“’You have said harsh things against me,’ says the Lord. ‘Yet you ask, “What have we said against you?” You have said, “It is futile to serve God. What did we gain by carrying out his requirements and going about like mourners before the Lord Almighty? But now we call the arrogant blessed. Certainly the evildoers prosper, and even those who challenge God escape.”’”
The Israelites were very serious about not taking God’s name in vain. They went to extreme efforts to make sure that no one took God’s name in vain. So the accusation of saying harsh things about God probably startled them.
The people had not openly spoken badly about God but it was reflected in their words and actions. No one said “God is unjust”, “God is unloving.” However, what they did say reflected that they felt God was unjust and that God was unloving.
“It is futile to serve God. What did we gain by carrying out his requirements and going about like mourners before the Lord Almighty?” Have you ever been really frustrated and sit down and evaluate your life and decide that for all of your faithfulness to God that maybe you deserve more from God, that for all of your service maybe the creator of all things could cut you a little slack and let things go your way just once.
There are many reasons why people may say that it is futile to serve God. Christians are not spared from disasters for instance. Christians get cancer. Christians live in poverty. In the eyes of many, the benefits of serving God should be tangible and obvious to all. Servants of God should have the biggest houses and nicest cars and should never worry about their health – or at least that’s what we seem to think.
We don’t serve God with this world in mind; we must be looking forward to eternity. The Israelites didn’t have that as a perspective when they grumbled that it was futile to serve the Lord. But there are more than just eternal benefits to factor in when considering the reasons that we serve God.
There are many intangible benefits that a price can’t be put upon when it comes to serving the Lord. A few verses earlier when God accused the Israelites of robbing Him, He challenged them to present the full tithe and said that He would bless them with things such as crops that didn’t rot on the vine. What is better – the expensive sports car that is always being worked on in the garage, or the reliable sedan that does all that is needed of it? Or who has it better – the guy with the gorgeous wife who fights with him all of the time or the one with the average looking wife who loves him dearly?
The Israelites were only looking at the surface of things and they thought that things should be better because they were serving the Lord. But they had failed to recognize all of the things that God had done for them that didn’t show up as a financial gain or something else tangible.
God had to remind them that there are benefits to serving Him and those who are wicked will not continue to prosper no matter what it may appear like to the average person. Those who challenge God will certainly not escape, contrary to what the Israelites thought in Malachi’s day.