"What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'"
September 21, 2016
This week I am continuing writing from the Old Testament book of Malachi; which is the last book in the Old Testament. I do understand that this devotional is rather long, but decided to finish up this week.
In the beginning of chapter two, God issued a warning to the priests. He told them that they needed to make up their minds to honor His name. If they refused to do so, then God would bring a curse upon them. He will curse even the blessings that they receive.
God then gives them another warning of how they had sinned against him. "Here is another thing you do. You cover the Lord's altar with tears, weeping and groaning because he pays no attention to your offerings and doesn't accept them with pleasure." You cry out, "Why doesn't the Lord accept my worship? I'll tell you why! Because the Lord witnessed the vows you and your wife made when you were young. But you have been unfaithful to her, though she remained your faithful partner, the wife of your marriage vows. Didn't the Lord make you one with your wife? In body and spirit you are His. And what does He [God] want? Godly children from your union. So guard your heart; remain loyal to the wife of your youth. For I hate divorce! To divorce your wife is to overwhelm her with cruelty. So guard your heart; do not be unfaithful to your wife."
I'm not going to get into the ins and outs of divorce. It happens; and sometimes when it happens one of the spouses have no choice in the matter. But when one of the spouses consciously makes a choice to be unfaithful, it causes great hurt to the other person; and in turn, it grieves the Lord.
I truly believe that there is a correlation between not honoring vows in marriage and not honoring vows made to God. If we can't keep our word and commitment to our husband or wife, but take the vow we made to them lightly, it affects other areas in our life. We will also have problems keeping our commitment to God. It doesn't mean that it can't be done; but will take work and a true desire to honor the vow that we make to God, and to not waver in guarding our heart. Nowadays, many have a very blasé attitude towards relationship commitments. Perhaps they hope that things work out, but know that divorce is an easy option, if it doesn't. That same attitude carries over to people's relationship with God: "I'll give it a try and hope it works out, but if not, then I can always go back to my old life."
Perhaps that is what God was referring to when He told the people that they cover His altar with tears, weeping, and groaning; crying out, "Why doesn't God accept my worship?" God feels far away to them, and they feel that their offerings of praise and worship aren't accepted with pleasure by Him. Perhaps it's because they are only offering prayers half-heartedly; not being fully committed to the vow that they made to serve the Lord. They only worship and serve Him when it's convenient or easy; but once things become difficult or uncomfortable, they turn their back on the vow that they made to God. When temptations or relationships become difficult, they are turned away from Him; just as they turn away from their marriage vows and don't keep their hearts guarded. God takes vows very seriously, and expects we humans to also honor our vows that we make to one another, and also, to Him.
Ecclesiastes 5:5 (NIV) says, "It is better not to make a vow than to make one and not fulfill it."
Verse 17 of chapter 2 continues: "You have wearied the Lord with your words." "How have we wearied Him?" you ask. "You have wearied Him by saying that all who do evil are good in the Lord's sight, and He is pleased with them. You have wearied Him by asking, 'Where is the God of justice?'"
Romans 12:19 (NLT) says, "Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, 'I will take revenge; I will pay back,' says the Lord."
Often it feels as if bad people get away with evil and good people suffer. But God promises that the day will come when He will take His revenge. Evil acts are never pleasing to the Lord, nor is it acceptable in His sight. God never considers sin as being good. It's important that we stay faithful to doing good, knowing that our eternal reward will one day come!
Chapter three begins by the Lord declaring that the day of judgement is coming. God asks the people this: "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 bleaches clothes. He will sit like a refiner of silver, burning away the dross."
Zechariah 13:9: "I will bring that group through the fire and make them pure. I will refine them like silver and purify them like gold. They will call on My name, and I will answer them. I will say, 'These are My people,' and they will say, 'The Lord is our God.'"
1 Peter 1:7: "These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold -- though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world."
God doesn't just leave them, or us, hanging with no solution to their predicament. He makes a call to repentance.
Malachi 3:6 says, "I am the Lord, and I do not change.......Now return to me, and I will return to you."
