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What Christians need: Grace, Peace…and Titus? Titus 1:1-4, Part 5

14 Jun

What do you need? A million bucks? I often daydream about how a million dollars would free up my life. But that’s not really what I need. What do we need? We conclude this week’s blog posts on Titus 1:1-4 today looking at what Christians need.

If you haven’t read the previous four posts, I encourage you to pause reading this one, and jump back to part 1 and start there. The previous posts will set the stage for this one.

Then turn to Titus chapter 1, verse 4, and you’ll see that the author of this letter, Paul, mentions a name: Titus. Who is Titus?  Titus is the guy that PUal is writing to, and in the previous posts we saw that Titus was one of Paul’s most trusted associates in ministry. Paul dispatched Titus to go to the Island of Crete in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, where previously they had traveled and helped establish churches. Titus has a mission to help those churches, a mission that we will learn about much more next week when we study Titus 1:5-9. For now Paul greets Titus in this letter, calling him, “My true son in our common faith.”

Titus was not Paul’s biological son, but instead Paul led him to faith in faith in Jesus.  Paul was his spiritual father.  Fascinating, isn’t it, that we can have sons and daughters in the faith?  Paul had reached out to Titus to help him understand that there is hope in Jesus.

Who is your Paul?  Who is your Titus?

Church attendance across the country is declining.  People are less and less interested in Christ.

What do we do?

Some stats say that 80% of people who are invited to church will say yes, especially if you commit to be there with them, pick them, go out for breakfast, and then go to the worship service together.  But a vibrant relationship with Jesus is about much more than one hour per week at a worship service.  Paul calls Titus a son.  That’s a deep family word that means Paul was deeply invested in Timothy’s life.

Faith Church recently had an excellent Discipleship Training session, and our trainer, Clint led us to conclude that discipleship involves the following: Meet weekly with a few other people to study and apply the Scriptures with the aim of multiplication. Here is what each part of that description looks like.

Meeting weekly – needs at least this frequency to build momentum and relationship

With a few other people – beyond 3-5 people is too large. Also team up and have two leaders. Recommend same gendered groups.

Study & applying the Scriptures – the Bible is essential to disciple-making.

With the aim of multiplication – keep growing and splitting the group.  Initial group can be to study one book of the Bible, and then re-eval.  But have heart to grow.

And what does Paul say to Timothy?  He starts with “Grace and Peace,” a very typical Pauline greeting.  What does Paul mean?  Why does he share this?  Is it just perfunctory?

Grace is defined as “a favorable attitude toward someone or something—‘favor, good will.’ (Louw & Nida).  Paul is saying to Titus, “may you have favor, may you have good will.”

And may you have peace, which is defined as “a set of favorable circumstances involving peace and tranquility.” (Louw & Nida) Sounds very good, right?

Grace and Peace.  We need that. 

Notice that these are not grace and peace from Paul.  Instead Paul says that the grace and peace are from God our Father and Christ Jesus our Savior.

Though Paul calls Titus his son, he properly refers to God as their Father.  Paul is not truly father to Titus.  God is father of them both. 

And from God, from Jesus, there is grace and peace.

Let those words settle on your heart and mind today.  In one sense it was just a customary greeting.  In another sense, there is something deep and important grace and peace.  We need grace and peace from God.

I’m reading the story of Brian Johnson of Bethel Music, and his struggle with anxiety.  He said that it was a struggle for him as a child, but for 15 years he experienced grace and peace, until adult life and ministry got intense, especially as Bethel Music started growing.  The anxiety returned.  Maybe you’ve felt that with work, with raising a family, with finances, with school, with friendships.  There are many pressures in the world.  Do you need grace and peace? 

Paul reminds Titus that grace and peace are rooted in God our Father and Christ Jesus our Savior.  Brian Johnson says that for him, in the moment of panic and anxiety, that is when God became real.  I sense Paul would say the same thing.  Jesus is the truth, and in Christ alone we have the source of grace and peace.  Turn to him in prayer, in his Word, not alone, with others (with your Titus!). Turn to Jesus, the source of grace and peace.

God wants me to be happy, not angry, and never to doubt? [False ideas Christians believe about…God’s desires for Christians. Part 4]

28 Mar
Photo by Bruce Mars on Unsplash

In 1 Timothy 3:12 we read that “all those who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”  Woah.  Maybe God doesn’t want us to be happy, and only cares about us becoming godly or holy, even if it takes us being persecuted? How are we to understand this?

