As I was sitting in the emergency room at George Washington hospital, I remember thinking how foolish I was to think that only my opinions mattered. When I went back stitched up, I struck up a conversation about God with my nurse. She told me that she did not like to talk about issues of faith, because she believed it was a personal matter. Yet the interesting thing was after she made the disclaimer that faith was personal, she started to talk about her own views of faith. Her faith could not have been characterized by any one recognizable faith, but rather it was the common view of spirituality where it was impossible to disagree.
Many individuals hold a view of personal faith which they believe can never be challenged. They say, “It’s just my opinion.” Personal autonomy has become the spirit of our age where everyone’s individual opinions cannot be challenged. In a January 2, 2012 article Mike Gershon says,
"Everyone is entitled to their opinion" – a refrain commonly heard in our society. We value free speech and the rights of the individual. The private preferences we keep, as long as they do not interfere with the rights and freedoms of others, are ours to do with as we wish. Children learn this central tenet early on and soon become adept at deploying it to suit their own purposes. The phrase "well it's just my opinion" can act as a get-out clause which avoids further questioning or the need to give an explanation. A student, when faced with the prospect of concerted thinking, may well prefer to put up a brick wall and so dodge the difficult task of providing a justification for their perspective. They know the sacred position freedom of speech holds for all of us; they know how to confound a questioner by calling this keystone to their defense; and they know the taboo around challenging the opinions of others when they do not impact adversely on anyone else.”
People no longer have to be thoughtful and consider the various arguments relating to an issue, but simply have to spout, “It’s just my opinion,” for no politically correct sane 21st century mind would dare say their opinion was wrong.
Can opinions be wrong? Does the simple fact that individuals can make statements mean that they are true? Another possible way to formulate the question is to say, “Is there truth?” If opinions can be wrong, they have to be wrong on the basis of that which is right. In an effort to be accepting of everyone’s opinion, we have lost the ability to articulate our justification for our opinions. Americans do not like to create complex arguments justifying our opinions, but rather love to simply state, “It’s just my opinion,” so then no one has the right to judge them. But what if opinions could be wrong?
We hope to answer that question through the last book in the Old Testament, Malachi. Malachi prophesied after the return from Babylon and after the temple had been completed under the preaching of Haggai and Zechariah. Several years following Zechariah, the devotion to God started to wane so God spoke to His people through Malachi, which simply means “messenger.” God spoke through Malachi to show the people that their opinions were wrong. God helped expose and correct the people’s wrong opinions about the world. I pray that as we study God’s Word spoken through Malachi, our wrong opinions would be exposed and corrected.
A Wrong Opinion of God
Malachi begins his prophecy exposing the faulty thinking that the people have in regards to God. Malachi 1:2-5,
“I have loved you,” says the LORD. But you say, “How have you loved us?” “Is not Esau Jacob's brother?” declares the LORD. “Yet I have loved Jacob but Esau I have hated. I have laid waste his hill country and left his heritage to jackals of the desert.” If Edom says, “We are shattered but we will rebuild the ruins,” the LORD of hosts says, “They may build, but I will tear down, and they will be called ‘the wicked country,’ and ‘the people with whom the LORD is angry forever.’” Your own eyes shall see this, and you shall say, “Great is the LORD beyond the border of Israel!”
The people did not see the Lord’s love for them. The Lord declared that He has loved them, but they are saying, “How have you loved us?” The Lord uses questions like these to show how their opinions were wrong. Just because the people were saying that the Lord had not demonstrated His love, did not make their words true. The Lord clearly had loved them, but tells them that in the future they shall see with their own eyes and say, “Great is the Lord beyond the border of Israel!”
The Bible believes in truth. God is the arbiter of what is true and what is false. One’s opinion of God is only true if it is proven in God’s Word. As Israel was corrected with a false view of God, we also should help challenge people to justify their opinions. As much as we hate to admit it, human beings are not the center of the universe. There is only One who is truly Great and always true. Romans 3:4,
Let God be true though every one were a liar, as it is written, “That you may be justified in your words, and prevail when you are judged.”
God is right and will be justified with His words. A wrong opinion of God will lead people to wrong opinions of a host of other issues.
A Wrong Opinion of Worship
As the nation did not understand God’s gracious and merciful love, they did not value the appropriate worship of God. The people were bringing sick and lame animals for the sacrifices. Instead of bringing their best animals, pure and unblemished, they were bringing the leftovers to God’s House. Malachi 1:6-8,
“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 to you, O priests, who despise my name. But you say, ‘How have we despised your name?’ By offering polluted food upon my altar. But you say, ‘How have we polluted you?’ By saying that the LORD's table may be despised. 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. (Malachi 1:6-8)
No one would enter the president’s house with a half-eaten snickers bar as a gift. When one enters a house of an honored and respected leader, one brings their best. The people were not bringing their best showing their lack of honor and respect for God. They showed that they did not value Him.
We do not have to worry about bringing God our best animals for the sacrifice, but we should still be bringing God our best. We should make God and God’s people our number one priority. It is amazing how easy it is to make an excuse to miss the gathering of the church. This past Sunday at church I was speaking with a young man’s mother about the church. And his mother was talking about an upcoming trip that should require an overnight visit, but the young man said that he was not planning on spending the night so that he would not miss being with his church. It did my heart good to see the sacrifice a young man was willing to make to bring God his best.