Hebrews 13:8 tells us that "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever." He is unchanging! He is still calling people to repentance; not willing that any should perish, but that all will repent and be saved. Some tend to think that God is looking down, just waiting for them to mess up, so that He can discipline and punish them. That's not true! God is eager to forgive; not punish!
Joel 2:12-13 says, "This is what the Lord says, 'Turn to me now, while there is time. Give me your hearts. Come with fasting, weeping, and mourning. Don't tear your clothing in your grief, but tear your hearts instead.' Return to the Lord your God, for He is merciful and compassionate, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. He is eager to relent and not punish."
Malachi 3:7b-12 continues, "But you ask, 'How can we return when we have never gone away?' 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. You are under a curse, for your whole nation has been cheating Me. Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in My temple. If you do, 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! Put Me to the test! Your crops will be abundant, for I will guard them from insects and disease. Your grapes will not fall from the vines before they are ripe. Then all nations will call you blessed, for your land will be such a delight,' says the Lord of Heaven's Armies."
Many like to disregard these scriptures; thinking that the churches and pastors use them, trying to get their money. The subject of the giving of tithe and offerings often make people cringe; but only if they have never experienced the benefit and fruit of faithfully giving. The truth is, the churches and pastors could function and be cared for in another way, had God set it up like that. But God desired for His people to learn how to give, so that they in turn could be blessed. These scriptures are not obsolete. They are still very true today! We're not cheating the church or the pastor when we refuse to give our tithe and offerings; we are, in fact, cheating God. That's what these verses very clearly say.
Not only are we cheating God, but we are also cheating ourselves out of a blessing. God makes a promise to those who will faithfully give their tithe and offerings that are due Him. "If you do, 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! Your crops will be abundant, for I will guard them from insects and disease.... your grapes will not fall from the vines before they are ripe. All nations will call you blessed, for your land will be such a delight."
OH! "I don't have to give tithe and offerings, because I'm not a farmer and don't have crops and grapes!" Not true! God will bless your business, your job, your personal finances, etc. when you offer your tithe and offering to Him. He says, "Try it! Put Me to the test!" I've seen the results of this in my own personal life. Jon and I have experienced the blessing of faithfully tithing since we've been married. It doesn't necessarily mean that you'll be rich or have a huge bank account; but it does mean that God will provide for your needs and take care of you. It means that He will open the windows of heaven and pour out blessings upon you; which may be financial blessing, good health, protection, always having food on the table, a dependable car, the blessing of family relationships, strong friendships with the right people at the right time, etc..... The storehouse of God is filled with more than just finances. When we choose to joyfully give God our tithe and offering, He in turn will open up the windows of heaven and shower so many different types of blessing upon us. That's His promise!
God continues in verse 13 of chapter 3: "You have said terrible things about me, says the Lord. But you say, 'What do you mean? What have we said against you?' You have said, 'What's the use of serving God? What have we gained by obeying His commands or by trying to show the Lord of Heaven's Armies that we are sorry for our sins?'"
Wow! This same attitude is so prevalent today! "What's the use of serving God? What have we gained by obeying His commands or trying to show Him that we are sorry for our sins?" People tend to not want to do something, unless it's popular or going to be beneficial to them in some way. What they don't seem to understand is that they are playing around with their eternity. Serving God, not only brings His peace and presence into their daily life on earth, but it will result in eternal benefits that are unending!
When people repent, God promises mercy! Verses 16-18 say, "Then those who feared the Lord spoke with each other, and the Lord listened to what they said. In His presence, a scroll of remembrance was written to record the names of those who feared Him and always thought about the honor of His name. 'They will be My people,' says the Lord of Heaven's Armies. 'On the day when I act in judgement, they will be My own special treasure. I will spare them as a father spares an obedient child. Then you will again see the difference between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not.'"
I love the description of those who show reverence and honor to God: they will be His own special treasure, on that day when He acts in judgement. His mercy will be shown to those who chose to serve Him. He will extend grace and mercy and forgiveness to them, as a father does an obedient child. That's when the difference between the righteous and wicked will be seen.
The final chapter in Malachi gives a promise for all who repent!! "But for you who fear my name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in his wings. And you will go free, leaping with joy like calves let out to pasture. On the day when I act, you will tread upon the wicked as if they were dust under your feet."
