A Larger Shovel – Malachi 3


Who can outgive God?

It has been said that no one can outgive the Lord, for whatever charitable gift we shovel His way, He will return it back to us using a larger shovel.  But there is a caveat – do it discreetly, or the praise of other people will suffice as our reward.

As Jesus taught:

“Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven. Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly.  Matthew 6:1-4 (NKJV)

As the writings of the Old Testament drew to a close with the prophet Malachi, he shared God’s message regarding the importance of faithful giving.  Moses had spelled out in the Old Testament law that God expected ten percent, or a tithe, of all income.  This amount should be returned to take care of the needs of the temple and the poor out of love and gratitude for the countless blessings the Lord has given us.  Many New Testament believers go beyond that amount today and have seen the windows of heaven open for them.  As Malachi wrote:


10  Bring all the tithes into the storehouse,
That there may be food in My house,
And try Me now in this,”
Says the Lord of hosts,
“If I will not open for you the windows of heaven
And pour out for you such blessing
That there will not be room enough to receive it.

11  “And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes,
So that he will not destroy the fruit of your ground,
Nor shall the vine fail to bear fruit for you in the field,”
Says the Lord of hosts;


12  “And all nations will call you blessed,
For you will be a delightful land,”
Says the Lord of hosts.  Malachi 3:10-12 (NKJV)

Jesus expanded upon the concept of quiet, generous, and faithful giving in His teachings:

38 Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.”  Luke 6:38 (NKJV)

Like so many other things on our faith walk, such as with sincere prayer for another, we may not even notice God’s returned blessings and benefits until He points them out to us.  The Lord is not saying here “give and you will automatically become materially wealthy”.  I believe He is saying “be faithful and a little sacrificial in your obedient giving out of love for me and others, and I will make extra sure that you get everything you need when I see that you need it.  And I will rebuke those that seek to strip you of your sustenance”.

New Testament giving is less dogmatic than the strict ten percent, pre-tax, tithe spelled out in the law of Moses.  Many believers today give 10% of their income for their home church and go beyond that in supporting widows, orphans, and other faithful missionaries.  Giving is to be done in secret with the amount chosen strictly between a family and God.

With many unpaid bills and few funds available, it takes a great step of faith to even begin the process of working towards the giving of a tithe.  Many find that as the purse strings loosen towards God, the clutches of debt and unpaid bills seem to loosen, as well.  One step leads to another, and the stress of financial insecurity begins to dissipate.  Eventually, we reach the point where we can ask ourselves the question, “How big of a shovel do I choose to use for God”?

Reflection

Lord, teach me to give faithfully, generously, and discretely, with love and gratitude.  We ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Settle Out of Court – Malachi 3

God watches over all of us but pays particular attention to the weak and helpless.  When Christ returns to rule and reign on earth in the last days, we will be held accountable for any abuses we have committed against the humble.  Best to approach the Judge now to confess and make amends for any offences we have made, as best we are able.

“But who will be able to endure it when he comes? Who will be able to stand and face him when he appears? For he will be like a blazing fire that refines metal, or like a strong soap that bleaches clothes. 

“At that time I will put you on trial. I am eager to witness against all sorcerers and adulterers and liars. I will speak against those who cheat employees of their wages, who oppress widows and orphans, or who deprive the foreigners living among you of justice, for these people do not fear me,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.  Malachi 3:2,5 (NLT)

Scripture tells us that we all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.  But it also tells us that if we confess our sins, by the grace offered through Christ, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sin and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Our human nature is a stumbling block that often gets in the way of righteous living.  It is quick to return to its old ways and behaviors, flashing negative emotions when we get angry, envious, or selfish.

Even the act of admitting and confessing our sins is often difficult for us to do.  My friend Wendy recently listed four things we tend to do when confronted with a wrong we have committed:

  1. Deny it.  “I did not do it.”
  2. Make excuses.  “I was not aware of what I was doing.”
  3. Minimize it.  “Oh, it was not that big of a deal.”
  4. Blame someone else.  “If they had not done this, I would not have done that.”

Does any of this sound familiar?  Unfortunately, it did to me.

God knows we are not perfect.  But He does expect us to admit when we are wrong and seek to make things right.

In his letter to the Colossians, the apostle Paul highlighted some of the areas we believers struggle the most with:

1 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.  Colossians 3:1-10 (NIV)

These temptations are common to all people, but the Holy Spirit is working in the hearts of believers to clean them out.  It is a journey of progress, not perfection.

All sin is subject to God’s judgment.  But in Christ, we live in an era of grace where we can go to the Judge, confess our sins, and be completely forgiven.  As Jesus worded it in a parable, we are free to approach God now to sponge away our record of wrongs before being confronted by them at His final judgment.

