Do you ever struggle to hear God’s voice or know his will for your situation? I struggled with the idea that God spoke clearly to others but not me. By faith, I knew he unconditionally adored me, but at times it seemed like I was getting the silent treatment. I recall in college, one of my dearest friends took offense at something I said and stopped speaking to me. With all the emotional intensity that college girls living together can generate, our mutual friends ran between us. They carried confusion from me to her, “What in the world did I do?” They returned with, “She knows what she did.” Ugh. I really didn’t. We eventually worked it out, but that wall of silence created some high drama amidst our circle of friends.
Silly as it sounds, I behaved as if God pulled the same thing sometimes, but God is not petulant or vague. He’s not waiting for me to do or say the perfect thing. In fact, sin often inspires God to speak loudly, as he must penetrate worldly wax stuck in our spiritual ears. No, the truth is, God chooses silence at times.
The Israelite’s felt his holy silence for a painful period between the book of Malachi, and the gospel stories of Christ’s birth. Four hundred years passed after Malachi, before God spoke to his people again. During that time, they moved from the humiliation of Babylonian captivity to the crushing boot of the Roman empire.
This last prophet’s words burn in my heart today for several reasons. First, Malachi contains the final words of God before the gospel writers. Second, they precede Christ’s birth, so December seems timely to me now, but I didn’t think of that a year ago when I made up this schedule. I simply wrote about the minor prophets in their Old Testament order. This is where it gets interesting in a Holy Spirit way.
Last week I studied Malachi to prepare for this moment of writing on Monday morning. I took notes and wrote down key ideas. Yesterday, my pastor, during a sermon series from Haggai, asked us to turn to Malachi for companion passages. He then preached some of the exact concepts I wrote down a few days earlier. This is a pattern with God and me. Whenever he highlights the same passage from multiple sources, I know that he is trying to communicate important stuff.
So, what are these critical last words before God’s long silence? Today, I’m extracting key ideas from chapter one that will lay groundwork for improving our spiritual hearing and ability to discern God’s methods and plans.
- Israel questioned God’s love for them. (verses 1-5) God reminds them that he chose Jacob, their forefather, over his brother Esau, a gigantic message of love. Israel became recipients of God’s promises while Esau’s descendants struggled to find God, if they chose. He also spoke his love to them through his prophets.
In the same way, I remind myself that God chose me to be his child. He gifted me with a supernatural book through which he communicates directly to me. Additionally, He sent me the Holy Spirit and other anointed believers to teach and train my heart and mind. Thinking that God was giving me the silent treatment, says I don’t understand his love.
I believe God started this last book, reminding Israel of his passionate love for them, because he knew there would be a long silence. When I struggle to hear from God, I go to verses like I John 4:19, “We love because he first loved us,” and others in that vein. God is a perfect father who is not playing games with me. I’ve learned to trust that love when I can’t hear his voice plainly. He will let me know what I need to know when I need to know it because he loves me and wants me to join him in his work.
- Israel became complacent and careless with their worship and this provoked God’s anger. (verses 6-14)
Huge chunks of the book of Leviticus are devoted to the specifics of Israel’s worship of God. The concept of first fruits worship is established in chapter 23. The big idea is that God is given the very best of their livestock and crops. By the time of Malachi, Israel slipped far from that standard. “When you bring blind animals for sacrifice, is that not wrong? When you sacrifice crippled or diseased animals is that not wrong? Try offering them to your governor! Would he accept you?” (Malachi 1:7-8)
There are times when God’s constant mercies become a sharp contrast to my spiritual laziness. I don’t always offer him my first and best. Some days it’s getting sidetracking housework or social media before I hunker down in my quiet time. Other times I spend too much time watching TV or reading mysteries rather than balancing that by reading and pondering the scriptures or godly nonfiction.
I’ve met other believers that struggle with faithful church attendance or tithing or serving in ministry. Any time I offer God my leftovers, I presume upon his grace. He deserves my best efforts, whatever that looks like for you. This week, offering him your first fruits might be by hosting Thanksgiving dinner, serving turkey at a homeless shelter or doing some Christmas shopping for an aging parent. First fruits can take many forms all through our days.
As we enter the holiday season, let’s establish two firm footholds. First, his love for us is boundless and unconditional. He will creatively speak to us in many ways because we are his children whom he dearly loves. Second, he deserves our best. I’m challenging myself to use my finest resources for his agenda these next five weeks when I’m typically tempted to prioritize other fun stuff. Let’s be certain our time and energies demonstrate that we worship the Ancient of Days, not the holidays.