Does God want us to be happy?  It sure seems like he would, right?

In this series of posts we’re fact-checking common phrases Christians believe, and in this post there are two phrase: “God isn’t interested in making you happy; he’s interested in making you holy.”  VERSUS “God always wants me to be happy.” Which is it? This takes some explaining.

First of all, God is most interested in our character, in our heart.  And sometimes going through trials is the way to get to our heart.  But as we have seen in previous posts in this series, the trials we go through are not necessarily from God.  The world is broken and fallen, and we will have troubles in this world.  God can redeem those struggles, though, as we strive to follow him in middle of our troubles.  And he promises that he will be with us always.  The result is that we do often grow in godliness during difficult times. 

But can we grow in holiness through joy and plenty and comfort?  Yes.  That’s why a life of spiritual practices and habits is so important.  God calls us to pursue practices like prayer, biblical meditation, silent listening, generosity, and disciple-making all the time, not matter if life is going great or if it is really difficult. 

So the phrase “God isn’t interested in making you happy” is wrong.  God DOES want us to be happy!

Remember the festivals in Deuteronomy?  God embedded happiness and celebration in the life of the nation of Israel.  Ecclesiastes talks about enjoying life.  Philippians says “Rejoice in the Lord always!”  And James 1:2-4, says “Consider it joy when you face trials of many kinds.”

It is very hard to feel joy in the middle of the pain. 

Is there a difference between happiness and joy?  Can we be joyful while being unhappy? 

Happiness is fleeting.  Joy is a choice.  It can be hard to distinguish the two.  Especially for those who struggle with anxiety.  “Consider it joy?”  This means that you can use your mind to control your emotions.   Happiness is an emotion, and emotions do not always tell you the truth.

So we need to remember verses like Psalm 46:1 “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.  Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea.” 

The song “Just Be Held” by Casting Crowns speaks to this when it envisions God saying to us, “if your eyes are on the storm, you’ll wonder if I love you still, but if your eyes on the cross, you’ll know I always have and always will.”   

Isn’t that so similar to the lamenters in Psalms?  In the pain they turned and ran to the Lord rather than running away from him.  And when they ran to him, they brought all their pain and doubt and anger to him.

And that is a great lead-in to the next phrase we’re fact-checking:God is not OK with doubt and anger.

We’ve referred to James 1 already.  Take a look at verse 6.   “When he asks he must believe and not doubt”?  Wait, is doubt wrong?  And later in verse 19, “be slow to anger, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life God desires.”  So doubt and anger are wrong?  Or are they?

Read the psalms, the laments.  In them you’ll find gut-wrenching doubt and anger.  Raw pain. 

That means we can also declare that this is a false idea.  God is absolutely okay with doubt and anger. 

Saying that God is not okay with doubt is potentially dangerous, making it seem like a good Christian should never struggle with doubt. There is a sense in which God doesn’t want us to doubt.  He wants us to trust in him.   We should have faith in him.  But even then, we have to remember the promise of 2 Timothy 2:13, “if we are faithless, he is faithful for he cannot disown himself.”

In Mark 9:17, we read a fascinating story that relates to doubt.  The disciples were trying to cast a demon out of a boy, but to no avail.  The father of the boy brought him to Jesus to help.

Notice the father’s response to Jesus: “I do believe, help me overcome my unbelief.” We all doubt, and we all get angry.  Remember that there is nothing that can separate us from the Love of God.  But God’s gracious love for us should also not be an excuse to just stay in our doubt or anger.  Instead, God’s grace should motivate us, make us grateful, to trust in him and allow our anger to subside.  If you have an anger problem that keeps popping up, and you can’t control it, I urge you to get professional help.  It’s not okay to be angry and damage people. 

This too shall pass? [False ideas Christians believe about…difficulty. Part 4]

14 Mar
Photo by Cristofer Jeschke on Unsplash

Are the difficult times in life good or bad? You might read that and think, “How could difficult times ever be good?” Well, when we experience suffering, we tend to feel more helpless and needy and thus we pray more. Increased levels of communication with God, as with any relationship in which greater communication almost always results in being closer to the person, leads to a good change: increased intimacy with God. Maybe difficult times, then, are good? 

