“I the Lord do not change. So you, the descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed. Ever since the time of your ancestors you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the Lord Almighty. “But you ask, ‘How are we to return?’ “Will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me. “But you ask, ‘How are we robbing you?’ “In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse—your whole nation—because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it. I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not drop their fruit before it is ripe,” says the Lord Almighty. “Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,” says the Lord Almighty. – Malachi 3:6-12
“I am glad you are here with me. Here at the end of all things, Sam.” So said Frodo to Sam as they were sitting on a boulder having accomplished their task of delivering the ring to Mordor. They were not sure they would survive much longer, but they were glad to be together. This passage marks the end of my voyage with water, and God, in the Old Testament.
I am by no means comparing my task of exploring water passages in the bible with the saga of delivering a ring of power to Mordor, but I feel a similar sense of having accomplished a task that was hard and feeling a bit lost about what lies ahead. I do feel a sense that God is with me, even more so today than the day when I started this journey four years ago. So lets run this last bit of water and see where it leads.
God starts out with a bold statement here in Malachi, “I the Lord do not change”. God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. He does not change. Even though He may have come across as a different God in parts of the old testament, in reality He is not different, or in the words of that sage Yoda, “No! No different! Only different in your mind. You must unlearn what you have learned.” The people of Israel will soon have to “unlearn” some of the things they think they have learned throughout their history about God. They think they have God figured out. It turns out they do not.
God reminds the people that He has always been with them, and they have always had a hard time understanding what the Lord required of them, “Ever since the time of your ancestors you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you,”. So God is boiling down the entire old testament into a pretty simple formula for them. Return to God and He will return to you. This is a little bit perplexing, like a celestial game of playing tag with God, but that is the way that God has structured our relationship. There is something important about the act of pursuing one another that helps to build trust and intimacy.
The people are still clearly confused about what God is talking about, they ask “How are we to return?” What does “returning” look like? It seems to me for one to know how to return one has to acknowledge that they are not where they are supposed to be and in need of “returning”. In response to their question God seems to focus on tithes and offerings, “You are under a curse—your whole nation—because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this”.
I think God is talking about more than a tenth of their treasures here. He is talking about the people giving God their leftovers and scraps when they need to give Him their first fruits. Only then will the people experience the abundance that God has for them, “see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.” God is saying to the people that if they give him what He has been asking for, returning to Him, then they will have more than they need or want. If they do this one thing “Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land.”
Unfortunately many were not able to do this when God came to earth in the form of Jesus. He came to accept their “tithe” and they continued to withhold it from Him. The reassuring thing is that God does not change, and He has assured us through Jesus that restored relationship with Him is only as far away as we make it. We need only admit we are going the wrong way, “return to Him”, and He will make all things new.
Prayer: God thank you for making all things new and returning to us as we choose to return to You.