Before I get into the main message, I feel drawn to comment on one specific point included therein. That passage is Malachi 2:14-16- the dreaded divorce passage.
Let us be clear about what is going on here. It is clear over-archingly, God hates divorce (v16). But what was going on here is that Israel had developed a system in which you could go to a priest with a little money and a BS excuse, and he'd give you a certificate. Then you go out, wave the certificate, say, "I divorce this woman, " and you were free in the eyes of the priest and the "law" to carry on as you desire. And THAT God hated.
Jesus told them so they would get it through their stubborn heads, that the only excuse that wasn't BS was adultery (Matthew 5). But if you dig a little deeper you find that the word that has a literal sense in "fornication" has a figurative sense in Idolatry.
In Ephesians 5, Paul sets down the rules for marriage. Wives are to subordinate themselves to the husband (i.e. recognize him as first among equals), while husbands are to have a sacrificial love for their wives. God often compares Israel's falling away as adultery committed against Him; He yet has the love, but they do not practice the subordination, the obedience required.
Does God hate divorce? Yes. But a divorce is a personal thing; and many churches base how they treat individuals on their marital status. Are you divorced? then you can't do this, and you must do that. On that level, I do not believe it is ANY of the church's business to get involved, because that requires a judgment they are not qualified to make. However, a PERSON must judge in themselves whether the divorce was wrong. Not on the basis of did my wife disobey, or did my husband fail to love. It must be judged on the basis of, did I fail to love my wife? Did I fail to obey my husband? Divorces happen, and life goes on. But whether you did wrong or not is based on whether you passed YOUR test. In Exodus 32:7-14, God almost, calls for His divorce decree. He has the grounds; but Moses stops Him, and asked Him how the choice would reflect on HIM. Before you divorce, you must ask how it reflects on you- not in man's eyes, but in God's. As Paul was want to say, THIS IS JUST MY OPINION. I will add this caveat: NONE of this excuses my divorce on any level. Okay, on with the main message.
This week, as I mentioned in an earlier post, I started in Malachi, the last book of the Old Testament, and go on into the New. Malachi is looking at a Nation who thinks that serving God is a job- and yet, because they are DOING that job, they should be okay. But God makes accusations which they refuse to accept responsibility for. They doubt He cares about them (1:2); They think that less than their best is acceptable, so they just give of what they don't really want (1:7-8); They refuse to give due reverence (1:6); they refuse to take responsibility for actions, such as divorce, that bring pain to others (2:13-16); they complain when God doesn't punish evil out of hand (2:17); they refuse to admit they have a need to repent of anything (3:6-7), and say that there is no profit in serving God (3:13-14). God has become a business- a tiring, distracting, interfering business that takes them away from what they would rather be doing. Is this how you see God?
Or is your attitude about God more like that of the Pharisees in Matthew 3:7-12? John called them a "brood of vipers" and told them that they weren't there to repent, but just to follow the crowd. Just like the people in Malachi thought "doing the job" was enough, these people were happy to follow the crowd, figuring that their church life was enough to mark them as "sons of Abraham", and didn't bother to change their outside life one iota. John warned them that they would be judged by their fruit, and that those not bearing fruit would find themselves cut out. "Therefore," said John, "bear fruits worthy of repentance"- or as we might put it, put your "money" where your mouth is.
Another attitude that God is against is the one shown throughout the first three chapters of Mark. This became a long litany of the "religious" of Israel judging Jesus' actions by their standards. They said, "who is Jesus to forgive sins (in this day and age, it would be more like, "who is Jesus to say what I'm doing is a sin?")?" (2:7); "look at who He hangs out with" (again, for today it would be more like, "look at the judgmental people who follow Him, telling us what we should do"); (2:16)" why doesn't He and His fast like John's disciples do" (or, "why are they not tolerant, like everyone else", found in 2:18); "why are they picking heads of grain on the Sabbath" (equivalent today, "since they say Jesus forgave their sins, they just go out and sin and don't care", 2:24); "why does he do work by healing on the Sabbath" (today's example: "why don't you just keep your religion to yourself", 3:2-4); and adding it all together, "He must have a demon" (or as they atheists say, God is a monster, and you are just hateful", 3:22). Do you judge this way- or, reject Jesus because you don't want to be judged this way?
The next bad attitude in God's eyes is doubt. In Luke 1:11-22, Zacharias gets the first word of the impending Messiah- the announcement of His own coming child. Here is a man who'd been faithful all his life, serving despite circumstances and blameless before God, with an angel right in front of him, telling him the good news.
"How shall I know this?", he said.
Now it was one thing when God pulled Gideon off the street and gave him a commission, and he asked for confirmation. But here was a man who had no excuse for doubting, and as a result, he was about to spend 9 months without being able to witness verbally what miracle had happened. God expects some doubt sometimes- but that doubt can cause huge losses in terms of the ministry you are given.
The next attitude that God dislikes is what I call failure to grasp. And we see three examples early in John's Gospel. The first was when the Pharisees questioned the Baptizer's authority (1:19-27). They failed to grasp the Authority of God passed down to John because it didn't come down the prescribed "channels". The second is when John and James see what Jesus is doing, and want to know more. They ask, "where are you staying?" Nothing wrong with that, but it jumped to an ultimate goal, an ultimate answer, but faith is in the walk. "Come and see", was the answer they got. Faith being a walk is the second thing we often fail to grasp. The third, I'm calling, failure to grasp the concept of God. In 1:44-51, we see Nathaniel, who believed when it was made personal to HIM (vv 48-49). But Jesus asked him to see beyond himself to the greatness of ALL that God has done (v51).
One last attitude that hampers us with God is seen in Acts 1:1-8. In all the great things Jesus had accomplished in their midst, and in the middle of receiving His Great Commission, the thing on their minds was:
"Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?"
A purely earthly concern; and it made them look like Jesus had wasted His time teaching them. So Jesus gave them the short answer -"none of your business"- and went right back to what WAS important- their coming relationship with the Holy Spirit, and the work that was THEIRS to do.
So summing up the attitudes that mess up our service to God:
-It's just another job;
-Doing what everyone else does is enough;
-Judging... or being judged;
-Failure to grasp His authority, faith, or person;
-And concern with this world.
Job lost everything when he had an attitude of entitlement, and regained it when he put himself on the bottom and God on top. Where are you at on the Job scale?