“I the LORD do not change. So you, O descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed. Ever since the time of your forefathers you have turned away from My decrees and have not kept them. Return to Me, and I will return to you," says the LORD Almighty. But you ask, `How are we to return?' Will a man rob God? Yet you rob Me. But you ask, `How do we rob You?' In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse -- the whole nation of you -- because you are robbing Me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house. Test Me in this," says the LORD Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it. I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not cast their fruit," says the LORD Almighty. "Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land," says the LORD Almighty.
"You have said harsh things against Me," says the LORD. Yet you ask, 'What have we said against you?' You have said,`It is futile to serve God. What did we gain by carrying out his requirements and going about like mourners before the LORD Almighty? But now we call the arrogant blessed. Certainly the evildoers prosper, and even those who challenge God escape.'"
Then those who feared the LORD talked with each other, and the LORD listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in His presence concerning those who feared the LORD and honored His name. "They will be Mine," says the LORD Almighty, "in the day when I make up my treasured possession. I will spare them, just as in compassion a man spares his son who serves him. And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not,” [Malachi 3:6-18]
“After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?” [Galatians 3:3]
“Jesus said to them,"I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever." He said this while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.
On hearing it, many of his disciples said, "This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?" Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, "Does this offend you? What if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life,” [John 6:53-63]
We live by the Spirit. We walk by faith, not by sight. The Lord holds our future in His hands. He is our Righteous Judge, our Redeemer and our very Life. I once heard Ben Merold tell the story of how a group of tribal people had been taken to a hotel for the very first time. They marveled at many things there, but were particularly fascinated by the faucets over the sinks and bath tubs. They attempted to take the faucets because they had never seen indoor, continuous plumbing. They only stopped removing the faucets when they were informed by someone they trusted that removing the faucets would not do any good; the faucets themselves do not produce the water, the water comes from another source from far away.
Sometimes we get so fascinated by “faucets” that we forget about the Source. Why? Because we can reach the faucet, but the Source is too far away to be accessible –or so we convince ourselves. God’s Way really is the right way, though we find ourselves settling for cheap substitutes all too often. God gave us some pretty specific instructions –and if we follow those instructions, things are great. But if we begin to believe that another set of instructions might work better or might be easier, then we cut ourselves off from our Source. God blesses when we listen, and retracts His blessings when we don’t. In the days of Malachi, people didn’t really see what the big deal was if they cut back on service, tithes or offerings. To this, God responded, “You’ve robbed me and said harsh things against me.” It’s easy to justify putting everything else in life first and God second, but God gently reminded the people, “I’m paying attention.” Those people who feared God repented, and God said, “I’m writing your names down.” God tells us that if we return to Him, He will return to us (and so will His blessings and powerful, life-changing Presence). But pride will stop revival dead. We must always be acutely aware of the fallen, human tendency to want to save ourselves. We are not God.
It wasn’t an iceberg that sank the Titanic –it was human pride. In the first place, people made the boast that “God Himself could not sink her.” Secondly, the Titanic wanted to cross the ocean at record speed to prove her supremacy of the sea. But we all know how that story ended. There were repeated warnings of danger but no one seemed to be listening on the Titanic, until it was too late.
The church in America (and the entire western world) is in deep trouble. But our situation is far more critical than that of Europe, Canada or Australia. Unlike those places, ours is the only nation in all of history that dared to establish itself FOR God. And now that we are wandering very far from Him, our judgment is going to be more harsh than in other places. God has begun to pour judgments out on our nation as we approach the Day of the Lord. And yet, the consensus among Christians in this nation is, “God wouldn’t do that.” When the severity, intensity and frequency of those judgments begin to pummel us into a more willing spirit, then we might return to Him –but that will only happen if God’s people take Him seriously.
God responds powerfully when His people fear Him, listen to Him and respond to Him. As a general rule, the world should view God’s people as blessed. They should take notice of them because the people of God possess something that distinguishes them from everyone else. But when those who call themselves by God’s Name begin to think and act like the world, then the Name of the Lord is profaned. But God challenges us to believe in His ways, even when it seems like they don’t work. There really are times when God tests us to show where our hearts really lie. At another time, Jesus told His audience that unless they eat His flesh and drink His blood, they have no life in them. Imagine if you had heard that for the first time. On the one hand, this is a powerful teacher who does amazing things. On the other hand, isn’t it disgusting to think of eating and drinking like this? But Jesus goes on to say that His Words are Spirit. In other words, the principle that He is trying to get across to them cannot be accepted by this world. This world is completely blind to the idea of Jesus being our true “food” and our “life.” In the Hebrew language, the word for “bread” and the word for “life” come from the same root; bread (or sustenance) and life are inseparable concepts. Without Jesus to sustain our life, we will certainly die. He is our Source, He is our Life, so we should trust that what He tells us is ultimately beyond the understanding of this world, but actually compels us into the really real. But many didn’t accept Jesus’ teaching. In fact, when Jesus shared this particular Message, many people quit following Him because they said, “Who can accept this teaching?” But to not accept this, to not attempt to understand better meant eternal condemnation. Jesus’ closest disciples understood one thing –they couldn’t leave Jesus! When Jesus asked if they wanted to leave too, they said, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the Words of eternal life. We believe and know that You are the Holy One of God," [John 6:68-69]. But when the religious teachers heard Jesus’ words, they rejected them. In fact, they wanted to kill Him because they didn’t want to hear that they might be doing something wrong. I once heard the ‘joke’, “How many prophets does it take to change a light bulb?” The answer: “Change? Kill the prophet, then we can change things when WE want to change them.” The fallen human nature says, “Play God,” while the repentant, humble heart says, “Listen to God.”
If we read the Malachi passage above, we read that God actually says we are under a curse if we don’t give our tithes and offerings. We actually turn from serving Him because we tend to think that worldly concerns or ideas are more deserving of our time and energy, because ‘they work better’. But God says, “Test Me. Give, and I’ll bless you. Serve and quit undermining what I have commanded, and I will take notice of you and make you My treasured possession; I will remember you on that Day. And the world will see a distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between the way of God and the way of the world.”
There have been times when my flesh has tempted me to quit serving God because of the way people behave. I have even been tempted to withhold my generosity at times. But this one thing I have learned: God rewards a faithful heart, DESPITE how people behave. Maybe you’re tempted to quit giving to the church because of how people behave. Maybe you’re tempted to quit serving because you don’t think your efforts truly bring any change or gratitude. But the truth for me and for you is this: We serve the Living God, not people, and He notices EVERYTHING. Do not falter in your service to God because of the fallen nature of people. Serve God so that everyone can see the difference between common and holy, between natural and supernatural. Are you in trouble? Pray. Is the church in trouble? Pray. And keep serving faithfully, because God rewards the faithful. Isn’t our God more than able to answer from heaven if we repent of the ways of the flesh and believe in Him, our Source? He is called “Jehovah Jireh” for a reason: He is the I AM, our Provider. Do you believe this?
Love in Jesus,