(a meditation in Malachi 1)
“I have loved you,” says the Lord.
“How have you loved us?”
How dare the question even enter our minds? We try to pierce you through with the sharp sarcasm of our tongue. How? How? The fact that you would answer such an obtuse question is sheer grace and mercy, Lord. Such an insincere, ungrateful, presumptuous word: How?
As if your love has not been proved in a thousand different ways everyday. As if every new sunrise is not proof enough of your love. As if every heartbeat and breath and your constant watch and care over our fragile, finite bodies is not enough, you have the compassionate patience to engender a response to our retort:
“Is not Esau Jacob’s brother?” declares the Lord. “Yet I have loved Jacob but Esau I have hated.”
Of all the peoples who walk the earth, of all the nations who worship blind, mute, deaf, impotent idols, we alone have been selected to have our eyes opened and our ears unstopped and our hearts made new. We alone have been selected as the specific object of your salvation, deliverance, love, favor, affection, and provision…yet we have the audacity to utter the words…
How have you loved us?
“A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am a father, where is my honor? And if I am a master, where is my fear?” says the Lord of hosts.
“How have we despised your name?”
Once again, that infernal word rises in our proud hearts: How? As if we don’t know. As if the truth can be hidden behind our loosely knitted fig leaves. As if the guilt and shame does not well up in our own hearts even as the words croak from our lumpy throat: How?
There is no more perfect Father in all of history, in all of heaven and earth, no better Lord to serve than the one who willingly delivered himself up for us all. And yet we consider it a burden to honor the Father who sent his own Son to die on a cross so that we could become the children of God. We moan at the light burden our Lord lays upon us–a burden to do his will, to follow in his footsteps, indeed, a burden that strengthens our hands, our heads, our hearts with the very joy of the Lord. Ah, yes.
“What a weariness this is!”
We snort at the Lord of hosts, the one who could at any moment send down wrath and fire from heaven to consume us, and yet he doesn’t because he exhausted all of his judgment toward us upon his own Son on the cross.
What a weariness this truly is to have to serve a Savior who came not to be served but to serve.
What a weariness it is to have to be a part of his people.
What a weariness it is to have to tell others about the crucified Christ.
What a weariness it is to have to worship with his people every Sunday.
What a weariness it is to have to hear, all over again, how the Lord delivered his own glory into the hands of his enemies to save rebellious wretches like us.
What a weariness it is to have to love our neighbor.
What a weariness that we now have to use his good, extravagant, undeserved gifts to serve anyone other than ourselves.
What a weariness, indeed.
Dear God, forgive the wicked meditations of our heart! In our darkest hour, we question your goodness, take for granted your salvation, and believe the lie that it is a weariness to be redeemed, sanctified, and purified to offer our own lives in worship and service to you! Forgive us! Cleanse our minds from such unthankfulness and scornful arrogance! Restore to us the love we had at first, the joy that it was to know that better it is to be a doorkeeper in the house of the Lord than a prince in the tents of the wicked!
“How have we polluted you?”
“When you offer blind animals in sacrifice, is that not evil? And when you offer those that are lame or sick, is that not evil? Present that to your governor; will he accept you or show you favor?” says the Lord of hosts.
We ask how when we know the truth! We’ve given you the bits and pieces, the picked over time and effort, the last of our energies, the bottom of our barrels. We give our bosses respect and hard work, but to the Lord of the Universe we offer a few minutes before we fall asleep. We give you our sickly minutes, time riddled through with distractions. We bring to you our worries and complaints but never our praise. We offer up to you our grumblings and our attitudes but never our undivided attention, our adoration, our worship.
And then we have the audacity to ask how! As if you ought to be satisfied with the parts of our lives that are about to be scraped into the trash–the leftovers. How dare we! How could we ever think such paltry offerings would be anything other than a slap in your face?
“For I am a great King,” says the Lord of hosts, “and my name will be feared among the nations.”
Dear Lord, forgive us. Pierce us anew. Show us how our half-hearted, patronizing, perfunctory worship is actually more degrading to your glory and honor than no worship at all! Cause us to fall afresh before you throne crying out for mercy and grace! Show us your holiness and glory. Bend us, lay us low, make us like the humble beast you rode into Jerusalem. We are jackasses, all of us. Close our mouths.
May the nations know the greatest of our King!