If you were here last week, one of the things I said was that it is important that the people charged with passing on God’s word, God’s message to his people, do not duck or modify the things that God has to say but that are hard for us to accept or hear. Then we come from there to the material before us this morning, and I am immediately met with a passage that it is extremely tempting to skip, and to jump straight from halfway through Malachi 2 to the beginning of chapter 3.
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Don’t you hate the politician’s answer? They don’t give you a straight answer to the question they’ve just been asked, because they worry about what you will think of them if they do.
When people who teach about God do this, it is tragic, because if there is a God nothing matters more than knowing what he’s like, than knowing what he requires of us, than knowing how we can get to be in his good books, than being able to be certain that we are in his good books and so we are secure for eternity.
We’re continuing to look at the gap that there is between God’s great love for, us his blessings to us, and our response to that.
It’s a good thing to think about at harvest time, because harvest is when we call to mind the rich blessings that God gives us in so many dimensions and areas of life. To do that, and then to look at what our response both should be and is, is a very fitting exercise to do.
So, we’re looking this morning at the mismatch between God’s great love for us, and our response to that love. So: I know in myself that God’s love is really very great. It’s a very big and wonderful thing. But if you were to read how much God loves us from how I respond to him, you would not get the impression that God’s love is very big and very wonderful. There’s this gap which is a big gap, and that’s what we’re thinking about.
That Bible reading is set in the world of animal sacrifice which means it seems a bit remote. It's hard for us to relate to, to connect to. We don't have animal sacrifices today and hopefully most of you think that's a very good thing indeed.
“Do you love me?”
It’s a question we sometimes ask of each other. We question the way someone acts towards us. Does this person really love me?
We ask it of God as well. When life takes a sour turn, or is just plain flat. When tragic illness strikes, or you lose your job. “God, do you love me?”
That’s the question we’re asking this morning, as we look at the opening verses of the book of Malachi.
Malachi is the last book of the Old Testament.
Have you ever felt as if everything is against you? As if everything you touch goes wrong? As if you’re experiencing difficulties from which there is no way out? Felt the pressure of people who are determined to stand in your way and make your life difficult, and you’re just powerless to clear your own path?
I know some of you have been there, because you’ve shared that with me. I’ve certainly been there.
It can be a black place to be, hemmed in, with others deliberately making things difficult.
Most people would appreciate some help when it comes to praying.
Many of us doubt whether God hears us if we pray. Many of us are unsure what we ought to pray for. Which means many of us don’t.
If you were here last week, we began a journey through the first few chapters in the book of Psalms. Psalms is part of the Bible, which means it’s God’s word to us. But unusually, it also contains our words to God. It’s a collection of hymns and prayers, for the people of God, all down the ages. It’s God giving us words to pray, and words to sing.
“Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray thee, Lord, my soul to keep; If I should die before I wake, I pray thee, Lord, my soul to take.”
At 13, I started at a new school. My parent were abroad, so it was a boarding school. And one of my new friends had been taught by his parents to pray that prayer every night.
It’s not a bad prayer as it happens. But it’s clearly a child’s prayer.
For an adult, life is messy and complicated. And we need a prayer life that is fit for the real world.
Many of us don’t pray. Or if we do, we’re unsure what we ought to pray for.