Unlike the seasons and the cycles of human life, God the Lord does not change. The biblical narrative shows God to be graciously flexible in his work, and so no change in God does not mean rigidity. I like to think of God unchanging in his love toward us, and this is certainly part of the gospel. Having read the immediate context of Malachi 3:6, I discover that God does not change concerning his infinite justice according to his law. And so, I must conclude that God does not change in any of his character or eternal purpose. He is “the same, yesterday, today and forever.”
My life changes like the seasons. God, who never changes, is powerfully present with me in every stage and circumstance of my life.
Back to the unpopular prophet, Malachi, whose name means “messenger,” I hear God speak, “For, I the Lord do not change,” as the reason for his executing judgment upon his sinful people. In Malachi 3:5, God promises, “I will draw near to you for judgment.” God promises to be “a swift witness against” sorcerers, adulterers, liars, economic oppressors, and oppressors of widows and orphans, and foreign aliens.
God sending his Son, our Savior Jesus, to pay the penalty for our sins as God’s people is not God changing, going soft on his law and stopping short of executing his infinite justice. The death of Jesus has satisfied God’s wrath for our sins as he poured out the full extent of his justice upon Jesus, who knew no sin, but became sin for us. God’s grace and justice meet at the cross so that his infinite justice and his infinite love might be applied to those of us who are united to Jesus by faith.
God says in Malachi 3:6, “For I the Lord do not change.” He continues to address his people, promising that they will not be consumed, even though they have robbed God of tithes and contributions against his holy law. He says to them in Malachi 3:7: “Return to me, and I will return to you.” He tells them how they can return to him: “Bring the full tithe into the storehouse.” He asks them to test his goodness in pouring out blessing upon them.
God doesn’t change like the seasons. He is both infinitely just and infinitely merciful. He is infinitely generous in graciously pouring out upon his people second chances to do the right and giving to them what they do not deserve.
God rehearses two human responses to his unchanging nature and ways: 1) some will say, “It is vain to serve God...evil doers not only prosper but they put God to the test and they escape,” or 2) some fear the Lord and of these God says, “They are mine.” (Malachi 3:13-18)
As the seasons change, I am reminded that God has been gracious to allow me to change. He is patient with me as I learn to fear him instead of questioning his mercy toward those who do not deserve his blessings.
Pastor Nathan E. Lewis
Blaise Paschal (1623-1662), a French scientist and religious philosopher, wrote his “Pensees,” fragments, if not little gems presenting his view of the world. His thoughts trace the universal search for God as he cuts across doctrine and into the very heart of the moral problem. When I am tired or distracted, Paschal’s terse sentences can re-start my thinking. He wrote, “Two extremes: to exclude reason, to admit reason only.”
When you are considering God, his essence and actions, his very existence, do you exclude reason or do you admit reason only? For some people, the pursuit of God is wholly mystical. To think is to retard the search. For others, the pursuit of God is wholly rational. The only way to encounter God is through rationalism. Paschal is refreshingly biblical in his aphorism. God is essentially incomprehensible, yet he has revealed himself to us. His revelation in nature and in inspired word can be received and interpreted by use of reason. Nevertheless, some of the divine revelation defies reason and must be considered as a presentation of the divine Person above and beyond the human mind.
We use our minds to understand God, moving us to marvel. At the same time we use our minds to marvel at what we have discovered to be incomprehensible about God. Recently I heard of a well-educated woman who confessed to have made her own god. Now she has a god in a box.
Check out the video below for more about god in a box:
Joy Williams, in the New York Times, February 26, 2009 reviews “The Life of Flannery O’Connor,” by Brad Gooch. Not having read Gooch’s biography, I don’t know his observations and conclusions but through Williams’ review. Williams’ review is a fascinating description of an eccentric Flannery O’Connor. Undoubtedly, she was a weird chick. While there is an inseparable and interesting connection between an author’s life and her writing, I do not think we should judge the merits of the writing based upon the flaws in the author’s character. It is possible that Williams’ and /or Gooch comes close to doing so.
Flannery O’Connor was a master at exposing human nature for what it truly is in its fallen state. While some readers stumble to find redemption and grace amid her despicable characters’ twisted lives some of the rest of us readers believe that an honest presentation of the total depravity of humanity is the most necessary black backdrop for the light of the gospel.
If you are reading Flannery O’Connor for “light, enjoyable reading,” then, I think, you will be disappointed, unless you are morbid in your recreational tastes. O’Connor wrote carefully, painstakingly choosing words, turning phrases, rewriting scenes, laboring to write while in intense physical pain. She regularly referred to her writings in progress as her “Opus Nauseous.” If you as the reader took equal care, you would discover crafted sentences presenting grace and redemption, hints to the gospel.
Flannery O’Connor consistently presents characters who appear to be morally upright, in settings which would be largely considered to be typically American settings, then shows these characters and settings to be as saturated with the common curse as more exotic settings and the monsters we have imagined. Through this method she moves many of us readers to consider our personal need for the gospel of grace. Perhaps we have too high an opinion of ourselves and have not faced the truly despicable condition of our lives. Some of O’Connor’s friends insisted that in most of her stories, Flannery was writing about her mother. She often cameos a self-righteous, older woman with a hard heart and so it is altogether possible and perhaps, inescapable for Flannery. When one of her friends confronted her about writing often about her mother, Flannery said, “She don’t read any of it.” I think that Flannery chooses an older, white, southern woman often to be the self-righteous, heard-hearted character, because she knows that most of us, when we see an older woman, see our tender grandmothers, a symbol of grace, wisdom, and big hearts.
Gooch, apparently, saw a film clip of Flannery at 5 years old teaching a chicken to walk backwards and toward the conclusion of his biography uses this as a metaphor for her writing: “literary chickens walking backward,” and as Williams adds, “against the grain, comic, tragic, queer, unnatural.”
If Flannery O’Connor was as flawed as Gooch and Williams report (and undoubtedly, their presentation comes close to the reality), then not only her fictitious characters, but her own self become the black backdrop for the glorious light of the gospel.