His kingdom so more people can experience His love and grace and real life. But we like our stuff and our lifestyle, and we don’t want to give money. So we ignore Him.

Or He prompts us to serve two-year-olds on Sunday mornings, but we like our Sunday-morning schedule the way it is, so we wait for someone else to step up and fill that position.

You and I face Jonah-type decisions regularly. We can obey the sovereign God whose way always prevails. Or we can run and try to shake Him. Either way, God’s way will stand firm. The question is… will it take a whale-sized consequence to get us there or will we submit to His way and trust Him?

brw

 

February 28 – Questions Part II

Malachi 3:1-4:6

Malachi is a book of questions.   As mentioned in part I, God is still unhappy after thousands of years of calling out to his chosen people, and those people who have so many times enjoyed the benefits of His grace and mercy are clueless as to why he is unhappy.

God is not shy in telling them how they have failed:

  • They were not honoring His holy name
  • They were divorcing their wives
  • They had turned away from God’s decrees
  • They were not paying their tithes or offerings
  • They had spoken harshly against God

God is so disappointed with his children He essentially tells them, “I am the Lord and I do not change so you, descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed.”  In other words, you’re lucky people that I am forever unchanging otherwise I would forget the covenant I made with your forefathers and wipe you out.  What stronger words could God have used to express himself?  And yet, when you read the list above, it doesn’t sound much different from some of God’s so called followers today does it?

Even in the midst of this rebellion, God still provided a way out.  He said he would send a messenger.  This messenger would precede the Messiah who would be like a launderer’s soap and appear in the temple.  There would be punishment for those who would scoff at God, but He also recognized those who feared his name and promised to remember them when He judges all people.

It’s a strange solemn way to end God’s revelation to his chosen people.  At the conclusion of Malachi, We are left wanting, wondering, what now?  This is exactly the way the Israelites felt.  At the conclusion of Malachi God went silent for hundreds of years.  No more revelation, no more prophecy.  And then, just as God said, everything changed!

ejt

February 27 – Questions Part I

Malachi 1:6-2:17

As a father, it bothers me when they aren’t grateful.  In addition to sometimes being ungrateful, it’s almost humorous how children can react when caught in the act of committing an offense.   When the punishment is handed down, they act shocked…dismayed…dumbfounded?  Me?  What did I do?  So I can kind of understand how God must feel in Malachi 1 when he begins to excoriate his children.  He begins with some questions of His own in Malachi 1:6

Many of us prefer to view God as our Father, and He certainly is.  But God would like to know, if he is your father, when are you going to start loving and honoring Him in a way befitting a father?  For a smaller number of us it is easier to think of God as Master.  But if God is your Master, when are you going to start obeying Him?  In reality, God is both our Father and our Master, and we cannot have a right view of Him until we see Him from both perspectives simultaneously and in balance.

Obedience is a little like recycling.  It seems like a good idea until you have to walk all the way to the garage to throw away the soda can, and then it just seems like a lot of work!   Obedience is a nice concept, but when the rubber hits the road, sometimes we’re just not interested.  When we read Malachi, like children, we’re caught red handed; God is calling us out.

The folks in Malachi, just like my kids, are incredulous.  How have we shown contempt for your name?  How have we defiled you?  God says that He is defiled because the people are promising to give the best of their flocks for sacrifice, but when the time for the sacrifice comes, they bring the diseased and sick from the flock to sacrifice instead.  They were continuing in this sin as if God wouldn’t be aware of what they were up to.

There is a direct correlation here between the Israelites and us.  Like them, we promise to give God our best, we promise to obey Him, we promise to give him the first part of our day, the first part of our income, the first part of us.  But often as I mentioned earlier, obedience is just a nice sentiment, it’s something we sing about in worship songs and talk about in small group meetings.  Reading the bible and spending time with God in prayer is important, I’m sure we all agree, but often God gets our leftovers or maybe nothing at all.  It’s almost like we thought he wasn’t really there seeing it all.

ejt

February 26 – I Have Loved You

Malachi 1:1-1:5

The book of Malachi begins with these words from God speaking to his children.  Four thousand years of biblical history have occurred at this point.  So many events: the creation of the world, the fall of man, the flood, the exile, the exodus, the kings, the prophets, countless wars, thousands of years of history.  We have reached the culmination of the time before the coming of the Messiah and Israel is about to be plunged into hundreds of years of silence from God.  It is at this moment that God speaks to Israel and says … “I have loved you.”

Why would God make this statement at this point in history?  It’s almost as if he was saying, after all we’ve been through together, you and I; after all of it, I just need you to know that I have loved you.  I love that the statement is in the past tense.  I have loved you.  It’s not because God had stopped loving Israel.  It’s because we as children tend to question our father, and not in a good way.  When things happen, life, circumstances, we like the Israelites tend to say, God, how is this love?  That has to be one of the most audacious questions in the whole bible.  Can you imagine looking God in the eye and after he tells you he loves you, you respond, “How have you loved me?” When we question God in this way, we have clearly lost our way.  Only one who is very far from God, or hurting very badly, can ask a question like that.  This however was the condition of the Israelites; they had forgotten their God again.

As a parent, one thing that really bothers me is when my kids are ungrateful.  The reason it bothers me is because I know how lucky they are to live the life they do; to have the luxury of their biggest worry being how long they get to play the video game every day.  So when they are ungrateful it shows me that they aren’t mindful of what they have been blessed with.  I feel like I need to make them see differently.  I find this sometimes to be a difficult thing to do because they lack perspective.

