“ ‘Your words have been harsh against Me’ says the LORD, “Yet you say, ‘What have we spoken against You?’ You have said “It is useless to serve God; what profit is it that we have kept His ordinances, and that we have walked as mourners before the LORD of hosts? So now we call the proud blessed, for those who do wickedness are raised up; they even tempt God and go free” (Malachi 3:13-15).
Many of the difficulties that Israel suffered at this point were of their own making (Malachi 3:8-12 cf. Leviticus 26:14, 20; Deuteronomy 28:15, 38-40). Yet, they blamed God. “When a man’s folly brings his way to ruin, his heart rages against the LORD” (Proverbs 19:3 ESV). Some people are like this. However, one should not blame God for things one has actually brought upon himself.
They noticed that the wicked, at least sometimes, seem to prosper and go unpunished in this life (Malachi 3-:15). Centuries earlier, Job noticed this same thing. He said, “Why do the wicked live and become old, yes become mighty in power? Their descendants are established with them in their sight, and their offspring before their eyes. Their houses are safe from fear, neither is the rod of God upon them… their children dance. They sing… and rejoice. They spend their days in wealth, and in a moment go down to the grave. Yet they say to God, ‘Depart from us, for we do not desire the knowledge of Your ways. Who is the Almighty, that we should serve Him? And what profit do we have if we pray?’… How often is the lamp of the wicked put out? How often does destruction come upon them, the sorrows God distributes in His anger?” (Job 27:7-17). Asaph also noticed this (Psalm 73:1-9). The wicked do not always receive punishment in this life. Justice does not always come in this life.
However, they are told of “a book of remembrance” (Malachi 3:16). God knows and remembers the righteous. One day it will be evident that it is not useless to have served God (Malachi 3:17-18).
May we keep the end in mind. Asaph said, “My feet had almost stumbled; my steps had nearly slipped. For I was envious of the boastful, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. For there are no pangs in their death, but their strength is firm. They are not in trouble as other men, nor are they plagued as other men. Therefore pride serves as their necklace… Their eyes bulge with abundance; they have more than the heart could wish… When I thought how to understand this, it was too painful for me- until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I understand their end” (Psalm 73:2-17). Things are not always as they appear in this life (Luke 16:25).
Do you have enough faith to serve God, with or without apparent blessings in this life? Ed Matthew comments on Malachi 3:13, “The reluctant say that it is ‘futile’ to serve Him. There is no ‘gain’ in keeping His commandments, Malachi 3:14, 15. Those people believe religion ought to pay big dividends now. It ought to bring great reward immediately. The general feelings is that folks surely will not serve God for nothing, Job 1:9. In spite of that sentiment, the faithful may live a lifetime without seeing a reward, Hebrews 11:13” (Randal Matheny, A Lifetime Without Seeing A Reward, Microblog). Job’s faith caused him to say, “Though He slay me, yet I will trust Him” (Job 13:15). Again, “For I know that My Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth; And after my skin is destroyed, this I know that in my flesh I shall see God” (Job 19:25-26). May we serve Him with such faith.