I just love when God confirms. More on that later.
The final book of the Old Testament bears the name of Malachi, but there is some scholarly debate concerning the author. Because the Hebrew word mal’akh means “messenger,” there are some who propose that the title is not the name of a person directly. Other scholars contend that yes, it was the name of the author and his role: Malachi was a messenger.
Reading upon this Hebrew word revealed that the noun is sometimes considered to mean “messenger of God.” Because of this, the meaning is sometimes morphed into the word “angel” in certain texts and translations of the Bible. But there is no suggestion by any scholar that the final Old Testament book was written by an angel. Whether the scholars attribute the book to a person named Malachi or not, they all do agree that the book follows the formula: God delivering his message through a human vessel.
In this case, Malachi was given the task of correcting the Israelite people who had too quickly forgotten their recent struggles. They became comfortable again. Sound familiar? As in, all of us? The Israelites had also decided that they did not need to follow everything exactly, and began reducing their sacrifice. Instead of unblemished animals, they were accused of offering blind and lame animals. None of us would do that – give God our leftovers – right? The beauty of the Bible is its constant relevance to our lives. We just choose not to see that sometimes. The Israelites at the time of Malachi had also taken to doubting the love of God. They had begun to adhere less to the standards because God had not yet given them everything they had been promised. Again I ask, sound familiar? Perhaps too much so.
You may be in a place where you are honoring God with your firstfruits, unlike the Israelites. You may hold firmly to the truth of God’s love. Or perhaps you are in a place where you are still seeking, still learning about God. But my question for you today is not about that. We know we are like the Israelites – broken people. But do you know you are a messenger? Have you ever thought of yourself as a Malachi? Do you know you are a human vessel meant to deliver the message of God?
Let’s see if you are qualified. Ready?
“I have loved you,” says the Lord. (Malachi 1:2a)
Q1. Can you tell someone that God loves them, as Malachi did?
Great! You pass!
You see there are times when we get so worried about the rest – the part that we don’t know -that we never tell people what we do know. But you are qualified, and God will equip you. You can tell someone that God loves them (truth) and you have a pulse. Good to go.
Growing up I struggled with hearing calls to “evangelize.” Maybe part of the problem was not understanding my target audience. In a family with generations of Christ-followers and living in a small community where almost everyone went to church, who was I supposed to tell? Then I moved on to a Christian college. Again I saw myself as a learner, not as a messenger. Then I went to work at a summer camp. Finally! Kids who needed to hear about Jesus! But, as I look back, I learned so much more from them than I imagine they learned from me. Their child-like trust, their desire to learn, their freedom to be vulnerable..all those things were lessons for me!
In fact, I am still learning what it means to be a messenger. Because of my limited view of being a Malachi, I missed countless opportunities to share in the journey with others. I could have encouraged. I could have been encouraged. All I had to do was share. Sometimes those of us who have been given years of “head knowledge” fumble opportunities to be a Malachi. Unlike someone who is just coming to know of Jesus, we have made Jesus a rather comfortable part of our lives. And when we have become comfortable with Christ, we do not want to open up those uncomfortable parts of our lives. I think I know why. It makes us feel unworthy.
A year and a half ago I interviewed for a position titled “Spiritual Care Specialist.” Sounds impressive, right? All I knew was that it would get me out of direct care shifts and sure..I’m qualified. After weeping in the first interview and doing okay in the second interview, for some reason, they offered me the job. In my first meeting with my new supervisor, she said something like this,
“I want to challenge you on your response to being called ‘pastor.’ You will be seen as one by the kids and by the staff. You will be the spiritual authority when you walk in those homes..so think about that.”
I don’t know how that sounds to you, but my response was to think, “(Gulp)..What did I do?” The reason she began with that was because of how I answered a question in the second interview.
“How will you respond if someone calls you ‘Pastor Doug’?”
“(Nervous laughter)..Oh no, that’s not me. I will tell them I can (fumble, fumble) but I would not see myself as a pastor.”
Judging by my answer in the interview, she must have thought she had just told a nearly 100-year old man that he would be a father of many. But instead, all she had done was remind me that I am a Malachi.
You see my problem was, and is, that I did not see myself as worthy of that title.
But when would I be? When I get my “act together”? When I know enough Scripture? When I have the right education? Ha! If that is the case, I should quit now. And so should everyone else. I will never know enough, be good enough, or have enough degrees to qualify for a standard which I am completely unable to attain. As Max Lucado put it, it would be as if God told us we could be saved if we can jump to the moon. I have been working on the wrong vertical.
We are all a Malachi. God has the message. We are the vessel. And I know that if God can use this broken, sinful-but-saved saint, He can use you too. The truth is, whether our vertical is two feet or two inches, we are coming up short either way. But that is not to stop us from telling others who made the moon. And the stars. And the skies. And you.
If there is a message of love – deep, abundant love – the package does not matter. If a man proposes to a woman in the rain and drops the ring in the process, will she not still accept it? If Jesus held no earthly beauty, was willing to endure beatings and torture just to give us a message of salvation, would we refuse him?
We often talk about “our story,” but I like how my spiritual brother puts it: “It’s all God’s story; we’re just wrapped up in it.” We were never asked to become worthy vessels before we should speak. If we cannot receive the grace God extends to cover our sins, how can we offer it to anyone else? I must first be a grace-receiver before I can be a grace-giver. Whether I feel worthy or not does not change the message of God. He still says, “I love you.”
Back to my confirmation. A few months ago I was in the chapel when someone from a church group asked me, “Are you one of the pastors here?” A year into the role and I still stubbornly hold back, “Uhh, yeah..I work with them.” Still denying that I am a Malachi. Then tonight, right before I was set to write, I received a text from someone who had never texted me before. The first three words were “Hey pastor Doug”. I’m learning. I smiled to myself and responded.
Now my question for you: If someone calls you a Malachi, what would you say? Do you know that, even though you are broken, you have a message to give? Don’t worry, it is not about you. It is always about God.