The Invisible God

Scripture: Malachi 2:17

17 You have wearied the LORD with your words. “How have we wearied him?” you ask. You have wearied him by saying that all who do evil are good in the LORD ’s sight, and he is pleased with them. You have wearied him by asking, “Where is the God of justice?”

 INTRODUCTION

I like the GWT version of verse 17, I think it puts everything in perspective…You have tried the patience of the LORD with your words. But you ask, “How have we tried his patience?” When you say, “Everyone who does evil is considered good by the LORD. He is pleased with them,” or “Where is the God of justice?”

This brings up an age-old argument: Can God’s patience be exhausted? Does God get tired of our constant complaining? Before we attempt to answer these questions, let’s establish some fundamental things that we do know about God.
  1. God is not Apathetic. He is im·pas·si·ble in the sense that our emotions do not rule Him nor change His essential nature but at the same time, He does feel our pain. At Laarus tomb, Jesus wept with Mary and Martha. Isaiah said of Jesus, “He was a man of sorrows, acquainted with our grief.” The word acquainted means to know or learn by experience. Impassibility means to be incapable of suffering or feeling pain. Jesus laid this myth to rest. God does feel our pain but don’t ask me to explain, I can’t explain it and yet I believe it. This is what I call the paradox of faith.
  2. So we can say with confidence, God is not Apathetic but neither is He pathetic or at the mercy of man’s emotions. In other words, our emotions do not rule Him. We are sinners in the hand of an angry God, not the other way around…God in the hands of angry sinners. We are at His mercy.

So the same paradox exist when it comes to God’s patience. God can not run out of patience because He is infinite and there is no end to His resources. Surly you do not believe that God is limited in any capacitySo in one sense, the answer is no, God doesn’t run out of patience. In other words, our constant complaining will never transform God into an impatient God. But when we flip the coin to the other side, God does have an allotted degree of patience for each one of us. In this sense, His patience can be exhausted as it was with Sodom and Gomorrah and the children of Israel in the wilderness

This fact makes it unwise to presume on God’s patience or mercy. God did grow weary of the Israelites incessant complaining and He sentenced them to 40 years of futility in the wilderness. So, there is a line that can be crossed and once it is crossed, there is nothing but judgment.

In today’s text, the Israelites are making the same mistake that their forefathers made in the Wilderness, they are trying God’s patience, which is never wise.

The situation reminds me of a story told by Bill Patterson. It is the story of Robert Shelton. Robert Shelton lost his job but only after he had exhausted the patience of his employer. Robert had been warned repeatedly about being late for work and about his lack of productivity when he was at work. His boss even enrolled Robert in a program to improve his job performance but Robert made no attempt to learn from the training. He continued to do what he had always done until the day he was called into the office and handed a pink slip. Robert went ballistic. He was outraged. He began a tirade of complaints beginning with his supervisor whom Robert said, “Had been unclear on instructions.” Then Robert lashed out t his co-workers, accusing them of conspiring against him. Then he made excuses…his assigned task was beyond his abilities and training. Robert blamed everyone except the guilty party, Robert.

The Jews of Malachi’s day were a lot like Robert…they blamed everyone except themselves. The truth is, they brought much of their suffering upon themselves. They were their own worst enemy but would not confess it and for such people there is no help.

The Jewish Problem

  1. Oppression from foreign domination

  2. Surrounded by hostile neighbors

  3. Injustice and exploitation {Economic}

  4. Skepticism and indifference {Spiritual}

Three Areas Where We Have To Be Careful of Exhausting God’s Patience

I. NUMBER ONE IS ATTITUDE

Irresponsible people believe that bad circumstances validate a bad attitude but nothing could be further from the truth. God expects each of us to have a good attitude no matter what our circumstances. Joseph had a good attitude in bad circumstances and so did Daniel and Nehemiah. How would you like to be a slave? Those three handled in pretty well, did they not.

Circumstances on this earth are never going to be ideal. I am a fan of the Jesse Stone murder mysteries. Jesse Stone is the police chief of Paradise, Massachusetts, just outside of Boston. Actually Paridise, Massachusetts is is fictional. It does not exist. The definition of Paradise is an ideal place of extreme beauty, delight, or happiness where everything goes beyond expectation. We are not going to find that here on earth. We must do the best we can in less than ideal circumstances. As Erma Boombeck was fond of saying, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonaid.”

The Jews had a bad attitude not because circumstances were bad but because their thinking was bad. They had some stinking thinking. They were blaming God. They accused Him of being partial to the wicked. Their complaint was that He was not holy, that He was lacking in moral judgment. When our attitude is bad, it is the result of bad thinking or theology.

God is holy, moral and good. He is not the enemy. When we reach the point where we accuse Him of being the problem, we have a problem.

II. THE SECOND PROBLEM IS OUR TONGUE

Complainers are vocal by necessity. People who complain are outspoken. Do you remember the Israelites in the wilderness–they murmured and complained constantly. They grumbled in their tents…

Exodus 16:2…I have heard the Israelites’ complaints. Now tell them, ‘In the evening you will have meat to eat, and in the morning you will have all the bread you want. Then you will know that I am the LORD your God.’”

Number 14:27…“How long must I put up with this wicked community and its complaints about me? Yes, I have heard the complaints the Israelites are making against Me.”

What was the result of their complaining in Numbers 14….The Lord told Moses to tell them...”I am going to do just as you have suggested, you will die in the wilderness.” Be careful what you say, the LORD is listening.

III. THE THIRD PROBLEM IS THEIR SIGHT OR INSIGHT

They have not acknowledged what God has already done. They refuse to see His goodness and mercy. They were released from Babylon by a miracle of grace. They did not gain their independence via a war, it was given to them and yet they could not see God’s goodness.

God had made the Jews some precious promises through the prophets.

  1. They would return to the homeland and the temple be rebuilt
  2. The LORD Himself would visit the Temple
  3. Israel would have a time of prosperity and peace
  4. Israel would have promonence in the world

The first promise had been fulfilled but they were waiting impatiently on the others. Malachi’s word to them in chapter 3 is…God is going to keep His promises, He will come to His Temple but when He does, you will not recognize Him and they didn’t. So we are talking about spiritual blindness, a sight problem.

Conclusion

“Where is the God of justice?” The Jews were asking. Sounds exactly like their forefathers who is Exodus 17:7 said, “Is the LORD among us or not.” The Israelites craved a God they could see, they wanted a visible manifestation. Yahweh cannot be seen. We don’t have a lens or scope big enough to see Him. He is the invisible God. I think it was Josie who asked about this a few days ago. Christ is the image of the invisible God. [Colossians 1:15]  Paul said to Timothy, Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever.

We are not to question God’s presence merely because we do not feel it, sense it, or see it. Jeremiah 23:23-24…. “I am a God who is everywhere and not in one place only. No one can hide where I cannot see them. Do you not know that I am everywhere in heaven and on earth?” You don’t have to feel His presence, or sense His presence–you simply have to believe the truth–He is present. It is impossible for Him not to be present.

Growing up in church, I never go to go out to the bathroom during a service. Once the service started, we were planted. If we moved, there were consequences. One Sunday night mother had a headache and so she stayed behind, the rest of us went on the church. My daddy slept soundly once the preacher got started and since mother was not there, I seized the opportunity to go out during a service. I eased out and daddy never opened his eyes so I head for the foyer. Our building had those saloon doors that open both ways and I hit them almost on a run, but there sitting behind them was mother. I did a quick 360. She was there all the time but I didn’t know it.

Bottom line: Jesus said, “I will be with you always, even to the end of the age.” It is a simple matter of faith–do you believe what Jesus said?

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