Reader: “You have said,”
Response: “What’s the use of serving God?”
Scripture: Malachi 3:13-18
“You have said terrible things about me,” says the Lord.
“But you say, ‘What do you mean? What have we said against you?’
“You have said, ‘What’s the use of serving God? What have we gained by obeying his commands or by trying to show the Lord of Heaven’s Armies that we are sorry for our sins? From now on we will call the arrogant blessed. For those who do evil get rich, and those who dare God to punish them suffer no harm.’”
Then those who feared the Lord spoke with each other, and the Lord listened to what they said. In his presence, a scroll of remembrance was written to record the names of those who feared him and always thought about the honor of his name.
“They will be my people,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. “On the day when I act in judgment, they will be my own special treasure. I will spare them as a father spares an obedient child. Then you will again see the difference between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not.”
Sometimes we may be inclined to think that the Bible, especially the Old Testament, is really “old” and is filled with all kinds of stories that really don’t connect to today’s complex world. Afterall, it was written several thousand years ago. Do you think something written to a people who were cynical about religion and religious leaders, politically skeptical, untrusting of leadership and spiritually disillusioned would be relevant to today’s world? Welcome to the book of Malachi. We don’t have “to make the Bible relevant,” we just need to do our homework! (It would be worth your while to read the entire four chapters.)
There are basically six messages in this concluding book of the First Testament. Our passage contains the final message. The literary form throughout the book follows this pattern: 1) A truth statement by the Lord―speaking through the prophet. 2) A rebuttal by the audience in the form of a question. 3) A restatement of the truth by the prophet. 4) The prophet presents additional evidence supporting the truth with the desired result leaving the audience speechless.
The Israelites were complaining that, to them, it appeared that the evil people could do whatever they wanted with no consequences. They got rich through doing evil. They dismissed God, daring him to punish them. In truth, they mocked God and laughed in total disregard. These complaining Israelites were not all that holy if you read the rest of this book. They themselves had cheated God in their worship. They thought since they were the “chosen people,” God should automatically bless them and it didn’t matter how they lived. Their worship was all about them. Their marriages were filled with adultery and corruption. Their business practices were unethical and they had trouble telling the truth. And finally, they were cheating God in their tithes and offerings. Their giving was not from genuine love for God but rather to cull their flocks and ease a guilty conscience. Other than that, they were good! In that state they are complaining that God isn’t doing his part in dealing with the wicked.
In the second part of our passage “those who feared the Lord spoke with each other, and the Lord listened to what they said.” Notice the Lord listens when people are honest and don’t pretend commitment to their God. The Lord knows and remembers who these people are. The Lord always hears you when you are repentant and transparent with him. You cannot fool him with fake spirituality.
What is the message in this last portion of our Scripture? The Lord keeps track of those who fear and honor his name and live accordingly. Notice these words in relation to the opening question, “What’s the use of serving God?” “On the day when I act in judgment . . .” Once again when we live and react to our own perspective we often draw wrong conclusions. In the prophet’s words, “On the day when I act . . . you will again see the difference between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not.” Unfortunately, there is no real evidence that Malachi’s message brought any significant change in the majority of the Israelite people.
Though we live in a world not unlike the day of the prophet Malachi, his powerful words still ring ever true. The hold of sin on people never changes. After all, the devil is the ruler of this world for now (Jn.12:31). We are all born with a sin nature. So should we be surprised at the current state of affairs? Let us continue to pray that the people of the world will repent and fear the living God before “on the day when I act in judgment.” Pray that cynicism will be replaced with an authentic love for God; that humble pastors will preach the Scriptures with courage; that those in political leadership will humble themselves before God, seek his wisdom, tell the truth and be guided by the Scriptures rather than cultural expediency; and may the “spirituality” of the culture be transformed into the life transforming ministry of the Holy Spirit, all for Jesus’ sake. Amen!
Music: “Comfort, Comfort Ye My People” First Plymouth Church, Lincoln, NE
Bonus: a slightly “Different version!” of Isaiah 40 George Family and Friends!
Our God and our Father, as the people of the world, we have wandered off the path of truth. We have placed ourselves at the center of our civilization. We think first of ourselves. Yet as one who fears you and endeavours to honor you in life and worship, we pray for this very fallen and lost world. Help us to be faithful in our prayer life for our national leaders, our pastors, our families and all those around us. As a people we have drifted so far off the mark in our cultural values and beliefs. Our society as a whole has rejected your definition of marriage, your creation of male and female, your Commandments, your Son, your forgiveness, your salvation and exists in full rebellion. All too often we have become lazy Christians treating worship and fellowship of the body of Christ as optional. We have centered our faith in ourselves. We pray for a worldwide repentance. For the sake of your faithful children, have mercy on us all and may we be faithful in proclaiming your gospel, upholding the unwavering truth of your word. This we pray in the name of Jesus our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. ―Daniel Sharp