Have you ever wondered…how it is…that people who will lie, cheat, steal have great lives? By “Great” I mean from a material aspect. They have a nice house, a nice car, never have to worry about money. Now, this is not to say that the only people who have nice car’s, nice house’s and never have to worry about money are all liar’s cheaters, and thief’s (though all of us are some combination of that). You get my point. Anyway, sometimes it feels like people who hate GOD, or don’t even recognize that he is real are rewarded, while Christians sometimes are set to a life of mediocrity! For some reason I want to say that there is a jumping point here about being prosperous etc… Although I’ve done a lot of research on this topic over the last couple of weeks, I will avoid the prosperity gospel at this point and time. Right now I want to focus on one specific point…. Some people who hate God, appear to have exceptional lives.
I know that all of us have had this passing thought…why? Why do they get to have this while I work so hard to have average (the definition of success can be discussed at a later point) As it turns out… our questions are not unique in the history of the world they have been posed to God numerous times. As a matter of fact, a little known book (to me at least) Malachi 3 deals specifically with this issue:
13 “You have said harsh things against me,” says the LORD.
“Yet you ask, ‘What have we said against you?’
14 “You have said, ‘It is futile to serve God. What did we gain by carrying out his requirements and going about like mourners before the LORD Almighty? 15 But now we call the arrogant blessed. Certainly the evildoers prosper, and even those who challenge God escape.’ ”
16 Then those who feared the LORD talked with each other, and the LORD listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the LORD and honored his name.
17 “They will be mine,” says the LORD Almighty, “in the day when I make up my treasured possession. I will spare them, just as in compassion a man spares his son who serves him. 18 And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not.
Let’s look at this verse by verse.
In verse 13 God is talking to the Hebrew people. They had been complaining about why evil people prosper. Why those who do not fear the Lord have the appearance of being blessed. God finally responds in verse 13. When God responds the Jews are basically saying…”we didn’t say that!” This revealed their arrogance for sure. So, God clearly defines for them what they have been saying in verses 14 and 15.
Have you said those things when looking out into the world? I am guilty of this. When I look at places like Hollywood, pro-athletics, CEO’s or whatever… I wonder. I think a natural fit here is to look at James 4:4; “You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.” This is what the Hebrews were guilty of. The Hebrews wanted what the world had, and were wondering why God wasn’t giving it to them.
After God calls the Israelites out they respond. God makes a distinction about who He’s talking to in verse 16 when He addresses “Those who feared God”. God’s response in verse 17 is to those who fear God. He says that they will be mine in the day when I make up my treasured possession. I believe that here God is talking about His judgment. At the day of judgment we will be able to see the distinction between the good guys and the bad guys. If God considers you to be treasure He will take you up, and spare you. Those who have accepted His Son, Jesus, and only those who have accepted Him are considered God’s treasure. In other words, The Cross becomes ours and our way onto this list of remembrance. It is this way only…that we will be spared from judgment. An illustration of this judgment can be found in the parable of the wedding banquet. Here the King invites many to the banquet, but they refuse to come. When the King’s servants are mistreated by those who refuse…the King sends his out his military to destroy them. Such is the response in verse 18. God has sent the invitation to many to come to Him… some will refuse (those that do not fear God). They will perish. Because, as Jesus said in Matthew 22:14 “Many are invited, but few are chosen”.
What we are seeing is a very personal God who has heard the cries of His people. God reassures the Israelites (and ultimately you), that while you may have things hard, that your life may not be easy, and there is an appearance of impropriety in this world… there will be no impropriety on the day of judgment. It is here that through God we will again be able to see the difference between the righteous, and the wicked.