25 “When you are on the way to court with your adversary, settle your differences quickly. Otherwise, your accuser may hand you over to the judge, who will hand you over to an officer, and you will be thrown into prison. 26 And if that happens, you surely won’t be free again until you have paid the last penny.  Matthew 5:25-26 (NLT)

As we have now been forgiven, the Lord expects us to extend the same forgiveness to others who have harmed us.  This can be difficult to do, but it is important to try, with His help.

Jesus has given us a gracious opportunity to settle all of our offenses “out of court” with Him now.  This allows us to enter into His presence unashamed, fully redeemed for eternity by the blood of Christ.

Reflection

Father, we come to You confessing our sin today, specifically these items on our hearts and minds.  We come to the cross of Christ for complete forgiveness.  Help us to make things right with those around us, making amends where we have done wrong and forgiving others for what they have done to us.  We ask this in the powerful name of Jesus, Amen.

A Purifying Fire – Malachi 3

The prophet Malachi foretold of a day when God Himself would appear at the temple in Jerusalem.  This would happen a first time when Jesus Christ was born of Mary to share the good news of the coming kingdom of God and to offer Himself as a sacrifice to atone for the sins of the world.

This will happen a second time when Jesus returns as King of that kingdom, to rule and reign over a purified earth, as foretold by multiple Old Testament prophets.

Malachi saw both future events, but as with what sometimes happens with two mountains, one closer and one distant, both events appeared to him as one.

1 “See, I am going to send My messenger, and he will clear the way before Me. Then the Lord you seek will suddenly come to His temple, the Messenger of the covenant you desire—see, He is coming,” says the Lord of Hosts.

But who can endure the day of His coming? And who will be able to stand when He appears? For He will be like a refiner’s fire and like cleansing lye. He will be like a refiner and purifier of silver; He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver. Then they will present offerings to the Lord in righteousness. And the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will please the Lord as in days of old and years gone by.  Malachi 3:1-4 (HCSB)

John the Baptist, another subject of Malachi’s prophecies, would further elaborate on what Messiah will do when He comes:

11 “I baptize you with water for repentance, but the One who is coming after me is more powerful than I. I am not worthy to remove His sandals. He Himself will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing shovel is in His hand, and He will clear His threshing floor and gather His wheat into the barn. But the chaff He will burn up with fire that never goes out.”  Matthew 3:11-12 (HCSB)

We still live in the age of grace that was begun with Christ’s appearance as He offered the supreme sacrifice on the cross for all believers, dying in our place and rising again for our eternal life.  Those who reject Him and God’s ways to choose wickedness will be dealt with consequences when Christ returns.  Jesus discussed this in the parable of the wheat and the weeds.

24 He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, 25 but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. 26 So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. 27 And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ 28 He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ 29 But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, “Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.”’” Matthew 13:30 (ESV)

Jesus went on to explain the meaning of the parable to His disciples.

37 He replied: “The One who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; 38 the field is the world; and the good seed—these are the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sowed them is the Devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels. 40 Therefore, just as the weeds are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather from His kingdom everything that causes sin and those guilty of lawlessness. 42 They will throw them into the blazing furnace where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in their Father’s kingdom. Anyone who has ears should listen!  Matthew 13:37-43 (HCSB)

The people represented by the wheat seek to live in righteousness but those represented by the weeds choose wickedness, rejecting the generous outreach of God and instead tormenting and leading the wheat astray.  All people have sinned and done selfish things, but God offers a remedy through the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ. The window of God’s grace is open to all, but scripture tells us that the window will close at Christ’s return, and the time to turn away from evil is now.

Two years ago, a good friend of mine was taking a shower when he received a word of knowledge in his spirit from the Lord.  (For some reason, it does seem that the Lord likes to speak to people when they are in the shower.)

The word spoken into his spirit was: “Let both the wheat and the weeds grow together until the harvest, which works if someone is planting and attending to the wheat”.  After he told me about it, I borrowed it as a theme for this series of meditative studies.  I pray that God is using these writings to do both planting of and tending to the wheat for His kingdom harvest.

May the purifying fire of Jesus and the presence of the Holy Spirit burn away all of the worthless chaff in our lives and bring us closer to Him as we walk through our life’s journey.

Reflection

Psalm 1 warns us that the way of wickedness has its natural consequences and wicked company is something that we must seek to avoid.

Blessed is the one
    who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
    or sit in the company of mockers,

Not so the wicked!
    They are like chaff
    that the wind blows away.

For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous,
    but the way of the wicked leads to destruction.  Psalm 1:1,4,6 (NIV)

Father God, help us to reject those who would tempt us towards wickedness, and to choose company with those who build up our faith and lead us to live a better, more holy life.  Teach us patience, love, and forgiveness towards all those You have placed around us.  We ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.

