Question: "How can we express our doubt to God without offending Him (Malachi 2:17; 3:14-15)?"
Answer: God is not bothered by our questions, but He is angered when people accuse Him of wrongdoing. Malachi 2:17 says, “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?’” The Jews of Malachi’s day were attributing injustice to God, and God says He is weary of their allegations.
First, we should stipulate that God does not actually tire or grow weary in the physical sense. Isaiah 40:28 says, “The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary.” God describing Himself as “weary” is an anthropomorphism communicating His displeasure with Israel’s complaints. Israel’s question, “Where is the God of justice?” was a cynical and derisive statement of unbelief.
People today often level the same accusation at God. The question is frequently asked, “If God is good, why doesn’t He end the suffering in the world? Why does He allow evil? Why doesn’t God stop war, cure cancer, and end poverty?” Such questions are valid to a degree, but the Bible reveals God blesses both good and evil people (Matthew 5:45; Acts 14:17). Likewise, both the good and evil suffer due to sin (Genesis 3:16–19; Ecclesiastes 2:18–22). God even allows godly people to suffer (Job 1-2; 2 Timothy 3:12). However, true and lasting justice is coming. God will punish the wicked and reward His people perfectly in the afterlife (Job 21:7–26; 24:1–17; Psalm 73:1–14; Jeremiah 12:1–4). The people of Israel had forgotten that God ultimately blesses those who trust Him. Yes, those who practice evil may enjoy apparent success, but it is short-term (Psalm 1). Malachi 3:1–6 gives four predictions showing that God’s justice would certainly be revealed in the future.
In Malachi 3:14–15, the Israelites make a second accusation: “It is vain to serve God. What is the profit of our keeping his charge or of walking as in mourning before the LORD of hosts? And now we call the arrogant blessed. Evildoers not only prosper but they put God to the test and they escape.” Malachi lived during the post-exilic period, when many Jews had returned to Israel from Babylon. The Jews had seen the fulfillment of God’s promises to return them to the land and restore the temple worship. However, they felt that God was not blessing their religious efforts, and they claimed that God was blessing those who did evil rather than those who worshiped the Lord. They were saying, in so many words, “What’s the point of serving the Lord? Sinners do whatever they want and get away with it!”
There are two problems with this accusation. First, much of Israel’s worship of God had become hypocritical. Malachi’s prophecies were meant, in part, to correct the loveless, empty worship of the day.
Second, looking only for rewards in this life is shortsighted. Rather than acknowledge God’s ultimate justice and the eternal rewards, the Israelites sought earthly recompense for their worship. Today, this same attitude is seen in those who follow the prosperity gospel. Those who seek earthly gain in religion make the same mistake as the Jews of Malachi’s time. Scripture is filled with examples of faithful believers whose lives ended in poverty and who endured persecution. Jesus Himself did not have earthly riches. He spoke of storing up treasures in heaven (Matthew 6:19–20), something the Israelites of Malachi’s time had missed.
God is not bothered by our questions, but He is “wearied” when we petulantly accuse Him of injustice or when we claim that there is no benefit to worshiping the Lord. Such accusations reveal a lack of faith, and such claims take the short-term over the long-term, eternal view. We are to live by faith, and a lack of faith is wearisome to our God (Luke 9:41).
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