Malachi 3:13-18 - "Your words have been hard against me, says the LORD. But you say, 'How have we spoken against You?' You have said, 'It is vain to serve God. What is the profit of our keeping His charge or of walking as in mourning before the LORD of hosts? And now we call the arrogant blessed. Evildoers not only prosper but they put God to the test, and they escape.'" Then those who feared the LORD spoke with one another. The LORD paid attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who feared the LORD and esteemed His Name. "They shall be Mine, says the LORD of hosts, in the day when I make up My treasured possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him. Then once more you shall see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve Him."
It may sound odd, but I can almost hear the sound of hurt feelings in the first part of the reading for today. "Your words have been hard against Me, says the Lord." It sounds like ... like a hurt parent, or a friend, or a spouse. It does not sound like the King of the universe, the Maker of all things, the One who is so far above us. Why would He even notice our whining, let alone care?
And yet He does. "Your words have been hard against Me," He says. What words? Words that are problematic in two ways. First of all, they show a painful lack of faith in God's justice. "Evildoers not only prosper but they put God to the test, and they escape."
I have to admit that when I look around the world, I can see why people say this. There are any number of rich, powerful people who seem to get away with everything, up to and including murder. But that isn't me—and I'm guessing it isn't you, either. We walk a harder road. And when we see that undeserving others seem to have it easier, well, we complain, don't we? Even against God.
But there is a second, deeper problem with this complaint. "What is the profit of our keeping His charge?" the people ask. Or to put it in more familiar words, "What's in it for me? Why should I trouble to obey God if I'm getting nothing out of it? After all, it's not as if I loved Him and would do it for free!"
Ouch! Now that's hurtful. Hurtful to the Lord, and I'm guessing, to you as well. Because everything has changed for those who belong to Jesus. We have come to know Him as the One who died and rose for us—the One "who loved me and gave Himself for me" (Galatians 2:20b). With a Savior like that, our life with God can never be a matter of spiritual accounting anymore—reckoning up losses and gains to figure out if serving God is worth it. Now it's a matter of love—like the love between a father and son.
"We love because He first loved us," says John (1 John 4:19). It's only the love of Jesus that can take a selfish, complaining human heart and change it into one that truly loves God for Himself. Now there is real love on both sides of the relationship—God's great love for us and our own miniature reflection of that love back to Him. The Holy Spirit has planted Jesus' own love for the Father in our hearts as well. What a wonderful gift!
THE PRAYER: Dear Father, I love You, and want to love You more. Please help me. Amen.
This Daily Devotion was written by Dr. Kari Vo.
1. Is it possible to hurt God's feelings?
2. Do you ever feel yourself to be God's "treasured possession"?
3. Has God ever taken a certain trait or tendency of yours (quick anger, sharp tongue, critical attitude, etc.) and transformed it somehow? How did this happen? How is it still happening?
Today's Bible Readings: Ezekiel 11-13 1 Timothy 6
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