There’s that time in a relationship. Your partner or maybe your boss says “we have to talk”.
You are going to be dumped, or they have reached the end of their tether in some way. You are going to be fired. This book is sort of that talk between God and man. Yep, the old testament ends like that.
There’s lots of specific examples raised by God, of the people’s selfishness, injustice to each other and contempt for him. He finds the priests particularly toxic, because they are the people’s best hope to be taught better, but they are self serving and corrupt.
The people and the priests are so far from seeing his point of view that most of their responses are combative and belligerent. They throw God’s accusations back at him: “you haven’t loved us”, “you haven’t been fair or just to us”.
God sounds cynical, tired ‘You have wearied the Lord with your words.‘ he says at one point.
As the talk wears on, God goes from illustrating their inadequacies to saying what he’s going to do about it. Queue the searing fire and judgement. But his promise means he won’t forget them entirely still. ‘I never change’ he says, remembering the covenant.
He has a scroll with the names of the few who still have honest hearts, the little remnant of faithfulness, who are like gold to him. I thought: this is what Jesus referred to when he talked about storing up treasure in heaven.
The coming of the Messiah is both the sun that announces the change of season and the fire that burns up all that cannot stand before him. It’s like the saving Jesus and Judgement day Jesus rolled into one.
It ends with a promise of yet a further opportunity to repent: Elijah – does it refer to Jesus or John the Baptist? No wonder the disciples kept talking about Elijah. But it turns out he meant “an Elijah”.
The abiding image for me, the takeaway if you will, is not to give God shit.
This refers to God’s dialogue with the priests. For kickbacks, they allow the people to sacrifice the sick, weak animals that are worthless to them anyway. It stops it being any kind of sacrifice, it’s become a worthless animal disposal service.
Then they don’t even sacrifice them right. When God says he will rub the dung of their offerings in their faces, it’s because there shouldn’t be any. The system is supposed to have various processes to refine the offering so that God got the best, which he described as a sweet smell. The poo was supposed to be burned off already by the time it got to the final altar in the holy-of-holies.
And so with our Christianity. We don’t sacrifice animals, but God is interested in our hearts. Don’t give him shit.
2 expanding on the corruption of the priests, comparing Levi, the patriarch of the clan. They are pushing their own agenda, their own power, not servants of God. All believers are now priests.. simple application!
3 God speaks with cynicism and tenderness, like the end of a bad relationship where promises to improve can’t be believed. Jesus, the Messiah, breaks though the gloom like the sun, but the heat may be too much.