God’s Messenger – Malachi 3

Malachi, the final prophet in the Old Testament, foretells of another prophet who will arrive four hundred years later, John the Baptist.  John would be the herald for the coming Messiah, Jesus Christ.

1 “See, I am going to send My messenger, and he will clear the way before Me. Then the Lord you seek will suddenly come to His temple, the Messenger of the covenant you desire—see, He is coming,” says the Lord of Hosts. Malachi 3:1 (HCSB)

After Malachi’s prophetic mission was complete, God closed the book on the Old Testament and His word was silent until John the Baptist’s and the Messiah’s coming.

In the fullness of God’s time, Jesus was born of a virgin in Bethlehem by the power of the Holy Spirit, as prophesied through Isaiah and announced by a visiting angel, Gabriel. Mary then agreed to God’s plan and will.  Gabriel is the same angel who had given God’s timeline for the appearance of the Messiah while visiting the prophet Daniel centuries earlier.

John the Baptist was born of Mary’s cousin, Elizabeth, and was six months older than Jesus.  When both men were around thirty years of age, their public ministry began.

1 In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the Wilderness of Judea and saying, “Repent, because the kingdom of heaven has come near!” For he is the one spoken of through the prophet Isaiah, who said:

A voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
Prepare the way for the Lord;
make His paths straight!   Matthew 3:1-3 (HCSB)

Through the power of the Holy Spirit, the Father would use John to draw many people to prepare their hearts for the coming of Christ.  As Jesus later said,

44 “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day.  John 6:44 (NIV)

It was not a very convenient thing for most people to come hear John speak.  Large crowds traveled from the Jerusalem area down to the Jordan River to hear him and to be baptized.  Their trip was around 40 kilometers or 25 miles one way, quite a long journey to be taken on foot or on a donkey.  The power of the Holy Spirit was evident to draw them to experience God, and He is still doing that with the hearts of women and men today.

Participating in John’s baptism was a sign of willingness to turn away from one’s sins and to turn back to the Lord, cleansing and preparing oneself for the Messiah’s arrival.  The process of turning away from our sins and towards God is also referred to as repentance.

While John was baptizing, he spoke of the arrival of Jesus, who would later arrive to teach at the temple in Jerusalem, fulfilling Malachi’s prophecy.  John spoke to the crowd of the Messiah who was near at hand:

11 “I baptize you with water for repentance, but the One who is coming after me is more powerful than I. I am not worthy to remove His sandals. He Himself will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.  Matthew 3:11 (HCSB)

Soon, Jesus Himself appeared at the Jordan River to be baptized, having made the long trip down from Galilee.  John objected, saying that Jesus is the One who should baptize him.  But Jesus insisted, so it was done.

16 After Jesus was baptized, He went up immediately from the water. The heavens suddenly opened for Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming down on Him. 17 And there came a voice from heaven:

This is My beloved Son.
I take delight in Him!  Matthew 3:16-17 (HCSB)

The presence of the Holy Spirit descending like a dove and the approving voice of the Father at Jesus’ baptism is a scriptural appearance of the Holy Trinity.

May the Lord continue to draw you and all of your loved ones into His glorious presence through faith in the Messiah, Jesus Christ.

Reflection

Father, we lift up our loved ones and all those You have placed in our lives, asking You to draw them to Yourself and to Your salvation in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit, just as You drew the multitudes to the Jordan River to hear and be baptized by John the Baptist.  We ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.

A Good Spouse – Malachi 2

From the earliest scriptures, God states that He did not design people to live alone.  He takes the marriage relationship very seriously and has a deep interest in the way we are treating our spouses.

The gift of marriage does not come to everyone, but if God wills it for us, we have certain responsibilities to fulfill.

After assuring His people that He deeply loved them, the Lord spoke through the final Old Testament prophet, Malachi, to address some of the areas where the people and their priests were falling short of His desires.  One way was in how they disrespected His prescribed sin sacrifices, keeping back the very best offerings for themselves.  A second way that led Him to sadly reject even their good sacrifices was the way they were treating their spouses.

14 Yet you ask, “For what reason?” Because the Lord has been a witness between you and the wife of your youth. You have acted treacherously against her, though she was your marriage partner and your wife by covenant. 15 Didn’t the one God make us with a remnant of His life-breath? And what does the One seek? A godly offspring. So watch yourselves carefully, and do not act treacherously against the wife of your youth.  Malachi 2:14-15 (HCSB)

For those chosen to experience it, the gift of a good spouse is one of the greatest joys God has created.  A loving partner who supports us through both good and difficult times is a precious and vital sustainer throughout our life’s journey.  The author of Proverbs 31 writes about the blessings of a wife, but the same applies to a good husband:

10 Who can find a capable wife?
She is far more precious than jewels.
11 The heart of her husband trusts in her,
and he will not lack anything good.
12 She rewards him with good, not evil,
all the days of her life.


