“Oh, that one of you would shut the temple doors, so that you would not light useless fires on my altar! I am not pleased with you,” says the LORD Almighty, “and I will accept no offering from your hands.” Mal 1:10
At the time of Malachi, the relationship between God and his people was messed up. What went wrong? Why did the Jews not wholeheartedly honor the deity who brought them through so much?
I’ve been studying out Hebrews 12:15, and I think this verse sheds some light. Here are both the NIV and the Jubilee Bible translations:
See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.
looking diligently that no one deviate from the grace of God, lest any root of bitterness springing up impede you, and thereby many be defiled.
Let me break this verse down a bit. It talks about “falling short” of the grace of God. The Greek word used here has the sense of being left behind in a race, and failing to reach the finish line.
When I’ve read Hebrews 12:15 before, I thought it meant “miss,” like we get to a place where we don’t see the grace of God. But it actually means more that we can get to a place where we’re not keeping pace with God’s grace.
That’s why I like Jubilee Bible translation of “deviate.” Because I think what happens is that we don’t stay in sync with God’s leading. We deviate, we stray off the path he is setting for us.
Think of the Israelites at the time of Moses. With many miracles, God led them out of Egypt. Yet when they got to the desert, they started to freak out and complain because they didn’t see any food or water. God had a plan to lead them to the promise land. He had been giving them grace day by day, taking care of them at each step. And if they would trust this path, they would get to an awesome place.
But they couldn’t stay in a state of trust. They started to drag their feet and resist the leading. Their wandering started long before God consigned them to wander in the wilderness.
It’s the same in Malachi. God had led them out of captivity. He had helped them rebuild the wall and the temple in Jerusalem. Yet they asked Him, “How have you loved us?” (Mal 1:2) They brought Him their discards instead of their best. They led themselves astray.
How does this apply to us? God is a good and faithful God. He is leading us on the path that is best for us. But instead of staying in step beside Him, we give way to fear. We shriek and shrink away. We whine and dig in our heels. We say, “It’s too hard. It’s too scary. It doesn’t feel right.”
And then we don’t give to God wholeheartedly because we don’t trust Him. Can we say we’re putting all our eggs in His basket? Are we all in? When something goes wrong, do we hold tight to Him, or do we let go and flail about? Do we practice, as the song “My Hope is Built” says, “When darkness veils his lovely face, I rest on his unchanging grace?”
Because if we don’t rest on God’s unchanging grace, if we get out of sync, we WILL get bitter, just as it warns in Hebrews 12:15. We will let the poisonous voice of Satan seep in, telling us, “Something is wrong with this way.” We will start resenting our situation.
And that bitter root will GROW. It will wind around our souls, taking over, squeezing out our joy and sanity. And then it will start polluting those around us.
This whole thing has been my struggle lately. It’s SO HARD to trust God when it feels like something is going wrong. It’s so hard to not be resentful. It’s so hard to give flat out when I’m feeling uneasy.
So this week I’m repenting. I’m holding tight to God. I keep saying to Him, “It’s just you and me.” My world has shrunk to that relationship. That’s all that matters.
Because it IS a relationship. It’s walking hand in hand with God, keeping pace with Him through the scary times of life.
God said to the Jews in Malachi, “I am not pleased with you and will accept no offering from your hands.” Like then, our relationship with God can get messed up when we have trouble trusting, and serve halfheartedly as a result.
Let’s fight for faith, and our relationship with God! Let’s remember that God is leading us in a GOOD way, and stay in step with Him.
It is as David wrote in Ps 23: “The Lord is my shepherd. . . . He leads me beside still waters. . . . He guides me along the right paths.” Even when we are in the dark valleys, we don’t need to fear, for HE IS WITH US.