So many of us have experienced a deep closeness with God during the hard times.  Therefore, we sometimes say that the phrase, “During times of suffering, you’ll be closer to God.” But is it true?

What we have seen in this series fact-checking phrases that Christians commonly believe is that, like the two-liner statements in the biblical Proverbs, many of these phrases are not guaranteed promises, but they are statements that are generally true.  The same can be said about “during suffering, you’ll be closer to God.”

While generally true, we need to see that this statement is sometimes false, given that some people have gone through suffering and lost their faith!  So this statement is not a promise.  Suffering often brings us closer to God, but it also sometimes crushes faith.  We need to be very sensitive to that.  Many people in the midst of suffering are having a crisis of faith.  God gave us free will, and there are many responses to difficult circumstances.

And that brings us to our next statement.  When people are in the midst of suffering, we say, “This too shall pass.”

How many of you say this?  Or have heard it said?  It is a go-to phrase for many. Is it in the Bible?  Nope. So why do people say this?

Because people in the midst of struggle are really having a hard time, and they need hope.  So we tell them “this too shall pass,” trying too give them hope that the pain will eventually finish.  But is that true? 

Generally, yes.  Most difficult times have an end date.  Yet in the midst of the difficulty, it is very, very hard for us to be comforted by a possible good future.  We are in the pain now, and we can think that the rest of our lives will be this way.

So there is a tension in the reality of life. Whether it is a health situation or a financial situation or a difficult relationship, it is generally true that they almost always pass, get resolved. But not always. Look, for example, at 2 Corinthians 4:16-18.  Paul reminds us that our troubles will all pass. Here’s the thing thought: the pain might not be done until we die and are pain-free in heaven.  But it will pass. 

That is a harsh reality…this too might not pass until we die.

One of my first acts as senior pastor was to gather a bunch of people to meet with an elderly man in our congregation to pray for him and anoint him with oil.  He was sick and was hoping and praying for healing, and God did not answer that prayer for healing.  James 5 even says that God will heal.  Instead, a few months later that man passed away.  The sickness did not pass on this side of heaven.  Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians that he, himself, had what he called a “thorn in the flesh” and he asked God numerous times to take it away.  We don’t know what the thorn was.  Could be a broken relationship.  Could be a health problem.  Could be an enemy.  But God never takes it away from Paul. 

So again, we have a proverbial phrase.  Pain generally will pass and things will go back to normal.  There are most often seasons in life.  And seasons come and go.  Writing this in the northeastern United States in early March, I am personally ready for the warmer temps of spring!  In parenting, there are seasons.  We recently had an interesting conversation with one of our college-age sons.  He was home for a visit, and somehow we got to talking about these seasons in life.  My wife mentioned that once our kids turned 12-15 years old, we as parents suddenly lost most of our knowledge and became dumb and irrelevant.  But once the kids turned 19-20, we parents amazingly became smart again!  There are seasons, and the statement “this too shall pass” reflects how that is generally true.  Most often, the difficulty comes and goes. 

But not always.  So again, be sensitive to those in pain.  They are in the middle, struggling.  Encourage them and be with them in the pain.  But, do not give false promise that it will guaranteed be taken away.  That is not a promise God gives.  We can and should hope for that, work towards that and pray for it.  But, that is different than saying that God has made it a promise.

As we talked about earlier, in the pain, many can have a crisis of faith.  Sometimes we think “God why are you allowing me to go through this?”  And it seems to us that God is silent.  Nowhere to be found. 

So how should we respond in the midst of pain? Check back in to part 5, and we’ll explore how to have a healthy approach to the difficulty in life.

When life crushes you [False ideas Christians believe about…difficulty. Part 2]

12 Mar
Photo by Mwangi Gatheca on Unsplash

Have you been there? The feeling of life crushing down on you, and you just want to crawl into a ball. Most of us have experienced that awful feeling, probably numerous times in our lives. We feel we can’t handle life, and wonder if we are failures. In the middle of the pain, we raise all sorts of questions about God and how he feels, and where he is, and if he cares.

In part 1 of this series fact-checking ideas Christians believe about dealing with difficulty, I introduced the phrase “God won’t give you more than you can handle,” and concluded that the first part of that statement is false. 