25 Strength and honor are her clothing,
and she can laugh at the time to come.
26 She opens her mouth with wisdom
and loving instruction is on her tongue.
27 She watches over the activities of her household
and is never idle.
28 Her sons rise up and call her blessed.
Her husband also praises her:  Proverbs 31:10-12,25-28 (HCSB)

The marriage relationship, like life itself, has its many challenges and difficulties.  But God offers to help get us through even the worst storms and bring us into the light of gratitude and appreciation for what He has provided. 

God watches over our marriages and has certain expectations for them and for how we treat each other.  Scripture tells us that the Lord will even hinder our prayers if we are not treating our mate with the love and respect that we have promised.

 Marriage must be respected by all, and the marriage bed kept undefiled, because God will judge immoral people and adulterers.  Hebrews 13:4 (HCSB)

In the same way, you husbands must give honor to your wives. Treat your wife with understanding as you live together. She may be weaker than you are, but she is your equal partner in God’s gift of new life. Treat her as you should so your prayers will not be hindered. 1 Peter 3:7 (NLT)

It is my belief that IF God wills marriage for us, He will go to great lengths to pair us with the right spouse.  Their entrance into our lives is not a random occurrence, but one that that He has choreographed from the beginning of time.  The Lord knows far better than we what is best for us.  If we are wise, we will follow His word and trust Him to get us through the dark and difficult moments, whether in singleness or in marriage.

May we all experience serenity, gratitude, and peace in the loving care of God whether in marriage or in singleness.

Reflection

Lord, if You have placed us in a marriage relationship, help us to follow Your will by honoring and loving our spouse today.  Help us to listen carefully to them and to provide them with all the love and support they need to live a joyful and fulfilling life in You.  Help us to move forward together in whatever holy direction You have chosen for us.

And if we are currently single, show us the paths You have planned for us from the beginning of time.  Whatever Your will for us, help us to avoid harmful relationships and to pursue holy ones.  May we live a fulfilled life honoring You either in singleness or marriage, whichever situation You have chosen for us in this season of life.  We ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.

A Lamb Without Blemish – Malachi 1

The Bible clearly teaches that the fruit of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus.  Jesus went to the cross to pay the penalty for our sins, taking upon Himself a brutal death in our place so that we may enjoy a blameless life with Him into eternity.

Long before Jesus was born to His appointed hour, sin sacrifices were spelled out in the Old Testament law to point towards Christ’s ultimate sacrifice.  Without the shedding of blood, there could be no remission of sins. 

19 For when every commandment had been spoken by Moses to all the people according to the Law, he took the blood of the calves and the goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, 20 saying, “This is the blood of the covenant which God commanded you.” 21 And in the same way he sprinkled both the tabernacle and all the vessels of the ministry with the blood. 22 And almost all things are cleansed with blood, according to the Law, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.  Hebrews 9:19-21 (NASB)

As scripture later clarifies, the blood of lambs, bulls, and goats could never truly atone for the sins of people.  These observances were necessary in God’s eyes until the purifying sacrifice of Christ could satisfy heavenly accounts, wiping clean all of our sin once and for all.

Insufficient as they were, these sin sacrifices prescribed by God were still vital to purify people in His eyes and to establish a holy covenant between Himself and people of faith.  These sacrifices must be done with all reverence and respect, and through the prophet Malachi, God let the people of Judah know that He was having an issue with their approach.

After assuring them that God really does love them, the prophet Malachi shared some stiff correction from the Lord on how the people were conducting their sacred sacrifices.

“‘A son honors his father, and a servant his master. Then if I am a father, where is My honor? And if I am a master, where is My respect?’ says the Lord of armies to you, the priests who despise My name! But you say, ‘How have we despised Your name?’ You are presenting defiled food upon My altar. But you say, ‘How have we defiled You?’ In that you say, ‘The table of the Lord is to be despised.’ And when you present a blind animal for sacrifice, is it not evil? Or when you present a lame or sick animal, is it not evil? So offer it to your governor! Would he be pleased with you, or would he receive you kindly?” says the Lord of armies.  Malachi 1:6-8 (NASB)

The people were selling off their best animals for personal profit and using the less saleable ones for their sacrifices to the Lord.  As God the Father would one day offer His most precious Son for the eternal benefit of believers, it is understandable that He would be strongly displeased by these half-hearted offerings to Him.

