God is Setting All Things Right. So I am Blogging Through the Bible in a Year.

Monday, September 30, 2013

September 30 - Malachi: God's Chosen People's Shoddy Worship

Today’s Reading: Malachi

The Message

English Standard Version

CONGRATULATIONS! You have made it through the entire Old Testament! Pat yourself on the back, give yourself a hug, whatever you do when you accomplish something awesome. Tomorrow we will begin the New Testament, so enjoy reading Malachi, the 39th and FINAL book in the Old Testament.

Thought to Guide Your Reading

God, through Malachi, wants Israel to give Him more respect than they would their government officials.

Summary in 100 Words or Less

God's Message through Malachi:
"You sacrifice crippled, blind animals as sacrifices to Me. People from all over the world would love to worship Me. But My Chosen People? Bored.
"Priests, Levi stood in reverence. Teach the truth."
Why can't we live in peace? Religiously-foreign women who change Israel's allegiances. Holy marriage creates holy children. "I hate divorce. Do not cheat."
"Don't think I'm too nice to punish sinners.
"A messenger is on his way to scrub you clean and fit for service.
"I haven't changed. Test My Faithfulness by bringing the full tithe.
"Those who set things right are mine."

How Today’s Reading Contributes to the Gospel: God is Setting All Things Right

God blessed Jacob's descendents more than Esau's. In return, Israel ignored God.

As we close the Old Testament, it is fitting that God reminds Israel that He chose Jacob and not Esau—the main theme throughout the entire Old Testament. God cannot understand why Israel will not obey Him. He gave them everything they wanted and in return they grew tired of serving Him. The same sacrifices over and over again grew stale. Instead of giving God the best of their herd, they gave what they could not sell. It's a fitting summation of the entire Old Testament: God calls a people to bring His Light to the nations who instead enjoy His blessings and ignore His calling. God has people willing and waiting to be His Chosen People but instead is stuck (for now) with a group of people who couldn't care less.
As God's Chosen People, we are blessed more than those who are not. But instead of worshiping God fully and becoming His Lighthouses to the world, we follow our spiritual ancestors and enjoy the blessings of being Chosen without the responsibilities of being Chosen. We find worship boring. We only give God the scraps of time—when we cannot find a better thing to do. We give the leftovers of our income. God never changes. Unfortunately, neither do His Chosen People.

God would rather His Chosen People not serve Him than to play "religious" games.

God pulls no punches:
Why doesn’t one of you just shut the Temple doors and lock them? Then none of you can get in and play at religion with this silly, empty-headed worship. I am not pleased. The God-of-the-Angel-Armies is not pleased. And I don’t want any more of this so-called worship! (1:10, The Message)
God wants worship coming from obedience, not ritual.
This section is tough—especially for a person told from birth that how we worship is the most important part of who we are. God would rather we lock and board up all church buildings and stop holding meetings than keep "Sunday services". Worship that does not come as a result of setting things right is no better than sacrifices to a dead idol expecting a magical result. There is no magic in rituals. There is no magical style of worship, prayer, or teaching that obligates God to continue blessing us. Our songs, prayers, and praises must come from the heart or God does not want them.

God's Chosen Proclaimers must speak the Truth.

God tells His Chosen Priests that they must speak the Truth. They must put new life into the stale Covenant. They guide His Chosen People. They can either guide in God's Way or in the convenient way. One way leads to God cursing them. The other leads to people cursing them. Which do you fear?

God hates divorce but hates cheating spouses more.

Israel was God's (spiritual) wife. Every time they worshiped another god, they committed spiritual adultery. God hates divorce and does not want to separate from Israel, but He will not stand for their cheating. This is why Ezra wanted Israelite men to put away their foreign wives. Foreign wives turned Solomon's heart away from God and caused him to commit spiritual adultery. Spiritual fidelity is essential to obeying God.
The product of marriage is children. If you are in a spiritually-monogamous marriage, your children will be wholly for God. If not, your children will be torn between parents, between religions and may eventually give up on God completely. Don't risk your children's spiritual allegiance. Marry someone who is wholly for God setting all things right on the earth.

God is not a fluffy-pillow god.

God is love; however, love does not mean He accepts those who do not set things right. He does not punish using fluffy pillows.

God will be obeyed. The cliché "God loves the sinner but hates the sin" may be trite, but it is not far from the truth. God will punish people who do not set things right—Chosen or not.
Boy do we do not want to hear this today. Part of it (rightly) comes as a result of the "fire and brimstone", judgmental style of preaching we endured for generations. Yet, we must not go so far that we say God will not punish anyone regardless of how they lived because He loves everyone. God will not save everyone just because He's too "nice" to punish anyone. I would suggest you read through Isaiah, Amos, Jeremiah, and the other prophets again to see if God is a pushover. People must set things right or they will eventually be cut off from God.

God wants Israel to test Him—by obeying.

In Deuteronomy God told Israel not to put Him to the test. But now He tells them to put Him to the test. The difference is in how it was done. Israel tested God's Patience by not listening and obeying. They wanted to see if God would punish them or not. God punished them. Now, God wants Israel to test whether He will bless them or not. Giving a tenth—especially when it is off the top, not after everything is paid and balanced—is a step of faith. God wanted to give Israel great blessings. He could not do that as long as they wanted to be in control. Instead, they skimped on their sacrifices and complained that God didn't bless them as they want Him to.
I wish we read this section more often when we ask for contributions. The impetus for our giving is neither from an outside force nor an expectation of blessings in the future. Our contributions are thanksgivings for our blessings and acts of faith that God will continue to bless us. If members of every church gave the full 10%—and then more as they wanted—we could receive a full blessing from God. Until then, stop complaining that your church isn't as blessed as it should.

God would send a messenger to prepare the way for His Judgment.

Remember this for the rest of the week. It's coming very soon.

What a grand adventure. See you tomorrow as we open the New Testament.

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