SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON/Be Careful What You Ask For
Wednesday, February 5, 2014 12:00 AM
"Where is the God of judgment?" (Malachi 2:17b)
You won't find it in your Bible. It's not a part of the sacred text. But somehow I hear it - there, following this question. It's something like a low growl. It reminds me of Jill, Lewis' character in The Silver Chair who suddenly found herself in Narnia. Alone, dying of thirst, standing before a cool running stream that promised to meet her most urgent need, Jill wanted to drink from that stream but was afraid to approach it because just in front of it lay a lion (Aslan). Jill didn't know what to do - especially after the lion told her that there was no other source of water to be found and if she didn't drink here then she would die. Almost comically, Jill had the audacity to ask Aslan if he would mind moving aside for her so that she might drink. There followed a low growl - and Jill realized the absurdity of her request. Well, that's what I hear now when I read this text. The people demand judgment from God - and I hear the low growl of God.
James Boice, in his commentary on Malachi, suggested that there are requests we should never make of God- "we should never ask for judgment". But, of course, you know (as do I) why, at times, we are tempted to do so. We look around and see things which are not right. Daily we are confronted with injustices, evils, sufferings, wrongs, and abuses and inwardly we ask: Where is God while all this is going on? Why doesn't He do something? How can He just allow these evils to continue. "Where is the God of judgment?"
And when we get no satisfaction from God, we begin to play the blame game. We blame others and we blame God. We get angry with God for we feel He has dragged His feet in bringing judgment to bear on the lives of those who have wronged us. We grow indignant when we perceive the wicked prospering while we suffer without. In time we begin to ask ourselves, Why bother? - What's the point in trying so hard to be good and do what is right? We become cynical - like the comic character which asked: "What if the Hokey Pokey IS all it's all about in this life?"
The prophet Malachi, no doubt, had heard the grumbling of the people. He knew the state of their mind and heart. He was well aware of their disappointments, but he also saw the danger inherent in their question. The word, judgment, found here points to a verdict, a final decree of divine law or ordinance. In other words, the people were asking for God to come down and render a legal decision which (they imagined) would vindicate them while condemning their enemies. But what they failed to consider was their own sinfulness. They forgot that God doesn't have two standards - one for them and another for all the rest. They failed to see that in God there is no shading of right and wrong, truth and falsehood, good and evil. The last thing they were prepared to meet up with was the God of purifying fire (3:2) whose appearance they were demanding. Rather than asking for judgment, Malachi knew that this people needed to be pleading for mercy.
What about you and me? Are we so different from this people? Isn't it easier for us to see the sin of others than our own? Aren't we quicker to point out the failures of others and their wrongs (especially when we are impacted) than to come to terms with our own misdeeds? Someone walks into an elementary school and guns down innocent children. Are we not indignant? Do we not cry out for justice? We watch as a powerful storm rips through a community and destroys property and lives. Don't we wonder why God allows this to happen? Or what about the injustice, year after year, where the Cubs fail to win the World Series? -- (Sorry about that - I just had to sneak that one in!). But you get the picture. We all recognize the wrongs in this world - the abuses - and we long for God to do something about it. But let us not forget our own need for mercy! Let's be careful about that for which we ask.
In the following verses (after the growl) God proceeds to tell the people that judgment is on the way. The Lord (Justice Incarnate) is coming with judgment in his hand. His appearing will be like (3:2) a "refiner's fire and like fuller's soap." In other words, there will be a cleansing associated with the coming of the Lord - a sanctifying, purifying effect upon the nation. This is promised by God (v. 6) who does not and cannot change. The unfortunate result of his coming is that many of the sons of Judah will be consumed and will perish. Their family name will not save them. Their privileged standing among the people of the Covenant will not spare them the terror of standing before a God of absolute justice. Graciously, once again, God was warning them of his coming and calling them to repentance. Is He not doing the same for you and for me?
As believers, we can rest assured that God is not blind to the evils of this world. One day He will come again and set things right. We don't have to worry about that. Psalm One tells us that the wicked will be blown away like chaff in the wind and only the righteous will endure. Therefore, what should concern us is our own hearts. Are we ready to meet Him? There may be little we can do about all the evil in the world, but by God's grace, we can keep our own hand from evil even as we seek His mercy. May that be our true desire!