We’ve been living lately in the biblical books of exile – and post-exile. Ezra, Nehemiah, Haggai, Zechariah, Esther, and now Malachi. Next week we’ll begin Daniel. These are fitting books for us now, living in a sort of exile from our normal church gatherings.
Like these ancient Jews, we have to figure out how to make things work. We need to figure out how to co-exist in a land that doesn’t turn to the One True God. And we’ve got to figure out how to proceed when God sometimes seems distant, or silent, or when things just don’t go the way we want them to go.
Malachi is the last book in the Old Testament and the last of the 12 Minor Prophets. Malachi lived at about the same time as Esther and Mordecai, whom we just read about in Persia. Only Malachi was back in Israel, where the returned exiles had come and were trying to resume life as God’s chosen people in their Promised Land.
They were trying – but they had stopped trying very hard. They had rebuilt the temple and were doing some semblance of the required worship there. But their sacrifices were bad ones. They offered blind and lame sacrificial animals to God.
They apparently had begun to feel that God had failed them and that he wasn’t really with them any more. The name Malachi means “my messenger.” God sent his messenger to remind them of the truth.
The truth was that God still was in a relationship with his people. That relationship never went away. Even though God had to discipline his people at times, he still loved them. God reminded them of that fact right off the top – “I have loved you.”
That’s the basis for the whole book of Malachi. God loved his people, and he wanted a righteous relationship with them. Just as God had turned to them, so he wanted his people to turn to Him. But the people were falling away. They almost had given up. They offered bad sacrifices because, well, why offer something good to a God whom you no longer trust?
But God reminded the Israelites of his love. He reminded them of his work on their behalf. Memory is an important thing.
And God asked for obedience. God demanded the best from his people. He sought their devotion. And he sought reverence. What God got in return was, “What a weariness this is.” We get the sense these Israelites were just going through the motions.
God reminded the people of his role as their Father. He reminded them of the greatness of his name. He reminded them of his power over the nations. “From the rising of the sun to its setting my name will be great among the nations.” Our view of God matters. What we do in worship matters. Pausing in reverence is a good thing.
It is easy to be irreverent. It’s easy to take a relaxed attitude about things. It’s easy, even if we aren’t feeling betrayed by God, to drift off into a shrug-our-shoulders kind of spiritual life with God. To live as Christians is a lifelong journey. Days turn into weeks that turn into months and years. We pray and read and gather, and it can get old and stale sometimes. Ho-hum, we might say.
And there’s a certain reverence that is due to God. He is the Creator and the Redeemer.
Reverence. For some reason, my mind was drawn to Peter after Jesus had directed his fishermen disciples into an eye-popping catch of fish. Boats were sinking under the weight of all the fish they’d caught following the advice of this carpenter rabbi. Peter saw all of this and fell at Jesus’ knees. “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord” (Luke 5:8).
I call this reverence. This was Peter recognizing the greatness of God and Peter’s own insignificance apart from God.
How can we bring reverence back into our lives? Is it possible to find moments in our days where we are truly reverent before God? Can we take a moment of simple silence and stillness before a meal, or before our daily prayers, or as we open our bibles, or as we observe God’s creation?
I walked into the woods today. I wonder whether it’s worth a simple moment just to stop and look up through the aspen trees and remember the God’s whose name is great. I wonder whether in that silent moment it would be appropriate just to pause, to quiet the movements of my heart, and remember the glory of God.
Think today about your own reverent attitude toward God. Has “weariness” taken over? How can you win back your fear of the Lord?