Is it Worth it to Serve the Lord?
Robert D. Pace
Malachi, whose name means “Messenger,” proclaimed God’s last Old Testament prophecy to Israel. He calls his prophetic utterance an “oracle of the word of the LORD.” This would be the last Covenant communication God would have with Israel for the next 400 years, until the New Testament would unfold. Imagine that—400 years of silence from God!
We never know when we will lose a loved one. When someone dies, our mind quickly returns to our last conversation with that person. What did we say? How did we say it? What would we have said had we known it was the last chance? A thousand thoughts flood our mind. Since God is omniscient, He could have told Israel this was their last opportunity to dialogue with Him for the next four centuries; but He didn’t! Once Malachi’s oracle ended, God’s Words fell silent, deafeningly silent.
It’s interesting how Malachi communicated this Old Testament epilogue, because it’s presented in the form of a dialogue between God and Israel: God spoke; Israel replied. But instead of Israel acknowledging God’s words as true, Israel countered them with disbelief. They answered each of God’s statements with an attitude that insisted: “Lord, you are wrong! Those charges can’t possibly apply to us”! Notice this discourse:
Malachi 1 opens with God assuring Israel of His concern for them when He says, “I have loved you.” But Israel retorts, “You love us; how?” In other words, “If You love us, where is the proof?”
Then in Malachi 2:17 God says to Israel: “I’m wearied with how you talk to Me [You are indicting Me].” Israel says, “What? How has our talk wearied You?” God then proceeds to list their accusations against Him.
In chapter 3, their scorn continues. God says, “Israel, you have robbed Me.” Again, Israel says, “Robbed You? That’s ridiculous! How have we robbed You” (3:8)? So God shows them their failure to tithe.
This verbal exchange occurred not just three times, as I mentioned, but six times! Ultimately, Israel’s behavior exasperated God, so He summoned His messenger Malachi, stood him before Israel, and delivered a scathing rebuke. Here’s a summary of God’s message from verses 13-14: “Your words have been prideful against Me. And even though you have said, ‘What have we spoken against You?’ (14) You have said, ‘It is vain to serve God; and what profit is it that we have kept Your charge?” Then, with only a few verses left in the book, God terminates the dialogue, and that’s the conversation Israel left ringing in God’s ears for the next 400 years: “It’s vain to serve You. You are unfair, indifferent, and unresponsive.” Then, without warning . . . silence! Think about how absurd Israel was!
Here is the God who parted the Red Sea when He freed Israel from Egypt. He sent them deliverers like Moses, Joshua, Samson, David, and a host of others to repel their enemies. He freed them from seventy years of Babylonian captivity without one Israelite lifting a sword. Yet, it was vain to serve Him.
God gave Israel promises that no other nation possessed—the promise of healing, prosperity, and protection. Yet, it was vain to serve Him.
He pledged to bless Israel above all nations of the world. Yet, it was vain to serve Him.
Have you been guilty of indicting God or lamenting it was vain to serve Him? Maybe you prayed, attended church, tithed, and yet you watched others get far more recognition. Maybe there were times when the bills mounted, the creditors camped on your doorsteps, and despite all the praying you levied against Heaven you languished like Job. Maybe you labored to live honestly and “play by the rules” while others cheated, schemed, and surged past you. If these things ever happened to you, were you ever tempted to say, “What’s the use of serving God, it probably won’t make any difference. I doubt things will improve.”
Take caution, because it’s important to guard your words! Isaiah knew this and that’s why he said, “Woe to him who quarrels with his Maker. (11) ‘Does the clay say to the potter, ‘What are you making?’ ’ . . . (12) “It is I who made the earth and created mankind upon it. My own hands stretched out the heavens” (Isaiah 45:9, 11-12). Do you hear what God is saying? He states it loudly and clearly! He says: “I’m the Architect and Creator of the universe. You are the clay. Who are you to indict me?” You see, as the lump of dirt fashioned by the Creator, we don’t always have the total picture. And there is something you can do to maintain a right perspective of God when life unfolds with difficulty and pain.
(Insight) Always remember two facts about God: One, remember that God is good; and two, remember that He is infinitely wise. If you will always acknowledge God’s moral goodness and infinite wisdom, you will conclude that the Creator is shaping you for the wondrous praise of His glory. This doesn’t mean you can decipher life’s inscrutable mysteries, but it does mean you can trust the goodness and wisdom of God to work things appropriately.
The Bible says God loved us so much that He sent His only begotten Son to die on the Cross and pay the penalty for our sin. And that alone says, “It’s worth it to serve God”!
After Christ’s death on the Cross He sent the Holy Spirit to be our ever-present Partner. And with the Holy Spirit on our side, “It’s worth it to serve God!”
But it doesn’t stop there. God has personally penned His signature to 1500 promises in this Book to which Christians can say, “Amen . . . that belongs to me!”
But it doesn’t stop there either. The Bible says Jesus is preparing Heaven as our place of eternal reward.
