God spoke through Malachi to the people of Israel. He reminds them of his never ending love. And they say. Really?? How have you loved us? Most likely, the people are remembering the many, many years of hardship they have faced. Wars. Defeat. Famine. Loss. Taken exile to a foreign country by an enemy king. What they seemed to have selectively forgotten is that these troubles of were their own doing. Their ancestors had walked away from following God’s commands. They did as they pleased. They stopped obeying God. And this current generation was acting exactly like their ancestors. Disobedient to God.
As God reminded them of their sins, they responded with questions they wanted answered. Their hearts had been hardened to the truth, so God answered their questions and reminded them of how they were dishonoring him.
How have you loved us? In a mocking tone, they asked if God really loved them. In a moment of desperation, someone spoke the quiet words out loud. They didn’t see proof of God’s love, because all they saw was their lives in chaos. After years of being held captive in a foreign country, their families had been allowed to return home. Although they had been living in their ancestry homeland for many years, they were back to their old tricks. Doing their own thing. Giving less than their best to God. And he was calling them out on it. They didn’t feel loved by the One who loved them more than anyone ever could. God reminded them that they were his chosen people. He chose the Jewish nation over all other nations who were at his disposal. He loved them with an undying love. They didn’t feel secure in his love, because they had abandoned him.
How have we ever shown contempt for your name? Actions speak louder than words. It’s true. Israel’s priests were treating God with contempt, and they didn’t even realize it. They didn’t realize they were offending God by giving imperfect offerings to him. They did their work out of duty, not authentic allegiance to God. God knows the difference, in case anyone has forgotten. They weren’t giving of their best when only the best was acceptable. They were just going through the motions and expecting God’s blessings.
How have we defiled the sacrifices? The Israelites knew that when they brought their sacrifices to the temple, they were to bring their best offering. Not second best. Not blemished offerings. Perhaps they had forgotten or just chose to overlook this important fact, but God wanted their full allegiance and obedience. When they brought their sacrifices, God required spotless lambs without blemish. They were to bring the best of their livestock, but they were bringing animals unfit for sacrifice to an Almighty God.
God saw their acts of self righteousness and called them out for it. You’re not giving of your best to me, but yet you want my best. You want my blessings and my mercy and my grace, and yet you halfheartedly bring your sacrifices to me. God reminded them that their earthly rulers wouldn’t accept blemished offerings, so why should he. Yet they begged him for mercy as they brought crippled, stolen and sick animals to sacrifice. Why do they expect God to show them any mercy when they bring tarnished offerings?
How have we wearied you? The Israelites had a warped sense of right and wrong. They lived as though those who did evil were good in God’s eyes. They believed that God approved of wrongdoing. Oh. How self righteous they were. Trying to twist truth for lies. Trying to rewrite definitions of good and evil. And they tried God’s patience with this way of thinking and living. He was tired of the games they were playing.
How can we return when we have never gone away? God reminded the Israelites that they were the ones who had left him. He had not left them. Yet they thought they hadn’t walked away from him. How could they think that? Their years of exile and hardship happened because they disobeyed God. And they didn’t know how to return to him. They thought they had never left him. Unbelievable. Their hearts were so evil that they didn’t know right from wrong. God called them to repentance, and they didn’t believe they needed to repent.
When did we ever cheat you? The Israelites were robbing God, and they didn’t even realize it. They were stealing right from under his nose by withholding their tithes and offerings. And they thought nothing of it. They were required by Jewish law to give their first and best gifts to support the priests in their work. The Levite priests didn’t own land, so they had no way to provide food for their families. The other tribes were to provide out of their abundance for the priests, and yet they weren’t. They were holding back what rightfully belonged to God, and they didn’t even think twice about it.
What have we said against you? The Israelites would speak against God, and once again they weren’t aware they were doing it. How could they be so blind? Their hearts had turned so far from God that they no longer knew when they were sinning against him. They said it was useless to serve God. But they still wanted his favor. They were unwilling to humble themselves in service to God. They had forgotten that the reward for serving God was far greater than the cost. So they chose their own way, and God was calling them on it.
