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It Isn't Fair!

Malachi 2:17-3:6

You have wearied the Lord with your words. Yet you say, "How have we wearied Him?" In that you say, "Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the Lord, and He delights in them," or, "Where is the God of justice?" [3:1] "Behold, I am going to send My messenger, and he will clear the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple; and the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, He is coming," says the Lord of hosts. [2] "But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner's fire and like fullers' soap. [3] "And He will sit as a smelter and purifier of silver, and He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, so that they may present to the Lord offerings in righteousness. [4] "Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord, as in the days of old and as in former years. [5] "Then I will draw near to you for judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers and against the adulterers and against those who swear falsely, and against those who oppress the wage earner in his wages, the widow and the orphan, and those who turn aside the alien, and do not fear Me," says the Lord of hosts. [6] "For I, the Lord, do not change; therefore you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed. 
 

This morning, I want to begin my sermon with a public confession. I have been guilty of the very thing Malachi warns against in this passage. As recently as last September, I turned from the horrifying images on the TV screen and stared through the window and asked "God, where are you?" For a fleeting moment, something base and ugly surfaced from my soul that shook my faith. I'm not proud of it. But to deny it happened would only intensify my sin. And to preach to you today as if I am immune from those kinds of thoughts would be a greater sin.

I don't think I was alone, was I? Was I the only one lamenting evil and asking for justice?

God asks an interesting question in verse 2. In effect, He asked, "Do you really want justice?" Do you really want what is fair? 

I heard about an executive with Nokia that is upset at Finland's attempt to be fair.

Anssi Vanjoki, was caught racing his Harley down a street in Helsinki, Finland. The police clocked him at 47 mph in a 31 mph zone and the judge assessed him with a $103,600 fine for speeding.

The millionaire executive is fighting the fine, not because he wasn't speeding. He is appealing the amount of the fine. In Finland, traffic fines vary according to the income of the offender. Vanjokis ticket was based on his income in 1999 which he claims was unusually high high due to option sales. He says his current income is much lower as Nokias share price fell with other high tech stocks in 2001. A district court official says Vanjokis' appeal will be heard in May.

A traffic fine of $103,600 is believed to be the highest penalty ever accessed in Finland. The fine may seem extreme to average income people, but that's the point. Finland wants to get their speeder's attention. They want them to drive the speed limit. A $120.00 fine wouldn't phase a Millionaire, but add a few zeroes to it and he perks up. It has a similar impact on him that the smaller fine would have on a waitress. He'll probably think twice before he decides to disregard posted speed limits in the near future. (http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html)

When I think about that story, I come to think that it is impossible to really have justice in a sinful world. A similar thought that I had last September. Was it just that "innocent" people died at the hands of ruthless terrorists? No. Neither was the whole feeling of chaos and helplessness. I suppose it is OK to fell frustrated. But I need to be careful who I blame for injustice. 

Actually, God never said life would be fair. The opposite is true, Jesus said, "These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world." (John 16:33 NASB)

As we think about the relationship of good and evil, let me remind you that just because God created a world where evil could exist, doesn't mean He is to blame for the evil. What God created was good. The creation narrative repeats that assessment several times. God looks at his creation, and calls it good. Evil does not exist because God created the world. It exists because sinful man takes God's good creation and turns it to evil. But praise God, there are times that God brings good out of evil. 

But SOMETIMES EVIL COMES IN REACTION TO GOOD. Something "Phillip" (name changed for security reasons) has learned through experience who is living out his faith under the threat of persecution.

In Muslim countries like the one Phillip lives in, following Christ can be costly. One believer was ambushed while walking down the street. A gas bomb exploded at his feet, burning him on his face and upper torso. Other times, the radicals have doused believers with sewage and destroyed their property.

In May of 2001, radical Muslims fire-bombed the homes of four West Bank believers. One of the occupants was a teenage girl who received third-degree burns over most of her body.

But these real dangers don't stop Phillip from reading and proclaiming the truths from the scripture. "In this beloved book," Phillip said as he picked up an Arabic Bible, "it says the cross costs." (http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html)

AND SOMETIMES, JUSTICE EMERGES FROM EVIL

Something Mohammed Akbar, whose name means "Mohammed is the Greatest," learned when he was first exposed to the gospel.

When the Soviet Union attacked Afghanistan in 1979, Akbar fled to Iran. He didn't find peace there. That was the same year that the Shaw of Iran abandoned his throne and the

Ayatollah Khomeini began his reign. By December, the revolutionary police were patrolling the streets to enforce the "accepted code of behavior."

It was in that environment that Akbar ducked into a movie theater to watch a movie. That film the Jesus film--changed his life.

As the story climaxed, Akbar thought, "This Jesus is going to call down fire and destroy all these people who are hurting him." When Jesus forgave them instead of destroying them, something happened to Akbar. "At that instant I said in my heart, that's for me." Akbar said.

God changed his life, and Akbar changed his name. Now he is Akbar al-Masiih "The Messiah is Greatest." (http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html)

The worst evil ever perpetrated upon a man happened at Calvary. A man who was sinless, who never harmed anyone, was beaten, mocked and ridiculed. They sentenced Him to death without cause, Pilot even said so. It wasn't just!

And Jesus would have had every right to do exactly what Akbar thought He should do. But He didn't. Instead he forgave.

And because of that, Akbar believed.

God's good came out of evil. It did in Jesus' life and in Akbar's life too. That's the way it works. Good often emerges out of evil. And that's something to be grateful for.

THE GOOD NEWS IS THAT EVIL RARELY HAS THE LAST WORD. In his book, Seasons under the Son, Tim Wesemann wrote, "The Bible tells us that he [the leper] came back praising Jesus and thanking Him. It doesn't say exactly what the man said to Him, although it seems obvious that he would have given thanks for healing. But let's take it a step further. I wonder if sometime later-days, months, or even years-the healed man realized that if it weren't for the leprosy, he wouldn't have become a believer." (http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html)

No one would say leprosy is good. It is a terrible disease. But wouldn't we all agree that the man coming to Christ was good, regardless of what motivated Him.

Evil is met with God's justice and often ushers in God's grace. Genesis 50:20 NASB "And as for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive." 

This verse is our prayer when evil reigns-that God will bring good out of evil.

Perhaps some of you need to end this sermon the way I began it. Confessing your sin before a Holy God, who is in control and will usher in His Justice . . . in His time.

 

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