• It’s where every wrong will be righted and every sorrow will be recompensed.
• It’s a place so magnificent that its most inexpensive component is a road system comprised of lucid gold.
• It’s a place where peace is everlasting, joy is eternal, and laughter is forever.
• Besides that, you’re promised a new name, a new body, a golden crown, and an inheritance that never fades.
• And the Book of Revelation promises: “he that overcomes has the right to eat of the tree of life” and that means we will never grow old, wrinkled, or weary!
With these everlasting promises awaiting, I can confess: “It is worth it to serve the Lord”!
(Bible Example) I’m reminded of Joshua’s farewell speech to Israel. Joshua was Israel’s five-star General that brought them into the Promised Land. Just before he died, he assembled Israel and exhorted them with some incredible words. Listen to Joshua 23:
“The Lord has driven out before you great and powerful nations; to this day no one has been able to withstand you. (10) One of you routs a thousand, because the Lord your God fights for you, just as he promised. . . (24:13) So I gave you a land on which you did not toil and cities you did not build; and you live in them and eat from vineyards and olive groves that you did not plant.”
Do you hear what Joshua is saying? He noted that Israel had done nothing to deserve these blessings. God had blessed them strictly from His mercy and grace. And with the tribes of Israel teeming around him, his speech crested to its historic climax: “If serving God is objectionable to you, then [fine] choose for yourselves whom you will serve . . . But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (JOS 24:15). In other words, “It’s worth it to serve God!” That’s the confession God wants from His people!
We aren’t going to elude trouble in the life because Jesus said, “in the world you will have tribulation.” We exist in the arena of conflict where good and evil are opposing forces. The question is, are you going to confront difficulty trusting wholly in God’s goodness and wisdom or succumb to the doubts that would rob God of His glory? Let’s take Christ’s hand and trust His unfailing mastery of life.
(Definition) I have been careful to refer to Malachi’s prophecy as an “oracle.” That’s because Malachi himself called it an “oracle.” That’s an interesting word because it’s associated with something that’s “weighty, burdensome, and heavy.”
Unlike today’s primetime prophets, Malachi took no pleasure in delivering this message to Israel. This “oracle” troubled and burdened Malachi. And it’s because of what the prophecy exposed about God’s people. The ultimate sin God exposed through Malachi is the sin of selfishness. Selfishness says, ‘Despite all God has done, I deserve better. God just doesn’t treat me well enough.’ This is the terrible self-centered belief circulating today. It’s the notion that suggests God exists for man rather than the fact that man exists for God. And here’s the problem that arises when you think that God exists for man. You no longer have doxology—something that glorifies God—you have idolatry—something that glorifies man.
Saints of God, the kingdom of God does not revolve around us! We aren’t “the pearl of great price” or the “Chief among ten thousand” or the “Bright Morning Star.” Christ is! We may be the “apple of His eye,” but Jesus is the “Tree of Life” from which we grow!
I have to be honest. I don’t like discomfort any more than you. I don’t like it when life twists me into a pretzel or I’m surrounded with clouds of darkness. But we have to understand that whatever happens to us; whichever prayer gets answered or goes unanswered, everything is designed to redound to the glory of Jesus Christ, not us!
When we assume life revolves around us and then don’t get our way, God can become a target of scorn and it’s easy to lash out at Him. But when we acknowledge that everything—good and bad, painful or delightful—works “for the praise of His glory,” it becomes doxology.
(Insight) I want to show you how God imparts blessing to us, because if we aren’t careful we will expect an immediate reward for all our sowing. There is no question that God ordains blessings for today, and I’ve received from Him many times. But that’s not always the case! While some sowing gets rewarded here on earth, some seeds we sow never touch earth’s soil. [Selah] Some of our praying, and giving, and benevolence is sown directly on the banks of Heaven’s River of Life and is deriving its nourishment from “living water.” And when we arrive there, we will reap a harvest that is immeasurably beyond anything earth could have produced! That alone says, “It’s worth it to serve the Lord.
(Transition) But why would Christians be tempted to say, “It is vain to serve God”? I believe Asaph helps us understand this temptation.
Why Christians say, “It is Vain to Serve God”
Consider Asaph’s biography for a moment:
King David appointed Asaph as the chief the musician who played before the Ark of the Covenant (1CH 16:5). Imagine the privilege it was to minister before the crowning artifact of God’s glory.
Then, Asaph possessed prolific writing abilities. He, along with David and Moses, penned the Psalms.
2 Chronicles 29:30 reveals Asaph was a skilled musician. We don’t know how many instruments he could play, but as the chief composer and director he probably mastered many.
However, in Psalm 73, Asaph admits he nearly lost faith! He nearly lost faith when he saw how wicked men could ignore God, live as they pleased, and yet prosper. He noticed that the ungodly weren’t plagued with the problems that troubled the righteous. They were prideful, they defied God, they injured others, and yet they seemed to enjoy life (Psalms 73:4-12). These matters so disturbed Asaph that he concluded there was nothing beneficial about turning from evil and obeying God. He didn’t see any reason to suffer the reproach of serving God if people could break His laws and prosper.