The Lord of Heaven’s Armies says, “The day of judgment is coming, burning like a furnace. On that day the arrogant and the wicked will be burned up like straw. They will be consumed—roots, branches, and all. But for you who fear my name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in his wings. And you will go free, leaping with joy like calves let out to pasture. Malachi 4:1-2
The Israelites had most likely been back home for one hundred years after their seventy years of exile in Babylon. One hundred years of sliding back into their old ways of disobeying God. Oh. People. How easy it is to forget God’s love when you’re focused only on yourselves. On self love. How easy it is to forget God’s goodness when you think being good is good enough. How easy it is to block out God’s voice when we hear him speaking words we don’t want to hear. To shrug off the touch of God’s nudge when he’s moving us in a direction we don’t want to go.
And then God offered mercy to those who feared him and honored his name.
God had shown the Israelites in so many different ways how wide and deep his love was for them. But they forgot. They forgot all the miracles and rescues and provision and forgiveness he had given to them each time they turned away and then crawled back in repentance. They had once again turned their heads and their hearts to their own leanings. And they weren’t leaning toward God. They were once again leaning in direct opposition to God’s commands. God never stopped loving them or showing proof of his love. They just weren’t looking for it, so over time they were blinded and their hearts were hardened against God.
And what they forgot was brought to their attention by God. Oh. He never misses a thing. He called them out on their bad behavior.
The Lord of Heaven’s Armies says to the priests: “A son honors his father, and a servant respects his master. If I am your father and master, where are the honor and respect I deserve? You have shown contempt for my name! “But you ask, ‘How have we ever shown contempt for your name?’ Malachi 1:6
Time and time again, the Jewish people expected good things from God, yet they’re not obeying him. Again. They’re giving of themselves halfheartedly. John writes in Revelation3:15-16 that you either hot or cold. If you’re lukewarm, God will reject you. God requires our best. When we give him only half of our allegiance, it’s basically no allegiance. When we write our own rules and live our own lives, and do our own thing without regard for God’s will and God’s commands, we’re disobeying him. We’re saying our ways are better than God’s ways.
The Israelites lived their lives as if they were better than God. They did what they wanted. They gave the sacrifices they wanted to give, not what God required. They did things their way not God’s way, because God’s way demanded too much of them. For many years later, the Jewish nation was still doing this to God. They were still giving their half best, or even less than half. And their lives were miserable.
I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish that you were one or the other! But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth! Revelation 3:15-16
Here we are today doing the same thing. We say we love God, yet we live in ways that dishonor his name. Without a second thought, we live for ourselves. We’re not loyal to God. But we expect all his mercy and grace when we’re in desperate need of a miracle. We’ve left God behind. And we wonder why our world is in such a state of disarray. We wonder why groups are working to destroy nations with high inflation, food shortages, unnecessary wars, and manmade disasters. We don’t even consider that we act spitefully against God. We don’t realize that we have wearied God to the point of exhaustion. We don’t understand that God’s patience won’t last forever. The clock is ticking, and Jesus will return whether we’re ready or not. Whether we believe or not. There is a price to pay for our selfishness and pride.
We’ve forsaken God. We’ve run as far from God’s love as we can get. But yet. He still loves us. When we ask how God can love us when we’re going through intense suffering, we’ve forgotten that he’s right there with us in that suffering. We forget that he knows all about our pain. We don’t understand that we’ve robbed God. When we fail to give him our tithes and offerings. When we offer him less than our best. When we ignore the needs of others, we are ignoring God’s commands.
We expect God to treat us well. To treat us as if we are his prized possession. And we are just that to him. We are his prized possession. We just don’t act like it. Yet we continue to do what pleases ourselves instead of what pleases God. We prize ourselves more than we prize God.
Those who have accepted him as Lord and Savior of their life are children of God. Only children of God will have eternal life with him. It’s not too late to turn to God in repentance. It’s not too late to ask forgiveness of our sins. To fall on our knees and bow in submission to God Almighty. Let’s not wait another day. While it is still today, there is time for repentance. Shall we pray.
Heavenly Father, we’ve fallen so far from your grace by our selfish acts. We’ve ignored your tender loving kindness far too long, yet we demand that you treat us well. We think only of ourselves in this life and not in our eternal life. As we bow in humble repentance, we ask you will hear our prayer. Forgive us of our sins. Shower us with your continual love as we seek to serve you first. Help us to cast aside our sinful ways and serve you only, as you are the only God. Heal our hurts and restore us to your good graces. Remove our arrogance and fill us with humility that only seeks your favor, and not the favor of others. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.