SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS LEADS TO DISILLUSIONMENT BECAUSE IT BLURS THE DISTINCTION BETWEEN THE RIGHTEOUS AND THE WICKED
TOO GOOD TO SEE STRAIGHT
1. THE CAUSE OF DISILLUSIONMENT = SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS (3:13-15)
the people were blind to their own sin -- they were too good to see straight
Context: You remember that God's people had been judged for their idolatry earlier with the Babylonian Captivity. They had returned to the land about 100 years ago and had a time of spiritual renewal under Ezra and Nehemiah during the rebuilding of the Temple and the City. Now we see that they have become complacent and self righteous. As aresult they are frustrated with God because they don't see the blessing they expect.
3 Manifestations of that Self-Righteousness:
A. Pride in maintaining their own innocence (:13)
When we are confronted with a problem, our first response tends to be:
"It's not my fault. I didn't do anything wrong. Anything I did do or say was certainly justified given the circumstances."
We are quick to include ourselves in the general confession: "All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God" -- but slow to confess to the specifics.
B. Deception regarding what God requires (:14)
They claimed to have "kept God's charge and walked in mourning" before Him. As we look through the rest of the book we are going to see how false this was. They thought they knew what sin was -- but they concentrated only on the externals -- and even there they were nowhere near as conscientious as the Pharisees of Christ's day. They thought they were mourning for their sin by their regular fasting and wearing of sackcloth and ashes, but God said they didn't have a clue about what true repentance is.
Sure they avoided idolatry and did some fasting and busied themselves with religious activities surrounding the temple and the sacrifices (when it was convenient and it didn't cost them too much), but they neglected the weightier matters of the law = mercy, truth, righteousness. They were satisfied with going through the motions of whatever works they chose to do--they ignored God's true standard of inward righteousness.
That is the essence of self righteousness: perverting God's standards by substituting some type of external legalistic system that gives us satisfaction because we can measure up to it through self effort without depending on the Holy Spirit to accomplish inward righteousness.
The result in Malachi's day was disillusionment--they were bitterly disappointed and charged God with failing to keep His end of the bargain in terms of blessing and prosperity.
C. Bitterness in denying God's justice (:15)
God's harvest principle has always been: You reap what you sow.
In the OT a lot of God's promises centered on the material prosperity of the nation of Israel. God's promises to His people today focus more on our spiritual growth (the fruit of the Holy Spirit) and our future reward. The Israelites looked around and could not see how they were enjoying God's blessing any more that their enemies. So they turned against God and accused Him of being unfair. Sometimes as we look around at others we can think that God has not given us a fair shake. Roots of bitterness can crop up and trip us up. Their conclusion: It is vain to serve God; there is no profit in it for us. word "profit" has mainly a negative sense of gain made by violence or from a selfish motivation.
They were serving God not to glorify Him, but for their own selfish interests and personal advantage
Christ is our perfect example in never doubting the goodness or justice of God. Despite the fact that He was truly innocent and without sin and yet meek and humble in heart; despite the fact that He knew exactly what God the Father requires and fulfilled all righteousness without calling God's command burdensome; even in willingly taking all of our sin upon Himself, He never was bitter or complained against God's goodness or justice.
Why do we respond in pride, deception and bitterness?
our hearts are deceitfully wicked
sometimes we get wrong input from those who love us who are not
spiritually sensitive to the situation
just because your Mom tells you you're doing great -- carries more
weight when you're 7 than when you're 40
it hurts too much to let the truth sink in; defensive mechanism
No wonder people are scared to approach us and to offer help and point out our blind spots. Fortunately God is not scared to confront us. Since we know that this is how we tend to respond, we should develop some practical guidelines to provide us with a structure that will give us a better chance at responding correctly.
For example, let's make it a habit not to respond immediately to some criticism but to bring it before God, ask Him to search our hearts, help us to think thru the validity of the charge and to respond correctly. Just say simply: "I appreciate your taking the time to share that. Let me consider what you said and pray about it and I will get back to you." Let's try to put ourselves in the shoes of the other person and even if what they say makes no sense to us, can we understand and appreciate how it might make sense to them?
2. THE CONTEXT OF DISILLUSIONMENT -- OVERVIEW OF MALACHI
5 self righteous failures that blur the distinction between the righteous and the wicked:
1) They failed to appreciate the love of God (1:2-5)
Imagine how that hurts (think of your children growing up and accusing you of lack of love)
God points them to the privilege of Election -- a huge difference between how He treated Jacob and his descendants and Esau and his descendants
2) They failed to respect the Name of God (1:6-2:9)
This charge directed mainly against the spiritual leaders -- the priests (vs.6) -- such respect should be automatic like a son to his father and a servant to his master sense of the Majesty of God in this section
3 ways they showed disrespect:
a) not offering God the best of what they had presenting defiled food or blemished animals for sacrifice
b) calling the service of God drudgery (:13)
"How tiring it is" "I'm burned out"
again, maybe the problem is doing the wrong thing or doing it from the wrong motivation
God says don't serve me or give money to me grudgingly or of necessity, for I am only pleased with a cheerful giver (:14) "For I am a great King says the Lord of hosts and my name
is feared among the nations"
c) undermining the authority of the Word of God (2:1-9)
again, a strong warning to the priests -- they had so mixed up the authority of the Word of God with their own faulty interprets. and applications that there was no distinction between truth and error
3) They failed to preserve the Holiness and Unity of Marriage (2:10-16)
4) They failed to anticipate the coming judgment of God (2:17-3:6)
remember God's pattern is always to send His messenger to call for repentance and then He sends His judgment
3:6 The only reason Israel has not been wiped out is the faithfulness of God to His promises. But the nation was presuming against His patience -- pushing Him too far; wearying Him
5) They failed to obey God's commands 3:7-12
How? By robbing Him of the tithes and offerings
Obedience should be what sets us off from the wicked
God says turn away from selfishness and complacency and I will bless you to death -- you won't be able to contain it
3. THE CURE FOR DISILLUSIONMENT -- 3:16-18
THE FEAR OF GOD must be present for there to be any cure
The Fear of the Lord is the proper response to:
1) Who the Lord is and who we are and the infinite difference between the two
2) God's hatred and judgment of sin
1) Worship of the Lord for His majesty
2) A hatred (turning from) sin because of its awesome consequences from a holy God
When God played back to the people a recording of the arrogant words they had been speaking against Him, it rekindled the fear of the Lord in the hearts of the faithful.
1. The Response of the People who Feared the Lord
a. Repentance and Renewed Dedication to God's Standards no longer maintaining their innocence or watering down God's law;
What did they speak to one another about?
appreciating the love of God
respecting his name
preserving the holiness and unity of marriage
preparing for God's coming judgment
obeying God's commands with respect to their tithes and offerings
b. Glorifying His name together "esteem His name together"
That's true worship! That's why we come together every Sunday.
Now their focus is not on defending themselves but on upholding God's character:
His love for them; His faithfulness to them as a nation; His patience with them; His majesty and holiness; the fact that He is a God of justice and does what is right
2. The Response of the Lord -- Faithful to remember and reward
The Lord keeps good records -- won't forget any faithful service done in obedience to Him; (cf. book kept in time of Mordecai and Esther where the king read of Mordecai's efforts at heading off a coup attempt and decided to reward him at a most propitious time ; cf. Book of Life)
the future will prove that it has been worth it to serve God -- the distinction between the righteous and the wicked will be evident and will be final
1 Cor. 15:58 "Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord"