GOD REBUKES THE SELF RIGHTEOUS PEOPLE FOR DENYING THE VALUE OF OBEYING AND SERVING GOD
I. (:13-14) SELF RIGHTEOUSNESS LEADS TO DISILLUSIONMENT
A. (:13a) Arrogant Tone Easily Detected by the Lord
“’Your words have been arrogant against Me,’ says the Lord.”
Hailey: The adjective “stout” means hard, harsh, violent. In their conversations one with another they had said strong things against the Lord.
Why do we respond in pride, deception, denial, and bitterness?
– our hearts are deceitfully wicked
– sometimes we get wrong input from those who love us who are not spiritually sensitive to the situation
– just because your Mom tells you you’re doing great — carries more weight when you’re 7 than when you’re 40
– it hurts too much to let the truth sink in; defensive mechanism
No wonder people are scared to approach us and to offer help and point out our blind spots. Fortunately God is not scared to confront us. Since we know that this is how we tend to respond, we should develop some practical guidelines to provide us with a structure that will give us a better chance at responding correctly.
For example, let’s make it a habit not to respond immediately to some criticism but to bring it before God, ask Him to search our hearts, help us to think thru the validity of the charge and to respond correctly. Just say simply: “I appreciate your taking the time to share that. Let me consider what you said and pray about it and I will get back to you.” Let’s try to put ourselves in the shoes of the other person and even if what they say makes no sense to us, can we understand and appreciate how it might make sense to them?
B. (:13b) Self Righteous Question – Continuing in State of Denial
“Yet you say, ‘What have we spoken against Thee?’”
Pride in maintaining their own innocence: When we are confronted with a problem, our first response tends to be: “It’s not my fault. I didn’t do anything wrong. Anything I did do or say was certainly justified given the circumstances.” We are quick to include ourselves in the general confession: “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” — but slow to confess to the specifics.
C. (:14) Denying the Value of Obeying and Serving God
1. Bitterness in denying God’s justice:
“You have said, ‘It is vain to serve God”
God’s harvest principle has always been: You reap what you sow. In the OT a lot of God’s promises centered on the material prosperity of the nation of Israel. God’s promises to His people today focus more on our spiritual growth (the fruit of the Holy Spirit) and our future reward. The Israelites looked around and could not see how they were enjoying God’s blessing any more that their enemies. So they turned against God and accused Him of being unfair.
Sometimes as we look around at others we can think that God has not given us a fair shake. Roots of bitterness can crop up and trip us up. Their conclusion: It is vain to serve God; there is no profit in it for us. word “profit” has mainly a negative sense of gain made by violence or from a selfish motivation They were serving God not to glorify Him, but for their own selfish interests and personal advantage
Christ is our perfect example in never doubting the goodness or justice of God. Despite the fact that He was truly innocent and without sin and yet meek and humble in heart; despite the fact that He knew exactly what God the Father requires and fulfilled all righteousness without calling God’s command burdensome; even in willingly taking all of our sin upon Himself, He never was bitter or complained against God’s goodness or justice.
2. Deception regarding what God requires:
“and what profit is it that we have kept His charge, and that we have walked in mourning before the Lord of hosts?’”
Hailey: They had put their confidence in the outward fasting which was of no worth before Jehovah. This question had been clearly settled by Zechariah (chs. 7-8).
They thought they knew what sin was — but they concentrated only on the externals — and even there they were nowhere near as conscientious as the Pharisees of Christ’s day. They thought they were mourning for their sin by their regular fasting and wearing of sackcloth and ashes, but God said they didn’t have a clue about what true repentance is.
Sure they avoided idolatry and did some fasting and busied themselves with religious activities surrounding the temple and the sacrifices (when it was convenient and it didn’t cost them too much), but they neglected the weightier matters of the law = mercy, truth, righteousness. They were satisfied with going through the motions of whatever works they chose to do–they ignored God’s true standard of inward righteousness.
That is the essence of self righteousness: perverting God’s standards by substituting some type of external legalistic system that gives us satisfaction because we can measure up to it through self effort without depending on the Holy Spirit to accomplish inward righteousness. The result in Malachi’s day was disillusionment–they were bitterly disappointed and charged God with failing to keep His end of the bargain in terms of blessing and prosperity.
Wolf: Their perspective is essentially selfish: What is our “cut” for serving the Lord? The word profit normally has a strong hint of evil (Gen 37:26), showing that they were insincere in their worship of the Lord. Their desire was for personal glory rather than the glorification of God.
II. (:15) TOO GOOD TO SEE STRAIGHT — ARROGANT CYNICISM CLOUDS OUR VALUES AND OUR PERCEPTION OF REALITY
A. (:15a) Mistaken Values – Sin (Self Righteousness) Dulls the Conscience
“So now we call the arrogant blessed;”
B. (:15b) Mistaken Perception of Reality – Sin (Self Righteousness) Blurs the Vision
“not only are the doers of wickedness built up, but they also test God and escape.”
The future will prove that it has been worth it to serve God – the distinction between the righteous and the wicked will be evident and will be final:
1 Cor. 15:58 “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.”