6. Respect God

Meditations in Malachi : 6. Respect God

Mal 1:6  “A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If I am a father, where is the honor due me? If I am a master, where is the respect due me?” says the LORD Almighty. “

At the beginning of this series I said I wanted to meditate on its contents while keeping in mind the teaching of the Bible that “God is love”. E-mails are notorious for conveying information but the sense or feeling behind the mail being missed. I believe the same can be said about the Bible. We read things through the filter of our experience. If we have had trouble in life, a painful upbringing and been part of a legalistic church, we will view such words as those in our verse today as harsh chiding but actually it is possible to see them quite differently. I have recently done a study in Jeremiah to see the number of times the Lord warned Judah and Jerusalem through Jeremiah before He destroyed Jerusalem and took them into exile. It is an incredible number. This is the Lord who pleads and pleads with His people to turn away from destruction.

Now I have to insert a health warning, or a warning about understanding. In what is to come I am aware that I am going to go behind the words in the book and look at the wider picture of what the Bible reveals about God and am then going to apply that here. This means that quite often I am going to infer things about God that are beyond the basic text, but that will, I hope, always be in line with the rest of Scripture. Thus the rest of Scripture will shine light on possibly difficult words to give greater understanding.

What is amazing about our verse today is that it is there! This is the Lord reasoning with His people. He is seeking to get them to change their minds and He does it by reason. He could have simply said, ‘I am judging you and you deserve to die’, but He doesn’t! This little book is filled with reasoned argument after reasoned argument that seeks to turn the people’s hearts by logical reasoning. The Lord doesn’t want to judge them again. They have only recently been through the biggest disciplinary judgment in their history. He doesn’t want to have to do that yet again. And so we find Him appealing to their common sense, almost.

Look, He says, think about this. In the world about you there are certain things that you take for granted. For instance, there is family life. It has order and you expect that – that a son should respect and honour his father. You have no problem with that idea. You expect it to be like that because the father is older and wiser than his son. Or, if you like, think of business life where you have masters and servants. There is a natural order here. You don’t expect the servant to be the leader; no, it should be the master, the one with the money, power, influence and position. To expect it to be the other way round would be stupid.

Now if it is like that in your world, why isn’t it like that with me? Down through the centuries have I not revealed much about myself to you, so that you know things about me? Have you not realised that I am your father, the one who brought you into being from the beginning?  And, even more, have you not realised that I also hold the role of a master, a leader, the powerful one in this relationship? Look back on your history; isn’t this how it has been? Now if that is so, why are you not honouring me in the same way you say it is right for a son to honour his father, or a servant to honour his master?  Do you not realise what has happened? You have lost perspective! You have forgotten the many things that I have done for you down through the centuries, the things recorded in the scrolls of the books, and having forgotten, you have forgotten me and who I am.

Does such a gentle reminder need to come to us on days when we have tended to forget the wonders of our salvation and have failed to worship the One who has made all things, and who has sent His Son to die for us, and who has given us His own Holy Spirit and provided a place in heaven for us in eternity? How easy it is to let the things of the world crowd into our minds and to give little or no space to God. How easy it is to cease to be a praising and worshipping person, and yet the truth is that if we do become like that, it means that we too have lost perspective.

A right perspective is regained when we think on who God is and what He has done. If we reflect on the truth relayed through the Bible to us about God’s greatness, we will cease to be the centre of our lives. When we realise afresh His greatness and His power and His wisdom and His love, we cannot fail to be a worshipper. Moreover when we stop and think and reflect on what He has done for us we cannot fail to be a thankful praising person.

This is the message behind these opening words of this little book. They challenge us to check our own perspective and remember what we know, what we have been told about Him, what we have learnt about His greatness, and when we do that we will find our emotions stirred and we will find we use our lips for a different purpose. When we regain a right perspective, everything else will change as well. May it be so!

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66. God Speaks

Meditations in Job : 66. God Speaks from a Storm

Job 38:1-5 Then the LORD answered Job out of the storm. He said: “Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge? Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me. “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it?

All the talking by the humans has come to an end. Now it is the Lord’s turn. He has remained silent and let the variety of opinions be expressed. For the moment He ignores the three friends and Elihu. He simply addresses Job. Note it says “the Lord answered Job.” These words are going to be a direct answer to all that Job has said, but they will not be a point-by-point apologetic. Oh no, the Lord is going to answer by a very different means.  The Lord comes and speaks through a storm. Saying that, it isn’t that the storm brings Job a lesson, but the Lord’s voice comes from the midst of the storm. A storm, by its very nature, displays power. We are reminded of the revelation that Ezekiel received: I looked, and I saw a windstorm coming out of the north–an immense cloud with flashing lightning and surrounded by brilliant light.” (Ezek 1:4) I think I have never seen this so well shown as in the film Independence Day when a massive alien spacecraft comes with what appears amazing clouds and a storm. It conveyed well the enormity of the power that we see in the Scriptures when God makes His presence known sometimes.

It is important to note this tangible power and might, because it is simply an expression of the Lord’s activity which He is going on to speak about to Job. He is not going to answer Job on an intellectual argument or emotional challenge level; He is simply going to state some simple facts, revealed through questions.

But first He expresses something about Job.  Now later on He will reiterate His good feelings about Job but for the moment He wants to convey to Job His dissatisfaction with what Job has been saying.  Job may have been a righteous man prior to all this happening, but he has given way to the pressures coming from the three friends and has spoken out about things of which he has no knowledge.  He did not know about the prior conversations in heaven and the causes (and objectives?) of what happened, and so all his words were baseless (literally!).  So he spoke without knowledge and so it is going to be on the basis of the absence of knowledge that the Lord is going to help Job regain his right perspective!

As we said, the Lord is not going to enter into an intellectual debate with Job; He’s simply going to help Job regain perspective and when that happens, that will be enough. He uses rhetorical question after rhetorical question. The answers are obvious. We won’t look at them all; you can read them in your Bible. He starts with three that will show the nature of His approach: Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? …. Who marked off its dimensions? ….  Who stretched a measuring line across it?” i.e. were you around when I created everything?  Of course not!   Immediately there is this implied acknowledgement that the Lord is the Creator of the world and that lifts Him infinitely higher than Job.

The questions roll on, one after another and the answer from Job’s perspective has to be “No, I am a mere man!”  Every now and then the Lord drops in a challenge that reminds Job of that very fact; for example, “Surely you know, for you were already born! You have lived so many years!” (38:21) and that just rubs the truth in even more.  No, I’m just a mere man and my few years count for nothing.  The questions pour on, covering nature, the constellations, even the origins of wisdom, and then on into chapter 39 about the habits of all the animals and their strangeness sometimes.  Does He know about all these details?  No, of course he doesn’t; he’s a mere man and it’s not the twenty first century where technology has begun to open up some of these secrets that show us just how wonderful Creation is.

We’ll pause it there and continue to consider the torrent of questions in the next meditation. It is a simple lesson of perspective. Sometimes we think we are so great; we have achieved so much.  Some of us have learnt so much that we fool ourselves into believing that the tiny bit of information we have absorbed makes us important.  In a foolish age when so many deny the presence of God, we take for granted the incredible wonder and power of what we can observe in Creation.  We explain it away and fail to see the enormity of the Creator that defies our imagination.  Because we are tainted by this disease called Sin, we are blinded to the truth.  We think we are great.  But then it only takes a bad cold or the flu or a strained back or severe toothache to bring us down to helplessness and we realise afresh our limitations.  We dare to argue with Almighty God?  What crass stupidity!