In recent years, we have become familiar with the
statement, “They are in denial.” That means someone is refusing to accept the
harsh reality of an inescapable truth. In seeing ourselves as we really are in
relationship to God, the attitude of being self-righteous and self-justifying puts
us on a collision course with him and spiritual peril is inevitable. This
attitude of willful rebellion has been with us since the dawn of creation.
God’s chosen people were no different in spite of all
the manifestations of his love, mercy, grace, goodness, provision and
protection. The accounts of their rebellion are legion–so many! In the final
book of the Old Testament, Malachi has the message from God to Israel
that condemns their unfaithfulness. He, like all the other prophets, named sins
and named the sinners.
The Lord Almighty declares the glaring sins of his
people. Each time they denied their sin and responded with a “yet you say” question loaded with
sarcasm, contempt and defensiveness. Israel had grown weary of God and
keeping its covenant relationship.
The people no longer believed that God loved them. Malachi 1:2 says, “I have loved you, says the
Lord. Yet you say, In what way have
You loved us?” Because God had destroyed Edom Esau’s descendants, because of willful
rebellion, Israel was
certain God could not possibly still love them; after all, Edom was their “brother.”
Next, Malachi 1:6
God says, “A son honors his father, and a servant his master, If then I am the
Father, Where is My honor? And if I am a Master, where is My reverence? Says
the Lord of hosts to you priests who despise My name. Yet you say, ‘In what way have we despised Your name?’” They had
lost their reverence and godly fear of Jehovah! They had drifted into a
spiritual stupor and blatant indifference.
God further tells them in Malachi
1:11 that his name would be great among the nations. Verses
12-13 read, “But you profane it in that you
say, ‘The table of the Lord is defiled; and its fruit, its food, is
contemptible.’ You also say, ‘Oh,
what a weariness!’ And you sneer at it, says the Lord of hosts. And you bring
the stolen, the lame, and the sick; Thus you bring an offering! Should I accept
this from your hand, says the Lord?” The priests were now offering God lame and
sick animals as sacrifices. They would not have dared to offer such to their
governor! Their service to God had become bothersome and boring because they
had lost sight of who it was they were serving.
In Chapter 2:1-12, God tells the priests if they do not
hear the commandment and do not take it to heart, he would send a curse upon
them and curse their blessings. He told them he had made his covenant with
Levi. He said, “My covenant was with him, one of life and peace…So he feared Me
and was reverent before My name” (vs. 5). God further tells the priests they
had caused many to stumble at the Law and had corrupted the covenant of Levi. In
verse 9 God says, “Therefore I also have made you contemptible and base before
all the people, because you have not kept My ways but have shown partiality in
In verse 13 God says, “And this is the second thing you
do; You cover the altar of the Lord with tears, with weeping and crying; So He
does not regard the offering anymore, nor receive it with good will from your
hands.” The response in verse 14 is, “Yet
you say, ‘For what reason?’” They were crying because God was no longer
paying attention to or accepting their offerings. They wanted to know why. God
said, “Because the Lord has been witness between you and the wife of your
youth, with whom you have dealt treacherously; yet she is your companion and
your wife by covenant.” They had intermarried with pagans, which was an act of
idolatry and rebellion, and had broken their covenant of fidelity to God.
says, “You have wearied the Lord with your words; Yet you say, ‘In what way have we wearied Him? In that you say, ‘Everyone who does evil is
good in the sight of the Lord, and He delights in them, or where is the God of
was saying those who were practicing evil prospered while those who considered
themselves to be righteous did not. Sadly they were doing the very same thing
by withholding food used for the Levites and the poor. Their spiritual depravity
had driven them to the depths of scorn toward God!
God makes three more declarations of their sin in Malachi
Chapter Three, and those sins as well are denied with more defensive questions.
In verses 6-7 God says, “For I am the Lord, I do not change…Yet from the days
of your fathers you have gone away from My ordinances and have not kept them. Return
to Me and I will return to you. But you
said, ‘In what way shall we return?’ Verse 8 God says, “Will a man rob God?
Yet you have robbed Me! But you say,
‘In what way have we robbed You?’” Verse 13 says, “Your words have been harsh
against Me. Yet you say, ‘What have
we spoken against You?’”
The ease with which they shrug off God’s condemnations
is bone chilling! Their apathy had completely blinded them to his continued
goodness and mercy in their lives! One would think of all the people on the
face of the earth, these would have been the most grateful, thankful and
submissively obedient. Unfortunately for them, nothing was further from the
truth. God’s people had slipped into spiritual complacency, thinking his blessings
and privileges were their right. They had forgotten all privileges carry expectations
Finally, God tells them, “For behold, the day is
coming, burning like an oven, and all the proud, yes all who do wickedly will
be stubble. And the day which is coming shall burn them up” (Malachi 4:1a). “But
to you who fear My name the Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in
His wings” (Malachi 4:2a). They like all others had to learn that God’s
continued blessings are tied to continued trust and obedience!
This self-righteous, self-justifying attitude was still
prevalent when our Lord was on earth. Many times Jesus called the scribes and
Pharisees hypocrites. They were always attempting to make their traditions
binding while watering down or ignoring God’s commands completely. Jesus said, “For
laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men…For Moses
said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘He who curses father or
mother, let him be put to death.’ But
you say, ‘If a man says to his father or mother, ‘Whatever profit you might
have received from me is Corban–that is a gift from God’; and you no longer let
him do anything for his father or his mother, making the word of God of no
effect through your tradition which you have handed down. And many such things
you do” (Mark 7:8-13).
The congregation at Laodicea had the same problem with the added twists
of self-importance and self-sufficiency. Jesus Christ told them, “I know your
works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So
then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out
of my mouth. Because you say, ‘I am
rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’” (Revelation 3:15-17a). The
Lord sets them straight by responding, “You do not know that you are wretched,
miserable, poor, blind, and naked” (Revelation 3:17b).
Talk about a deceived group of people—don’t they sound
just like some of us? When our attitudes and actions are called into question
and consequences are inevitable, too many times we respond just the way all of
these did. We deny we have sinned and become arrogant and defensive! We have an
inadequate view of who God is and just how it is that he deals with us.
Our attitude says, “Lord, this could not possibly be
wrong, because I’m doing it.” Where did we ever get the idea that what we say,
how we feel, and what we think and do is alright in spite of what Scripture
teaches? Where did we ever get the idea that it is alright to respond to God’s
commandments and expectations with audacity and defensive questions? Where did
we ever get the idea that our sinful motives, agendas and smokescreens are somehow
hidden from God? David put it this way, “O God, You know my foolishness, and my
sins are not hidden from You” (Psalm 69:5).
God is never going to negotiate with us in our sins, no
matter what we say or how loudly we deny them! Our only hope is to have the
same attitude David had when his sin was pointed out, “Create in me a clean
heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from
Your presence and do not take your Holy Spirit from me” (Psalm 51:10-11).
God is our Creator and he has the absolute right to tell us anything he wants! As our Creator, he can
tell us in the way he deems necessary. He rejects any attitude that questions his
motives, his integrity or his authority! King Nebuchadnezzar found this out the
hard way. Speaking of God he said, “All the inhabitants of the earth are
reputed as nothing; He does according to His will in the army of heaven and
among the inhabitants of the earth. No one can restrain His hand or say to Him,
‘What have you done?’” (Daniel 4:35).