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Nov 14 04

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“A Test in Two Directions”

Malachi 3:8-15

Study Guide for November 14, 2004

The (1)___________ usually presented their case as a trial.  There were (2) ____________ and (3) _______ _________ between God and the people. In Malachi there are (4) ____ disputes between God the people: In a time of spiritual ________________, Israel has grown weary of God and of keeping his covenant.

The disputes come in two sets of three.   The first set takes up the people’s (6) ______ complaint that God does not (7) ______ them anymore.  God’s counter charge is that the people show (8) ____________ for him.   The (9) __________ set deals with the peoples claim that God has done (10) __________ about evil and injustice.  God’s counter charge is that they have their own form of (11) _____________.

God responds to their first complaint that he doesn’t love them by asking them to look at what he has done to (12) _______ (their traditional enemy).  God responds that he can prove they don’t love him by the way they offer (13) ______, (14) ________ or (15) __________ sacrifices.  God was getting their leftovers.

The people’s second complaint is that evil doers are getting (16) _________ and they are not.  There is no justice anymore.   Their question was: “Where is the God of Justice?”  God’s response was their injustice in withholding their tithes and offerings were hurting the (17) ______.  That was injustice.

I think here is the (18) ______ that goes in both directions.  During the times of disillusionment, God was testing their willingness to be (19) ___________ to the covenant.  What he was offering them was an (20)_______________ to test him in return.

TEST GOD??  How dare you suggest such a thing!?!?  Doesn’t, in fact, (21) _______________ tell us NOT to test the Lord?  Yes, it does.  But the word there seems to be “testing” in the sense of a (22) ________ __________.  Remember how the kids sometimes would scream in the store until they got what they wanted?  The context and the word seem to suggest that kind of testing.  Exasperation!!

Yet, here in Malachi 3:10, God is saying to test.  While the previous context seems to involve exasperation, this one involves (23) ___________ in the sense of confirming God’s truthfulness.  This is when our children needed something but was afraid to ask and we tell them, “You should have asked and I would have proved my love for you.”  This is about confirming parental love.

I know we live in times of rising gas prices and the ripple effect that has on the total economy.  We seem content to live in the world of scarcity and fear.  In our post 911 world that is understandable.  But we need to live in the realm of God’s promise.

Even in times like this, God is testing the genuineness of our love.  God is testing the firmness of our commitment.  Will we allow him to prove his love for us?  Will we allow God to be God even in the area of our finances?

God’s complaint in the charge of robbery, was not only were they hording, but they were not allowing God to be God in their lives.

Do we trust God enough to test him in this manner?  By testing God in this manner, we are teaching our children to trust, we are ensuring the future of our ministries to the community, and we are affirming that God is indeed God.

Answers: 1.prophets. 2.charges. 3.counter charges. 4.six. 5. disillusionment.  6.basic  8.contempt. 9.second. 10. nothing. 11.injustice. 12.Edom. 13. lame. 14.sick. 15.stolen. 16.wealthy. 17.poor. 18.test. 

19. faithful. 20.opportunity. 21.Deuteronomy 6:16. 22.temper tantrum.  23.proving

Monday, November 15, 2004.  Sometimes we tell our kids, “Don’t you try me!” in the sense of testing limits or patience.  Other times, we tell them to “try me” in the sense of allowing us to fulfill a promise or keep our word.  When Deuteronomy 6:16 tells us not to “test” the Lord, it is in that first sense of pushing the limits.  But Malachi 3:6-12 tells the people to “test the Lord” in the sense of fulfilling a promise or keeping his word.  In a time of scarcity the people were withholding the tithe.  God challenges them to test divine generosity: While the people hoard their goods due to their fear of scarcity, God promises abundance.  Are we willing to allow God to prove his generosity to us or do we trust the FDIC more?

Tuesday, November 16, 2004.  We wish that God really understood what life in modern America is like.  Credit cards, mortgages, car payments (more than one), braces, dance class, doctor bills, rising gas prices, the threat of terrorism—what stress.  Remember, God does understand.  God lived among us for 30+years in Jesus and knows what the real world is like.  Terrorism is not a modern thing.  There were terrorists in their day that killed hundreds of people each year: They were called the zealots and the scarrii. Food, shelter, debts are nothing new; they had that in his days. As a matter of fact, a large portion of the books of Exodus and Leviticus deal with how to pay out a debt or to work with someone who owes you money.  What we need to understand is that our priorities order our lives.  If the kingdom is a priority, then all that we need, God will meet.  It is a matter of trust.  Matthew 6:19-34.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004.  Deuteronomy is one of my favorite books.  Deuteronomy 30 is a chapter full of promise.  We are told that the commandments are not too hard, or to high, in fact, the answer is found on our own mouths (vs 11-14).  We are told that the answer to the commandment is found in loving the Lord, walking in his ways, and obeying the commandments (vs 15-16).  We are also told that God has set before us a choice: life or death.  Life in the sense of walking in his ways, or death in our turning from him.  The answer is found in our own mouths: the word is in us and in our hearts.  What is our choice:  Will we trust ourselves or will we trust God.  The whole issue of money and the Christian life is one of trust and obedience.  In whom do we trust?

Thursday, November 18, 2004.  It is axiomatic that each generation thinks that they pay too many taxes.  I haven’t studied a lot about taxes in Israel in the times of Jesus, but I do know they paid a temple tax, the Romans had taxes of several items for pay for the troops stationed there and around the empire. Taxes are nothing new.  Jesus was faced with the issue.  Do we pay the tax to Rome or not?  His answer, Luke 20:20-26, was a model of simplicity.  Give to Rome what belongs to Rome; give to God what belongs to God.  It’s not a matter of either/or but of both.  We have obligations to Rome (the government, our creditors, etc) but we have obedience to God as well.  In our day, the balance is what is lacking.  When do we pay our debt to the state and when we do give our offerings to God?  Which comes first?  That answer should be easy in one sense: we are kingdom people and the kingdom comes first.

Friday, November 19, 2004.  In 2 Corinthians chapters 8-9 Paul is dealing with the collection for the saints in Jerusalem.  Jerusalem had been hit hard in a drought and needed help.  Paul’s gentile converts were being asked to help.  Why should they care about what happens in Jerusalem?  The answer is found in Romans 15:25-28: “Since the Gentiles have reaped spiritual blessings from the mother church, it is only fitting that they give material blessings in return.”  Notice what he says, the offering is not a command, but a “testing of the genuineness of your love against the earnestness (needs) of others” (8:8).  He compares the unselfishness of Jesus who left ‘riches’ to become ‘poor’ for us.  His point is that we should be as willing to give to others as God was to give Jesus to us.  Remember, he says, if you sow little, you reap little.  In these chapters, Paul is telling them, and us, to trust God and that if we obedient, God will provide for us.

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