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Synopsis of In Darkness We Rob God
Good and joyful day today to all Christian brothers and sisters on this the day the Lord has made. Pull up a chair, pour yourself a cup of coffee, or tea, or milk, or whatever is your favorite, we’re about to slice a piece of the Bread of Life, the Word of God. And today’s slice comes from:
Malachi 2:17–3:5 You have wearied the LORD with your words. “Wearied him?” you ask. “How have we wearied him?” You have wearied him by suggesting that the LORD favors evildoers since he does not punish them. You have wearied him by asking, “Where is the God of justice?” 3:1 “Look! I am sending my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. Then the Lord you are seeking will suddenly come to his Temple. The messenger of the covenant, whom you look for so eagerly, is surely coming,” says the LORD Almighty. 2 “But who will be able to endure it when he comes? Who will be able to stand and face him when he appears? For he will be like a blazing fire that refines metal or like a strong soap that whitens clothes. 3 He will sit and judge like a refiner of silver, watching closely as the dross is burned away. He will purify the Levites, refining them like gold or silver, so that they may once again offer acceptable sacrifices to the LORD. 4 Then once more the LORD will accept the offerings brought to him by the people of Judah and Jerusalem, as he did in former times. 5 At that time I will put you on trial. I will be a ready witness against all sorcerers and adulterers and liars. I will speak against those who cheat employees of their wages, who oppress widows and orphans, or who deprive the foreigners living among you of justice, for these people do not fear me,” says the LORD Almighty. 6 “I am the LORD, and I do not change. That is why you descendants of Jacob are not already completely destroyed. 7 Ever since the days of your ancestors, you have scorned my laws and failed to obey them. Now return to me, and I will return to you,” says the LORD Almighty. “But you ask, ‘How can we return when we have never gone away?’ 8 “Should people cheat God? Yet you have cheated me! “But you ask, ‘What do you mean? When did we ever cheat you?’ “You have cheated me of the tithes and offerings due to me. 9 You are under a curse, for your whole nation has been cheating me.
If God were on his way to your house, what clean-up would you want to do? Malachi had his list; John the Baptist had his list; and we should have our lists.
Let’s look further at Malachi’s List
Malachi was the last of the minor prophets from the fifth century B.C. As we study the last book of the Old Testament which bears his name, three areas of clean-up jump out at us. Malachi cries out for faithfulness in worship, morality and speech. The three human maladies here addressed are (1) religious slackness, (2) moral erosion and (3) the complaining of the people.
First of all, due to the economic depression of the times, the people of God became slack in their worship practices. “Why go to temple?” they asked. “Why pray?” they asked. “Yahweh doesn’t care for us. Why should we care about him and his laws?” Lean harvests, droughts, and locusts swarming on crops resulted in most of the people staying away from worship services. The people also stopped giving their tithes and offerings and were thus robbing God Malachi 3: 8-12 “Should people cheat God? Yet you have cheated me! “But you ask, ‘What do you mean? When did we ever cheat you?’ “You have cheated me of the tithes and offerings due to me.9 You are under a curse, for your whole nation has been cheating me.10 Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,” says the LORD Almighty, “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Let me prove it to you! 11 Your crops will be abundant, for I will guard them from insects and disease. Your grapes will not shrivel before they are ripe,” says the LORD Almighty. 12 “Then all nations will call you blessed, for your land will be such a delight,” says the LORD Almighty.
It isn’t much different today. The biggest reason for faithlessness in worship and giving to the Lord’s work is personal crises. Cheating God by not giving offerings often comes from not coping with personal crises through faith. Do any of these areas make your refinement list?
Secondly, personal crises can also produce immorality. Five sins of immorality are listed in Malachi 3:5: (1) the practice of magic (astrology); (2) adultery (sexual deviations); (3) lying (telling distortions or half-truths and hurting people with words); (4) cheating (especially cheating one’s employers and employees); and (5) not helping widows, orphans and foreigners (those with special needs or of a different skin, color and national background than us). Do any of these five maladies make your refinement list? Correcting immorality is a major way of preparing to meet God. Looking at our behavior in the light of the ten commandments is a good way to get ready for the special visitor who is coming.
Thirdly, let’s look at complaining against God. Is murmuring a problem for you? Is cynicism on your sin list? How about complaining against God? Murmuring against God may very well be on our preparation lists. Getting ready for God’s coming means turning away from self-centered complaints. That’s not an easy task, but we don’t have to do it by some super-human effort. How is this possible? Malachi says God works like a refiner and a fuller to make us ready for his arrival.
A refiner’s fire is very hot, so hot that metallic substances are melted and purified. In God’s foundry people are purified by fire. Repentance isn’t easy, but it is needed. Repentance is like clothing being scrubbed and rubbed clean in the fullers’ field outside the walls of Jerusalem.
A fuller is one who cleans and whitens cloth. The specific reference in our text is to the coarse soap which a fuller must use to do his job. The clothing must be steeped in soapy water and trodden (beaten) clean.
Now let’s look at John’s List…. John comes as a fiery prophet in the wilderness, seeking to cleanse the lives of his listeners, thus fulfilling Malachi’s words about fire refining and fullers’ soap. John speaks of preparing the way of the Lord in three ways, (1) straightening crooked paths and roads, (2) by raising valleys, and (3) by lowering mountains Luke 3:1-6, thus fulfilling Isaiah’s prophecy of the coming Messiah.
First of all, your list might include straightening out some pathway which is crooked. Crooked means distorted, dishonest or deformed. sinners who refused to acknowledge their distorted, dishonest and deformed ways.
Secondly, raising valleys is different than straightening crooked places. The symbolic meaning of this highway construction imagery is that many people are kept from proper preparation for meeting God by their depression and feelings of inferiority. One man put it this way:”The purpose of preaching is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” Valleys are raised. Mountains are lowered.
Thirdly, the mountains and hills of this prophecy are those elements of pride which keep us from repentance. That’s the most important item on our refinement list.
Religious slackness, moral erosion and complaining were on Malachi’s list. Crookedness, inferiority and pride made John’s list. What items belong on our lists that we may be made ready for the coming of our special guest? God is coming!
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