Thursday, September 4, 2014

Lessons from Malachi - Part One

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I was reading in Malachi today and some interesting stuff came up that is worth sharing.
It starts off pretty heavy, with God responding to accusations from His people that He doesn't love them. He gives a reason proving His love, but then asks: "A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If I am a father, where is the honor due me? If I am a master, where is the respect due me?" (1:6a)
It seems the Israelites had been offering blind and crippled animals on the altar, instead of their best. God then says, "Try offering them to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you?" (1:8b)
I started thinking about things in my life where I'm giving God second, third, tenth place...and the truth is that most of what I give God is not my best, and would not be acceptable in other relationships.
One of the most basic and practical ways of honoring God is giving Him time, and even with that I know I fail daily. At best, I'll give God 15 minutes. How can I expect to know God more in 15 minutes? Our relationship with God is like any relationship -- we get what we put in. Think about what you're putting in and compare that to what you give others, as the verse above suggests.
Here's the second thing that stood out:
"Oh, that one of you would shut the temple doors, so that you would not light useless fires on my altar! I am not pleased with you," says the LORD Almighty, "and I will accept no offering from your hands. My name will be great among the nations, from the rising to the setting of the sun. In every place incense and pure offerings will be brought to my name, because my name will be great among the nations," says the LORD Almighty.
Malachi 1:10-11
That's a tough verse for a couple reasons. First, God wishes that his people would shut down the temple so as not to further their empty worship. That's a weighty and unexpected statement, but I wonder if there are any churches out there today that God would say the same thing about.
Second, the latter part of the verse is hard to swallow, as God sounds like a megalomaniac. There are other places in scripture where God says things like this that make you think, "wait, if I heard someone say that in public, I would count them as crazy." For me, it feels a little crazy myself to follow God in those moments....
It's still a tough verse, but here are a couple things that help: first, if anyone is allowed to say things like "my name will be great among the nations," it's God. He made everything, including us. It's not always easy to hear, but it's deserved because of who He is and His love. Plus, when God's name is praised, we are blessed. Not just financially or with plenty of food, but in our hearts we are blessed. It's a win-win situation all around.
Second (the third "second" in this blog), Jesus was the perfect example of humility:
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death,even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Philippians 2:5-11
Jesus is the best representation of God, and so we look to Him to see God's character. Jesus never boasted and was never proud, though he had every right to be as God. And at the end of that verse we see again, God is glorified, whether we like it or not. Here, like in the first part of Malachi (where God proves his love to Israel), scripture gives a reason for this glory: Jesus was obedient to death on a cross. And so the glory is merited by love, and we are blessed when we bless God wholeheartedly. I guess, in the end, it all fits.
More from Malachi to come....

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