“We aren’t fighting; we are having a discussion.”
Malachi records such a “discussion” between the Jews and God. In any “discussion” someone has the final say. It is exactly like arguing with your siblings when you were growing up. Someone had to put in the last word, so they felt like they won the argument. The Jews try to have the final say, but in the end, it is God who has the final say.
The discussion begins with Israel challenging God’s claim that He loves them. “I have loved you, saith the Lord. Yet ye say, Wherein hast thou loved us?” (Malachi 1:2). The truth is, they were not feeling the love. Times were hard. They could not seem to get ahead. How could God claim He loved them? God begins with their privilege as His chosen people. Between Jacob and Esau, God loved Jacob and hated Esau. Seems harsh! However, when you review Esau’s life you realize it was not a choice God made, but a choice Esau made. The Bible calls Esau a profane person (Hebrews 12:16). This means he did not appreciate the things of God. He treated everything common and would not esteem the blessings of God as anything special. Esau preferred the sport of recreation over the spiritual responsibility he was supposed to exercise as the firstborn son. Because Esau rejected his responsibility in favor of recreation, God judged him.
Imagine the book of Malachi as a courtroom and the people are the prosecution and God is the defendant. They accuse God, but the evidence proves it is not God’s decision to withhold blessing from them. He is only responding to their decisions. The Lord does not change. He is patient, but, in the end, the just and the wicked receive their reward. Malachi prophesies of a great Prophet who will come and purify the sin away from His people. The intense light of His judgment upon the wicked is but the Sun of righteousness which shines a holy, healing beam upon those who love Him.
God has the final say. He is not fickle, but constant (Malachi 3:6). He will bless those who fear the Lord and think upon His name (Malachi 3:16), but, in the end, he will “discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not” (Malachi 3:18).
God’s Final call
Someday you’ll hear God’s Final Call to you
To take his offer of salvation true-
This could be it my friend if you but knew-
God’s Final Call, God’s Final Call
How can you live another day in sin,
Thinking some day with Christ you will begin?
O will you hear above the world’s loud din-
God’s Final Call, God’s Final Call
If you reject God’s Final Call of grace,
You’ll have no chance your footsteps to retrace
All hope will then be gone and doom you’ll face.
O hear his call! God’s Final Call
You’ve heard of the Greatest Generation. They were those who grew up in the Great Depression and for the sake of freedom went to fight in World War Two. It’s just possible, the true Greatest Generation is the generation who raised those children during the Depression. When you read about the way people pitched in for the cause during both World Wars, it is a powerful testimony of patriotism. People went without a lot during those years in order to have metal for bullets and rubber for vehicles and food for their soldiers.
“Keep the Home Fires Burning” was a phrase which caught on during the first World War and was put to song in England. The sons and husbands valiantly went to war and it was up to the women and children to keep the fires burning at home. They had sacrifices to make, but they wanted their boys to have a home to come back to.
Nehemiah 10:34 mentions something that you don’t see anywhere else outside of this book.
“And we cast the lots among the priests, the Levites, and the people, for the wood offering, to bring it into the house of our God, after the houses of our fathers, at times appointed year by year, to burn upon the altar of the Lord our God, as it is written in the law:”
There really is not any instruction regarding the wood offering in the law, but what the law did prescribe was to keep the altar fires burning. Since Jerusalem and the surrounding area had been ransacked by the Babylonians and for the next few centuries it would continue to face much deprivation, historians claim harvesting firewood took a hit. In order to have enough fuel to keep the altar fires burning everyone had to contribute during their appointed time.
Isn’t this a wonderful picture of what keeps the work of God going? One person cannot do everything and everyone cannot be all things. However, everyone can do their part and when everyone does their part, the fires keep burning. Paul pictured the church family as a body. When everyone does their part the body is healthy and full of life. Those days you do not feel 100% because something in you is not working right, is the same feeling your church family feels when you are missing in action. Don’t worry about doing your part only when someone else will do theirs. Step up and contribute. When you do, you will keep the church fires burning.
It’s a gift.
I know I shouldn’t brag, but when it comes to packing the car for a trip or the moving truck for a move, I have enough spatial intelligence to fit the most stuff in the least space. This gift is constantly sharpened by my lovely wife who needs to take one more essential with us, but fitting the most stuff in the least space is an entertaining challenge.
Little spaces are trending. People who claim to be minimalists strip all the accessories of their life away until they are left with only the essentials. Some minimalists are extreme and have even limited their living space to a couple hundred square feet! It is fascinating to explore their little spaces. With all the secret compartments and fold down or pop up elements, they can pack a lot in a small area.
Ezra mentions a little space but he is not downsizing to a studio apartment. He marvels at the little space of grace God has given His people. This little space of grace is not limited. It is extraordinary. God’s grace is more than sufficient, but it is not sloppy. In this little space of grace, you will find a black hole of supply. Paul speaks of God’s grace as “where sin abounded, grace did much more abound” (Romans 5:20). God far exceeds my packing skills when it comes to packing His grace into a little space and making it available to you and to me.
