Malachi 3:7 - [The Lord said] "From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from My statutes and have not kept them. Return to Me, and I will return to you, says the LORD of hosts. But you say, 'How shall we return?'"
Trouble-filled days had dawned on Israel when God spoke these words. The nation was corrupt; its religious worship was dishonest; its home life was a mess. Nevertheless, despite their thanklessness and self-absorbed ways, the Lord had not altogether cast off His people. His undying love and mercy prompted Him—who has no pleasure in the death of a sinner (see Ezekiel 33:11)—to plead to the delinquent nation, "Return to Me!"
Sadly, in bold unbelief the people who had been closest to God spurned His call to repentance and smugly demanded, "How shall we return?" This, as if to say, "What could possibly be wrong with us? We, of all nations, are Jehovah's. Here in Jerusalem, of all cities, is the holy temple." Truly, they were deceiving themselves—and with a courage that God's messengers often displayed in the face of just such an affront—Malachi publicly denounced their unrepentance, their haughty hypocrisy, and their deep-seated animosity toward God and His Word.
"How shall we return?" they asked. This is first done by acknowledging that they—and we—owe everything to God, the Lord of Scripture, the One who redeems and sanctifies us unto eternal life.
"How shall we return?" Many of our churches need to come back to God, to the steadfast truths of the Bible, to the plain fact of mankind's utter sinfulness, and to the living Christ of the Gospels.
"How shall we return?" So much begins at home where we nurture each other in love, cultivate and communicate our faith, and raise our children in the fear and love of God. How important this is to the life and health of our nation!
For the glorious assurance that God will come to us with His blessing; for the promise that we, despite our sins, sorrows, doubts, and weaknesses, can hear the Almighty say, "I will return to you," we must return to Him, not with feeble claims of goodness and virtue, but with a sober contrition born from penitent hearts. We must cling to—and this is the most vital truth ever proclaimed—the Lord Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world.
Even as Malachi had this Christ-centered hope, we, too, must fall at the feet of the crucified and risen Christ, the eternal Son of God, who alone offers the boundless mercy of forgiven sins as the pure gift of His infinite grace.
This is how God came to us—through Jesus! Praise be to God for His unending mercy! For it was when Jesus suffered on the cross, when "He was pierced for our transgressions" and "crushed for our iniquities" that peace between God and man was made possible (see Isaiah 53:5-8). By His dying, the death which gives us eternal life has removed the sins separating us from God. Jesus paid the full price demanded for our pardon.
This is how we shall return to God; this is how we must return: humbly seeking His grace, repentantly asking for His forgiveness, and faithfully surrendering our lives to Jesus, our risen Lord and Savior.
WE PRAY: Heavenly Father, keep us close to You and never let us go. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
From "America, Return to God!" a sermon excerpt from Rev. Dr. Walter A. Maier, the first Speaker of The Lutheran Hour
1. What motives would Israel have to claim it was doing the right things in the eyes of God?
2. How does Jesus' death and resurrection give us a full pardon before God?
3. How do we know that God will accept us when we repent and return to Him?
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