WEEKLY SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
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RETURN TO A JUST GOD
(Give to the LORD what is HIS)
It must not be forgotten that JESUS HIMSELF was raised on scripture. In fact, HE based HIS entire ministry on what it says, and HE also approached HIS death with its words on HIS lips. Peter C. Craige once wrote, “When people cease to care, then, religion, morality, social customs, and values, all cease to function as mortar that holds together a society, and maintain ancient faith”.
In the book of Malachi, the prophet challenges the people of Israel about their lack of seriousness toward their relationship and obedience to GOD. It is never an easy task to deal with indifference, or its consequences, or, a gradual slide towards an unstructured existence, much like we live in today.
Malachi is the last of the twelve so-called “minor prophets” and the final book of the Old Testament in its present order. It brings to an appropriate end, our reflections on the messages of the prophets of ancient Israel. In fact, one can hardly read Malachi 3:1 without being reminded of the ministry of John the Baptist. It prompts us to recall his immortal words of him being “a voice crying in the wilderness”, seeking to make straight the way of the LORD.
In the New Testament Greek, the word used for “messenger” is “aggelos” (ang-el-os), and it describes one who brings news, or tidings, by divine order from GOD. JESUS came to usher in a new covenant from GOD. It is a covenant that is far superior to any before, or since, that time. In Malachi 3, the word messenger takes on a three-fold emphasis, because there we see the messenger, Malachi, announcing the coming of the messenger, John the Baptist, who announced the coming of our LORD and SAVIOR, JESUS CHRIST, the ultimate messenger.
Taking up at verse 6 we find the fifth of six oracles that are found in the book of Malachi, and it is “a call for repentance”. It begins with perhaps the most immortal of all statements from GOD that are found in all the annals of Scripture. There GOD announces that “I AM THE LORD, AND I DO NOT CHANGE…”. It is a profound utterance that seeks to drive home the point that the coming New Testament would by no means contradict the Testament of old, and even JESUS confirmed this statement when HE declared in HIS, now famous, “Sermon on the Mount” (Matthew 5:17-20 - NLT), “Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the Law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to fulfill them. I assure you, until Heaven and earth disappear, even the smallest detail of GOD’s Law will remain until its purpose is achieved. So if you break the smallest commandment and teach others to do the same, you will be the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But anyone who obeys GOD’s laws, and teaches them, will be great in the Kingdom of Heaven”.
Since the beginning of the fall of man (Adam and Eve), away from the laws of GOD, GOD has extended a perpetual open invitation to us, through HIS prophets, pleading with us to return to HIM. Sadly, and surprisingly, each generation since then, seems to fail to understand, or see where we have ever even strayed away from HIM in the first place (v.7). We have abandoned GOD, for instance, in our refusal to share with each other, and, we have totally misunderstood the purpose of tithes and offering for many generations now. When we fail to give at least “a tenth” of what we have, into the storehouse for those who are in need, we fail to take the curse off of “one hundred percent” of what we have, and are trying desperately to keep for ourselves. And so GOD says that, in reality, we are cheating HIM (v.9).
The “storehouse” or church pantries and coffers should be the largest room in any place of worship, not the sanctuary. Christians should desire more so that they may have more to give away, not more to keep. GOD’s mercy is rendered to those who give, not to those who receive, and then strive to keep. HE opens up the windows of Heaven, and pours out HIS blessings on those who desire to share and give a portion of that which they receive, to others who are in “temporary need”.
However, we should always keep in mind that, GOD does not advocate enabling a person to stay in a position of neediness, and making them totally dependent upon us, but rather, HE wants us all to eventually move into a position so that we can help someone else who is struggling, or going astray, and always only see our total dependence on HIM, as being necessary and real (Vs.8-14).
It is the duty of the Christian to build his or her foundation on “the Most High Faith”. We must learn to pray in the power of the HOLY SPIRIT, and remember the conditions of the New Covenant under which the love of GOD has called us, and then finally, we must wait on mercy from JESUS CHRIST unto eternal life.
The, contents of the book of Malachi suggests that it was probably written, during the interval, between Nehemiah’s two terms as governor of Judah. The prophet’s charges against the sins of Judah in those days were met by sarcasm and denial by most of the people of Israel. They, as a nation, had once again failed to put GOD first, despite having so recently experienced HIS benevolent grace, by HIM releasing them from their captivity in Babylon.
Malachi seems to remind us through his messages, that, until CHRIST comes again, we can’t expect to see a just society established here on earth. And while it is true that perfection won’t even come to the Church, until GOD’s program for it is consummated with the second coming of our LORD and SAVIOR, until then, the Church will only be perfect when no human being is in it.
It now seems that the very minute we enter into the Church, perfection leaves out the door,
however, we as Christians can still, all reach a high level of maturity by learning and becoming accustomed to practicing the immortal acts of love that has already been exhibited to us by JESUS HIMSELF, during HIS lifetime here on earth. And those of us who love the LORD will continue to converse together about HIM, and, by the way we live our lives, we can continue to display the distinctions that exist between good and evil in the world.
The “Christian Hope” still consists of a promise to the faithful, and the differences between believers and non-believers will always ring eternal. And through it all, we can rely on our “Faith”, “Hope”, and “Love”, the three great enduring things, GOD personified, to sustain us. And “Love” will always remain as the greatest of those three eternal qualities, because it is, quite literally, the very foundation of the Christian life itself. Understanding that, we can see, quite vividly, why “our love of CHRIST is the true measure of a person’s spiritually”, and, why that same love of CHRIST, also exemplifies the closeness of our relationship with GOD.
A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander
LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website