Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Saturday, 29 December 18:
Note: Here is a short video overview of Malachi: https://youtu.be/HPGShWZ4Jvk
1. Malachi 1:2 – “But you say, ‘How have you loved us?’” When people drift from God, they often think that God’s love has changed, but God’s love never changes. Never lose sight of God’s perfect love. If God seems distant, it is not Him that that has moved away; we drift from God in our hearts, our thoughts, and our actions. God does not travel down the path of sin to accomplish our purposes. He calls us to follow Jesus and to seek ever increasing holiness for His purposes and His glory.
2. Malachi 1:4 – “If Edom says, ‘We are shattered but we will rebuild the ruins,’ the Lord of hosts says, ‘They may build, but I will tear down…’” If the Lord is not behind your endeavors, they are ultimately meaningless and doomed for failure. Solomon learned this the hard way and wrote the Book of Ecclesiastes. What you do for self is ultimately meaningless. What you do for God has eternal value.
3. Malachi 1:5 – “Your own eyes shall see this, and you shall say, ‘Great is the Lord beyond the border of Israel!’” God has a purpose far greater than us, but He desires that we join Him in what He is doing. We must remember that it is not about us. Do you want the world to remember you or Jesus? What was John the Baptist’s idea of Legacy? “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30)
4. Malachi 1:6, 11, 14 — “’A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If I am a father, where is the honor due me? If I am a master, where is the respect due me?’ says the Lord Almighty…. ‘My name will be great among the nations, from the rising to the setting of the sun…. For I am a great king,’ says the Lord Almighty, ‘and my name is to be feared among the nations.’”
– How we respond to God’s commands reveals what we truly believe about God and whether or not we truly believe that our Savior is Lord, with complete authority over our lives. A servant obeys his master as a matter of expectation: “So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’” (Luke 17:10) And children with childlike faith (not childish faith) trust and obey their father without doubting. So, why is the church so casual about sin? True faith trusts enough to obey. True faith loves enough to hate what God abhors. The Marines have a saying, “What is interesting to the commander is fascinating to me!” We should be driven, inspired to do far more than the minimum for our Savior.
– In Malachi, the Lord rebukes His priests for failing to honor Him and Glorify Him as King through reverence and obedience. Through their behavior, they were showing contempt for the King before a watching world. Because of their lack of fidelity and integrity, the world only saw in them a powerless religion full of hypocrites and liars — their behavior, rather than glorifying God, caused many people to stumble, and instead of calling people to repentance and obedience, they proclaimed “All who do evil are good in the eyes of the Lord, and he is pleased with them (Malachi 2:7-9, 17).” This statement reminds me of Paul’s statement in Romans 1: “Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them (1:32).”
– God contrasts the despicable priests with the upright behavior of Levi: “He revered me and stood in awe of my name. True instruction was in his mouth and nothing false was found on his lips. He walked with me in peace and uprightness, and turned many from sin. (Malachi 2:5, 6). In reverence to the King, Levi obeyed the Lord to the best of his ability and taught others to obey ALL of God’s commands just as Jesus told his disciples to do in the Great Commission (Matthew 28:20). Levi understood the importance of knowing, walking in, and teaching from the Word of God as is written in today’s Proverbs readings: “Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint; but blessed is he who keeps the law (Proverbs 29:18).” God’s people are to proclaim the King and testify to the Truth from God’s Word. Jesus said, “In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me (John 18:37).” In today’s Psalms we read: “May the praise of God be in their mouths and a double-edged sword in their hands, to inflict vengeance on the nations and punishment on the peoples, to bind their kings with fetters, their nobles with shackles of iron, to carry out the sentence written against them. This is the glory of all his saints. Praise the Lord.” What is the double-edged sword? The Word of God:
— Hebrews 4:12 — For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
— Revelation 1:16 — In his right hand he held seven stars, and out of his mouth came a sharp double-edged sword.
— 2 Timothy 2:15 – “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” How skilled are you with your sword? Are you ready for battle today, to attack the strongholds?
— 2 Corinthians 10:3-6 — For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. And we will be ready to punish every act of disobedience, once your obedience is complete.
— Ephesians 6:10-18 — Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.”
5. Malachi 1:6-14 – Fear, pride, greed, and a false sense of duty tempts us to give more honor to others than to God. We are often more interested in what others think than what God thinks. In verses 6-14, God points out that, though His people call Him Lord, they treat earthly leaders with more respect and honor than they do Him, and they are more interested in earthly pursuits than Kingdom pursuits. Consider the different spirit people bring to church than they would bring if invited to the White House to meet the President or if they were invited to the home of a very famous person. God says, that with a complacent heart, no worship is acceptable.
6. Malachi 1:8 – “Present that to your governor; will he accept you or show you favor? says the Lord of hosts.” We must give God our very best. Do you put as much effort in serving God and bringing Him glory as you do other things? Where you spend your time, money, energy, and effort reveals what is most important to you. God doesn’t want what is left over.
7. Malachi 1:13 – “But you say, ‘What a weariness this is,’” Bible study, prayer, obedience, worship, and sacrifice should never feel wearisome to you. If it does, you have a perspective problem, a heart problem. Be honest with God and with yourself about how you really feel, about what you really care about most. Pray for wholeheartedness.
8. Malachi 2:2 – “If you will not listen, if you will not take it to heart to give honor to my name, says the Lord of hosts, then I will send the curse upon you and I will curse your blessings.” Worship starts with the heart, not with empty actions. You must set your heart to honor and love God.
