Saturday, October 27, 2012

Consider Your Ways (part 2 of 2)

When we busy ourselves with our own houses, consistently and proudly setting ourselves in opposition to others of God’s chosen and closing ranks around our creeds and traditions (as did Israel instead of being a light to the Gentiles), rather than busying ourselves with God’s house (which can be more properly understood as His kingdom and its blessings of eternal life and new creation in covenant with Christ) by consistently reaching out for purposes of discipleship, for showing care and compassion and concern, for preaching so that others of God’s chosen can have the Gospel revealed to them by God’s Holy Spirit working through us, our God responds by saying, “Therefore the heavens above you have withheld the dew, and the earth has withheld its produce” (1:10).  This makes for an unfruitful situation for sure. 

To that is added, “And I have called for a drought on the land and the hills, on the grain, the new wine, the oil, on what the ground brings forth, on man and beast, and on all their labors” (1:11).  For their sin of turning inwards and not being a light for the world as demanded by their covenant God, Israel was to be re-introduced to the curses that were to result from a failure to uphold the covenant that we find in Deuteronomy (see Deuteronomy 28:38-51).  Let us not forget that these cursing words of withholding and drought are the words of our God that does not change.   

On the other hand, how would God respond to their attention to and service of God’s Temple?  How would God respond to Israel’s being the light for God’s glorification?  For us, the question would be, what is God’s response for those that are about His business of preaching the Gospel, giving to the preaching of the Gospel for the ongoing establishment of His kingdom and the renewal, restoration, and re-creation of eternal life that is the powerful attendant of the message that Jesus is Lord?  For that answer, we turn to Malachi. 

In the third chapter, God’s cursing of His people is mentioned because Israel as a whole was not about God’s business but their own, so we read, “You are cursed with a curse” (3:9a).  However, in attending to the Temple, to their duty to be a light, and consequently to our duty as renewed Israel (God’s people under the new covenant in Christ) to be God’s image-bearers to God’s chosen of the nations and stewards of the creation that He is renewing through the power of the Resurrection that flows to and through us by the Holy Spirit, God says, “Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house.  And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.  I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of your soil, and your vine in the field shall not fail to bear, says the Lord of hosts.  Then all nations will call you blessed, for you will be a land of delight, says the Lord of hosts” (3:10-12). 

These verses are more than just a command and incentive to give tithes, but a command to be about God’s business, not isolated, not separated, not holding to barriers of tradition and creeds, but being a light, with God at work in us and through us, by the gift of faith for belief and the work that flows from that gift, to be the fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant to bless all the families of the earth.  Tending to the business of God’s covenant faithfulness, and to that which represents God’s covenant faithfulness, that being the message of the Gospel preached without hesitation or reservation so that all may hear, is what causes God to open the heavens, to reverse the curse.  By the preaching of the Gospel, as Christ’s reign and God’s kingdom are extended to the reaches that God intended, eternal life in Christ is extended, and through that renewing eternal life, God reverses the curse on His chosen people and on His good creation, bringing them out of the exile of the oppression of death that is the accompaniment of sin, to which all of mankind and all of creation have been subjected.

As we contemplate our role and responsibility as chosen ones of this kingdom and stewards of the business of our Lord, in light of the example that we find in Israel, the words of the prophet ring true: “Consider your ways.”       

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