Disappointment with God
What is the use of setting aside time to read the Bible and pray? Is there really any benefit to it?
How long can I continue to endure the struggle in my broken relationship with my spouse, employer, son or daughter, etc.? It will never get better.
What’s the use of my participation in church, and why should I give ten percent of my income to the church?
We all ask ourselves some form of these questions at one point or another.
These questions are rooted in spiritual issues and have answers rooted in the Scriptural doctrine.
We live in an age that brings these questions to the surface. The idea that there are no absolutes dominates the philosophy of our day. This basic philosophy plays into our desire to do whatever we want, and our natural tendency to doubt. While the age tends to bring these questions to the surface, the issue is one of the heart and these questions reflect disillusionment with God. We all face times of disappointment with God.
Malachi wrote to a people struggling with questions like these, or at least they struggled with the spiritual issues behind these questions.
Malachi’s name means “My Messenger” or “Messenger.” Another translation is “Angel,” since angel is just another word for messenger. This is all we know about Malachi as a person. Malachi prophesied during the time of Nehemiah, just as Haggai and Zechariah prophesied during the time of Ezra. The book of Nehemiah closes out the historical books of the Old Testament and the book of Malachi closes out the prophetic books of the Old Testament.
At the time Malachi brought God’s message to the people, the temple had been rebuilt and the walls also were rebuilt and standing secure. The people had settled in and life was becoming routine. However, routine did not mean easy.
The excitement of the rebuilt temple and wall wore off, and the challenges of everyday life took over.
In these circumstances, the people became disillusioned with God. Their disappointment involved God’s revealed character. In their circumstances, they could not see that God loved them and that God’s justice would prevail.
Through Malachi, God addresses their concerns, and in the answers He gives, we find the answers to the questions we started out with.
The first aspect of God’s revealed character that God addresses is God’s love.
Malachi starts out with God saying, “I have always loved you.” (Malachi 1:2)[i]
The people no longer believed that God loved them. They did not see it in the challenges and difficulties of their daily lives. In Malachi when God says, “I have always loved you,” the people say, “Really? How have you loved us?”
Whatever they thought God’s love should look like…their lives were not it. Therefore, they were disillusioned with God.
Not believing God loved them resulted in serious spiritual problems.
First, they showed contempt for God. In Malachi 1:6, God accuses the priests and people of showing contempt for Him. This contempt was shown in the quality of their sacrifices and service for the Lord. Malachi 1:13 is a good summary of the problem.
“You say, ‘It’s too hard to serve the LORD,’ and you turn up your noses at my commands,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies. “Think of it! Animals that are stolen and crippled and sick are being presented as offerings! Should I accept from you such offerings as these?” asks the LORD.
The problem of the heart is expressed in the statement, “It’s too hard to serve the Lord,” and also in the rejection of the commands of the Lord.
Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15, ESV)
Not believing God loved them resulted in the people showing contempt for God.
Second, not believing God loved them resulted in them showing contempt for the truth.
1 Corinthians 13:6 says that love rejoices with the truth. In Malachi 2, God chastises the priests for not holding to the truth. Malachi 2:7-8 says:
“The words of a priest’s lips should preserve knowledge of God, and people should go to him for instruction, for the priest is the messenger of the LORD of Heaven’s Armies. But you priests have left God’s paths. Your instructions have caused many to stumble into sin. You have corrupted the covenant I made with the Levites,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.
A compromising attitude toward the truth is the second expression of not believing God loved them. Not believing God loved them resulted in them compromising the truth.
Third, not believing God loved them resulted in them showing contempt for marriage.
Marriage reflects the relationship between Christ and the Church, between God and His people. In Malachi, God addresses this problem by saying:
Didn’t the LORD make you one with your wife? In body and spirit you are his. And what does he want? Godly children from your union. So guard your heart; remain loyal to the wife of your youth. “For I hate divorce!” says the LORD, the God of Israel. “To divorce your wife is to overwhelm her with cruelty,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies. “So guard your heart; do not be unfaithful to your wife.” (Malachi 2:15:16)
Not believing God loved them resulted in the people showing contempt for God, for truth and for marriage. When the people said, “Really? How have you loved us,” God replied:
“This is how I showed my love for you: I loved your ancestor Jacob, but I rejected his brother, Esau, and devastated his hill country.” (Malachi 1:2-3)
The best reinforcement for our faith in the love of God is the doctrine of election. We know that God loves us because Jesus took our place on the cross. Jesus said, “There is no greater love than to lay down one's life for one's friends.” (John 15:13) And the Apostle John said, “See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children.” God chose us to be His friends and children. The fact that out of all the people in the world, God should choose me as His friend and that He should choose to adopt me as His child should convince me of His love. If you ever wondered why the doctrine of election is important, this is why. Let it sink into your heart. God chose you. You, personally, as an individual…God chose you, because He loves you.
