You can’t fool God
Compared to chapter 2, the mood turns a little bit happier, but I still keep getting wrongfooted by the tone. It’s like a bad relationship, it’s the end of the old testament and God sounds tired.
The book is structured like a series of conversations between god and his people. But they are bad conversations, the ones when a relationship is under strain.
The prayers of the people sound to God like the unrealistic promises of the partner who has failed too many times.
He promises good things but even his covenants are turned to cynicism and futility, because people won’t be capable of benefiting from them.
Through all that there is hope, but only for a faithful few.
So it starts talking about the Messiah, like a ray of sun breaking through the clouds of the last chapter, but the sun can also burn… who can stand it’s heat? The dross will be burned away. Some will remain and be acceptable to God, but gods coming will be a terrible day of reckoning for many, the defrauders, the oppressors, the adulterers. Gulp. Hooray?
Then God accuses them if robbing him. “How?” they ask. By cheating on the tithe. A lavish promise follows of how abundantly overflowing the blessing will be if they test out faithful tithing. But they aren’t doing it.
He then accuses them of arrogance because they resent their religious observances when the irreligious keep prospering.
God is saying “I know you. Do you think I don’t see these things? You may be able to fool each other, even yourself, but you can’t hide your empty selfishness from me with fake religion and hypocritical respectability”
And there are some who respond, who accept the word. In the fullness of time it will be clear who they are, even if it’s not obvious now.
I keep visualising God here like Humphrey Bogart in those cynical film noirs. Femmes fatale and wise guys keep trying to put it over on him, but he always calls it out. Just when you think there is nothing but cynicism, there is exceptional tenderness for the real thing. All the more precious because it is so rare.