Day: July 5, 2019

Disturbed But Not Disheartened

Malachi 2:17-3:5 

At this point in Malachi’s prophecy perspective changes to future, looking forward across coming 400 years to next big event on God’s timeline. Makes proper conclusion to OT revelation, introduction to NT events and progress of redemption. Important to keep in mind theme of Minor Prophets – “Redeemed from Ruin”. Even though God, rightly, promises judgment on those who persist in rebelling against him, God does not have “scorched earth” policy. Does not intend to annihilate his disobedient people, instead intends to redeem them.

Just as God’s righteous holiness requires a Judge to carry out just punishment on sinners, so his grace and mercy requires a Redeemer to rescue those he intends to save. Yet, as is case so often, our ideas of how things should go rarely match God’s plan. Was true for Jews of Malachi’s day, continues through every age including our own.

Jews of Malachi’s time plagued with tunnel vision – had hard time seeing beyond immediate, especially seeing beyond borders of own country. Weren’t really interested in what God might be doing or have in mind for other people groups, what their part might be in God’s plan for them. Something that plagued them then, continued in Jesus’ day, still persists. And… principle doesn’t get all attention it should in our country. e.g., Samaritans sequestered and shunned; instead should have been evangelized and assimilated.

Like most, they fell for Satan’s insinuation – if life isn’t all you expect it to be, then maybe God is holding out on you. In response, God spoke pretty sharply, gave reality check and reinforced his earlier promises. Good reminders for us, even though disturbed, to not be disheartened by what we see, what we don’t see.

A. “Where is God?”  v.17

empty promises?

no minced words here – God’s ears tired of being abused, his people expressing doubts about Him and his character

have considered promises God made, compared with present circumstances, figured something is wrong… on God’s side of things

should have known better, probably didn’t want to take responsibility – easier to blame God for hard times

a changed standard?

are disturbed by what they perceive as evil going on around, rightly so – they just connect the wrong dots

since God seemed to be blessing the wicked, he must approve of actions – do you wonder God’s ears hurt??

this after had declared by prophet Isaiah: “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!”  Isa. 5:20

lots of wrong theology there: prosperity = blessing; that God’s standard of right/wrong would change, that none of problem was with them

no hope for justice?

since injustice at least continuing, if not increasing, God must not be paying attention… or doesn’t care about what’s happening

theodicy question: if God is good, why is there evil? – lots of possible responses/conclusions, most of them wrong… have too narrow and uninformed view of things

important to keep starting point straight – Christian must start with God, his character, his truth, then try to make sense of circumstances

Jewish people of Malachi’s day like many throughout all ages, were approaching it backwards – trying to understand God in light of circumstances, coming up with wrong answers

B. “He is coming”  v.1-2a

the messenger first

God is not sleeping, has not forgotten his promise, is still committed to continuing his plan… on his timetable

is the next big thing on his timeline and he intends to announce it – will send a messenger to prepare the way

no need for us to wonder about messenger’s identity – Mark, Luke and Jesus all tell us explicitly: Mark 1:2-4, Luke 1:76, Matt. 11:7-10 

“As it is written in the Prophets: “Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, Who will prepare Your way before You.” “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the LORD; Make His paths straight.'” John came baptizing in the wilderness and preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.”

“And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Highest; For you will go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways,” (Zechariah)

“As they departed, Jesus began to say to the multitudes concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? “But what did you go out to see? A man clothed in soft garments? Indeed, those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses.  “But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I say to you, and more than a prophet. “For this is he of whom it is written: ‘Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, Who will prepare Your way before You.'”

the Angel of the covenant

another Messenger to follow first, this one introduced with specific historical reference – the Angel that would go before them during the Exodus through the wilderness – Ex. 23:20 

and… perhaps also word of warning to Malachi’s audience: Ex. 23:21 

“Beware of Him and obey His voice; do not provoke Him, for He will not pardon your transgressions; for My name is in Him.”

will it be a good thing?

that depends – will come suddenly, means his people should be prepared… whenever it actually happens

those who truly love God have great desire for him to come, everyone else not so much

and… makes difference which coming is being considered – next time when he comes as Redeemer, later when comes as Judge

C. “He will purify”  v.2b-5

fire and soap

will be irreversible action that happens as result of Jesus’ coming – what fire and soap accomplish will not be undone

probably both comings in view here, object of actions can be somewhat distinguished – individuals and entire people group

don’t take it too far, descriptions hold up for a little – first coming and intervening time focused mostly on individuals, second coming on entire groups of people

purify

both fire and soap purify – fire, refining by separating impurities and bring to surface, leaving pure substance behind

soap along with water separates impurities and flushes away, likewise leaving clean object behind

purpose of this to purify people, sinners, who will give acceptable and pleasing worship to God – impossible to do in natural state

punish

not a good outcome in view for what is being removed in purifying process – dross, dirt not fit for use and is thrown away

for some kinds of impurities, heating in fire consumes them – certainly a picture of the Last Day, final purification of God’s people and punishment of the lost forever

will be a just punishment – consequences for sinful behavior, but foremost because they do not fear God

do take note of specific behaviors identified, bear in mind their prevalence today:

“those who practice divination, those who commit adultery, those who break promises, and those who exploit workers, widows, and orphans, who refuse to help the immigrant” NET

And so the bottom line here: God is still God and his eternal purpose is still moving forward even when we cannot see the wheels turning. We should be disturbed by injustices and evil we see, should do what God enables and equips us to achieve to make things better. At same time, do not be disheartened – final outcome does not depend on us and… God hasn’t changed his mind. He will still have final victory over sin and Satan. Wrong shall fail, right shall prevail.