The Lord continued to speak through Malachi to open the eyes of the people and to convict them in their hearts for these actions.

11 “For My name will be great among the nations, from the rising of the sun to its setting. Incense and pure offerings will be presented in My name in every place because My name will be great among the nations,” says Yahweh of Hosts.

12 But you are profaning it when you say: “The Lord’s table is defiled, and its product, its food, is contemptible.” 13 You also say: “Look, what a nuisance!” “And you scorn it,” says the Lord of Hosts. “You bring stolen, lame, or sick animals. You bring this as an offering! Am I to accept that from your hands?” asks the Lord.

14 “The deceiver is cursed who has an acceptable male in his flock and makes a vow but sacrifices a defective animal to the Lord. For I am a great King,” says Yahweh of Hosts, “and My name will be feared among the nations.  Malachi 1:11-14 (HCSB)

Jesus will one day return to reign as King over the entire earth.  In that day, He will be worshiped by every tongue and nation everywhere.  By the blood of Christ, He is extending grace, mercy, and forgiveness to all who will open their hearts to Him today.

17 If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth18 knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, 19 but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.  1 Peter 1:17-19 (NASB)

May you have an encounter of peace and joy with the spotless Lamb of God, a lamb without blemish.

Reflection

How can I give my best to God?  What am I holding back on?

Lord, show us the things in our lives that we are holding back from You.  Help us to surrender them so that they may be multiplied in fruitfulness to the glory of God.  We ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Faith and Love – Malachi 1

Returned to their land after a long and hard exile in Babylon, the people of Judah wondered if the Lord really did love them.  In response, God sent them the final prophet writer in the Old Testament, Malachi.  He assured them that God deeply loved them as He always had but did have a few concerns to share with them.

This is the message that the Lord gave to Israel through the prophet Malachi.

“I have always loved you,” says the Lord.

But you retort, “Really? How have you loved us?”

And the Lord replies, “This is how I showed my love for you: I loved your ancestor Jacob, but I rejected his brother, Esau, and devastated his hill country. I turned Esau’s inheritance into a desert for jackals.”  Malachi 1:1-3 (NLT)

God chose to initiate a loving faith relationship with His chosen people through the call of Abram, later named Abraham.  Though God promised to make Abraham a great nation through his descendants, he waited twenty-five years for his promised son, Isaac, to be born.  After Isaac was grown, he and Rebekah had twin sons, Esau and Jacob.  God chose the younger child, Jacob, to be father of the twelve tribes of Israel, including the line of Judah, through whom Jesus Christ the Messiah would appear.  Through this line, God would extend His loving gift of salvation to all the world.

But on the surface, Jacob is one of the last people one might select for such an important position.  Often crafty, manipulative, or outright deceptive in his youth, Jacob was one we would probably have wanted to shy away from.  But God saw the great potential for faith in his heart.  Jacob’s hard edges would be whittled down by another, even more cunning and deceitful than him, his uncle and future father-in-law Laban. Their relationship would prove to be a humbling challenge for Jacob, bringing him to the point of surrender to a loving God for relief and deliverance through faith. 

God later revealed through Moses the great love He always had for Israel.

14 “Look, the highest heavens and the earth and everything in it all belong to the Lord your God. 15 Yet the Lord chose your ancestors as the objects of his love. And he chose you, their descendants, above all other nations, as is evident today.  Deuteronomy 10:15 (NLT)

Yet despite their mutual bloodline, God rejected Esau and extended tremendous grace to Jacob.  Why is that?  I believe it is because Jacob ultimately opened his heart to God while Esau rejected God all the days of his life.

The relationship between the twin brothers had been very contentious.  While Esau was often out hunting and bringing back delicious meals for his father Isaac, Jacob stayed close to home and was a favorite of their mother.  Over time, Esau came to hate Jacob.  He believed that Jacob “stole” two things from him, 1) his birthright as the first born and 2) their father Isaac’s spiritual blessing.  This blessing was a major event, and all the family members were aware of its reality and power in God.  God honored the blessing, even though it was acquired by Jacob through deceit rather than faith.

In the end, God’s love for Jacob and his line was because of their potential for faith.  The same was true for Israel in Malachi’s time and is true for us today.  The Lord loves us all, and if at some point in our life we have even just a kernel of faith, His love and protection will flow over us like a river.  This is not because of any great thing we have done, but simply because of the loving character and nature of God, our Creator and Sustainer.

God is biding His time before the final judgment, making sure that every possible accommodation is being made to draw as many people as possible to Himself in a saving faith relationship.

