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The Apple of God's Eye

Malachi 3:13-18 NIV

 

"'You have said harsh things against me,' says the Lord. Yet you ask, 'What have we said against you?' [14] You have said, 'It is futile to serve God. What did we gain by carrying out his requirements and going about like mourners before the Lord Almighty? [15] But now we call the arrogant blessed. Certainly the evildoers prosper, and even those who challenge God escape.' [16] Then those who feared the Lord talked with each other, and the Lord listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the Lord and honored his name. [17] 'They will be mine,' says the Lord Almighty, 'in the day when I make up my treasured possession. I will spare them, just as in compassion a man spares his son who serves him. [18] And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not.'"
 

Today we conclude our study of Malachi's prophesy. I'm not willing to say that I've enjoyed this study, but I can say, God has spoken to me and worked on the condition of my soul as we've explored the truths of His word together. I hope you can say the same thing. Malachi concludes his book with God lamenting over the things that His people are saying about Him. "'You have said harsh things against me,' says the Lord." 

Personally, I have pretty thick skin, I've learned not to take criticism personally or get too upset about people's comments. The only time I really get hurt is when someone I love speaks harshly to me. As I read the closing words of this book, I can't help but reflect upon the opening words of the book of Malachi when God said, Malachi 1:2 "'I have loved you,' says the Lord." Why does God care about what His people say about Him? Because He loves us.

The Psalmist wrote, "Keep me as the apple of the eye, hide me under the shadow of thy wings," (Psalm 17:8 KJV) David, in this beautiful prayer, spoke as child would to his father. He prayed as one who knew that God had a soft spot in His Heart for him. 

There was a lot of love in my family. I've never doubted whether my parents loved each other or me and my siblings. Whenever I read David's prayer, I automatically think of a special love my Dad had for my little sister Lori. She was his only daughter and did he ever love his little girl. He'd buy her special gifts and treat her with a gentler touch than he did his other children. If I close my eyes, I can still picture Lori sitting on Daddy's lap. I usually see her as a small girl, missing her front teeth, and her hair in ringlets.

But soon that quaint picture is replaced with Mom & Dad sitting beside her hospital bed, watching helplessly as Lupus stole her life from her. I still hurt for Mom and Dad. When Lori died, Mom lost her best friend and her daughter. And it ripped my Father's heart right out of his chest. I would have done anything to take their pain away, but I couldn't. The apple of Dad's eye was gone. Years have passed since Lori died, and every now and then, in a private moment, I still cry. Not so much because I lost my sister. I've come to grips with that. I weep because I can't stand the thought of Mom losing her daughter and Daddy losing his little girl.

It is hard for me to imagine anyone loving anybody more that Daddy loved Lori. But I know that God does. God loves His people. We are the apple of His eye. The only proof I need to give you is Calvary. William Newell wrote, "Oh, the love that drew salvation's plan! Oh, the grace that bro't it down to man! Oh, the mighty gulf that God did span at Calvary."

Oh, how it must break the heart of God when His people speak against Him. How do you think he felt when the people said, "How have you loved us?" in Malachi 1:2? Or when the priests said, "The table of the Lord is to be despised." in Malachi 1:7? Or when by their actions and attitudes they were saying to God that He wasn't fair and that He wasn't worth the effort of giving Him their very best? He loved them, yet they spoke against Him.

Now there is a difference between asking God a question and speaking against God. Every person who seeks to be real with God will question Him and seek to know what God is doing. There is a difference between a respectful question and speaking against Him. Bitter and unrighteous people will scoff and make accusations against God, honest believers will seek to understand Him better.

Their denial in verse 13 must have made the wound even deeper. They said, "What have we said against you?" God doesn't let their question be the final word, He answers them in verse 14 by saying, "You have said, 'It is futile to serve God. What did we gain by carrying out his requirements and going about like mourners before the Lord Almighty? [15] But now we call the arrogant blessed. Certainly the evildoers prosper, and even those who challenge God escape.'"

Unfortunately some people approach their faith with a "What's in it for me attitude." They see God as their good luck charm to keep them from harm or another path to self-improvement. During the 80s a movement arose in Evangelical Christianity that dictated that every sermon become a "how to" lesson from the scripture. The belief was that the unchurched would come if they saw practical benefits of going to Church. So preachers became pop-psychologists who gleaned the scriptures for practical lessons to help people solve their problems. They preached, "How to reduce stress in your life." Or "How to affair proof your marriage." They also felt it was best not to teach things that could offend the unbeliever or nominal believer, so they avoided talking about money, abortion, sexual ethics and other touchy subjects. The message was clear, they said, "Come to our church and we'll help you get your life together." I know what I am talking about, I've preached a few sermons like that myself.

Today, I see two major problems with the approach. One, instead of being simple, it is simplistic. There is no way that anyone can affair proof their marriage. The very title over promises and under delivers. When I interviewed Jack Allen, pastor of the Cottonwood Church in Albuquerque, New Mexico, for my upcoming book, The Future Church, he told me that he never felt comfortable preaching "How-to" sermons "I always felt like I was trying to sell a used car." Allen said. "I don't say that to be ugly, it's just how I felt when I did it." Allen continued, "It is perfectly fine to admit the realities of life. I struggle too when little girls get shot by some drive-by junkie, and I think it bothers God, too." 

Biblical preaching won't make a person feel as good as pop-psychology sermons, but then again, who wants to just feel good? We need a transformation, not a band-aid.

The second problem is that it misses the entire thrust of God's word. The scripture wasn't written to help you cope with your problems, it is the living, breathing word of God that will transform your life. It wasn't written to help you feel better, it was written to change your life.

Many of the people in Malachi's day responded to his straight-talk. Listen as I read the remainder of the chapter. "Then those who feared the Lord talked with each other, and the Lord listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the Lord and honored his name. [17] 'They will be mine,' says the Lord Almighty, 'in the day when I make up my treasured possession. I will spare them, just as in compassion a man spares his son who serves him. [18] And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not.'" (Malachi 4:16-18 NIV)

They developed a "scroll of remembrance" of those who feared the Lord and were honoring His name. There was a clear decision made here. People had to make up their mind whether they would be in or out. And those that were in, God said, "'They will be mine,' says the Lord Almighty, 'in the day when I make up my treasured possession.'" They were his treasured possession, or to use David's words, the "apple of His eye."

The message of Malachi is simple. Spiritual things are not less important than material things and God deserves our very best. He deserves people that passionately serve Him and give Him their best to Him in time, energy and financial resources.

These were the final words of God for centuries, until John the Baptist cried out "Prepare ye the way of the Lord." But before He silenced His prophets, God called His people to live as His treasured possessions. And so today, I ask you this question. Is your name in the scroll of remembrance? Or to use the New Testament phrase, "the book of life?" If not, you can come into relationship with Him today. 

One more question. If you name is written down, are you behaving like a child of God? As a favored child? As the apple of His eye? 

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