9. Malachi 2:5-7 – “My covenant with him was one of life and peace, and I gave them to him. It was a covenant of fear, and he feared me. He stood in awe of my name. True instruction was in his mouth, and no wrong was found on his lips. He walked with me in peace and uprightness, and he turned many from iniquity. For the lips of a priest should guard knowledge, and people should seek instruction from his mouth, for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts.” Christians are called to be Priests who fear and follow God wholeheartedly and who speak truth to others from a life of integrity.
10. Malachi 2:6 – “He walked with me in peace and uprightness, and he turned many from iniquity.” Walking with God involves turning away from iniquity. Peace is found in unity with Jesus and uprightness. Ungodly people talk about peace all the time, but peace starts and ends with peace with God – forgiveness, worship, and obedience. God is The God of Justice, Mercy, Peace, Love, and Joy. Apart from Him, none of these things are possible. The religion of humanism preaches that through enough education and effort, man can achieve these things apart from God. However, our Founding Fathers reminded us that truth is “self-evident,” that we rely on Divine Providence (God), and that God defines our Liberty (the obligations of freedom to obey His Supreme Law above human laws).
11. Malachi 2:9 – “I make you despised and abased before all the people, inasmuch as you do not keep my ways but show partiality in your instruction.” God does not honor the lukewarm or halfhearted Christian who intentionally only obeys some of the commands some of the time.
12. Malachi 2:13-16 – “He no longer regards the offering or accepts it with favor from your hand. But you say, ‘Why does he not?’ Because the Lord was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth.” The most important earthly institution to God is the marriage, and the purpose of marriage is not to simply bring fulfillment to the husband and wife but to raise godly children. God expects marriage to be holy and pure and to be the schoolhouse of godly character for the next generation of His people. God does not bless His people while they are dishonoring this most sacred institution. If the church lacks power, look at the families. If you are a parent, your most important ministry or occupation on this earth is to raise up godly children.
13. Proverbs 29:9 – “If a wise man has an argument with a fool, the fool only rages and laughs, and there is no quiet.” Don’t waste your time arguing with a fool.
14. Proverbs 29:17 – “Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint, but blessed is he who keeps the law.” The world looks for leaders with vision, people who can imagine a ‘better’ future and show people how to turn imagination into reality. However, Christians live by revelation, God’s plan revealed in His word. God’s people arrange and live their lives in accordance with God’s word, whether it seems to make sense or not, whether it appears prosperous, and whether it is comfortable. God does intend for us to imagine our future or to create it in our minds and then with our efforts. He knows our future and has already established plans to prosper us. He just wants our loving obedience. His plans for us will be radically different than what we would imagine or even desire. (Isaiah 55:8, 9) Whenever people follow their own dreams rather than God, they “cast off restraint.” They do “what is right in their own eyes.” (see Judges) They set goals for themselves, build their Towers of Babel, and perhaps pray to God to bless their efforts. You don’t discover God’s will for your life; He reveals it to you, and He does that primarily through prayerful, diligent study and application of His word, one day at a time. “Blessed is he who keeps the law.”
15. Proverbs 29:23 – “One’s pride will bring him low, but he who is lowly in spirit will obtain honor.” Pride is the source of all sin – an overly high opinion of yourself. Pride is your enemy, seeking to reduce in your mind the infinite divide between God’s holiness and your sinfulness, reducing your amazement of the grace you have received through Christ and the reality of your complete dependence on His grace. Pride will cause you to demand justice from others (your perception of justice) rather than giving grace to others. Pride will isolate you from both God and others, causing you to violate the Great Commandment of love. Humility is the opposite of pride and positions you to receive the fullness of God’s blessings in your life, to freely receive and give the love of Christ. Don’t be complacent about the pride in your life. Examine yourself carefully, repent, and pray for God to cleanse you of the pride that remains in your life, trusting in His grace where you continue to make self an idol.
16. Proverbs 29:10 – “Bloodthirsty men hate one who is blameless and seek the life of the upright.” Some people will hate you simply because you are good. There is nothing you can do to please them.
17. Psalm 149:1-4 – “Praise the Lord! Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise in the assembly of the godly! Let Israel be glad in his Maker; let the children of Zion rejoice in their King! Let them praise his name with dancing, making melody to him with tambourine and lyre! For the Lord takes pleasure in his people; he adorns the humble with salvation.” Great verses for us to meditate upon this Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Put your heart into worship this weekend.
18. Psalm 149:4 – “For the Lord takes pleasure in his people; he adorns the humble with salvation.” The humble are saved. God’s people are humble.
19. Psalm 149:6 – “Let the high praises of God be in their throats and two-edged swords in their hands.” Both Hebrews 4:12 and Revelation 1:16 teach that the two-edged sword is the word of God: “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12) “…from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword.” (Revelation 1:16) Bible study, memorization, and application are essential to your relationship with God and your relationships with others. You cannot study and apply God’s word enough. Note from Hebrews 4:12 that the first place God’s word is applied is within your own heart.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 29 Dec 18: Honor God today by honoring your family. Love God today by loving your family. Heal all wounds. Strive to make your family a beacon before the world of God’s love, mercy, grace, peace, and joy. Some wounds are beyond your ability to heal; dedicate those to prayer, continual prayer, that God would move mightily in those areas. Where you have not been faithful to others in the past, commit to being faithful in prayer. Prayer is not your last resort, it is your most powerful weapon. Begin or continue a godly heritage in your family. (Malachi 2:13-16)