Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Tough Love - A Study from Malachi
Verse 1 - An oracle: The word of the LORD to Israel through Malachi.
• Malachi was the last prophet in the Old Testament.
• When Malachi finished his ministry, the Lord did not speak through another prophet for 400 years.
• Very little is known about the man Malachi. He might have been a priest. What is known is that he lived in a time in which people had begun to fall away from their faith.
• Malachi was burdened by what he saw in his society and felt compelled to try to help people see the error of their ways.
• Though sometimes prophets are seen as being judgmental, they are actually motivated by a deep burden over the pain they see in the lives of those who chose a lifestyle of sin.
Verse 2 - I have loved you, says the LORD. But you ask: How have You loved us? Wasn't Esau Jacob's brother? This is the LORD's declaration. Even so, I loved Jacob, but I hated Esau.
• The message that God told Malachi to give to Israel was one of love.
• Though Malachi was going to be showing “tough love,” it really was God’s love that Malachi was trying to convey.
• Most of us do not like tough love.
• Real love compels us to do what will actually help others, not just what makes them feel good for the moment.
• The Israelites were going through a hard time so they asked Malachi how God had demonstrated His love for them.
• When we go through a hard time in our own lives, it is easy to begin to feel like God no longer loves us.
• It is easy to focus on the negative things in life and forget all that God is doing.
• Malachi used a unique illustration to point out to the Israelites how God had loved them.
• Malachi said that God loved “Jacob” but hated “Esau.”
• The Jews descended from Jacob and though they were having a hard time, they had returned to their land and rebuilt their temple and had a somewhat normal life.
• The Arabs descended from Esau and at that point in history had been utterly decimated as a people. They had not yet been able to rebuild their nation. It lay in ruins no matter what they had tried to do.
• Were the Jews better than the Arabs?
• Did the Jews deserve to be blessed more than the Arabs?
• No. Both groups had done wrong and both groups had received the punishment they had deserved.
• But God, in His mercy and grace, and had chosen to help the Jews rebuild their nation.
• God demonstrated His love to them in this way.
• Life may not have been perfect for the Jews, but it was far better than many of the people around them.
• Each of us has done a lot of stupid things in our lives.
• Each of us has received the “rewards” for our mistakes and carries certain burdens as a result.
• But sometimes God chooses to bless us in spite of ourselves as a demonstration of His love.
• We should never doubt the love of God in our lives even when things are not going well.
• We do not have to look far to find someone in far worse shape than we are.
• Whatever we have, as little as it may seem at the moment, is a gift of love from God.
Verse 6 - A son honors his father, and a servant his master. But if I am a father, where is My honor? And if I am a master, where is your fear of Me?
• God calls those of us who believe in Him, His children (John 1:12).
• Children are supposed to honor their parents (Ephesians 6:1-2).
• The Israelites had forgotten to honor God.
• Do we ever forget to honor God?
• God calls Christians to reorder our priorities and to follow Him (Luke 9:23).
• The Israelites had left God off their priority list and were following their own ways, not God’s.
• Do we ever follow our own way instead of God’s way? Do our priorities get messed up?
Verse 8 - When you present a blind animal for sacrifice, is it not wrong? And when you present a lame or sick animal, is it not wrong? Bring it to your governor! Would he be pleased with you or show you favor?
• The Jews protested Malachi’s strong words.
• They did not see their failure to love God back nor did they see their failure to follow God’s ways.
• Malachi points out to them just one example.
• The Old Testament had very strict guidelines about what the people could bring to sacrifice when they worshipped the Lord.
• They were supposed to bring a healthy lamb or goat that was at least a year old and looked perfect.
• The whole point was that it was supposed to cost them something. After all, a sacrifice is not supposed to be free.
• Instead of doing that, they had been bringing sick animals that they could do nothing with and giving that as a sacrifice.
• Malachi points out that if they had tried to pay their taxes with such a sickly animal, the governor would have rejected it.
• Yet they thought it would be good enough for God.
• Why do we always think we can give God our leftovers and that it will please Him?
• We should be offering God our best because we love Him and we want to serve Him.
• If we gave our spouse or our best friend the kind of love we give God, how long would that relationship last?
• If someone offered that kind of love to us, how would it make us feel?
Verse 14 - The deceiver is cursed who has an acceptable male in his flock and makes a vow but sacrifices a defective animal to the Lord . . . .
• God was not trying to be mean and demand more than the people could give.
• God would not have been upset if they had given their best and their best was not as nice as someone else’s.
• God was sad because clearly they could have done better but they tried to deceive God.
• God knows our hearts and sees through all our motivations.
• God knows when we have given our best and when we have given just enough to try to look good in front of others.
Verse 9 - "And now ask for God's favor. Will He be gracious to us? Since this has come from your hands, will He show any of you favor?” asks the LORD of Hosts.
• Malachi was trying to help the Jews understand that if they did the least for God as they possibly could then why did they expect God to bless them.
• God does often bless us in spite of our stupidity, but why do we think we “deserve” that blessing?
• Too many people think of God as a cosmic ATM machine. They can just drive by and make a withdrawal anytime they want to.
• That is not really now it works with God, but if it was, why would we think we can withdraw something from an account that is already empty!!!!
Verse 14 - . . . For I am a great King, says the LORD of Hosts, and My name will be feared among the nations.
• Malachi explains that the Lord is a great King.
• The Lord’s people are supposed to be a great people.
• If God’s people do not act great, it makes God look bad too.
• Sometimes God has to give His people tough love so that they can get back in line and live right. But it is still love.
• God always loves us, even when it does not feel like it.
• God expects us to give Him our best. When we fail to do so, God knows our inner motivations.
• We cannot live wrong and expect God’s blessings on our lives.
• We must live in a way that proclaims God’s greatness to those around us.
This post is part of a larger study of Malachi found in the book, "Malachi: Finding Hope in the Midst of Adversity."