12. Spiritual Apathy: Malachi
Micah wakes us up the reality of our often apathetic spiritual state and revitalizes us with the truth of God’s persevering love.
For behold, the day is coming, burning like a furnace; and all the arrogant and every evildoer will be chaff; and the day that is coming will set them ablaze,” says the Lord of hosts, “so that it will leave them neither root nor branch.” “But for you who fear My name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings; and you will go forth and skip about like calves from the stall.” -Malachi 4:1-2
At the time of Malachi, 100 years have passed since Israel’s exile, a consequence for their sin meant to draw them back to God. But sadly, the Israelites are just as hard-hearted as their ancestors before the exile. Nothing has changed.
The Israelite prophet Malachi seeks to wake his people up to the crisis of their spiritual state. He presents a series of discourses between God and Israel. Through this exchange, the reality of the peoples’ attitude toward God is revealed:
“God don’t really love us”
“It’s not a big deal if worship isn’t a priority in my life”
“Who cares if we offer God our leftovers rather than our best”
“It’s pointless to serve God in this world if you really want to prosper”
“How you live doesn’t matter because God is too nice to judge”
God perseveres in pursuing his people in the face of their accusations and indifference. He reminds Israel that he chose their forefather Jacob despite his sin, so Israel’s own sin cannot make God give up on them. He tells the Israelites that the final destiny for those who repent and return to him is one of peace and blessing. “For you who fear My name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings,” God says in Malachi 4:2. But God also warns them of the consequence of their persistent rebellion. Those who are not faithful will face destruction in the end. “The day is coming,” God says, “Burning like a furnace; and all the arrogant and every evildoer will be chaff; and the day that is coming will set them ablaze.”
The light Malachi sheds upon the waywardness of Israel’s heart spills over to reveal the frequent state of our own hearts. Like the Israelites, how often do we sin and then simply shrug our shoulders? “Everyone’s doing it. God’s going to forgive me anyways,” we reason. How often do we spend the best of our energy, resources and time, and then give the measly leftovers to God? “I’ll prioritize my relationship with God later in life. Right now he’s not going to give me what I really want.”
It is forgetting God’s great love that lies at the root of spiritual apathy. When we lose sight of it, we chase after things we believe are better than God. This is why, in Malachi, God begins his message with a proclamation of his love! It is why, even in his pronouncement of judgment, God lovingly provides hope! He declares to Israel that he will send a messenger who will prepare the way for God himself to come to them.
Do you see streaks of apathy in your walk with God? What lies about God might be hardening you from receiving his love?
“God must be so disappointed in me”
“God has more important things than me to tend to”
“God could never get past the sin in my life”
In the face of these lies, this book, fulfilled in Christ, points us to truth: The prophesied messenger in Malachi came in the person of John the Baptist, who prepared the way for Jesus himself. Instead of bringing judgment upon his unfaithful people, Jesus bore our judgment! On the cross, he was consumed in Micah’s prophesied furnace of God’s wrath!
Because Jesus took on all the punishment for sin, there is nothing left to be paid. If you are in Christ, nothing can separate you from his unconditional love for you. Through our sin and denial, God perseveres. He loves his people to the end.
Holding fast to this love is where we find our cure to spiritual apathy.
RESPOND: Take a moment to go to God and ask him to soften your heart to more fully believe in and receive his love.