God is still calling us to repentance today. We can choose to repent and turn our heart to God, or else suffer the consequences. It's easy to grow comfortable, thinking that America has always been considered a "christian nation", but things are rapidly changing, and that is no longer the mindset. God spoke a warning to Israel when they had all these different attitudes (that I've written about these past couple of week), that is very prevalent in our world today. We need to get serious about our relationship with God and make a choice: we will either serve God with our whole heart, or we won't. May we choose to say with Joshua, "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord!" (Joshua 24:15).
Loretta and I have had a period of difficult finances in the past. We didn't have to worry or fret as much as many people have. We always knew God was providing enough that we wouldn't lose our home or go hungry. We've also had times before we met when we did have to have Ramen noodles for dinners. We are sympathetic about money problems. But we have also seen that when we are faithful to give, that we are blessed in return. Actually a lot of that blessing has been in seeing how our giving has helped others.
I've known many co-workers that thought they would work harder if their employer would pay them more. But the employer demands that the worker work harder first, then they will pay more for it. Some co-workers just can't understand why the employer wouldn't take the risk, and give them a raise first. Three times, now, I've interviewed with a prospective employer who wasn't sure they could pay me what they thought I would want. All three times, I told them that I'd start lower, and would prove myself enough to earn more later. I got all three jobs. And I earned raises all three times.
God wants us to have great things, and plenty of it. But He doesn't want us to be selfish, greedy, or lazy. We have to work to earn a living, but it is God that provides for us. And when we do receive, we have to be responsible with what we receive. We can't throw it away, but have to give some of it back. In part, that is to show our faithfulness to not be greedy, but part of it is to bless someone else. If we are faithful to work, and to give back, then God will bless us with enough. And in ways, bless us with more (not always money).
God is not a money market account, though. If we are giving just so we can receive money, God knows our hearts, and won't reward the greed. So don't give to receive more. Give because it is right, and God's will, and trust that it won't bankrupt you.
Coconut Cream Pie
3/4 cup sugar
3 eggs, slightly beaten
3 Tablespoons cornstarch
2 Tablespoons butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cups coconut
2 cups milk
Mix all dry ingredients in a saucepan. Separate eggs and use egg yolks; add enough milk to egg yolks to make a paste; mix into dry ingredients. Add remaining milk. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Boil for 2 minutes. Add butter and vanilla; add coconut. Cool to room temperature. Pour into baked pastry shell. Top with meringue, if desires.
3 egg whites
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon cream of tarter
Beat eggs until foamy; add cream of tarter. Gradually add sugar and continue beating until meringue holds peaks. Pile onto the cooked cream pie filling and brown in 425 oven. Watch to make sure it doesn't burn.
The line from the scripture in Malachi 4:2 that says, "The Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in His wings" really ministered to my sister, Janie, when she had Jared, her youngest son.
Jared was born premature and soon after birth was taken to another hospital and placed in NICU. Janie was in one hospital and her newborn baby in another. When she was released, she divided her time between recuperating and spending time in NICU with her newborn. Jimmy's grandmother had came down to stay with her other two kids. Jared's lungs weren't developed and he had other issues, and the doctor's weren't sure that he was going to make it. One night she went home to sleep and had a dream that an angel was standing beside Jared's crib in NICU and was waving its wings back and forth over him. This scripture was one that Janie had been praying. The next morning, she went to the hospital to see Jared, and he wasn't in NICU. She panicked and asked the nurse where he was. The nurse responded that he was no longer in that unit. "What do you mean he's no longer here?!" The nurse said, "The strangest thing happened last night! All at once, every single baby improved. Most of them have been moved to the unit for less critically ill babies." Yes, there was healing in His wings that night that not only affected Jared, but every other baby that was in NICU!
People are often unreasonable and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.
If you are honest, people may cheat you. Be honest anyway.
If you find happiness, people may be jealous. Be happy anyway.
The good you do today may be forgotten. Do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway.
For you see, in the end, it is between you and God.
It was never between you and them anyway. - Mother Teresa
We love you!
Loretta & Jon