I’m not in the habit of regularly quoting the prophet, Malachi. Maybe it’s because he forcefully condemns the priests of his day – and consequently, the priests of today – for failing to provide Godly leadership. Maybe it’s because I haven’t spent a lot of time meditating on his words. Maybe it’s simply time that I begin quoting him more often. So here we go:
“You have said, ‘It is vain to serve God, and what do we profit by keeping his command, and going about in penitential dress in awe of the Lord of hosts? Rather must we call the proud blessed; for indeed evildoers prosper, and even tempt God with impunity,’” speaketh Malachi.
Have you ever been tempted in such a way? Indeed, we like to compare ourselves with others. And in the realm of the spiritual life, comparing my holiness to your holiness is a very tempting thing. It’s also a very damaging thing, but that doesn’t make the temptation any less severe.
And here, in the words that God speaks to Malachi, we see an enticing twist to the destructive game of comparison. For as the Lord points out, when we observe Godless behavior seemingly go unpunished – and even rewarded – we may begin to question our own efforts at holiness.
Why am following God’s commandments if justice does not prevail? Why should I live for goodness when evil seems to flaunt its faults? Is it worth living for God and his people? Is it worth striving for holiness?
Turning again to Malachi, listen to how the Lord responds to these fears:
Then they who fear the Lord spoke with one another, and the Lord listened attentively; and a record book was written before him of those who fear the Lord and trust in his name. And they shall be mine, says the Lord of hosts, my own special possession.
Those are powerful words. “And the Lord listened attentively.” Think of that, God listens to our words and listens to our hearts. He cares and wants to know what burdens or troubles us. And he responds. “They shall be mine,” promises the Lord, “my own special possession.”
We can pray for those who practice evil, and our duty is to try to turn them from their evil path. But their practice of evil should in no way tempt us to join in the wrongdoing. We certainly have enough ungodliness in our own particular hearts. God knows everything. He knows what evil dwells in our souls and he knows what good dwells there as well. He listens attentively.
And in the words with which Malachi brings the Old Testament to a close, the Day of the Lord is coming, “the great and terrible day,” on which the Lord threatens to, “strike the land with doom.” Remember what Christ taught, that the wheat and the weeds necessarily must grow together, but at the end of time, God knows who is ready for salvation.
Let’s not worry about what others do or fail to do. Let’s not concern ourselves over the question of God’s judgment on the wicked. Knowing that we ourselves share in that wickedness, let’s strive to put our own houses in order. And may we take comfort from the prophet, Malachi: “They shall be mine,” says the Lord. Being the Lord’s is where our focus should be.
Be assured of my prayers,