But what about the second part of the statement: “More than you can handle”?  What is that referring to?  What is more than you can handle?  That’s the image I mentioned in part 1 when God supposedly gives a person “boxes of pain” like a health crisis or a job loss, but as God keeps giving them more boxes (again, supposedly), the load eventually becomes too much, crashing down on a person, ruining them. In life this is very real. It could be a mental breakdown, it could mean declaring bankruptcy, it could be a divorce, or even death. 

I have two concerns with this.  

First, the statement “God won’t give you more than you can handle,” insinuates that God would never allow a person to go through such an awful situation that they would break down or die.  Look at real life, though, and you see that plenty of Christians regularly go through awful situations where they break down and die.  Think of Christians who are persecuted for their faith. Throughout history many thousands upon thousands have died for their faith.  But we don’t need to go to the extreme of death. People of all kinds regularly go through extremely difficult situations, and they feel overwhelmed by the pain. Clearly God allows people to go through more than they can handle. So this second phrase of the statement is also wrong. 

The second problem I have with “God won’t give you more than you can handle” is that this statement can create the expectation that a Christian should be able to handle everything flawlessly, even the horrible situations in life.  It gives the impression that if we have a breakdown of some kind, whether a divorce or an emotional breakdown or a bankruptcy, then we are failures as Christ-followers. Because God apparently wouldn’t give us more than we can handle, our breakdown is our fault, our lack of faith. Many people have borne that guilt, finding it to be a crushing pain on top of the difficulty they’re already facing.

Is God like that? Does he expect us to be so filled with faith that we should never struggle no matter how bad life gets? Not at all. Therefore my conclusion is that this statement is not true, not biblical, and we should stop using it. 

What is true is that God is with us in the midst of our pain.  He will never leave us.  We can go to him for strength and for wisdom and for comfort.  He is always available.

In 2 Corinthians 1:3-7, the Apostle Paul says that God comforts us in the midst of our pain!  That is the truth we need to cling to. If you have felt the weight of the world crashing down on you, know that God is ready with open arms to forgive if you need to be forgiven, to comfort if you need to be comforted, and to guide you if you need wisdom. He doesn’t give you more than you can handle, but life sometimes does, and know that God is for you and with you.

Check back in to part 3 when we fact-check the next phrase about dealing with difficulty: “God helps those who help themselves.”

God won’t give you more than you can handle? [False ideas Christians believe about…difficulty. Part 1]

11 Mar
Photo by Rohit Guntur on Unsplash

If you’ve ever been going through a really difficulty time, you may have heard one of the following statements:

  • God won’t give you more than you can handle.
  • God helps those who help themselves.
  • During times of suffering, you’ll be closer to God.
  • This, too, shall pass.

We hear them regularly, don’t we?  We interact with people going through hard times, and often we struggle to make sense of it.  Where is God in the midst of my pain?  Will I make it through?  What do we say to people who are struggling?  We want to be there for them, we want to encourage them, but we are concerned that we are going to say the wrong thing.  It’s easy to fall back on sayings that we’ve heard before, maybe that were said to us during our pain, and we hope that we will sound wise and helpful.  In those confusing moments, what often comes out of our mouths?  One of these statements! 

But are they true?  Or are they false?  Let’s fact check them. This post starts the third week in a sermon series I’m preaching at Faith Church on false ideas Christians believe. We’ve covered sin and the Bible, and now we’re fact-checking statements about dealing with difficulty.

First up is “God won’t give you more than you can handle.” Are there any Bible verses that might prove or disprove this?  How about 1 Corinthians 10:13?

On the surface, this seems to be a verse that proves the statement definitively.  But a closer look reveals that this verse is not about difficult times, but about temptation. 

But, Paul says here, “There is no temptation so powerful that it has the ability to overpower us to the point where we are incapable of resisting it.  God is faithful.  He will provide a way for us to stand up under it.” 

And yet some of us have faced incredibly difficult temptations that have overwhelmed us. Is the verse wrong? No, the verse is right. God is faithful. When we succumb to temptation, James 1, tells us it is because we choose to indulge the temptation: “When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.”

So maybe the phrase is wrong? Let’s examine it. It starts with “God won’t give.” Taken by itself, it describes God as doing the giving.  Is that what God does?  Go around giving people trouble?  Hardship?  Pain? 

I know it says, “He won’t give you more than you can handle,” but that presumes that God does give in the first place, and the context of the phrase is difficulty, so does God give us difficulty? 

