Summary: It's easy to be disillusioned about God when he doesn't do what we expect but in reality we are disillusioned about ourselves and don't really know God.
Have you ever been disillusioned? What does it mean? To open someone’s eyes; to shatter someone’s illusions; to pop or break someone’s bubble and to prick or put a pin in someone’s balloon. This expression refers to the fragile nature of both soap bubbles and human illusions. The problem of disillusionment is having expectations that don’t reflect reality. Anyone who has ever cheered for the Vikings knows the feeling of disillusionment (and sorry but you are disillusioned if you think they will win the superbowl this year).
Now as we turn to Malachi 3, we find the Israelites disillusioned – what about? About the Lord God. They believe he’s a fraud! He doesn’t do what he ought to do! They complain about God. They have expected life to be easy, fruitful, wonderful, without problems, without enemies because God was on their side. But God doesn’t do what they expect! So they bitterly complain and reject Him. What’s the problem? They don’t really know him.
Let’s read verses 13-15….
1. Problem: speaking against God!
Accusation of God: you have said “strong” words against me!
Lamenting is something that is found throughout the Bible. Almost every prophet laments – it means to cry out to God in sorrow or complaint in your suffering. At least 60 Psalms are laments. Many of them read like complaints against God – the Psalmist is actually angry and cries out to God about it. Yes, there is a time when we need to pour out our frustration to God – let out the steam.
What is the problem with what is going on here though? They have spoken to each other against God. Beware of speaking against God in the presence of others. Proverbs 21:23 “He who guards his mouth and his tongue, Guards his soul from troubles.” We may not understand his ways but does that mean we know better than God. Why do good people suffer and the bad people succeed? Certainly God wants us to express our misunderstandings and sorrows. But be careful not to go so far as to speak against him.
2. Problem: serving God for selfish motives
Notice what the people were doing:
They were performing the Laws. In verse 14 they defend themselves by saying that they were “keeping his charge.” These weren’t some kind of pagans. They were religious and diligent to obey. Basically, they were fulfilling the outward regulations of the law – eating what they should and shouldn’t, performing the proper sacrifices at the right time, not working on the Sabbath, and so on.
They were apparently in repentance. Going on in verse 14 it says they were “walking as in mourning before the LORD of hosts.” Probably this is referring to fasting and maybe wearing sackcloth. It was supposed to be an outer sign of an inner repentance.
The question is why? Why did they keep the laws and why did they mourn their sins? The beginning of verse 14 tells us: “You have said, ‘it is vain to serve God. What is the profit?” They served and repented because they expected that they would get some kind of profit.
This word is “basa” and comes from those who weaved cloth. Basa means to cut or tear off whatever cloth is completed and take that cloth for yourself. Usually it referred to cutting off something that was not your own. And so it was a word connected with greed and coveting.
So their goal is totally self-centered: “What can I get out of God for myself? What’s in it for me?” “I’ll serve God and repent but there better be a good payoff!” And this reveals that their works and their repentance were not genuine in the first place. They are serving God not because he is worthy. Not because he is deserving of it. Not because he is God. But because he can give them what they need and what can make them happy. In other words the universe is centered not around God but around them and their happiness. The same is the statement about repentance. They were going around in sackcloth and ashes. NOT because they regretted their behavior and lifestyle. BUT because they can get something from God from repenting and by being religious.
This attitude is in Isaiah 58:3-5 “3 'Why have we fasted,' they say, 'and you have not seen it? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you have not noticed?' "Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please [literally – you seek your pleasure] and exploit all your workers. 4 Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife, and in striking each other with wicked fists. You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high. 5 Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for a man to humble himself? Is it only for bowing one's head like a reed and for lying on sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD?” Instead of seeking the Lord’s pleasure – they are seeking their own. It’s all about what one can get from fasting. How they can profit from it.