“Ye have said, It is vain to serve God: and what profit is it that we have kept his ordinance” (Malachi 3:14)
As I read through the book of Malachi I hear the voice of frustration and relational pain. I hear a God who is hurt. Frustrated.
What the Lord was asking for was simply love. He was seeking appropriate respect and faithfulness; to be lovingly honored. God wants to be loved, and not merely to meet some personal need; He wants to bless His people. He wants to open the windows of heaven and pour out His favor and blessing on us. But we often frustrate His ability to do so. We disallow it by our own shortsightedness. What self-defeating fools we can be and often are.
And what was it that was getting in the way? One issue was the tithe. Not to meet a need of God of course, but to ensure the well being and care of the Levites. And in return for their faithfulness in giving back, God promises to give back far more, even so much that they would not contain it.
When it comes to God and our generosity, we seem to forget that giving positions ourselves to get far more in return. No doubt the gift promised back to us is unequal to the request being made of us. God always gives more than he asks of us! And yet we somehow seem to convince ourselves that too much is being asked, and that we might end up on the short end of the deal. This must make God sad.
To me, Malachi is about a relationship in frustration and offense. God was, in a sense, just plain hurting. He had blessed His people, had loved them, had given so much, and yet they were so self absorbed they not only failed to recognize His blessings, but could not see the value of giving back.
Think about it… when did it ever go badly for them in listening to and obeying the Lord? Never. And yet, how easily we forget what God has done. We forget that He is our very life. We forget His goodness and love. We can even forget the joy and unending value of our very salvation.
It’s not as if God is petty or easily offended. The deeper issue is Gods desire to bless His people, and the frustration of that desire through bad behavior. We’ve all heard about enabling; where continuing to give to someone who is committed to bad behavior is a bad idea. God is not an enabler. He knows it’s not good to keep giving to those stuck in ruts of selfish, forgetful behavior. So, though God wanted to, it would be inappropriate for Him to open “the windows of heaven” as He so wished.
But let’s not assume that God has no feelings or cannot be offended either. His feelings can also be touched. He longs to have a mutual loving relationship with us. He wants to give, and -yes- to receive back as well. He wants to bless us, and to be honored appropriately by us as well.
When our relationship with God is pure, joyful, respectful, and generally good, the blessing of God to us will never be commensurate with what we are asked to give. This is perhaps the saddest aspect of all. God is looking to make us a light to the nations. A city on a hill. A bright light. The head and not the tail. Healthy not sick. Wealthy not poor. He wants to bless our crops, our fields (economy), and he reminds that he can even command the insects to leave our crops alone! The irony of it all. If only we would not forget, and love and trust Him, and go along joyfully with His loving directives.
It seems I hear God sighing, a bit lonely, whispering perhaps, “If only… if only my people would understand.”
Do we? Do I? Do I understand or remind myself often that I cannot overcome God’s goodness and blessing? That there is no way to be “shorted” by trusting, respecting and lovingly obeying Him? Or am I hurting His heart, and frustrating his desire to bless me more because of a lack of trust, of love, and of remembering and acknowledging His goodness?