Biblical Beauty

1 Peter 3:1-6 

If a fellow wants to live dangerously, good way to do it is address… publicly… what Peter declares in our text – things like woman’s attitude toward husband, what defines beauty, appropriate fashion choices. Certainly topics that can easily raise the temperature in mixed company. People have strong opinions, not only about topics themselves, but also opinions on who has a right to express an opinion about them. If Peter’s theme is “Pilgrims Living Counter-Culturally”, he nails the counter-cultural part right here.

Many would say Peter is old-fashioned, hundreds of years past sell-by date, waste of time to give any consideration. So, for starters, look at condition of family in our land, divorce rate, number of children who do not live with one or both parents… and tell me how it’s working. If the world’s measure of beauty and attractiveness is accurate, why are those who spend the most on being beautiful the most miserable people who have few if any enduring relationships? Just for practical reasons, ought to give Peter a listen. Most important, this is God’s word, given to all generations – needs no defense, needs no apology, simply needs to be heard and heeded.

Another very important point needs to be made – this text along with verse 7 shamefully mistreated… by professed Christians! Don’t need to get into all the sordid details, fall into 2 general categories – trying to make text say what it does not, not allowing it to say what it means. Yes, Peter wrote to group of people living in 1st century Greco-Roman culture. Knowing that helps us understand some issues they were facing. At same time, Peter wrote to the church, believers living in the world as pilgrims. Is true of our text – verses 1 thru 6 addressed to Christian married women, verse 7 to Christian married men. Focus of Peter’s instruction on how married Christian men and women should behave so as to please God.

We will see as we go along, kind of beauty Peter describes not one that is put on in front of the mirror, taken off later. Is rather a beauty, an attractiveness rooted in the character of the person and reflected in their appearance. Attractiveness first expressed in the home, carries over into rest of life.

A. words vs. life  v.1-2

voluntary submission

willingly following leadership of husband – remember who the example is, “likewise”, Peter has just drawn attention to Lord Jesus as model for us to follow

submission can’t be a bad thing if Jesus practiced it – “I must be about my Father’s business”; “not my will but yours be done”

then there is Paul’s concise summary of much OT teaching, “husbands, love your wives…” and marriage as picture of Christ/church

Peter looks at relationship in other direction, relationship between church and Christ – attitude and  behavior of wife toward husband intended to picture how church should think and act toward Christ

especially needful when husband not saved – wife who has proper relationship with husband because she loves Christ has much more credible / persuasive witness

powerful silence

secondary point – things that apply to “mixed” marriage, saved wife and unsaved husband – addressed remarks to wives, makes application to some

by no means endorsing marriage of believer/unbeliever, situation came about after marriage… and seems to be minority position in the church – “even if some”

whether husband is saved or not, nagging is not the way to get him to shape up, especially when wife has areas needing improvement

also not endorsement of silence as weapon – needs to be healthy communication, expressions of belief, backed up by consistent behavior

purity of life

are countless ways wife can communicate volumes without ever saying a word – am sure ladies know what I’m referring to – way things are done… or left; what is attended to first… and last; facial expressions, the look, eye roll

when general character of day by day life is that of pure and reverent conduct, that is something God can use to change husband

notice kind of change in view: may be won over to obedience to the word – is just as applicable to saved husbands as unsaved

ladies, don’t get in a huff – husband’s turn comes next week, DV – for now, if husband is not all you’d like, first check character of own life and kind of relationship you have

B. appearance vs. substance  v.3-4

maybe more choices, greater expenditure by Westerners on things related to appearance, by no means only ones who pay attention to such things

spend billions of dollars decorating the outside, next to nothing developing the inside of the person – not biblical order of priority

modest accessories

should be accessories, not center of attention – this is not criticism of attention to appearance: should look like we appreciate who God has made us to be and take reasonable care of it

at same time, things that are put on should complement beauty God has already given – should not draw attention to things of secondary importance

here’s the important thing – God doesn’t expect/approve use of accessories to try to appear as someone other than who you really are

God wants his people to be truthful in more than just their words, sincere and honest in all they communicate

the real you

what is of greatest value to God is the person that you are, not the body in which you live – is your person that gives life and beauty to your appearance, transforms average into attractive and beautiful

which brings up another important point: what are you investing time and treasure in… things you put on or take off… or… the inner person of the heart

lasting beauty

thanks to a couple’s choices in the Garden, maintaining unchanging external appearance is losing battle, no matter how hard someone tries to make it otherwise

not the same with the real you, the inner person, that endures throughout this life and into next life – can in fact improve with age

especially so when diligent effort is made to cultivate a “gentle and quiet spirit” – God’s word and Spirit essential to making that happen, permeating person from inside out

C. courageous goodness  v.5-6

holy heroines

Sarah just one of many who demonstrate truth of what Peter says – could include people from own personal experience

are also those who were used by God in conversion of husbands – not guarantee, but God does work that way on occasion

winning combination

trust in God – developing and demonstrating kind of beauty God treasures is impossible apart from trust in him… continually

is especially needful in difficult situations, when it is hard to remain faithful in face of hardship or opposition

do good – must trust in God to supply wisdom and strength and (often) the courage to do good, to be kind of wife God can use to bring about his purpose in home and church

What will serve best to develop and enhance kind of beauty Peter writes about is closeness to Christ – committing to knowing Christ, following Christ, serving Christ by serving others. Others will see and respond to that kind of beauty, will be encouraged by it, will be drawn to the one who supplies it.