December 31 | Daily Devotion

Lectio Continua: a continuous reading of every verse

Lectio Semi-continua: shorter reading selections from the passages

In our final devotional, there is both warning and hope, which is an
appropriate way to conclude the year. We are warned that unfaithfulness
to God leads to pain, but staying true to Him brings joy both now and forever.
Happy New Year! –LY

Lectio Divina

“‘I the Lord do not change. So you, the descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed….Return to me, and I will return to you,’ says the Lord Almighty.” ~Malachi 3:6-7

OLD TESTAMENT

Malachi was written during a period of spiritual discouragement in the life of the community (somewhere around 430 BCE). The temple has been rebuilt, but the people are already straying from the Lord. (Yes, again!) The priests see their work as a chore and a bore, and the people bring their leftovers to the temple instead of their best. Their pastors say nothing, but God is mad! I hate it when you give Me your leftovers. I want a portion of your best. 

The larger problem is a heart issue, but when the prophet tries to explain, the people are confused. So Malachi uses a specific example, the checkbook. People spend their money, then gave God a few bucks left over from a busted budget. What they can’t seem to understand is that they’re coming up short at the end of the month because they refuse to honor Him. He’s not going to keep blessing people when they snub Him.

God feels like His people have divorced Him! He enumerates the many ways they have broken the covenant while calling on them to return to Him. He promises rich blessing to those who renew their vows and honor Him again. In fact, God invites His people to put Him to the test. Will He not open the windows of heaven and pour out such a large blessing that they won’t have room for it?! Wow! Now that’s a big blessing!

Is there anything wrong with wanting God to bless you or with putting Him to the test? Of course not! In fact, the prophet dares the people to worship faithfully and give generously. He dares them to do it and see what happens!As you think about the coming year, do you long for God to bless you? Are there some changes you need to make right now? Return to Him, and He will return to you and bless you.

NEW TESTAMENT

The final book of the Bible ends with a word of encouragement. Jesus is coming! This is a book for the people of God, the church. It is not all doom and gloom as some people seem to think. John makes it clear that every difficulty and trial is under God’s control. God opens the sealed book. He sends out His angels with trumpets and bowls. He controls the rise and fall of kings. He even allows persecution, although not for long. He will greatly reward His people.

In the end, all wrongs will be made right. This is what C. S. Lewis calls “the weight of glory.” We cannot find a really satisfying answer to the problem of pain and suffering without putting the weight of glory on the balance scale opposite the world’s hurts. When evil (and evil doers) are finally judged and the saints rule and reign with Christ, the weight of eternal glory will more than balance the scales.

FINIS

As we arrive at the end of the biblical narrative, it is worth looking over our shoulder to see from whence we have come. The story began with creation followed by chaos (the fall). But God refused to give up on this world. He called out a community beginning with Abraham, and when the community failed (repeatedly), He sent a Savior—the Christ. Christ suffered and died and rose again for sinful humanity so that all who call upon Him for salvation, believing with conviction He is the Lord, will be saved. They immediately receive His spirit, become part of a new community, and wait with hope for the new creation that will endure forever.  And so we wait—faithful and prepared.

The King says, “Yes, I am coming soon.”


Lectio Divina is written by F. Lionel Young III, who serves as the senior pastor of Calvary Church in Valparaiso, Indiana. He is the author of A New Kind of Missionary, a popular introduction to global Christianity.