In Tune with Torah – Tzav – April 7, 2017

Torah reading: Leviticus 6-8

Haftorah reading: Malachi 3: 4-24 (in the Hebrew Bible, the verses of chapter 4 in the   Christian Bible are part of Malachi 3 )

Mal3-6

For I, the Lord, do not change; therefore, you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed.  From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from My statutes and have not kept them. Return to Me and I will return to you,’ says the LORD of hosts.  But you say, ‘How shall we return?’  Malachi 3:6-7

Man is always changing his ways for man by  nature is not stable but easily influenced by circumstances and other people.  God’s ways do not change.

Man is always changing laws.  Things that were unthinkable in past generations are today commonplace. New laws, new ordinances are easily legislated. God’s laws do not change.

Man is capable of great love but too easily exchanges love for rejection when love puts a demand on his selfishness.  God’s Love never changes.

Man can be merciful towards others when it suits him but most of the time it doesn’t.  We are far more prone to be judgmental, critical, unforgiving and vengeful.  God’s mercy never changes.  To the very end, He gives mercy to us when we call upon His Name.

He heard the cries of the Israelite children.  Exodus 3: 7 And the LORD said, I have surely seen the affliction of my people which are in Egypt, and have heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters; for I know their sorrows;

God’s same  mercy is available and active today and will be for all time and eternity.

Man has limited patience and is easily annoyed and irritated.  God’s patience seems endless! Throughout history, His people have disobeyed laws, but He is always ready to take us back.  Sadly, many people turn their backs on forgiveness and restoration because they refuse to admit their sin. God is always ready to return to us if we are ready to return to Him.

Man must choose to give of himself, of his money, of his time.  It is often a struggle for us to give for by nature, we tend to hoard to ourselves what is ours.  God is a giver; He causes the sun to shine on the righteous and the unrighteous; He provides seed for the sower and bread for food, as the scripture says. Every breath we take is a gift from God. His care and provision over us, even when we take it for granted and don’t give a thought to thanking Him, His giving continues.

But you say, ‘How shall we return?’ Malachi 3:7

The answer to that question is already outlined in the paragraphs above.  How do we return to God? By doing as He does.  But in order to do so, there must first be repentance.

Now we often think of repentance in a ‘chopped-up’ fashion.  For example, we assign repentance to our duty after committing a specific sin.  I submit to you that what God is looking for is a much broader repentance.  His great commandment in Leviticus 19:2 is:

You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy. 

Our greatest reason to repent is that by our day to day lifestyle we have not reflected the holiness of God.  This is the bigger picture.  Each individual sin is important – yes! Each individual failure requires our repentance – yes! But if we fail to live in view of the all encompassing commandment ‘to be holy as He is holy’, we spend our lives in what I call segmented repentance – a little bit here and a little bit there.

If instead, we see the admonition of Malachi to ‘return to the LORD’ from a greater perspective, it will propel us to live a repentant life; that is, that repentance is a mindset that recognizes each failure not only for its intrinsic rebellion against God, but as part of the bigger picture: I have failed to reflect the holiness of my God. 

This is at the heart of Malachi’s answer to the people who asked, ‘But how do we return?’ They were thinking in terms of a list. Do this – do not do that.

Malachi says instead: Will a man rob God?  Yes, he goes on to speak about tithes and offerings but it’s not about the money, it’s about their attitude. God doesn’t need anybody’s money! What He wants is your heart – that your greatest desire would be to reflect Him and His Holiness.  Giving is one way of overcoming our self-centeredness and making us more like Him.

He also addresses their arrogance.  Your words have been arrogant against Me…you have said, It is vain to serve God and what profit is there in keeping His commandments?  Malachi 3:13-14

This is perhaps one of the most heartbreaking accusations God could ever levy at any of us.  It reveals an attitude of self-centeredness in serving God.  In effect they had said, ‘Why should I bother serving God when He hasn’t done what I want?’

In modern days that attitude is often phrased as ‘If there’s a God how could…..this have happened to me?’  I ask you: Does God exist to satisfy our every whim?

Or do we exist to bring glory to Him?

In Tune with Torah this week = taking time to reflect on our own attitudes and ‘return’ to the basic reason why we are alive today: to bring honor and glory to our God by reflecting in our own lives His love, His patience, His mercy, His giving, His holiness.

I, the Lord, do not change. 

But we must.

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