Thursday, November 27, 2014

"When you question God, be prepared for an answer!"

Day #335:  Daily Bible Reading Plan - November 28th

Scripture Reading:  Malachi 1 - 4 ...

God hears you when you ... THINK!  David writes in Psalm 139: "O LORD, You have searched me and You know me.  You know when I sit and when I rise; You perceive my thoughts from afar ... " (Psalm 139:1-2).  In the days of Malachi, the people of Judah, who had returned from captivity in Babylon and rebuilt the temple, were once again revealing their true hearts.  Their worship of God was half-hearted at best, and disgraceful at worst.  These were the people of God, but when confronted with their sin they questioned God, even argued with Him!  Malachi's words are scattered with episodes of God confronting them, and then saying, "But you ask ... "  Instead of humbly accepting the Lord's rebuke, they tried to defend themselves, to make excuses for their sinful behavior.  God wanted confession and repentance and obedience!!

Malachi begins by reminding them of God's sovereign and gracious love:  "'I have loved you,' says the Lord!" (Malachi 1:2).  And here's their first question:  "But you ask, 'How have You loved us?'" (1:2).  Can you imagine the people of Judah asking that question?  Obviously, they were either ignorant of their history or they were like so many today who take all of God's blessings for granted and then demand more, without giving thanks for what they have!  Those who are part of the church today sometimes ask the same thing.  When going through trials or problems of any kind they question God and His love for them.  Do you do that?  If you wonder if God loves you, all you need to do is look at the cross!!  God gave His only Son, that whoever believes should not perish, but have everlasting life!!!!!!

Reminding them of His sovereign choice of Jacob (whose name was changed to "Israel") over his brother, Esau, God reveals Himself once again as the God who made His covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  As God does today, He chose a people and set His love on them for no other reason than His sovereign choice.  How thankful must we be if God has chosen us and given us new life by His Spirit through faith in Jesus?!  God's love demands a response, but the people were bringing their sick and diseased animals as sacrifices and thinking God didn't know it.  This is the LIVING God!  God asks, "Where is the respect due me?"...  And they asked, "How have we shown contempt for Your Name?" (1:6).  When you offer God your leftovers He notices and says, "I am not pleased with you" (1:10).  Those who truly know God desire to please Him and God sees our hearts and minds.  We are not saved by what we do, but what we do IS evidence of our relationship with God - or the lack of one!

God declares, "My name will be great among the nations!" (1:11).  These people were coming to worship and saying (thinking), "What a burden!" (1:13).  How many in the church today act as though it is a great burden to worship God?  They'll come early and sit for hours through a sporting event or a concert, but when it comes to worship or studying God's Word or serving others, "there just isn't time!"  And part of the problem ... a large part of the problem, is those who have been called to lead them!  God uses Malachi to speak to the priests and tells them a curse is coming "because you have not set your heart to honor me" (2:2).  God had entered into covenant with them and He says, "this called for reverence ..." (2:5).  "The lips of a priest ought to preserve knowledge ... because he is the messenger of the LORD Almighty.  But you have turned from the way and by your teaching have caused many to stumble ..." (2:7-8).

How tragic it is when those who are in positions to lead people to God speak their own words and lead people AWAY from God!  Judah had "broken faith" with God.  They had abandoned the covenant God had made with them by worshiping idols and intermarrying with the nations around them.  They were responsible to raise the next generation of "godly offspring" (2:15).  But instead, they "wearied the LORD with their words" (2:17).  They talked about God and they went through the motions of worship, but God saw their hearts!  And God "heard" their thoughts.  From their perspective, "all who do evil are good in the eyes of the LORD, and He is pleased with them" (2:17).  How much like today, as people condone sinful behavior and call it "love" and "tolerance."  Isaiah wrote, "Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness" (Isaiah 5:20).

You and I cannot just pretend to have a relationship with God.  He KNOWS your heart!  Malachi now shifts to the future as he predicts that "the Lord you are seeking will come to His temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come" (3:1).  From the Garden of Eden forward God has always pointed His people to the future, when He would overcome sin and its consequences.  God made it clear that it would not be a "good" day for all people.  "Who can endure the day of His coming?  Who can stand when He appears?" (3:2).  But there was no fear of God, no reverence, no awe in Judah.  And so many make the same mistake today.  When all you hear about God or know about God is a generic "love" for all people, the question arises, as it did in the days of Malachi, "Where is the God of justice?" (2:17).

So God chooses a symptom of their disobedience and rejection of Him in their tithes and offerings.  Yet here, too, they refused to listen and asked another question.  God said, "Return to me, and I will return to you" (3:7).  But they asked, "How are we to return?"  God said, " Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me?"  And they asked, "How do we rob you?"  And God answered, "In tithes and offerings" (3:7-8).  God said, "You have said harsh things against Me."    But they said, "It is futile to serve God" (3:14).  All the things the Jews were saying and doing, people do today ... and God sees and knows!!

BUT, there was a remnant!!!  God always has a remnant, a small number of people, known to God, who know God and who put their faith in Him and live to obey Him.  "Then those who feared the Lord talked with each other, and the LORD listened and heard.  A scroll of remembrance was written in His presence concerning those who feared the LORD and honored His Name" (3:16).  God's response?  "They will be mine in the day when I make up my treasured possession.  I will spare them, just as in compassion a man spares his son who serves him.  And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not" (3:17-18).

There is a day coming when God's justice will roll like a river.  "Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace.  All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and that day that is coming will set them on fire ... BUT for you who revere my Name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in its wings!" (4:1-2).  The remnant will be saved ... those who honor the Lord, their God and who humble themselves and come to Him through faith in Jesus.  "Return to Me, and I will return to YOU" (3:7).  We cannot and will not turn to God except by the power of His Spirit.  It is only those who are born again and who then acknowledge the one true God who will escape His judgment.

Malachi predicts the coming of John the Baptist in the closing verses of the Old Testament Scriptures:  "See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes.  He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse" (4:5-6).  As Moses presented the people of Israel with a choice in Deuteronomy 28-30; and as Joshua did the same in Joshua 23-24, so God offers the choice between life and death to all people.  Yet knowing the hearts of men and "hearing" their thoughts, God knows only those whom He chooses to be part of His remnant will respond.  The rest will perish in unbelief and rebellion ... continuing to question God and ignoring His answers!!

Are you listening?  Or are you still talking ... still questioning God?  All the answers to our questions are in God's Word and when He answers we do well to listen, to repent, to return to Him and to obey, for He is the God of justice!  Praise God that He sent His Son, Jesus, to be the sacrifice for our sin and that through faith in Him you and I can know that WE are part of the remnant who will escape His coming judgment and experience His healing!

"Lord God Almighty, You are the covenant God, who has established Your covenant of love with those whom You have chosen to be Yours.  In humility I confess my sin before You and lift up Your Name, for You alone are holy!  Show me, O God, where my life is out of line with Your will and where my disobedience dishonors Your Name.  I turn to You, O Lord, for healing and righteousness, trusting in the blood of Jesus for my redemption.  Point me to the future with the sure and certain hope that I am part of Your remnant and destined to live in Your presence forever.  I love You, O Lord my God, in Jesus' Name, Amen"

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