September 29, 2015

God asks for my best

Malachi 1:1–2:9, Acts 27:1–44, Job 31:9–22

We once attended a church that was furnished by ‘gifts’ from the congregation, but those gifts were cast-offs and leftovers, mostly worn out and in need of repair. This is not what God asks of His people.

“ . . . O priests, who despise my name. But you say, ‘How have we despised your name?’ By offering polluted food upon my altar. But you say, ‘How have we polluted you?’ By saying that the Lord’s table may be despised. When you offer blind animals in sacrifice, is that not evil? And when you offer those that are lame or sick, is that not evil? Present that to your governor; will he accept you or show you favor? says the Lord of hosts.” (Malachi 1:6–8) God asked for unblemished sacrifices, not the worst or useless animals of the flock.

“For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name will be great among the nations, and in every place incense will be offered to my name, and a pure offering. For my name will be great among the nations, says the Lord of hosts. But you profane it when you say that the Lord’s table is polluted, and its fruit, that is, its food may be despised. But you say, ‘What a weariness this is,’ and you snort at it, says the Lord of hosts. You bring what has been taken by violence or is lame or sick, and this you bring as your offering! Shall I accept that from your hand? says the Lord. Cursed be the cheat who has a male in his flock, and vows it, and yet sacrifices to the Lord what is blemished. For I am a great King, says the Lord of hosts, and my name will be feared among the nations.” (Malachi 1:11–14)

Giving Him leftovers shows a total lack of respect for who He is, and reveals an attitude of disdain on my part. God wants the best that I can give Him because it shows that I totally trust Him to supply what I need, including everything that I willingly give to Him, or to anyone else for that matter.

Job knew that. He said, “If I have withheld anything that the poor desired, or have caused the eyes of the widow to fail, or have eaten my morsel alone, and the fatherless has not eaten of it . . . if I have seen anyone perish for lack of clothing, or the needy without covering, if his body has not blessed me, and if he was not warmed with the fleece of my sheep, if I have raised my hand against the fatherless, because I saw my help in the gate, then let my shoulder blade fall from my shoulder, and let my arm be broken from its socket.” (Job 31:16–22)

Offering the best is one way of showing faith. It reveals a righteousness that comes from God, and a total lack of selfishness. My giving also shows what is most important to me.
Paul’s life showed that he valued the lives of others, obeying God’s desire that we love people. He was a prisoner on a ship heading for Rome when they encountered a severe storm. They managed to secure the ship’s boat after hoisting it up, and use supports to undergird the ship. Fearing that they would run aground, they lowered the gear, and were driven along and violently storm-tossed enough to jettison the cargo, even the ship’s tackle. After days of this, “all hope of our being saved was at last abandoned.” (Acts 27:16–20)

Paul was keeping his ear toward God. He told the sailors, “. . . I urge you to take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. For this very night there stood before me an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I worship, and he said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar. And behold, God has granted you all those who sail with you.’ So take heart, men, for I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told. But we must run aground on some island.” (Acts 27:21–26)

The sailors wanted to escape so under pretense lowered the ship’s boat into the sea, but Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, “Unless these men stay in the ship, you cannot be saved.” They listened. His care for them earned respect. Then he urged them to eat, “. . . . For it will give you strength, for not a hair is to perish from the head of any of you.”

Then “he took bread, and giving thanks to God in the presence of all he broke it and began to eat. Then they all were encouraged and ate some food themselves.” (Acts 27:30–36) The soldiers’ plan was to kill the prisoners so they could not swim away and escape. But the centurion wanted to save Paul. He kept them from carrying out their plan, ordered those who could swim to jump overboard first and make for the land, and the rest on planks or on pieces of the ship. Because Paul valued the lives of others, God spared all of them. “And so it was that all were brought safely to land.” (Acts 27:42–44)

This points to an important principle. Give the best, and care deeply about others. God blesses and watches over me, not because I’ve earned it but because He has given me the best in Jesus Christ and enabled me to love Him with all my heart. I best show that love by deeply caring about the fate of others.

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