The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent. 2 Peter 3:9 (NLT)

The apostle Paul prayed that the eyes of the new believers in Ephesus would be open to the love God has for each one of us.  It is a good section of scripture to pray over our loved ones and others God that has placed in our lives:

14 For this reason I kneel before the Father 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named. 16 I pray that He may grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power in the inner man through His Spirit, 17 and that the Messiah may dwell in your hearts through faith. I pray that you, being rooted and firmly established in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the length and width, height and depth of God’s love, 19 and to know the Messiah’s love that surpasses knowledge, so you may be filled with all the fullness of God.  Ephesians 3:14-19 (HCSB)

May you experience all the blessings and love offered to Abraham through faith in the Lord today.

Reflection

Who is the Lord placing on your heart to pray for today?

Father God, we pray that the individuals You have placed on our heart be strengthened in their inner being through Your Spirit, that the Messiah may dwell in their hearts through faith.  May they be able to experience and know the length, height, and depth of the great love Messiah Jesus’ has for them, love so great that He went to the cross for them.  We ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.

God’s Timing is Everything – Esther 6

The evil Haman had manipulated King Ahasuerus (also called Xerxes) to issue an irrevocable decree calling for the murder and plunder of all Jewish residents throughout the Medo-Persian empire on a certain day.  To counter this, God had placed Esther in the palace as Queen, but thus far she had kept her heritage secret, and the king did not know she would be directly impacted by the decree.  Furthermore, Queen Esther was not permitted to approach the king without being summoned by him first, under the penalty of death.  The king had already acted with impulsive rage on multiple occasions, so there was good reason for her to fear for her life.

When Esther’s relative Mordecai informed her of the specifics of the decree through her messengers, she was not sure how to respond or what steps to take.  Sensing her hesitation, Mordecai sent this response:

13 Mordecai told them to reply to Esther with this answer, “Do not think in your soul that you will escape in the king’s household more than all the Jews. 14 For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place—but you and your father’s house will perish. Who knows whether you have attained royal status for such a time as this?”  Esther 4:13 (TLV)

In hindsight, it is clear that the Lord granted Queen Esther her royal status in order to preserve His people, but it still required bold action on her part to take the initiative to save them.  Like the prophet Daniel before her with Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, Esther asked her support community to fast for her first, then she would approach King Ahasuerus no matter the consequence.

 16 “Go! Gather together all the Jews who are in Shushan and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. My maids and I will fast in the same way. Afterwards, I will go in to the king, even though it is not according to the law. So if I perish, I perish!” Esther 4:16 (TLV)

God heard their petitions and Esther was able to safely approach the king.  She then invited both the king and the evil Haman to a banquet the next day where she planned to confront them both with the facts of Haman’s underhanded manipulation.  Haman assumed the banquet was being prepared to honor him.

Meanwhile, after another encounter, Haman decided not to wait until the appointed date to kill Mordecai, who opposed him.  At home that evening, he heard and joyfully approved of his wife and friends’ cruel suggestion:

14 Then Zeresh his wife and all his friends said to him, “Let them set up a gallows 50 cubits high, and in the morning ask the king to have Mordecai hanged on it. Then go happily with the king to the banquet.” This idea delighted Haman and he ordered the gallows to be built.  Esther 5:14 (TLV)

Things looked very bleak indeed for Mordecai.  But this very evening, God would intervene in the situation, using a little insomnia and refreshing a memory in the king’s mind.

1 That night sleep deserted the king, so he ordered the book of the chronicles, the record of his reign, be brought in and read before the king. It was found recorded there that Mordecai had revealed that Bigthana and Teresh, two of the king’s eunuchs who guarded the door, had conspired to kill King Ahasuerus.

The king asked, “What honor or recognition has been shown to Mordecai for this?”

The king’s servants that attended him replied, “Nothing has been done for him.”  Esther 6:1-3 (TLV)

The following morning, the king asked the evil Haman what should be done for a person the king wished to honor.  Assuming that the king was talking about him, Haman listed off several honors that he would love to receive:

So Haman replied, “For the man whom the king desires to honor, let them bring a royal robe that the king has worn, and a horse on which the king has ridden, one with a royal crest placed on his head. Then let the robe and the horse be placed into the hand of one of the king’s most noble princes. Let them clothe the man whom the king desires to honor and parade him on horseback through the city streets, proclaiming, ‘This is what is done for a man the king desires to honor!’”

10 The king said to Haman, “Go quickly! Take the robe and the horse, just as you suggested, for Mordecai the Jew, who sits at the king’s gate! Do not neglect anything that you recommended.”  Esther 6:7-10 (TLV)

Nothing could deflate and embitter Haman faster than being forced to grant these honors to Mordecai, whom he had planned to hang on high gallows.  But Haman’s day was about to get much worse at the banquet, where Queen Esther revealed her heritage to the king and showed that the full blame for the dreadful decree belonged to Haman.

