Friday, October 22, 2004

Exciting Warnings?

Those two words don't seem as though they'd rightfully go together--exciting warnings?--but when you're talking about the Bible, they do.

The Word of God is replete with warnings, both to those who are believers (in an active and responsive covenant with God) and to those who are unbelieving and subject to His judgment. The essence or intention of the warnings, though, is similar: God wants anyone who is in rebellion, who does not know Him, or who is straying from Him to be turned away from their sin. He wants them to know what He did for them and that His mercy can extend even to them, IF they will repent of rebellion against Him, making up their minds to turn away from wrong, and start obeying Him.

I was thinking about that today as I read Malachi. In Chapter 2 of Malachi, God is warning the priests to change their ways. They were not honoring His name, and they were supposed to be spiritual leaders of the people! God compares the priests He is warning with Levi, a priest who behaved righteously:

Malachi 2: 4-7 (NIV)
I have sent you this admonition so that my covenant with Levi may continue," says the LORD Almighty. "My covenant was with him, a covenant of life and peace, and I gave them to him; this called for reverence and he revered me and stood in awe of my name. True instruction was in his mouth and nothing false was found on his lips. He walked with me in peace and uprightness, and turned many from sin. For the lips of a priest ought to preserve knowledge, and from his mouth men should seek instruction--because he is the messenger of the LORD Almighty."

Unlike Levi, the priests God is speaking to dishonored His name. He gives them a shocking warning I'll get to in a minute.

Many times professing Christian leaders today will present the God of the Bible as so meek and mild that He would never hurt someone's feelings or offend anyone. That is not true, and it tries to present a facet of God's character (his meekness, mercy and tenderness) while leaving out the absolute justice, righteousness and holiness that make His judgment imminent for a sinful world.

The truth is that God will judge those who live unrighteously, no matter what they profess or what their 'position' is before Him. You can see an example here in Malachi: the priests didn't get a license to do whatever they wanted because they were priests. In fact, look at what God said to them:

Malachi 2:3 (NLT)
I will rebuke your descendants and splatter your faces with the dung of your festival sacrifices, and I will add you to the dung heap.

Yep, you read that right. God will splatter their faces in fecal matter. Why? God always has a purpose for what He says and does, just as you would expect of a good father.

Malachi 2:4 (NLT)
Then at last you will know it was I who sent you this warning so that my covenant with the Levites may continue," says the LORD Almighty.

The bottom line is that God wants them to WAKE UP so that His covenant with them may continue. Anytime we see a warning that applies to us, there is a reason that warning is there. God isn't arbitrary or cruel--He's loving and merciful and just. He wants us by His side.

I mentioned that warnings are exciting. Maybe that sounds strange, especially given the above passage. Who wants to be warned?! But the part I find exciting is this: God cares enough about me (and you) to warn us when we get off track, or to warn us not to get off track. He loves us! It's exciting to be His child and to be loved enough to be disciplined in order to spend forever with Him--because only the righteous will enter the Kingdom.

Hebrews 12:5-7
And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons:
"My son, do not make light of the Lord's discipline,
and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,
because the Lord disciplines those he loves,
and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son."
Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father?

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