The image we get when we use this phrase is of a person walking carefree down the sidewalk, and enjoying a nice sunny spring day, and all of a sudden God pops up and says, “Oh hey, I am giving you this box to carry.”  Could be a box of bad health, or a box of job loss, or a box of broken dishwasher.  You name your pain.  The person holds the box, and it is heavy.  They don’t want to be carrying it.  But God gave it to them.  And then God shows up again and gives them another box.  More pain. More difficulty.  And now they are struggling.   With one box, it was bad, but manageable.  Now with two boxes, whew…it is really taking its toll.  And then God shows up again.  A third box.  The hits just keep on coming.  Now the pain in tripled and overwhelming.  They won’t make it much further.  God shows up again and gives them a fourth box.  They fall down unable to handle it, the boxes of pain crashing over them, doing them in

Is God a giver of pain like that?  No!  We read Jesus saying that God is a giver of good gifts in Matthew 7:9-11, and James says the same thing in James 1:13-17.

So where does all the trouble and difficulty come from?  Many places.  Our own bad choices can result in pain, other people making bad choices affect us, and the broken and fallen world we live in.  There is also a biblical concept that God punishes, or disciplines or corrects those he loves.  Is that how God gives out difficulty to us?  That he is punishing us?  Is all our pain actually punishment?

The phrase came up in our Deuteronomy study in chapter 8.  It is in more than one of the Psalms, and Proverbs 3:12 and which is quoted in Hebrews 12:6.  It’s also mentioned in Revelation. 

These passages describe God’s correction as very different from the many difficulties we face in life.  God is not looking around just randomly punishing people, saying “I love them so much.”  Instead, punishment occurs after a disobedience, and for the most part, that punishment is God lovingly allowing us to face the consequences of our bad choice.  But know this, in our pain, he is right there with us. 

So as we fact-check the first part of that statement, I say it is totally false.  We need to see God as the giver of good gifts, as the parent who loves us, and thus allows us to go through the consequences of our bad choices, but who never leaves us.  Therefore God is not deciding who can handle difficulty and then doling out bad circumstances based on that. Check back in for part 2 where we fact-check the second half of the phrase: “God won’t give you more than you can handle.”

How God’s mercy changes the future [How God feels about our fear – Deuteronomy 31-34, part 3]

20 Feb
Photo by Valeriy Andrushko on Unsplash

Do you feel stuck? Maybe you see some light breaking through the darkness, but there is a wall, a forest that seems like it is blocking the way. Maybe it feels like you will never get past the difficult situation you face. When we are in the middle of pain, we can wonder if God has locked our future, and we have no hope. But is that how God works?

In this series of posts on Deuteronomy 31-34, we have been looking at Moses’ last words to the people of Israel, as he is about to pass on, and Joshua will be their new leader. Before Moses addresses the whole nation, first, in Deuteronomy 31:14-23, God has a private meeting with just Moses and Joshua, at the Tent of Meeting.  There God appears in a pillar of cloud, and he has a very strange conversation with Moses and Joshua. 

It’s like God gives them a glimpse inside his heart.  What we see is that God’s is a broken heart, broken because of Israel’s rebellion.  Look at verses 16-18 in particular.  It’s like God is opening a crack in the space-time continuum, and he allow Moses and Joshua to see the future. He says to them, “the people will break covenant with me.  They will prostitute themselves to other false gods.”  As a result, he says, he will leave them.  God’s protection will be gone, and Israel will be destroyed.  Woah.

Imagine being Moses and Joshua hearing that.  If you’re Moses, you could be thinking, “And I just spent the productive years of my life on this people? And it will all be for naught?” Then think about how Joshua might have felt! “I’m getting myself into a total train wreck…it will be pointless for me to lead these people.”

I have to ask, though: did they hear God’s words as an absolute future, as if it had no chance of changing?  I don’t think so.  Here’s why: Moses had been in this situation before.  Remember the Golden Calf episode that happened not long after the people were originally freed from slavery in Egypt?  They had been out of Egypt maybe a month and a half or so, and Moses had gone up on Mt. Sinai to meet with God, and there God gave him the stone tablets with the Ten Commandments.  But what was happening at the same time down below?  The people started getting antsy, feeling like Moses was gone too long, and they gave up.  They created an idol in the shape of a golden calf and started worshiping it.  God tells Moses, “You better get down there because the people are losing it.”  Moses is angry with the people, of course, and he breaks the stone tablets, but God is angrier yet.  He tells Moses that he is going to eliminate the people, and start over again with Moses.  But what happens?  Does Moses say, “Ok. Fine.” As if it was a set future, with no opportunity for a change?