So Queen Esther answered, “If I have found favor in the eyes of the king, and if it pleases the king, grant me my life—this is my petition. And spare the life of my people—this is my request! For we have been sold, I and my people, for destruction, slaughter and annihilation. If we had simply been sold as male and female slaves, I would have remained silent, for such distress would not be worth disturbing the king.”

King Ahasuerus responded to Queen Esther, “Who is he? Where is the man that presumed to do this?”

Esther replied, “The man—the adversary and foe—is this wicked Haman!”

Then Haman was terrified before the king and queen.  Esther 7:3-6 (TLV)

At this, King Ahasuerus began to have another of his famous temper tantrums.  Looking for ways to punish the guilty Haman, he got some timely advice.

Harbonah, one of the eunuchs attending the king, said, “Look, a gallows fifty cubits high is standing next to Haman’s house. Haman himself made it for Mordecai, who spoke good on behalf of the king!”

The king said, “Hang him on it!” 10 So they hanged Haman on the gallows that he had prepared for Mordecai. Then the king’s rage subsided.  Esther 7:9-10 (TLV)

This being done, the king felt relief, then granted all of Haman’s estate to Mordecai, who took Haman’s place as the king’s chief advisor.  They were then able to issue a second decree which allowed the Jewish people throughout the empire to defend themselves, which they did quite effectively.  This event is celebrated each year by the Jewish festival of Purim.

Reflection

Though the name of God is not mentioned in the book of Esther, His presence is revealed all through it by the many timely events that blessed and protected His people.

What events in your life have produced blessings for you, perhaps without realizing that God was behind it?

Lord, we thank You for Your loving presence in our lives, often before we even know You are there.  We thank You for the beauty of Your creation in the heavens and on earth, and for Your glory that we see reflected in it.  Help us to reflect Your loving presence and glory to those around us.  We ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.

An Evil Manipulation – Esther 3

    
11 Though they plot evil against you
    and devise wicked schemes, they cannot succeed.  Psalm 21:11 (NIV)

Throughout history, cunning people have often been able to manipulate their way into positions of power and influence.  This was true back in the time of Esther, whom God had elevated to Queen of Persia in order to protect and preserve His people.

The evil Haman was an advisor to King Ahasuerus who was able to charm his way into the king’s favor.  The king promoted prideful Haman into a position where he must now be bowed down to by all people in the empire as he represented the king himself.  But faithful Mordecai saw through Haman and refused to do so. 

Some time later King Ahasuerus promoted Haman, son of Hammedatha the Agagite, elevating him and setting his chair above all the officials who were with him. All the king’s servants who were at the king’s gate bowed down and paid honor to Haman, for the king had commanded it. But Mordecai would not bow down or pay him honor.

Then the king’s servants who were at the king’s gate said to Mordecai, “Why are you disobeying the king’s command?” Day after day, they spoke to him but he would not listen to them. Therefore they told Haman in order to see whether Mordecai’s resolve would prevail, for he had told them that he was a Jew.

When Haman saw that Mordecai was not bowing down or paying him honor, Haman was filled with rage. But it was repugnant in his eyes to lay hands on Mordecai alone, for they had told him the identity of Mordecai’s people. So Haman sought to destroy all the Jews, the people of Mordecai, who were throughout the whole kingdom of Ahasuerus.  Esther 3:1-6 (TLV)

Haman was not only evil and prideful in his heart, but he was also under the influence of dark spiritual forces.  These forces oppose God and His chosen people and seek to destroy not only them, but the Messiah that King David’s line would bring forth.  Under such dark influences, Haman concluded that destroying Mordecai for dishonoring him was not enough; he would come up with a plan to manipulate the king into killing off all of Mordecai’s people, the Jews, throughout all the empire.

Using the same manipulation that brought him into the king’s favor, Haman tricked the king into enforcing a day when all the Jews in the land would be killed because they worshiped their own God and would not follow all of the king’s commands.  Foolishly, the king agreed and issued an irrevocable decree to do so.  The new law was translated into the various languages of the land and sent out into all the empire.  Haman and the king celebrated this act with the seal of alcohol.

15 The couriers went out hurriedly with the king’s command and the edict was issued in the palace in Shushan. The king and Haman then sat down to drink. But the city of Shushan was dumbfounded.  Esther 3:15 (TLV)

Haman’s evil plan looked foolproof.  The king’s decree was now irrevocable, so the day was soon approaching when all the Jews throughout the kingdom would be killed, and their possessions plundered by their neighbors.

But God is greater than any evil that comes against Him.  Until God has spoken the final word, the end of the story is not seen.

Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. 1 John 4:4 (ESV)

The seeds which God had planted through Esther and Mordecai were about to bear divine fruit.

