Malachi lived in the post-exilic period when the people were rebuilding their temple and their national life. God declared his love for them, but their harsh question, “How have you loved us?” (Malachi 1:2), reflects discouragement with the severity of post-exilic life. Their perspective was blinkered because things had not gone as easily as they had hoped, and they faced ongoing hardship.
In return, God challenged the people about their less than wholehearted worship. They expected God to turn a blind eye to the poor quality of their sacrificial offerings, but God criticised their narrow vision, which meant they were in danger of being bypassed. In the great post-exilic vision of universal blessing outlined at the end of Isaiah, God’s name is great and will be revered among all the nations, way beyond their borders.
Just as God accused the returned exiles of breaking the commandments about worship, so the religious leaders accused Jesus of doing so. He had dared to bring God’s blessing on the sabbath day! Again, God’s purposes are bigger than the leaders’ religious boundaries would allow.
Among the disciples called by Jesus was one who would betray him and others who would, at times, let him down. Like the returned exiles, the disciples were not perfect. It was up to them what they would make of their discipleship. Jesus set out topsy-turvy blessings and woes and described how they should live with generosity and love for all, not just calling him Lord but doing what he commanded. Faith must lead to action, shown in love for God and for neighbour.
If the religious leaders and the disciples were not perfect, neither are we. Yet God calls us to a faith that dares to live in a radically bounteous way because God’s vision for the world is so good.
As you look back on a year of reading the Bible, what stands out to you about God’s way with the world?
Whom can you love more generously or bless more radically this week?
Gracious God, help us to live more graciously and in a more Christlike way. Amen.