[July 02]—Harsh Words and Words of Praise

Malachi 3:13-18

            Let’s be honest with ourselves, shall we? We can read verses like 14 and 15 and point the finger at those who are speaking “arrogantly” about the Lord, but are we any better? I confess to you that I’ve said some pretty harsh things about the way my Lord runs the world.
            To those familiar with this little vignette, please forgive me. I’ve never been really one to envy others for their money when I had little. I guess part of it’s because I’ve never been really poor. I grew up in a lower-middle to middle class home. I never went without any of the necessities, and actually rarely went without what I wanted. If someone was a lot richer than me, I was inclined to ask “So what?”
            No, what really got my goat was my utter failure in the romance department. I asked girl after girl after girl out, and for whatever reason it never worked out. Usually it became clear that the girl in question only wanted to be “friends” (man, I really learned to hate that word). Meanwhile, I saw guy after guy after guy find a beautiful young Christian girl, fall in love, and get married. The only girl I sorta kinda seriously dated in high school (and which I thought I had a shot with) ended up falling in love with my best friend. The only girl I sorta kinda dated seriously in college (and which I thought I had a shot with) wound up falling in love with and marrying my best friend in college. And I had to deal with the feelings of envy and a strong sense of injustice.
            But the more you see in the world, the more injustice you see. Quite frankly, the cynical questions/accusations in vss. 14-15 have some apparent truth to them. Just to take an obvious example, take the dictators in recent history. Only a couple that I know of—Mussolini in Italy and Hitler—faced any type of justice for their crimes. Stalin died peacefully in his sleep. So did Kim Il Sung. So did Mao Zedong. So did Lenin. So did a host of others who thought no more about mass murder than we would about stepping on an ant.
            Dennis Prager’s made this point several times, and I thoroughly agree: If there’s no afterlife, if this is all there is, then the very notion of “justice” is a cosmic joke. There’s so much vast evil that people get away with that if I didn’t believe in a God who'll make all things right in the end, I’d go crazy.
            But that’s the point of this passage. If the Lord was hearing their cynical complaints, surely he was seeing what else was going on. Whatever each person thought he was getting away with, he wasn’t getting away with anything. The Lord sees all. He’s recording all. And outside of grace, he'll eventually give to each person exactly what he deserves. As the rest of Scripture makes clear, this will happen either in this life, or in the next one.
            And that brings us to the second half of today’s passage, vss. 16-18. In every generation, even in the midst of such godlessness and cynicism and violence, there are people who are trusting in the Lord, those who “fear” the Lord and who—in stark contrast to the priests we saw earlier—honor his Name. What do we know about them?
            First, we see that they talk with each other about the beloved Lord whom they fear. They encourage each other. They remind each other of his standards and his grace. They hold each other accountable. They remind each other of his promises.
            And he’s listening. When two of these godly people are conversing with each other, there’s always a third Listener. He hears and he’s writing it down.
            The ones whom the prophet referenced earlier in the passage, those who said that “evildoers prosper, and even when they put God to the test, they get away with it,” will discover just how wrong they were. The Day of the Lord will come when he'll divide those who’ve followed him from those who haven’t. On that Day, when he acts, those who’ve trusted in him, feared him, and honored his Name will be publicly displayed as his “treasured possession.” He'll spare them, and have compassion on them just like a father does his son.
            So which of these groups will you be found in?

Abba Father, thank you that I am part of your redeemed family. Through faith in your Son, I'm your treasured possession. When I gather with other siblings in Christ, may our conversation be uplifting, encouraging, and challenging to each other. By your grace. 

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