In my time at my church, I have seen countless examples of extreme sacrifice not to miss the gathering of the Lord. There will always be those who are quick to miss, but I pray that we would be like those who make God and the gathering of God’s people the number one priority in our life. Do not have the wrong opinion about worship. Bring God the best for His Name is Great, Malachi 1:11, 14,
For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name will be great among the nations, and in every place incense will be offered to my name, and a pure offering. For my name will be great among the nations, says the LORD of hosts. Cursed be the cheat who has a male in his flock, and vows it, and yet sacrifices to the Lord what is blemished. For I am a great King, says the LORD of hosts, and my name will be feared among the nations.
The Lord is not pleased with those who make great vows, yet sacrifice little. The Lord is the great King and deserves nothing, but the best. Are you giving God and His people your best? Now ask, “Would God agree with your opinion of the last question?”
A Wrong Opinion of the Clergy
The Lord established the tribe of Levi to bring true instruction to the people regarding God’s law so that they would stand in fear and reverence before the Lord. God sent His condemnation on the clergy for they were not doing as they ought. Malachi 2:7-9,
For the lips of a priest should guard knowledge, and people should seek instruction from his mouth, for he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts. But you have turned aside from the way. You have caused many to stumble by your instruction. You have corrupted the covenant of Levi, says the LORD of hosts, and so I make you despised and abased before all the people, inasmuch as you do not keep my ways but show partiality in your instruction.”
The priests were not standing strong before the Lord, but started to shift to give the people instruction that corrupted God’s Word.
Let me encourage you always to pray for your pastor to stand boldly behind God’s Word. And one of the best ways you can do that is to humbly receive His counsel. If pastors consistently face criticism, they will be tempted to bend the word to meet people’s desires. Paul warns Timothy,
For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. (2 Timothy 4:3-4)
People need the pure word of God, but they often desire teachers who suit their own passions. I try to make the main message of the text, the main message of my sermon. And it is interesting because I can almost pinpoint which people are going to respond favorably to the message based on the text. It is not that they do not want to endure sound teaching, but that they love when their passions are addressed. Pray for your pastor to cherish and love God’s Word more than the praise of men. Discover your passions and make sure they do not lead you away from the truth.
A Wrong Opinion of Giving
The Lord does not only address the leaders of the people, but He addresses the people themselves. They were not faithful to the Lord in their giving,
“For I the LORD do not change; therefore you, O children 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?’ Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you. 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. (Malachi 3:6-10)
It is a very interesting way to look at giving. If you do not give what God asks of you, you are stealing from Him. And in not giving, you are showing you do not trust God to provide for you. You cannot serve both God and Money.
Do you have the wrong opinion of your money? Do you view your money as yours or as God’s? Are you giving what God requires? Do you trust God’s provision? Do you trust God’s Word that it is more blessed to give than to receive? If we have the wrong opinion about money, we may be thieves. Not many people would break into someone’s house to take their things, but in withholding your money you are entering God’s house as a thief.
A Wrong Opinion of Marriage
Malachi continues to display how the people are living with the wrong opinions. He then attacks their handling of their marriages, Malachi 2:14b-16,
The LORD was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth. “For the man who does not love his wife but divorces her, says the LORD, the God of Israel, covers his garment with violence, says the LORD of hosts. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless.”
Godly offspring is a direct result of a godly marriage. The people were not guarding their spouses in faithfulness and thus they were not protecting their legacy with godliness. Marriage is very important in the eyes of God. Even Jesus say,
But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” (Mark 10:6-9)
There is nothing new under the sun. Marriage is important. Do you have the right or the wrong opinions on marriage? Guard yourself in your spirit, so that none of you are faithless towards your spouse.
A Wrong Opinion of Justice
People were seeing the wicked prosper and therefore questioned God’s justice. They were lying and giving the wrong opinions of reality. Malachi 2:17,
You have wearied the LORD with your words. But you say, “How have we wearied him?” By saying, “Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the LORD, and he delights in them.” Or by asking, “Where is the God of justice?”
People were seeing the wicked prosper and therefore questioned God’s justice. They were lying and giving the wrong opinions of reality. They were seeing wickedness rewarded and therefore interpreted that God was pleased with their actions. They were wrongly interpreting inaction as no action. The Lord was going to bring his justice, Malachi 3:1-2,
“Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner's fire and like fullers' soap. (Malachi 3:1-2)
God was preparing to bring justice. We need to always remember that we can only rightly interpret current events in light of future events promised by God’s Word.
Malachi ends his prophecy with a promise. The great and awesome day of the Lord is going to come, but before it does God is going to give people a chance to return to Him. Malachi 4:5-6,
“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.” (Malachi 4:5-6)
And with those words the Old Testament ends. The Old Testament does not end in despair, but hope. We know from Jesus that the one who came like Elijah was John the Baptist (Matthew 17:10-12). John the Baptist came to prepare the way for the Messiah calling people to repentance. His ministry was so powerful in turning the hearts of the people back to God that some thought he could have been the Messiah,
As the people were in expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Christ, John answered them all, saying, “I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. (Luke 3:15-16)
Jesus came and baptized people with the Holy Spirit and fire, yet only after He was baptized into death and was raised.
I love this hopeful end to the Old Testament, but I love even more the words of God telling us the reason for the Messiah to come. Malachi 3:17-18,
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. “They shall be mine, says the LORD of hosts, in the day when I make up my treasured possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him. Then once more you shall see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him. (Malachi 3:16-18)
The ones who esteem the name of the Lord and have the right opinion about Him, God says that we will make up His treasured possession and we shall be His. He will be our God and we will be His people.
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