Sunday, June 24, 2012

Stealing From God 神から盗む

I spent some time in a youth prison while I was in Bible School---not as an inmate but as a Bible teacher.  All sorts of kids from all sorts of backgrounds were there at the JUVENILE DETENTION CENTER-close to the Broad River north of Columbia, SC.  Short kids, tall kids, white kids and black kids.  Some were as young as 11 and as old as 17.  When a teenager turned 18 and he still had some time left of his sentence, he would be sent to adult prison. 

One factor was common with ALL the kids: they all were innocent.  “Didn’t do it!”  “Not me!”  “I was set up!”  100% of the inmates were all innocent children!  (That is what they said, but…) But after talking with them for some time, you learn that this innocent was short lived.  They had been doing all sorts of crime from an early age and the chances of them returning to crime was very high.  Law enforcement officials I have met told me that South Carolina had the worst reputation of all the States concerning the prisons. 

The kids were tough and so were the guards.  I would not hesitate to say that they were cruel and unkind.  One guard I knew in the Rhode Island prison system liked working there so he could beat up people real good.  This is in no way implying ALL prison guards are like this, but…

And the men…and the youth in the prisons were all innocent.

We find that same attitude today in our passage.

The People of Israel were feeling pretty good about themselves.  Even as their country was falling apart around them, the enemy nations were pressing in on every border, their economy was being stretched well beyond any possibility of recovery, and God gives them this piece of news that they reject.  “You are stealing from Me!”

Every well respecting Jewish person knew the Commandments Moses passed on to them.  They knew the Five Books of Moses and for some of them, had even memorized them! They wore the right kind of cloths.  They followed—for the most part—those ceremonies of their so-called Faith.  They had some holes in the outworking of their Faith but they felt smug. They felt that they were the “Chosen Ones” of God and that alone would save them from defeat.  Save them from disaster.  Save them from the horrors of captivity. After all, they had ‘made it’ through the Babylonian captivity.  They were living through the Medo-Persian Empire’s captivity.  How hard could it get?

They will need to learn a very hard lesson.  And they will learn it rather soon.  As background, lets look at when all this happened.
Date   Book
Prophecies to/about
Major Sins Addressed
520       Haggai
The restoration Temple
points to the Church
Joshua and the
returned remnant
Neglect in building
God's House.
520-518    Zechariah
The coming of
God's Kingdom
preceded by
building of Temple
Joshua and the
returned remnant
Joshua's filthy garments.
Lack of judgment,
mercy and peace.
Living in evil ways.
c. 400       Malachi
Be prepared for
the Messenger
that is to come
Israel and
'Israel of God'
Priests neglect duties.
People chided for
divorce, adultery,
criticizing, robbing God.
Here is a chart of the timetable of years between 605BC and 400BC.
In just a short amount of time, Israel has been taken away three times—The Assyrians, the Babylonians and now the Persians.  For many of them, they might have felt: “What more could happen to us?”  Again, a lesson to be learnt the hard way—thru fire.  Fire, because they did not follow the commands in the first place.  (God had promised them that IF they followed His Laws, only good would come out of life—but, if they rejected His Plans and His Laws, they would be punished.)

Here we have the situation where the people just did not get it!  They felt that they could just sit back and let life move on without any effort on their part.  Even the idea of keeping the ‘easy’ laws of God became a burden to them.  And now, God is telling them that they are robbing God Himself. 

1. Robbing God: In tithes and offeringsMal 3:8神から奪う:10分の1献金と捧げものにおいて マラキ3:8
The statement was given: You have stolen from Me.  They replied: “No, we are innocent!  Not true!”  (Just like those inmates in the DJJ Detention Center.)

I would guess it is a serious thing to steal from God.  Even as a young boy in Rhode Island, I just could not steal things.  Shoplifting was very popular with the people I went to school with.  I just could not do it. Glad I did not do it! As I spoke to the kids in the Center, they would tell of the things they stole—not that they were guilty of those crimes—and I would wonder- “What kind of conscious do they have?”  Not a very active one.

But stealing from God? Think about it in the sense of what could be stolen from the King of the Universe?  Does He have anything that I could indeed lift? It would be on a different level. Stealing time away from Him.  Neglecting devotional time—prayer time—time in His presence? Sure that would be stealing.  Here in this passage, the stealing was different than time or devotion—it was real robbing of money…of the tithes and offerings due to Him. 

Last week, we looked at the question of tithing and through our research; we found that a tithe (10%) was the starting point and that we are to add to that as we mature in our Faith.  Here, God’s People were robbing God even of that 10% plus offerings. They became callus to the things of God.  They became immature in their Faith.  In short, they were at the bottom looking down and not up.  If they were looking up, God would have helped them. They felt comfortable in this position.  And yet God wanted to give them more—so much more.  Read on in verse 10. God is inviting the people to bring in the tithe into the storehouse…to test Him at His Word.

Before we go to far, 2. Penalty For Robbing: Under a curseMal 3:9  強奪への制裁 呪いのもと  マラキ3:9
Then in verse 11… “I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not drop their fruit before it is ripe, ” says the Lord Almighty.  So what was going on in their country? Pest was affecting their harvests. Their vines were drying up before the fruit would mature. And for an agricultural nation, this means certain death! 

3. Command: Bring In The Whole TitheMal 3:10命令 全ての10分の1献金を持ち寄る マラキ3:10
I would imagine that we also need to put this to a test.  Bring to Him what is His due and see what the Lord God will do in our lives, in our families, and in our communities.  I do believe that IF—as in 2 Chronicles 7:14“If My people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” DO YOU BELIEVE HE WOULD DO THIS FOR US!  Do we need sins forgiven?  Does our land need healing?   Here He says: “Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.”

The Lord also had a lot to say about the condition of your offerings.  Not the lame, cut, weak sheep, but healthy, whole spotless lambs would be the one’s the Lord required. 

Think of our gifts we bring to Him.  Are they the first fruits of our labor? Are they given out of a heart of gratitude or in a grudging manner? Identify the motives and make changes where necessary and move on to become mature in your Faith.

How?  There are programs out there to help us, but let’s look at just three simple steps:
            a. Program For Stewards: First Day of Week  – 1 Cor 16:1-2  仕える者に関するプログラム 週の最初の日 第1コリント16:1-2 1 Now about the collection for the Lord’s people: Do what I told the Galatian churches to do. On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made.
            b. Prosperity Of Stewards: Sowing Generously – Reap Generously – 2 Cor 9:6仕える者の繁栄 ゆたかに撒き ゆたかに刈り取る 第2コリント9:6  Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.
            c. Possessions Of Stewards: Store Up Treasures In HeavenMatt 6:20-21  仕える者の財産 天に宝を積む マタイ20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.      Where is your heart?

Col 3:23  Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.  Whatever you do, do with all your heart    何をするにも、心から働きなさい。 コロサイ 3:23
2 Cor 9:7  Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. God loves a cheerful giver神は喜んで施す人を愛して下さるのである。第2コリント 9:7   Are you cheerful?
Matt 10:8  Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.  Freely you have received, freely give ただで受けたのだから、ただで与えるがよい。マタイ10:8
Two Promises given: 与えよ.
Luke 6:38 Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Give, and it will be given      えよ。そうすれば、自分にも与えられるであろう。 ルカ6:38
Malachi 3:10.  Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it. I will throw open the floodgates of heaven わたしがあなたがたのために、天の窓を開き、あふれるばかりの祝福をあなたがたに注ぐ. マラキ3:10

Are you getting ready for the floodgates to be opened?