Nope. Moses puts on his lawyer hat (if there is such a thing…) and starts advocating on behalf of the people, and shockingly, God changes his mind.  He is a gracious and loving God.  So this vision of the future in Deuteronomy 31:18 is not set in stone, even though God is using words like “certainly” and “I will do this and that.” We know the forgiving, merciful heart of God because we have seen it time and time again.  God is not given Moses and Joshua a picture of the unchangeable future.  This is, however, another warning, a strong caution that the people need to obey God.  To live a life of following God’s ways is far and away what is best for them, and thus we can see this passage as God loving them in the midst of warning. 

Next in verse 19, God tells Moses to get out a pen and paper and write down a song.  This is a very rare occurrence in the Bible.  God writes a song!  In chapter 32, we will get to read the song.  Before that happens, though, God has a word for Joshua, and it is the same command that Moses gave Joshua.  Compare verses 7-8 with verse 23.   See that is it nearly identical. As I said in part 2 we’ll come back to that. 

Before we get to God’s song in chapter 32, the final verses in chapter 31 talk about the Book of the Law.  We read this in verse 9, and now again in verse 24, that Moses wrote down the Law, gave it to the Levites, who were the priestly tribe, and had them place it beside the Ark of the Covenant. 

But look at verse 26.  That law, Moses says, is a witness against them, which sounds very negative, right?  Then in verse 27-29, Moses pretty much says to the Levites what God had just said to him and Joshua, that Israel will rebel.  Nice final words, Moses.  He sure sounds bitter, mentioning how difficult the people were. Then he asks the Levites to assemble all the people together because he wants to address them, and give them a piece of his mind. When the people are together, we read in verse 30, that Moses recites the song to Israel, and we will find out what the song is all about next in part 4…and it is a strange song.

God wants to set you on fire [Second Sunday of Advent, part 2]

11 Dec

Photo by Yaoqi LAI on Unsplash

People are waiting for God to return.  He is coming, and he tells us it could be surprising.  He doesn’t mean “surprising” in the sense of us not knowing the timing of his return.  We learned in part 1 of this series on the Lectionary readings for the second Sunday of Advent that God’s arrival will be surprising and ominous.  The first reading is Malachi 3:1-4, and the prophet goes on to describe God’s arrival in more detail.  He says it will be like two things: a Refiner’s fire and Launderer’s soap. 

Think about that.  God’s arrival will be like fire that burns away impurity, and like scrubbing of soap that forcefully washes away dirt.  In the ancient world Malachi lived in, people didn’t have soap that gently bubbles up and purifies.  No foaming dispensers.  Launderers in the ancient near east used substances like alkaline salts to scrub away dirt, and they would roughly scrub the clothing over rock, grinding the salts into the fabric to remove stains. 

Is that what the people in Malachi’s day are seeking?  Is that what God’s people desire?  No way.  They want the Lord to come and bless them, prosper them, and make life easy.   

But they are hearing that the arrival of the Lord will be a rough process of cleansing!  They are hearing that God wants to set them on fire!

We see this further described in verses 3-4.  “He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver.”  That’s the fire.  “He will purify the Levites like this.”  The Levites were the priests, and they needed to be cleansed of their sin.  And then, finally, he says that “the Lord will have men who bring offerings in righteousness.” 

There’s a word we’ve heard recently in our Deuteronomy series.  Righteousness.  This is a word that refers to justice, to what is right.  To do what is right.  God wants his people to be cleansed so they can do justice and do what is right! 

He concludes our first reading at the end of verse 4, saying that after this cleansing process, then and only then, will “the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will be acceptable.”  That means they had been performing sacrifices at the new temple they had built, but those sacrifices were not acceptable because their hearts were not with the Lord.

They needed to go through a cleansing process, and turn their hearts to God, to do justice and righteousness. Then only after that cleansing process would God accept their sacrifices.  See that? God doesn’t want us to go through religious rituals if our hearts aren’t right with him!  Pursuing righteousness starts with a cleansing process.

So there will be two messengers one day in Israel’s future.  One to prepare the way, and the other to usher in a new covenant which will bring justice and righteousness.  From this Old Testament prophecy, we jump to the next reading in part 3.