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Vol.  9  No. 10 October 2007  Page 8
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Priscilla's Page By Marilyn LaStrape *Editor's Note*

Marilyn LaStrape

Yet You Say

By Marilyn LaStrape

    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 the law.”

    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.

    Malachi 2:17 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 justice?’” Israel 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 and responsibilities.

    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).

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