SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON/Do You Ask: 'Why Bother?'
Wednesday, February 27, 2013 12:00 AM
""You have said terrible things about me," says the Lord. "But you say, 'What do you mean? How have we spoken against you?' "You have said, 'What's the use of serving God? What have we gained by obeying his commands or by trying to show the Lord Almighty that we are sorry for our sins? From now on we will say, 'Blessed are the arrogant.' For those who do evil get rich, and those who dare God to punish them go free from harm.'" (Malachi 3:13-15)
'What's the point?' Have you ever asked yourself that question? You exercise everyday and still can't lose weight - and you ask, 'What's the point?' You served your employer with diligence but are laid off anyway - and you wonder, 'Where's the value in knocking myself out in a job where I'm unappreciated?'
It's easy to question the value of many of our actions. This is what Israel is doing here. Blinded by their sinfulness, convinced that they have been model believers and faithful followers of God, they now show their utmost contempt for the Lord by questioning the value in serving Him. The attitude they adopt is not so very different from that found in Ecclesiastes 9:1-4 where the prevailing wisdom 'under the sun' is set forth as follows: "This, too, I carefully explored: Even though the actions of godly and wise people are in God's hands, no one knows whether or not God will show them favor in this life. The same destiny ultimately awaits everyone, whether they are righteous or wicked, good or bad, ceremonially clean or unclean, religious or irreligious. Good people receive the same treatment as sinners, and people who take oaths are treated like people who don't. It seems so tragic that one fate comes to all. That is why people are not more careful to be good. Instead, they choose their own mad course, for they have no hope. There is nothing ahead but death anyway. There is hope only for the living. For as they say, "It is better to be a live dog than a dead lion!""
It's easy to become discouraged when we see the righteous suffering or the dreams of the upright dashed, or when injustices are inflicted upon those who have sought to do what is right. If this life is all we look at and are guided only by an earthly wisdom (under the sun), then the conclusions that Solomon sets forth will appear logical - there is no real value in honoring, loving, obeying and serving the Lord.
However, the Scriptures make it very clear that there is more to life than what we can presently see. There is more that awaits the righteous than mortal death. There is a sovereign and loving God to meet -- One who is Good and Faithful and has promised blessings innumerable for those who serve Him. Futile to serve the Lord? - Really? No value? No blessing? No reward for the one who fears the Lord? Malachi is appalled that anyone would even suggest such impious blasphemy and in the following verses sets forth to prove them wrong.
What about (v.16) the blessing of our name being recorded in God's Book of Remembrance? Is that not worth serving the Lord? Later, Jesus echoed the essence of this promise when He said: "If you confess My name before men, then I will confess your name before My Father in heaven." Surely it is no small reward that is assured us here - to know that God promises love and remembrance to all His children who love Him and serve Him with faithfulness.
And how about (v.17) the promise to look upon us with pleasure - as the precious possession He has prepared for Himself? This surely reminds us of how the Apostle Peter spoke of the church as the treasured inheritance of the Lord - a people for God's own possession. In love God reached down into a fallen, sinful world to lay claim to a people for Himself and these He did clean and redeem and make holy - sanctifying us by the blood of His Son - looking upon us as the apple of His eye. Is that not give value to serving the Lord and being found in Him?
Then also we're told (vv.17b-18) of the sparing of the righteous on that great and terrible Day when God will destroy the wicked. On that Day God will make a distinction - separating the righteous from the wicked who are then blown away and set on fire (4:1). Is that not a blessing worthy of our devotion unto the Lord? In Matthew we find a similar expression of this distinction as Jesus teaches of a Day when sheep are to be separated from goats. Do you recall what is used as the basis for the separation? Jesus said, "I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited me in; naked, and you clothed me; I was sick, and you cared for me; I was in prison, and you visited me." (Matthew 24) Now, to what is Jesus making reference here? Is it not the deeds of His followers? Is He not highlighting their acts of kindness - their faithful service? Does this not prove to us - once and for all - that there is great value in rendering devoted service to the Lord?
And then, finally, note the healing that the prophet mentions (4:2) as the sun of righteousness rises. While it is our salvation that is most clearly being heralded here, it is also the person of Christ that comes into focus for our salvation is of Him. One day the long night of our sufferings and struggles will be over as the believer is called home. Then we will hear the welcoming words of our Father, "Well done, My good and faithful servant . . . enter into the joy of you Master." No value in serving the Lord? You bet there is!