“Do your best,” the apostle Paul writes to protégé Timothy, “Do your best to present yourself to God has one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). Paul is promoting a kind of eager, committed persistence for the...
Every once in a while I come across a very encouraging but overlooked verse in the Bible. It is usually tucked away in the writings of a rarely preached upon prophet or overshadowed by more impactful theology. I rarely hear it quoted, if at all.
No matter, it is a gem.
I ran into one of those verses recently while teaching on the last chapter and a half of Malachi. I had it underlined in my Bible, so I must have found it reassuring in the past. Imagine that. Here it is:
Then those who feared the Lord spoke with one another. The Lord paid attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who feared the Lord and esteemed his name. (Malachi 3:16)
Isn’t that delightful?
Malachi is the last book of the Old Testament. It was written to people who were waiting for God to move and who were a bit disappointed that he hadn’t. This verse follows God’s recap of the people’s complaints that there was nothing to be gained by following the Lord, that the arrogant were blessed and evildoers prospered (Malachi 3:14-15).
What’s the point?
The people, spiritually discouraged as they were, had limited God, and God didn’t want to speak of limits. He has no limits. God didn’t address their grievances directly. Instead, in the next verse, he countered the negative mood with his own gracious and sovereign perspective.
His response teaches us three truths that will help us when we fall into spiritual discouragement or are tempted to complain:
1. “Then those who feared the Lord spoke with one another.”
We live in a culture in which information is coming at us more quickly that we can handle. Visual News reports that “YouTube users upload 48 hours of video, Facebook users share 684,478 pieces of content, Instagram users share 3,600 new photos, and Tumblr sees 27,778 new posts published” every minute.
It is more important than ever that we speak with people who fear the Lord, who know his Word, and who follow him.
The negative and limited mood of our world will overwhelm us unless we counter it with those who know of a larger world, a better place, a completely just and righteous existence. Those who feared the Lord in Malachi’s day had conversations about what they knew to be true. We should, too.
2. “The Lord paid attention and heard them…”
I’ve had many conversations with people who fear the Lord about events in our culture and our world. These are not gripe sessions or political posturing – at least they shouldn’t be – but they are expressions of genuine concern over the way things are going. Most issues are complex and are so far beyond our power and ability to solve that the result is only frustration. Practically speaking, we can pray. That’s it.
The Lord will pay attention to these conversations. If we are dismayed about events in the larger culture, as the people in Malachi’s day were, the Lord knows our hearts and our opinions.
Ahem – this also gives me pause. I’m glad to hear that the Lord pays attention to some of my conversations. Others, well, not so much. Is there a delete button for the conversations that I am not proud of?
In fact, there is! It’s the amazing truth of the gospel. Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ will remove our sin from us as far as the east is from the west.
3. “…and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who feared the Lord and esteemed his name.”
God knows, and he will make a note of it in a book of remembrance. The text doesn’t say exactly what will be recorded. But the fact that there is a book in which “those who feared the Lord and esteemed his name” are written down is enough for me.
When the cultural mood gets you down, talk with someone who fears the Lord and esteems his name. Talk with them about what is encouraging and true. Malachi 3:16 teaches that God will make a note of it. Amazing.