The problem is we tend to live expansively. If you have two months for a project, it will probably take you two months. However, if you were only given ten days, you’d be surprised how you could meet that deadline! If you have two thousand square feet of living space, then you will accumulate stuff to fill the space. When we sin expansively we treat God’s grace contemptuously. As Ezra began teaching the Jews the words from God, they were convicted. The book of Ezra ends oddly with this issue of putting away or divorcing wives. You would need to read much of Israel’s history to understand the dangerous presumption of God’s grace in Ezra 9-10. Read Numbers 25 and you will see what happened when the pagans enticed the Israelites to reject the true God and worship false gods. In fact, their unfaithfulness to God necessitated the Babylonian captivity! Their expansive living—their licentious, grace-gorging style of living—risked the chastening of God, again.
Paul asks, “Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound” (Romans 6:1)? God forbid! We should not live expansively in sin at the expense of God’s meritorious grace. Believer, you know the price of grace. It cost Jesus humiliation and suffering. “For if we sin wilfully” we have “trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood…an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace” (Hebrews 10:26, 29). If you have been living expansively, then read Ezra’s plea for forgiveness and make it your own. Christian, marvel at the little space of grace.
Some time ago, The Times posted the following inquiry: “What’s wrong with the world?” A prominent author, G. K. Chesterton, responded to the question with two short words.
Yours, G.K. Chesterton.
After reading the story of Esther, you could reduce it to a simple “moral of the story.” Without trivializing the biblical record, how would you summarize the story? What if the story summarized itself. “Seeking the wealth of his people” (Esther 10:3). Ponder this for a moment. Mordecai was promoted and well-favored because he was “seeking the wealth of his people.” The adversary, Haman, sought personal promotion. He would go home and brag about “A Day in the Life of Haman” to his wife and friends. Before he realized the king wished to honor Mordecai, Haman blindly imagined himself astride the king’s horse parading through the street.
Be careful of what you seek. Paul tells us to seek “every man another’s wealth” (1 Corinthians 10:24). Do you seek opportunities to enrich the lives of others? Is your focus, today, on making someone’s day? The motive for seeking to enrich others is primarily salvation or fellowship. Paul explains, “Even as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved” (1 Corinthians 10:33). Once we remember this world will pass away and there is a place in heaven reserved for those who have received Christ as their Savior, we will find it easier to seek another’s profit.
What you seek boils down to what you love. In the great “Love Chapter,” love is described as that which “seeketh not her own” (1 Corinthians 13:5). The world is full of “Hamans” who “mind earthly things” and “seek their own” (Philippians 3:19; 2:21). What is wrong with the world? Humbly admit, “I am.” The world could use another Mordecai who seeks “the things which are Jesus Christ’s” (Philippians 2:21).
For what do you seek?
There we sat in the middle of the hot wilderness. Barrel cactuses surrounded us in this foreign land. Civilization was nowhere in sight. Our thirty-plus passenger shuttle bus had coughed its last mile in the desert of Mexico. The “promised land” we called home was so far away. Would we ever make it? It did turn into the trip that never seemed to end, and as a teenager, it was an adventure. Now that I am a pastor, it would have been a terror. How we survived when we only had a sleeve of Oreos, a gallon of water, and a football, I cannot recall. I remember our angry tirade against the barrel cactus that popped our football more than I do the details of our rescue. However, on that missions trip in Mexico, we knew God was watching out for us. I don’t think our tow truck driver’s name was Immanuel, but I do know God was with us because it was more than coincidence the way God rescued us.
It’s when you are in the middle of the desert, secluded from everything, you begin to feel alone. You may feel God has abandoned you. The Jews certainly could have felt God was distant. Esther and her people had lived in captivity for 70 years. Some of the Jews had returned to Jerusalem, but they were struggling to get the colony established. Where was God?
God did not show up personally, through His messengers the angels, nor really through the prophets in Esther’s story, but you sense God’s unseen hand working to deliver His people. Yes, the enemy plotted to erase the Jews from this world, but God was with them. It was more than coincidence the way God works to rescue them.
Can you sense God’s unseen hand in your life? Just the other day, the Lord brought a name to mind. It was someone I have prayed for intermittently for over a year now. As I saw the name, I again prayed God would intervene and encourage this person. Two days later, my phone rings. As I glance at the name of the caller, I nearly gasp in disbelief. It was the very person God brought to mind earlier. It was one of those moments where you can sense God’s unseen hand working.
Your life is not a string of coincidences. It is the carefully calculated plan of God. He never wastes a moment or an experience. Look today for the way God is moving in your life.
I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. (Hebrews 13:5)