(By Theanna Joyce)
“Silence!” I imagine Him shouting. They have no room to speak.
They had stood under the cascade of His love and mercy and they rejected it. He gave and gave: ”I have loved you,” He said to them. Yet in pride, after despising His name, after spurning His altar, they dared to ask “How have you loved us?”
Repeatedly, God showed them His faithfulness — from Egypt to Babylon, amid their own rejection and sin, He faithfully and loyally honored the covenant He had made with them.
They gave Him their worst and expected His best to be poured out on them. The incongruity of this is stark and yet how often do we do the same?
But he didn’t shout, “Silence!” Instead He gently called them and said, “Return to me and I will return to you” (Malachi 3:7).
Still, their pride caused them to ask, “How can we return when we have never gone away?” (Malachi 3:7). They had lost sight of the holiness of God and their own wickedness to the point that they could not see the emptiness of their worship. which led God to say, “I wish one of you would shut the temple doors, so that you would no longer kindle a useless fire on my altar!” (Malachi 1:10).
The book of Malachi is startling in its sharp language. The dialogue between God and the people of Israel reveals the righteous indignation of God and the sinfulness and pride of Israel. I think this book is relevant for us today.
God’s love is unconditional — given freely, not earned, never rescinded. Hold this truth close to your heart.
But consider the situation of the people of Israel when God spoke to them through Malachi. They had come out of exile, the temple was rebuilt, God had been faithful but the majesty of the second temple seemed less than the first.
The people had repented, yet now their faithfulness was growing lax. They gave the sick animals for sacrifice, rather than the spotless. They wept and covered God’s altar with tears, yet He no longer heard them because they acted treacherously against their wives — breaking the covenant they had made before God.
What are we to do with this? How do we respond? What is God saying to us?
I can’t answer this question for you, but I know that God is asking me to be a little slower with words, lest they prove empty, and a little more humble in my heart. I think God is gently asking me to evaluate my actions, the “sacrifices” I bring to His “altar” and see if I am bringing the “lame sheep” when I have a “spotless one” to offer.
One thing I love about God is that He does not spurn our efforts. Think of the poor widow in Mark 12 who had only two pennies to offer — yet her offering was considered more in the eyes of God than the hundreds given in hypocrisy.
In Malachi 3:10, God says "Bring the full tenth into the storehouse so that there may be food in my house. Test me in this way… See if I will not open the floodgates of heaven and pour out a blessing for you without measure.”
This is not a prosperity gospel or a merit theology where we bargain with God for His blessing. Rather, it is to be our lifestyle — obedience, full obedience, because we love Him and because He is our God. When we were first saved, we accepted Jesus’ sacrifice of love for ourselves, and as we live out the Christian life, we continue to receive his love daily and let it transform us.
The phrase “return to me and I will return to you” brings to mind a similar passage from the New Testament. “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you…Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you” (James 4:8, 10).
This week, let us repent of any pride or sin and draw near to God, for He loves us with an unconditional love. For He is calling out to us.