The following is a part of our weekly devotional series, which is a companion to the 2013 Foursquare Life Journal. This week’s Bible reading comes from Neh. 11-13; Job 1-8; Ps. 1, 108 and 148; Mal. 1-4; and Acts 3-12.
Malachi is God’s written defense against the words of His own people. After Malachi’s opening signature, God immediately begins to throw Israel’s own words in their face, and He explains how their words are holding back His favor. The closer we look at this book, the more we see that neither errors nor consequences have changed much in the past 2,500 years.
Though God exposes the verbalization of wrong thinking 14 times in Malachi, it is clear that He’s not merely delivering a rebuke—He’s admonishing His people to change and be blessed. This is evidenced by God’s identifying His own words nearly twice as many times as Israel’s.
As if highlighted with a neon marker, there are two piercing statements that reveal that God sees Israel’s words as both burdensome and an attack: “You have wearied the Lord with your words” (Mal. 2:17, NKJV); and “Your words have been harsh against Me” (Mal. 3:13). These two statements tell us that if we cease to speak the truth about God—even unwittingly—we can wear Him down and even resist Him. The result? Prayers go unanswered, promises go unfulfilled, and His power goes untapped—and it’s all completely unnecessary.
There are three categories of contemptible comments cited by God. First, accusing God of injustice; second, playing dumb; third, complaining. Here’s an example of each:
Mal. 2:17: “You say, ‘Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the Lord … Where is the God of justice?'” How many times have we heard someone complain about a lack of justice he or she perceives based on the apparent blessing of the disobedient compared to a perceived absence of blessing in his or her own life? According to these passages, such words are disheartening to God and zap His motivation to help us.
Mal. 1:6: “You priests … despise My name. Yet you say, ‘In what way have we despised Your name?'” This kind of response to correction is common in the church today: “Hey, what did I do?” Though genuine ignorance is common, playing dumb when we’re not sure that our offense can be proved is also rampant in the church. This behavior is harmful, because it avoids the confession of sin.
Mal. 1:12-13: “You say, ‘The table of the Lord is defiled … its food, is contemptible.’ You also say, ‘Oh, what a weariness!’ ” Sometimes we forget that God not only listens to every comment we make—even about our ministry circumstances—but He can hear when our hearts announce what “a pain” it is to have to serve in such circumstances.
Does Malachi offer any hope? Yes! God reveals His heart’s desire with several precious statements: “But now entreat God’s favor, that He may be gracious to us” (Mal. 1:9); “Return to Me, and I will return to you” (Mal. 3:7); “Then those who feared the Lord spoke to one another, and the Lord listened and heard them” (Mal. 3:16); and, “But to you who fear My name the Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings; and you shall go out and grow fat like stall-fed calves” (Mal. 4:2). As always, God gives grace to the humble.
Jesus summed up this message from this last book of the Old Testament with one verse from the first book of the New Testament: “For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matt. 12:37).
By: Jerry Dirmann, senior pastor of The Rock (Anaheim Foursquare Church) in Anaheim, Calif.
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