Friday, September 23, 2011

The Power of God, verse 8

Teach me Your way, O LORD; I will walk in Your truth; Unite my heart to fear Your name. Psalm 86:11

Our hymn takes an interesting turn in this verse. So far, we've basically seen God's power at work in miracles - Abraham gets a son in his old age, water comes from a rock, a young boy beats a giant, a whale swallows a disobedient prophet then coughs him back up. We don't see a miracle in our story today - if you think about it in those terms. But we're getting ready to see God's power at work as we have never seen it before. As the story continues to unfold, it points increasingly to a Redeemer who will deliver God's people once and for all.

God sent Malachi to the Israelites to call them to repentance. The people and the priests had forgotten the reason God had given them rules for the temple and for their behavior.

"Speak to all the congregation of the sons of Israel and say to them, 'You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.'" Leviticus 19:2

They had become mechanical in their observances (not unlike a lot of people today!).

So God calls Malachi to reach the people and shake them from their complacency. Malachi uses questions to make the people think about their behavior and why God was unhappy with them. (If you've never read Malachi, please stop here and go read it! It's only 4 chapters, so it won't take long!)

Malachi first reminds the people that God loves them, and questions why they don't respect Him. Of course, they respond "how have we not respected you?" Malachi reminds them that their sacrifices have been defiled. They have been instructed to offer clean, spotless animals without defect but instead they are bringing animals that are blind, crippled and diseased. The Lord points out that even the governor wouldn't be happy with that kind of sacrifice, if it was offered to him. They want God's favor, but they are not treating Him with respect and honor.

“Oh that there were one among you who would shut the gates, that you might not uselessly kindle fire on My altar! I am not pleased with you,” says the LORD of hosts, “nor will I accept an offering from you. For from the rising of the sun even to its setting, My name will be great among the nations, and in every place incense is going to be offered to My name, and a grain offering that is pure; for My name will be great among the nations,” says the LORD of hosts. “But you are profaning it, in that you say, ‘The table of the Lord is defiled, and as for its fruit, its food is to be despised.’ You also say, ‘My, how tiresome it is!’ And you disdainfully sniff at it,” says the LORD of hosts, “and you bring what was taken by robbery and what is lame or sick; so you bring the offering! Should I receive that from your hand?” says the LORD. “But cursed be the swindler who has a male in his flock and vows it, but sacrifices a blemished animal to the Lord, for I am a great King,” says the LORD of hosts, “and My name is feared among the nations.” Malachi 1:10-14

The Lord is worthy of honor and the people and priests, by their actions, are saying "It's too hard to serve the Lord."

Malachi gives a warning to the priests (the ones who make the sacrifices for the people). The Lord will curse the Levites (the priests) and curse their blessing and punish their descendants if they continue in their wicked ways. He reminds them that God made a covenant with the Levites to bring life and peace, and that they are to pass on to the people God's instructions and truth. They once did revere Him, and lived lives of righteousness, even turning others from their sin. But not anymore.

"For the lips of a priest should preserve knowledge, and men should seek instruction from his mouth; for he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts. But as for you, you have turned aside from the way; you have caused many to stumble by the instruction; you have corrupted the covenant of Levi,” says the LORD of hosts. So I also have made you despised and abased before all the people, just as you are not keeping My ways but are showing partiality in the instruction." Malachi 2:7-9

Next Malachi calls the people to faithfulness. He reminds them that they are all children of one Father, and because of that, they should not be betraying the covenant made with their ancestors. The people weep because God does not accept their offerings, but they are living contrary to His commands. They think that those who are doing evil should be blessed by the Lord, and then wonder "where is the God of justice?" (I don't know about you, but this is looking more and more like the time we live in!)

And then God tells them of His plan to send a Deliverer.

“Behold, I am going to send My messenger, and he will clear the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple; and the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, He is coming,” says the LORD of hosts. Malachi 3:1

Oh, this must have given the Israelites such hope! He is coming! But look what happens when He comes...