Malachi is a book of questions.  It is different from other biblical prophetic writings in that Malachi relays a series of rhetorical questions both asked and answered by God.  In the book, God is having a conversation with his children, the Israelites.  He’s trying to get them to see things rightly and in doing so we see a detailed picture into the heart of God.

ejt

February 16: The Promise God Planted Inside His Judgment

Read Micah 4:1-13

God had plans. Plans to obliterate Jerusalem, judge His people firmly, and bring disaster upon them. Because they weren’t following Him or taking Him seriously. They had gone their own way.

It’s what God sent His man Micah to preach among His people. It’s what we’ve been reading in the first three chapter of this minor prophet.

Until now.

Chapter three ends with words from God proclaiming Jerusalem’s destruction. But that’s only part of the perfect plan of Almighty God. You see,  judgment was coming for them, but hope and promise followed closely behind.

The promise of God includes peace among nations, restored glory for Jerusalem, following the ways of God with Him alone at the helm.

But not yet. In fact, this promise spoken by Micah about 3,000 years ago, has not been entirely fulfilled even today. First the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ, will come to reign on earth for all eternity. And God will rescue Zion, His holy mountain where His people from all over will worship Him as the One True LORD.

First, exile and desolation will come and take them away. And it did when Nebuchadnezzar finally conquered Judah and sent them all to Babylon almost 200 years later. First, God’s people must see how desperately they need Him. First, they need to know exile. Then He will rescue them.

And there, inside their desperation, Almighty God will step in and redeem all His people’s broken ways. Right smack inside their utter despair, the Lord of Hosts who has promised their deliverance even here will show up and heal them.

It gives me hope for those times when I feel desperate. To know it was part of God’s plan to lead His people, even the remnant of those who would remain faithful to Him, into hellish circumstances and let them find Him inside is a beautiful thing.

Sure, the rest of the world might see the suffering of His people and use it as evidence against His perfect and good plan. But

they do not know the thoughts of the LORD; they do not understand His plan. (v12, ESV)

The nations around Israel didn’t realize God’s hand had been in it all along.

The same God who hid hope inside of His judgment, who planted promise in the midst of exile, it alive and working among His people even today.

brw

January 31: Jesus as the “Sun of Righteousness”

Read Malachi 3:18-4:6

These verses represent the last Old Testament words to be written.  More than 400 years of silence from heaven would follow these lines before God’s next recorded revelation to man as an angel announced the birth of John the Baptist to the aged Zechariah.

If you think about it, the announcement of the birth of John was the appropriate next revelation.  After all, verses 5 and 6 are cited in that angelic conversation with Zechariah (Lk. 1:17).  John was the man to fulfill that promise.

But there are other dimensions of these final Old Testament prophetic words that lie yet further into the future, even beyond our present day.  There is, yet ahead, a period of time consisting of contrasting extremes.  It is the “great and dreadful day of the Lord” (4:5).  This “day” will include the future tribulation (dreadful) and the following thousand year kingdom in which Christ will rule (great).  This “day” will distinguish “between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who don’t” (3:18).  It will separate the “arrogant and evildoers” (4:1)from those “who revere God’s name” (4:2).  For the one, it will be a day of fire and destruction (4:1), while, for the other, it will be a day of sunrise and healing.

Of course, that contrast of experiences is determined by each person’s faith response to Jesus Christ.  He is the coming “sun of righteousness.”  He is the One who offers healing and hope to all who place faith in Him.  As Christ followers, we can anticipate the coming day of sunrise!  That will be a great day!

But, keep in mind that there will be many who will through the dreadful day of judgment instead.  Unless they respond with repentant faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus on their behalf (1 Cor. 15:3-5), theirs will be a dreadful experience.

Although Jesus has done all that is necessary for them, He invites you and me to be faithful messengers of His work.  We have been invited to identify “five” for whom we are praying.  These are “five,” to whom we are reaching out.  They are “five” we are inviting to join us at Grace.  Are you remembering your “five”?

sbk

September 3: Robbery = Withholding

Read Malachi 3:6-12

Robbery.  The mental pictures I associate with that word include banks, masks, guns, and getaway cars.  Even my less extreme mental scenarios include a person who takes something belonging to and in the possession of someone else and claiming it as his/her own.

But the example cited in today’s reading?  That doesn’t fit into my traditional mental picture.  The Israelites “robbed” God by failing to tithe?  Let me share just a couple of my initial qualms.  How could it be considered “robbery” if…

  • It already belonged to them?  I mean, hadn’t they worked hard to plant the seed, cultivate the ground, and harvest the grain?  Wasn’t it theirs to begin with?  Didn’t the profit they received from their daily work belong to them?
  • They were only “withholding” instead of “taking”?  It wasn’t like they were sneaking into the storehouse late at night and taking wagonloads full of money or crops that had already been donated.  They just weren’t giving it.  After all, shouldn’t God just be content with any kind of gift whether large or small, whether 10% or 1%?

Of course, God is right.  Obviously, I am the one with the misunderstanding here.  What I need to realize here is a principle of stewardship.  The things I “possess” in the form of time, abilities, and resources are not ultimately mine.  They already belong to God.  They have been entrusted to me to use in ways that bring honor to God and godly help to others.  So, since they already belong to Him, withholding would be equivalent to “taking” or “robbery.”

Understood in that light, have you been guilty of “robbery?”  Have you been withholding from what God has entrusted to you?  Have you called it your own?  God invites you to joyfully and generously give to Him a portion of all that is His anyway!  Oh, and don’t miss out on the promise He extended to the Israelites.  He invited them to give it a try.  If they would be faithful in giving, He promised to be faithful in providing.  That sounds like a great deal!

Giving is one of those private disciplines of which others know nothing.  But God is fully aware, and He blesses those who participate.

sbk