God’s Word – Handle With Care!
Malachi: “The Burden of the Lord through the Messenger of the Lord”
A somewhat obscure book? Maybe. A relevant and essential message for fellowshipping believers today? Definitely.
It’s almost impossible to read on in Malachi (which means “messenger of the Lord”) without first taking time to digest the opening preface.
“The burden of the word”
“The burden of the word of the Lord”
The burden and the blessing
Many times when handling teaching engagements, I sense the weight of responsibility and the internal overwhelming thrill of opportunity to share the glorious truth that enlightens, encourages, and exhorts. I am both excited to reveal the heart of God, as I humbly strive to understand it, and tremble at the thought of misrepresenting His character and desires or speaking any single sentence out of step with the Spirit’s approval.
It’s a burden, and yet, a blessing. The message that Malachi presents in just 4 chapters carries both reprimand and rejoicing. I can just envision Malachi the prophet writing or speaking with such agony of soul. A sensitivity to making God’s name great and not his own, a patience to be in harmony with the justified attitude of the Spirit, and a reverence of God’s voice.
The weight of the burden
Brothers in Christ, have you felt the weight of “the burden of the word of the Lord?” Do you respond in fear? See 2 Timothy 1:7. Do you rebuke in anger? See James 1:19. Or do you begin in love? See Malachi 1:2. Do you long to be like Levi the priest, in covenant with the Lord of hosts? See Malachi 2:4-7. “He walked with Me in peace and uprightness.”
May we maintain a proper perspective of our role as forth-tellers of “the word of the Lord.”
The fruit of the spirit
Young men: the list of the Fruit of the Spirit is a great check-list to embody on the platform. Be loving and tender, be joyful in praise, be peaceful like the Lamb, be patient like an invited guest (Luke 14:7-11), be kind in understanding that your audience is engaged in spiritual warfare and be wise to count yourself as equal and just as capable of falling. Choose good language and tone. Be faithful to the text, and be certain that you are the first to receive it. Be gentle in your exhortation. Self-control is essential to Spiritual power – beware of temptation while preparing, and also soon after sharing.
Another observation I make from chapter one is the connection of Esau to the priesthood at that time. God links their behaviour with words like “despise” and “contempt.” See Malachi 1:6-7. Returning to the story of Jacob (aka. Israel) and Esau back in Genesis 25:19-34, we find that Esau was found in contempt of something very near to the heart of God – a blessing, something holy, something godly.
His birthright. Gen 25:34 says, “Thus Esau despised his birthright” (when he traded its ownership to Jacob for temporary satisfaction). God, through Malachi, is confronting the ministers of the house of God about areas of contempt – particularly His name and the table of the Lord as they continually offer sacrifices that are less than the best. What the priests were doing was carelessly handling the things of God with an attitude that certain statutes and judgements of the Lord were beneath consideration or worthless. That obeying God absolutely was a low thought.
Beneath my consideration?
Do you, like myself, find on occasion that your respect and consideration of God’s promptings and commands are lacking? Do you choose temporary enjoyment over holiness and obedience? What has God been calling you to (a royal priesthood – 1 Peter 2:9) that you have labelled “beneath consideration” or a “worthless” notion? In Leviticus 26 God lays before His people blessing for obedience and cursing “if you despise my statutes” (vs.15).
In Numbers 14 the children of Israel chose rather to wander in the wilderness than trust God for ability to take the Promised Land, and it says in vs. 31 they “despised” the land, and it kept them from bountiful reward. In 1 Samuel 2:30 God declares, “Those who honor me I will honor, and those who despise me I will lightly esteem.” We then see that this idea of contempt is at the root of the rejection of the Lord Jesus Christ in Isaiah 53:3 – that He was despised, perceived as beneath consideration in the minds of men.
The Lord’s contempt
But gloriously for the world whom He loved in Hebrews 12:2, we find that Jesus chose to hold the shame, agony, and brutality of the cross in contempt. He thought the experience of Calvary’s cross was beneath consideration! He didn’t allow the expectation of the pain and suffering before Him to derail His rescue plan for the souls of men.
Can you justify looking upon a Man in contempt who willingly gave His body to be broken and His blood to be spilt on your behalf, and who considered this act to be a very small thing in comparison to you as His reward?! That would be beneath consideration! I would despise the thought of despising a Man like that!
We can’t help but praise and adore and worship the One “who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross and despised the shame” so that we would not have to! Isn’t He worthy of our obedience?
I will leave you again with this final challenge, as I evaluate my own condition as well: What has God been calling you to that you have labelled beneath consideration or contemptible?
- Why won’t you go speak with your neighbor about the Good News?
- Why won’t you wash your wife’s feet?
- Why won’t you downsize your expenses, work less, and be involved at your local church?
- Why won’t you get up early to pray and read your Bible?
- Why won’t you disciple that college student?
- Why won’t you be hospitable?
I don’t want to be the Holy Spirit, I just want to open your mind to the potential of God’s working revival in you, your town, your church, your state, your nation… through your obedience to the word of the Lord. Be obedient.