“But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. He will sit as a smelter and purifier of silver, and He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, so that they may present to the LORD offerings in righteousness. Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the LORD as in the days of old and as in former years. Then I will draw near to you for judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers and against the adulterers and against those who swear falsely, and against those who oppress the wage earner in his wages, the widow and the orphan, and those who turn aside the alien and do not fear Me,” says the LORD of hosts. Malachi 3:2-5

And then God offers a reminder of His covenant to the people and why He hasn't already destroyed them, and what they can do to be restored.

“For I, the LORD, do not change; therefore you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed. From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from My statutes and have not kept them. Return to Me, and I will return to you,” says the LORD of hosts. Malachi 3:6-7

Return to Me! Of course, the people ask how do they return. And Malachi tells them to stop cheating God - to bring all the tithes and offerings in to the storehouse as they were commanded. He tells them to stop talking arrogantly against God, thinking they know better than Him how they should behave.

Well, the people listened. And those that repented wrote their names in a book of remembrance.

Then those who feared the LORD spoke to one another, and the LORD gave attention and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the LORD and who esteem His name. “They will be Mine,” says the LORD of hosts, “on the day that I prepare My own possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his own son who serves him.” So you will again distinguish between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve Him. Malachi 3:16-18

The Lord reminds the people that the judgment day is coming, but that there is hope for those who fear His name.

"But for you who fear My name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings; and you will go forth and skip about like calves from the stall." Malachi 4:2

God has called us to live lives of holiness, because He is holy. And we can only do it through Jesus Christ, our righteousness. Through Malachi, God has prepared the people for their Deliverer who will reconcile people to God through His death on a cross.

We're living under a New Covenant now, but that doesn't change the fact that God has still called us to obedience and reverence of His Holy Name. The story of Malachi and the Israelites and their cheating of God and neglecting true worship calls me to a closer obedience and to pray that God would send a revival among His followers today; that we might be called to holier living in our sinful generation so that others would see His power and fear His name.

The Power of God
Words by Frederick A. Graves

When Abraham and Sarah had been promised a son,
They were surprised and knew not what to say;
But they knew what God had promised He was able to perform:
And the power of God is just the same today.

The pow’r of God is just the same today,
It doesn’t matter what the people say;
Whatever God has promised
He’s able to perform:
And the power of God is just the same today.

When Moses wanted water to quench the people’s thirst,
He knew that God would then provide a way;
Although his rod was useful he had the power first:
And the power of God is just the same today.

When Moses made a serpent and placed it on a pole,
The bitten ones were told to look that way,
And then while they were looking Jehovah-rophi made them whole:
And the power of God is just the same today.

When Joshua was commander, he spoke—the sun stood still,
The moon its onward course was made to stay;
Thus he won a mighty battle, for he did his Father’s will:
And the power of God is just the same today.

When Naaman, the leper, before Elisha stood,
He thought he knew just what the seer would say,
But he had to wash in Jordan, though he thought it wasn’t good:
And the power of God is just the same today.

When David met Goliath he meant to have a fight,
The leaders put the battle in array;
Of course he killed the giant, for he was in the right:
And the power of God is just the same today.

When Jonah went to Tarshish to flee away from God,
A mighty fish was waiting for its prey;
It quickly swallowed Jonah, then threw him on the sod:
And the power of God is just the same today.

When Malachi, the prophet, was preaching all abroad,
And cutting like sickle and the scythe;
The people were accursed, for they were robbing God,
They failed to bring the offering and the tithe.

Then came the blessed Savior, with power to cleanse and heal,
To bear my sin and sickness all away;
My burdens, too, He carries, and doth my sorrows feel:
And the power of God is just the same today.

Through Paul and Silas singing and praying in the jail,
For Paul and Silas knew the way to pray;
The prison doors were opened, for locks could not avail,
And the power of God is just the same today.

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