It hurts doesn't it? To see someone sick and know that you yourself are well. Often when I visit someone who has a terminal illness I always find myself burdened. I hate seeing them the way they are and in some way I wish there were something I in my own power could do to make them feel better. To this day I still hate seeing people I hold dear even sick with a cold. I'll be the first to cook a soup, serve a lunch, or put myself in a position to get sick for the sake of keeping them company. This isn't to toot my own horn because I know that I am not alone in this. All of us at some point or another have felt the burden of watching a loved one slowly pass due to illness. We wish we ourselves could take on the disease ourselves even for a second so that in that moment, that person, that loved one might experience the freedom from that and smile.
It doesn't stop at being sick though, there are times in my conversations with someone I just want more than anything in the world for them to understand a concept or see something the way it is meant to be seen. To see their faces light up with joy as if it's Christmas morning and they just received that thing they wanted more than anything in the world, to me their is no greater joy. But it's a burden before this happens. A burden that often times leads you to tears when no one's looking. You want so badly for them to understand, you want so badly for them to believe, and yet, they just won't and the more time you spend with them, the more time you get to know where their hearts are, the more your heart crumbles.
I think this is what Malachi was dealing with in Malachi 1:1. I know there are other places in the bible in which a prophet describes his message as a burden, however, at least for me, I think the people that Malachi was speaking to is by far the hardest of crowds to preach to. Malachi was speaking with men who were priests, however, had defiled the entire order of the priesthood by forsaking first fruits and turning what was worship into ritual and rules.
A tough crowd to talk to if you ask me. To speak to men and women who had grown up around things of the Lord their entire lives and yet like Timothy tells us, denied the power of the truth. It hurts to see this, it hurts even more when you sit down with someone who tells you they are seeking truth but in reality end up so firmly rooted in their own truth that the conversation goes quickly from witnessing to just plain arguing. It's at that point you lose a person.
I don't know about you, but I cry out for these people. People that have the truth staring them in the eye and rather than hear it out and give it the time of day, they shutter at the thought of it and quickly recluse back to whatever it is they held dear prior to hearing it. People are comfort junkies and no one likes something that challenges the very thing that gives comfort. Christianity is definitely loaded with comforts, after all the Holy Spirit is referred to as the Comforter, however, Christianity isn't about being comfortable. It is about stepping out and doing the thing Christ has called you to do despite what the world tells you.
Some take that as seeing the bible way too literally, however, it is pretty black and white. When Jesus spoke to the rich young ruler in Mark 10, He quickly showed how man's focus is shifted onto the wrong thing. In the story, the rich young ruler was concerned with what he could do to get into heaven, rather than the true way to get into heaven. Jesus responds to him and asks him why it is he is asking who is good, after all only God is good. Jesus isn't saying He Himself isn't good, we know that because in Matt 19:16-21 He makes it clear His purpose in saying that God alone is good (and seeing as He IS God, well you get the idea). The point is, Jesus is telling this guy his focus is all wrong. In reality, the way into heaven is to make yourself the least of these, to become last, to be a servant of others, to take up all you have and sell it.
So what is Jesus saying? By those standards we're all doomed. Exactly. In our efforts alone we can't get into heaven. People today think it's imperative to do good works to get you where you want to go, that being heaven. People miss the point. You lie once, you're a liar. You cheat once, you're a cheater. There are none good, no not one. There isn't a just man who does good and is without sin (Ecc 7:20).
So then how does it all work? Well humility is big, in fact we know from Matt 5:3 that we must first be broken to truly enter into the kingdom. Broken by our need to sin and by our desperate need for a Savior found only Christ Jesus. People don't like that. People don't want to hear that they have to surrender themselves over to someone else, especially an invisible man they can't see, but then again, aren't they already doing that? This is where often times it hurts to hear a person speak against Christ, and it isn't because they are wrong and we have to be right, no, it is because when you see a person's eyes covered by the scales of deception, your heart crumbles for them. It is almost as if you wish you could tear the scales off with your own hands and say "Look! You can see now! You have your sight! Go! See the world in the beauty that is God!" It doesn't work that way. The choice is their's not yours, and ultimately all you can do is present them the truth.
What does that mean for us then? Should we stop from speaking? Should we not go out and preach. No. For starters it isn't our word to be determining who to tell and who not to tell. It isn't our word to decide whether or not it was effective. We are simply instructed to learn it, live it, and preach it. To not be satisfied with just leading a normal "good" life. To step outside the boundaries of our comforts and our concerns and live life pressing hard after Him. Forgetting what is behind us and panting toward God as a deer pants toward water, we should be in a constant state of seeking. We should everyday seek His face and in all things consider Him. What often helps me is when I consider Him, I see Him on the cross. I see Him being nailed for my stupidity, I see Him sign His name in royal blood over mine. Often times the thought brings me to my knees, but then again, it would do us all well to live our lives on our knees.
The burden is heavy, but the Lord's yoke is light. May our hearts break for the things that break the heart of Christ and may we be a people who thirst to know Him more every day. May we seek long and hard after Him with our whole being and forsake our filthy pleasures. Sometimes it is difficult to do, but trust in the Lord, He who has begun a good work is faithful to complete it. He is definitely not the author of confusion and when He speaks a thing, it is and will be. You just seek after Him with every beat of your heart and forget what the enemy or your flesh tells you. They are both wrong.
May it kill us to find joy outside Him. What we often times forget and He has lately been faithful to show me is that putting Him first brings Matt 6:33 into fruition, and it isn't this promise that should cause us to put Him first, it is our undying thirst for Him, not His blessing, just Him.
Psalm 84: 1 How lovely is Your tabernacle, O LORD of hosts! 2 My soul longs, yes, even faints For the courts of the LORD; My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.