Learn About/Subscribe:
Christian Union

A Prayer and Fasting Devotional

Malachi 3:13-18

"Your words have been hard against me,” says the LORD. “But you say, 'How have we spoken against you?' 14 You have said, 'It is vain to serve God. What is the profit of our keeping his charge or of walking as in mourning before the LORD of hosts? 15And now we call the arrogant blessed. Evildoers not only prosper but they put God to the test and they escape.'"

16 Then those who feared the LORD spoke with one another. The LORD paid attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who feared the LORD and esteemed his name. 17 "They shall be mine, says the LORD of hosts, in the day when I make up my treasured possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him. 18 Then once more you shall see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him.”

The prophet Malachi records that God’s people were questioning whether it was really worthwhile to serve the Lord. Life was hard  and the people were complaining because they saw no tangible benefits to obeying God. The Psalmist records a similar complaint in Psalm 73, crying out in verse 13: “in vain have I kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence!” The same question can plague Christians today and make us reluctant to seek the Lord, to make sacrifices to serve Him, and to walk in obedience. Don’t we see people prosper who ignore and even defy God? Don’t we often suffer even though we try to live righteous lives, or maybe even because we do so? Or perhaps when things are going well we may be tempted to think, “I’m getting along just fine without earnestly seeking the Lord, so why would I do so now?”

The Lord says that this kind of complaining is “hard” against Him. It grieves Him that His people regard serving Him as nothing more than a commercial transaction—something to do only if it is adequately rewarded, especially materially. The Bible repeatedly states that there are, in fact, rewards for righteousness (see, e.g., Psalm 19:11), but hardness of heart makes us forget, doubt, and grumble.

God responds by assuring His people that He notices and remembers those who “fear him and esteem him.” These people serve Him because they know He is worthy of their devotion, not out of a calculation of profit. He sees their faithful, patient obedience and makes a record of it for all eternity. God assures them (and us) that there will be a day when a clear distinction is made “between one who serves God and one who does not serve him,” even if that distinction is not always apparent right now.

Let us be those who serve and seek the Lord wholeheartedly, confident that there is great reward in doing so (see, e.g, Hebrews 11:6), both now and eternally. Let us be those who serve Him not as hired hands looking for our pay, but as sons and daughters who serve out of love and gratitude, knowing He is worthy of our deepest love and devotion.

Lorri Bentch
Vice President of Operations
Christian Union