Reflection

Have you had encounters with people who plotted evil schemes against you?  How did God intervene?  What was the result for you and for them?

Lord, thank You for caring enough to watch out for us even when we were totally unaware of Your presence and protections.  We ask for continued blessing and preservation for ourselves and our loved ones.  Help us to reflect Your love to others as we walk in Your divine light and grace today.  We pray this in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Esther Queen of Persia – Esther 2

When the people of Judah had begun to return to Jerusalem after their exile in Babylon to rebuild the city and its temple, they were still under the jurisdiction of Medo-Persian empire.  Though they had been granted permission by King Cyrus to return home, there would still be demonic forces opposing them every step of the way, persistently seeking to destroy both them and the lineage of the Messiah, Jesus Christ.

While many people returned home to Judah after the seventy-year exile was up, a large number stayed behind to live comfortable lives throughout the Persian empire.  King Xerxes, called King Ahasuerus in this biblical account, was fair and generous to all of his people.  A highly respected warrior in his battles against an emerging empire of Greece, Ahasuerus’ biggest flaw was his attraction to alcohol, and the foolish behavior and decisions he would make while under its influence.

Though dark spiritual forces were at work against the Jewish people, God would use two seemingly unrelated events in the lives of two of them to preserve the Jewish nation as well as the lineage of Jesus: 1) the rise and establishment of Esther as Queen of Persia, and 2) her relative, Mordecai, learning of a plot to kill the king and thus saving his life.

There was a Jewish man in the Shushan palace whose name was Mordecai, son of Jair son of Shimei, son of Kish, a Benjamite, who had been taken into exile from Jerusalem with the captives that had been carried away with King Jeconiah of Judah, whom King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had taken away. He had raised Hadassah—that is Esther—his uncle’s daughter, for she had neither father nor mother. The girl was attractive and had a beautiful figure. When her father and mother died, Mordecai took her to him as his own daughter.  Esther 2:5-7 (TLV)

Mordecai raised Esther as if she were his own child.  Although Esther was also of Jewish descent, she kept this to herself, at Mordecai’s direction.

10 Esther had not disclosed her people or her lineage, because Mordecai had commanded her not to make them known.  Esther 2:10 (TLV)

In one long, drunken, and pride-filled escapade, King Ahasuerus deposed his innocent wife, Vashti.  His decree being irrevocable, the king now looked about to find a replacement for queen.  After reviewing numerous candidates from throughout the kingdom, the Lord worked behind the scenes to present Esther before him.  The king was smitten with her and chose Esther to be the new Queen of Persia.

17 Now the king loved Esther more than all the other women, and she won his grace and favor more than all the other virgins. So he placed the royal crown upon her head and made her queen instead of Vashti.

18 Then the king gave a great banquet, Esther’s banquet, for all his princes and servants. He proclaimed a holiday for the provinces and distributed gifts in keeping with the king’s wealth.  Esther 2:17-18 (TLV)

Queen Esther was now in a position of great influence alongside one of the most powerful people on earth at the time.  Step one of God’s plans to save His people was now in place. 

Meanwhile, during one of the king’s ceremonies:

21 In those days while Mordecai was sitting at the king’s gate, Bigthan and Teresh, two of the king’s eunuchs who guarded the doorway, became angry and conspired to assassinate King Ahasuerus. 22 But Mordecai found out about the plot and told it to Queen Esther. Esther informed the king in Mordecai’s name. 23 When the matter was investigated and found to be so, they were both hanged on a gallows. It was then written in the book of the chronicles in the king’s presence.  Esther 2:21-23 (TLV)

God used both Esther and Mordecai to achieve His purposes without them even realizing it.  In fact, Mordecai’s important role in saving the king’s life was quietly recorded in a chronicle and quickly forgotten.  But God did not forget.  And Mordecai’s action would come back into prominence one special day down the road.

Reflection

Can you think of a time when God was working in your life to arrange a future event without you realizing it?  God is always working for good and will even use the foolish or harmful behavior of others to achieve His holy purposes.

One way that God reveals His presence around us is through “coincidences”, favorable things that happen in our lives or unlikely people we run into that we assume are just a matter of chance.  Yet over time, as more and more of these types of events occur, we realize that the hand of God is behind them.  Some have referred to these occasions as “God-incidences”.

Have you observed any “God-incidences” lately?

Lord, thank You for being present in our lives, for blessing us, and protecting us from evil.  Help us to walk a holy path, following You today and always.  Free us from harmful addictions and behaviors that bring heartache to ourselves and others.  May Your divine word burn within our hearts, strengthening us and encouraging us to live pure lives to reflect You and Your love to those around us.  We ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.