Have these things ever troubled you? I am sure they have. It’s easy to fall into the trap of comparing your lack with the prosperity of others. This so gnawed at Asaph that his “feet nearly slipped.” He nearly lost out with God! And Asaph ministered before the Ark of the Covenant! He led Israel in worship and wrote Psalms. So how did Asaph succumb to this lie? Asaph nearly cast aside his Faith when he viewed life from a worldly perspective and not the Word’s perspective. And when you look through the lens of the world it’s going to show you that that the winners are those who capture it all now, possess it all now, and enjoy it all now!
Fortunately, God opened Asaph’s eyes and used him to solve the riddle that suggests that the wicked are the real winners. Listen to Asaph’s words in Psalm 73:16: “When I pondered to understand this, it was troublesome in my sight. (17) [But then] . . . I came into the sanctuary of God; [and] then I perceived their end.”
When you attend the House of God, you can see things you could never otherwise see. God made it a place of revelation that would provide an altogether different perspective on life. That’s why the apostle Paul called the church “the pillar and ground of the truth.” It’s literally the reservoir of truth in the world. When Asaph entered the House of God, the Spirit of Revelation dispelled his confusion. In an instant, the Holy Spirit showed Asaph that the path of the ungodly was leading them straight to destruction and hell. People that defy God, and yet prosper, are living with one foot on ice and the other on a banana peel. At times, it seems God is indifferent to their arrogance and rebellion; it seems He’s taking a nap. But one day, when His patience expires, the ungodly will suffer the penalty of their sins, and they will pay for eternity.
The world hadn’t told Asaph that. His hurt feelings hadn’t revealed it. His psychologist hadn’t deciphered the dilemma. He discovered the truth when he entered God’s House! And unless we grasp what God says about the destiny of wicked men, their estate will seem envious. We would gladly trade for their position and prosperity. But don’t be deceived; their position is perilous! The Bible says Christ holds a scepter. And that scepter is more than a polished ornament to adorn His hand. It’s an object that represents authority and judgment, and one day each of us will stand before that scepter and account of our life. Malachi 4:1 says: “the day is coming, burning like an oven, and all the proud, yes, all who do wickedly will be stubble. The day which is coming shall burn them up that will neither leave them root nor branch.”
You see, wicked men are not in such a secure and envious spot after all! But the promise is altogether different for Christians. “To you who fear My Name the Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings . . . (3) You shall trample the wicked, for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet” (4:2-3).
The God-fearers and “The Book of Remembrance”
I’ve used the bulk of this message to deliver a word that asks us to examine our disposition toward God. But let me take a moment to transition to a positive aspect of Malachi 3. In the midst of Israel’s apostasy, there was a remnant of people that distanced themselves from the sacrilege of indicting God. While one group denounced God, another group defended God. They wouldn’t stand idly by and let God’s name suffer reproach without standing up for Him. Malachi 3:16-17 says: “Then those who feared the Lord spoke to one another, and the Lord gave attention and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who feared the Lord and who esteemed His name.”
I can’t speak with infallibility here, but it appears this “Book of Remembrance” is written for God-fearing believers who won’t let God’s name suffer impunity. They refuse to be silent when God’s name is maligned and they visibly distance themselves from those that would mock God’s character. The Bible says when this group took righteous note of God, God took note of them. He honored them by inscribing their names and memorializing their actions in “The Book of Remembrance.” I don’t know about you, but I want my name recorded in “The Book of Remembrance” . . . because, it’s worth it to serve God!
From my study of Scripture, there appears to be four books the Bible memorializes for eternity.
First, there is this scroll Malachi calls, “The Book of Remembrance.” It will always have a sacred and permanent place in heaven.
Second, there is the Word of God itself—the Bible. It will always be our guide and law.
Third, there’s the “Book of Life,” which records the names of everyone that accepts Christ as their Savior.
And fourth, there is a set of books Revelation calls, “The Books.” “The Books” are a comprehensive moment-by-moment biography of every person that has ever lived. Everything you ever did—all your actions—are recorded in “the books.” Everything you have spoken, even in secret, is in “the books.” Your thoughts that you have not shared with anyone have been recorded in the book.” Even your intentions, things that you would have done but didn’t get the chance, are recorded in the books.”
The Apostle wrote in Revelation to a day of judgment when God will open “the books.” I believe it’s here, at the Judgment Seat of Christ, that the books are opened and Paul’s words find their fulfillment when he says: “every knee shall bow and every tongue confess, that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of the Father.” But it will be too late for many! When God opens “the books” and our life is exposed before Heaven’s court, our only defense from all that would indict us will be Jesus. Are you ready to face God at His Judgment Seat? You can be. Invite Jesus Christ into your heart today. His grace and mercy are available.