Doubting God’s love is a huge spiritual problem, and it will surely make setting aside time to read the Bible and pray too much of a burden.
Malachi wrote to a people disillusioned with God and spoke to them of God’s love. However, they were also disillusioned with God because they did not see God’s justice.
Malachi 2:17 says:
You have wearied the LORD with your words.
“How have we wearied him?” you ask.
You have wearied him by saying that all who do evil are good in the LORD’s sight, and he is pleased with them. You have wearied him by asking, “Where is the God of justice?”
In Malachi 3:5, God lists several social injustices that occur because people do not fear God’s justice. The list from verse 5 is: Sorcery, cheating employees of wages, oppression, inequity and injustice.
Doubting God’s love is closely related to not believing in God’s justice. Just as circumstances seem to indicate that God is not concerned with us, circumstances can seem to indicate that people are getting away with sorcery, cheating and injustice. We can even begin to envy the ungodly, and even begin to cheat ourselves, thinking we can get away with it.
Not only do we cheat people, we cheat God. Actually, it seems we are quicker to cheat God than people and that we fear being caught cheating people more than we fear cheating God.
Cheating God is not limited to tithes and offerings. However, tithes and offerings are a concrete indicator of our attitude toward God. In Malachi 3:6-12, God addresses His peoples’ decision to cheat on tithes and offerings. They did not think God would notice.
God calls them out and said, “Should people cheat God? Yet you have cheated me!” (Malachi 3:8)
Tithing starts with the truth that all that we have comes from God, and therefore it is natural that we should give to Him from what He has given to us. When this truth does not motivate us to give, it is an indication that our confidence is not in God.
The New Testament standard for giving is different from the Old Testament standard for giving. As a national organization, the Jewish religion mandated offerings in the same way taxes are required to support a civil government. The Church does not mandate offerings. However, as a worldwide body, the Church depends upon the offerings of God’s people. 2 Corinthians 9:7 summarizes the New Testament standard for giving.
You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don't give reluctantly or in response to pressure. "For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.”
The seeming obvious solution to doubting God’s justice would be His omnipresence. He sees and knows everything. However, this is not what God addresses in Malachi. He addresses the promise of His coming. The great hope of the Jewish nation was the coming of the Messiah, and the great hope of the Church is His return.
Malachi 3:1 says:
“Look! I am sending my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. Then the Lord you are seeking will suddenly come to his Temple. The messenger of the covenant, whom you look for so eagerly, is surely coming,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.
As for justice and what God will do about those who do wrong and those who do right, Malachi 4:1-2 says:
The LORD of Heaven’s Armies says, “The day of judgment is coming, burning like a furnace. On that day the arrogant and the wicked will be burned up like straw. They will be consumed—roots, branches, and all.
“But for you who fear my name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in his wings. And you will go free, leaping with joy like calves let out to pasture.”
Malachi closed out the revelation of the Old Testament looking forward to the coming of the Messiah. He wrote to a people who were perhaps tired, but they certainly seemed disappointed with God. These people were living at the end of two thousand years of waiting for the Messiah.
We are living at the end of two thousand years of waiting. Here is what Jesus had to say about our day.
“Then you will be arrested, persecuted, and killed. You will be hated all over the world because you are my followers. And many will turn away from me and betray and hate each other. And many false prophets will appear and will deceive many people. Sin will be rampant everywhere, and the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. And the Good News about the Kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, so that all nations will hear it; and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:9-14)
Peter tells us that God is not slow concerning His promises. He is patient, wanting everyone to have a chance to repent. (2 Peter 3:9) This means we must be patient as well. Jesus says we must endure to the end. It is easy to become discouraged and even disillusioned, but we must not lose hope. The truth of God’s word can strengthen us as we endure. Let these two truths encourage you in your endurance.
First, God chose you, and loves you.
Second, He is coming back…soon.
[i] Unless otherwise noted Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation. Copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Steam, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.