Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore, let us go forth to him outside the camp, bearing his reproach. For we have no continuing city here, but we seek one to come.
Select a thought to read by choosing a collection, the month, and then the day:
“The burden of the word of the Lord to Israel by Malachi.”
God made at least seven comments to Israel through Malachi, to which His people responded with haughty, indignant questions, challenging His wisdom and justice. God’s words were simple and true, but by that time in Israel’s history, they had been so badly taught by their ministers that even simple truth was too much for them to bear.
“I have loved you, saith the LORD. Yet ye say, ‘Wherein have you loved us?’ ”
It makes life so much more pleasant when we feel loved, especially when we feel loved by our heavenly Father. That is the special feeling that the Devil stole from Eve when she was innocent and happy in the Garden of Eden. He planted the suggestion in her mind that the motive for the commandments that God gave Adam was not love but self-aggrandizement. When she took the poisoned bait, she lost her sense of security and, so, undertook to protect herself from God’s commandments and to look out for her own well being, instead of innocently trusting and obeying God as she and Adam had always done.
False teaching has the same ruinous effect on God’s children. Somehow, wrong doctrines have a way of stealing from the children of God that special feeling of being cared for by God. And when we do not feel so loved, when we begin to be suspicious of God’s motives for the commandments He gives, then we begin to look for wisdom and security in places suggested by Satan’s ministers rather than in the way of our heavenly Father alone.
When Malachi came preaching to God’s children, they had been so long under the influence of false teachers that they could not remember ever feeling especially loved by God. When the Lord said through the prophet, “I have loved you!”, they replied, “Wherein have you loved us?” Malachi must have been stunned by such a response, but in reply to their question, God said, in effect, “Let’s start with my choosing you in the beginning to be mine.” Think about that. God’s love went back in time to before the people of Israel even existed!
Do you no longer feel loved by your Father? Are you asking, “How has God loved me?” To begin with, dear brother, He loved you and chose you to be His before the creation of this world. Before He even said, “Let there be light!”, you were in His heart. You came first into His heart, and this vast universe, and everything in it, came afterward. You are more sacred to His heart than are the angels, the seraphim, and the cherubim. Start with that one truth. Meditate on it, and then see if the feelings of being special to God begin again to fill your heart.
You were not an afterthought in God’s creation; you were the crowning achievement and a principle reason for it. You, above all creatures, are special to God because you alone were created in His own image. It is true that God created man on the last of His six days of creation labor, but that was only because He wanted everything to be beautiful and prepared for you when you took your first breath. He created the open fields and streams, the woodlands and stars, and all manner of beautiful creatures for you to enjoy when you first opened your eyes. Has He not loved us?
But more than that, He also chose you, out of all the people on earth, to be His people, to be His light for fallen men, to be His witnesses to those who have lost their way. And through His Spirit, He has given us “all things that pertain to life and peace” so that we can accomplish His will as we live here among unbelieving, and even hostile, family and friends.
The true love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the holy Ghost that God has given to us (Rom. 5:5). Have we not been loved if we have been baptized by the holy Ghost into Christ? But what if instead of being encouraged to rejoice in that truth, one of Satan’s ministers has persuaded you to believe that the holy Ghost baptism is not essential for your salvation? Then you will also have to believe that the feelings the holy Ghost creates in you when it comes are also not essential. Those who ignorantly follow the teachers who tell them that they were born again before they were baptized into Christ by the holy Ghost will eventually feel no difference between themselves and those without the Spirit. They will drift ever farther from the reality of being and feeling especially loved by God.
God’s people (those with the holy Ghost baptism) who choose to continue to be a part of the religion of Christianity and to sit under false teachers will eventually find themselves asking, “What is so special about us?” Or, as it reads in Malachi, “How has He loved us?” When someone with the holy Ghost asks, “What’s so special about us?”, what that brother or sister is really asking is, “What is so special about receiving the holy Ghost?” The holy Ghost is God’s witness of His love for you. Satan envies it. The world misunderstands it. The flesh wages war against it. And this happens because the holy Ghost isn’t for Satan, or for the world, or for the flesh. It is for YOU, the one God loves.
This is how it was in Malachi’s day, the only difference being that instead of the holy Ghost being poured out, it was the law of Moses that had been given. God didn’t give it to Satan or to the world (though foreigners were welcome to come repent and have a part in it). The Law was only given to the chosen people, the circumcised nation of Israel. It was the greatest evidence to Israel of God’s special love for them. When God first “proposed” to Israel that she be His special people, He said it this way: “You have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now, therefore, if you will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then you shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people, for all the earth is mine. And you shall be unto me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Ex. 19:4-6).
But later, when Israel was persuaded to think that the Law God gave them was not special, but that other nations had equally good ideas about right and wrong and other ways of worship that were just as valid, they lost their sense of being special to God. Their feelings of security and of joy and of being specially chosen and loved by God were directly correspondent to their attitude toward the holy Law that God had given to them.
So, today, our feelings of security and of joy and of being specially chosen and loved by God are directly correspondent to our attitude toward the holy Ghost that God has given us. The men and women who are teaching that the holy Ghost baptism is a secondary blessing do not know what they are doing to God’s children who trust their words. They do not know where that doctrine came from. I believe, though I cannot say for certain, that if those teachers knew where that doctrine came from, they would stop teaching it. I certainly hope they would. But I do know for certain that it is evil and that it diminishes the saints’ sense of being specially loved, and that makes life on this wicked planet much more confusing for them, and much less bearable.
People all over the world are taught to say and to claim that they know that God loves them. But the feeling within of truly being special to God is created only by the holy Spirit of God that is given to those who truly believe the gospel and repent of their sins. If you have that inner sense of being especially chosen, honored, and loved by God, it is only because your attitude toward the holy Ghost that you have from God is one of reverence and gratitude. If we honor the Father and esteem His holy Spirit as “a pearl of great price”, then we will feel honored to have it within us and will have an humble sense of being special to God.
If, on the other hand, we are persuaded of doctrines which say that all who claim to belong to God are special to our heavenly Father, we cannot hold on to our sense of being precious to Jesus. And in time, we will find ourselves, with wrinkled brow, looking skeptically and proudly into the eyes of a servant of God, and asking, “How has he loved us?”