Conversations of the Righteous

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.”

Then those who feared the LORD talked with each other, and the LORD listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the LORD and honored his name.

“They will be mine,” says the LORD Almighty, “in the day when I make up my treasured possession. I will spare them, just as in compassion a man spares his son who serves him. And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not.” (Malachi 3:14-18)

God is a topic of conversation. He is a figure of interest and controversy. To his enemies, he is an object of hatred, slander, and ridicule. Non-Christians act out not because they are confident, but because they are disturbed and terrified. Like the scared little demons that caused their victims to throw themselves around and foam at the mouths when Jesus approached, unbelievers know in their hearts that they are in trouble, even as they put on a defiant front. God has shown them his nature, his power, and his righteous demands. They know that he is coming for them, coming to punish them and make them suffer forever. The whole creation bears witness against them day and night, and the people of faith testifies to them of God’s truth, holiness, and judgment. The non-Christians are angry, and they are afraid.

But even those who claim to worship God often dishonor him in their speech. When success eludes them, or when evil men appear to prosper, they become indignant. When tragedy strikes, or when the righteous appear to suffer along with the wicked, they become anxious and full of doubt. They complain that it is futile to serve God, and cry, “Where was God when this disaster happened? Where was he when this wicked man plotted against us?” They consider themselves deep and feeling persons, and when they challenge God because they see the suffering of others, they admire their own compassion all the more.

There is an entire market of books that cater to these people. The authors acknowledge their pain and legitimize their slander. They discuss in detail how God indeed appears to be unjust and uncaring. Then with reluctance they finally affirm that God must be somehow righteous in all of this and consign the matter to some mysterious higher purpose. Doubt is encouraged. Anger is applauded. They claim that these things belong to the process that leads to greater faith and understanding.

But the Bible always labels these as sins and condemns them. It does not comfort the murderer with the assurance that killing people will eventually help him appreciate life. It does not comfort the homosexual with the assurance that experiencing all the facets of sodomy will help him relish the purity and sanctity of heterosexual marriage. God can indeed use our sins and make them contribute to our growth, but only as we agree with him in condemning them and repenting of them. Likewise, God can use these books to help our faith, not as we read them and agree with them, but as he alerts us to their evil so that we may cast them out of our lives and condemn the authors.

If there is a place for books on this subject, the bulk of these volumes should be dedicated to rebuking those who complain about God and those who encourage them to do so. The real reason that people speak this way about God is because they do not fear the Lord. They doubt God not because they are intelligent, but because they are stupid and defiant. God is the one who makes people intelligent, and intelligent people believe God right away. They become angry with God not because they care about justice and the welfare of others, but because they are so arrogant that they are displeased with how God orders his creation.

God’s people, those who truly fear him, praise and honor him in their conversations. They do not complain all the time and criticize the Lord. This might seem obvious, but for many people, it is not; rather, it is said that doubt and anger must be allowed to foster and then resolved in order to lead to growth. But God does not take orders from modern psychology. If they blaspheme, he will throw both the psychologist and his client into a burning hell, and there they can work out their doubt and anger. No, sin is always wrong, and it must be stopped – now.

The righteous make their lips into altars of praise everywhere they go. Their daily conversations are sweeter to the Lord than the sacrifices of the hypocrites. Just talking about God is an act of worship, and each conversation is a doxology. Their words carry eternal significance, because God does not take lightly their reverence, but he hears them and makes permanent remembrance of them.

God is just – he makes a distinction between the righteous and the wicked. This distinction will become evident to all, but even now the difference is revealed in our speech, in how we refer to him. God is the same whether or not we honor him. A man changes. He gets worse, and then he might get better. He loses integrity, and then he might gain it again. He is stubborn, but then he repents. God is perfection, and he remains the same. Thus what we say about him is not a judgment that determines who he is; rather, we are either right or wrong about him, and this becomes a reflection on ourselves, on our faith, knowledge, and character. God remains the same. You cannot improve him, and you cannot hurt him. But what you say about God reveals who you are.

Therefore, let us refer to God with fondness, gratitude, and reverence. Let us talk about God as if we like him! Let us talk about him as he really is, and say that he is just, good, and kind, that he has saved us through Jesus Christ, and that all things work together for the good of those who love him, those whom he has called for his purpose. Our circumstances change, but God remains the same. He is full of grace and power. Jesus Christ is our sacrifice and champion, and our righteousness. The throne of grace is always open to us. Instead of allowing doubt to develop and giving anger free expression, let us fix our eyes on that which is perfect and immutable, and come before God with praise and petition on our lips.