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The Scriptorium

Hard Words

Guard against this sin. Malachi 3.13-15

Return from Exile: Malachi 3 (4)

Pray Psalm 50.1-4.
The Mighty One, God the LORD,
Has spoken and called the earth
From the rising of the sun to its going down.
Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty,
God will shine forth.
Our God shall come, and shall not keep silent;
A fire shall devour before Him,
And it shall be very tempestuous all around Him.
He shall call to the heavens from above,
And to the earth, that He may judge His people…

Sing Psalm 50.1-4.
(Austrian Hymn: Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken)
God, the LORD, the mighty Savior, summons all from east to west:
Out of Zion, rich with favor, shines He, of all things the best.
Come, O God, and keep not silence; fire devours before Your way!
He His Church, steeped in defiance, comes to judge this awful day.

Read Malachi 3.1-15; meditate on verses 13-15.


1. How did God describe what the people were saying about Him?

2. What was the result of their speaking this way?

The words God’s people were speaking against God are better translated as “hard”. This describes more their use of the words than how those words impacted God. Hard words. Stubborn. Prideful. Unbending. Resolute. What the people were saying about God reflected the state of their souls (v. 13).

Yet they couldn’t see it (v. 13). When we are in sin, we have already, whether consciously or not, justified that sin to ourselves and still consider that we are good with God. The more we do this, the less we are aware of the sin itself, and the more inured we become to any additional sins we might like to add. In the case of God’s people, their sin was twisting the truth about God to justify their preferred lifestyles. They had come to believe that worshiping God (“serve”, v 14) was a waste of time. So long Sabbaths and sacrifices. That keeping His Law and going through the motions of mourning for sin was a useless exercise. No more sin offerings or private confessions. Worse, they looked around at those among them who were proud and wicked, yet held in esteem, and called them blessed (v. 15). Undoubtedly, they did this because it allowed them to justify their own prideful, grasping, lustful lives.

In this they tempted God (v. 15): “What’s He going to do about it?” And because God’s judgment did not fall at once, they continued in their proud, stubborn, resolute ways—their hard words against the LORD. We may not say such things to ourselves or one another, but we say them by our actions when we set aside the Word of God and try to serve Him on our terms rather than His.

Treasures Old and New: Matthew 13.52; Psalm 119.162
God knows our many weaknesses. And He suspects that we might all, at one time or another, fall into the trap of looking around and envying others. Even the wicked. But instead of ignoring this sin and hardening our hearts to more sin flooding its way into our souls, God gives us examples in His Word of overcomers.

Asaph wrote an informative psalm, when he saw this tendency creeping into his own heart:
“Truly God is good to Israel, to such as are pure in heart.
But as for me, 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” (Ps. 73.1-3).

Asaph went on to elucidate about the wicked, but then his epiphany arrives:
“When I thought how to understand this, it was too painful for me—
until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I understood their end” (Ps. 73.16, 17).

Then Asaph rebukes himself before God, repents, and understands his own end:
“Thus my heart was grieved, and I was vexed in my mind.
I was so foolish and ignorant; I was like a beast before You.
Nevertheless I am continually with You; You hold me by my right hand.
You will guide me with Your counsel, and afterward receive me to glory” (Ps. 73.21-24).

Then he moves into the real beauty and truth of his own life:
“Whom have I in heaven but You?
And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You.
My flesh and my heart fail; but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever” (Ps. 73.25, 26).

Asaph closes with appreciation to God for helping him overcome:
“But it is good for me to draw near to God;
I have put my trust in the Lord GOD,
that I may declare all Your works” (Ps. 73.28).

Who wants to be found guilty of speaking harsh/hard words to God?
Really, dare we ever question God by saying, “What have we spoken against You?” (Mal. 3.13).
It is best to know that we have, will, and probably will continue to think outlandish thoughts concerning ourselves, our lives, the lives of the prosperous wicked, and all manner of sinful things; but we have guidance from our brother Asaph with a “How To” list on extricating ourselves from the snare and trap of being captive to it. See it, repent of it, see God, have a reality check, and be restored.

“Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful” (Heb. 10.22, 23).

We can overcome our weaknesses through the power of His Holy Spirit and Word.
“…be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (Jn. 16.33).
“Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 Jn. 5.5)
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Phil. 4.13).

And that includes overcoming harsh/hard words thought and spoken. 

For reflection
1. Speaking “hard” words to God is thinking we know better than He does how we ought to live. Do you ever experience this temptation? Explain.

2. How can the example of Asaph help to keep hard words from settling into your soul?

3. Whom will you encourage today to delight in the Lord and His Word?

They thought that they worshipped God perfectly; and this was their false principle; for hypocrites ever lay claim to complete holiness, and cannot bear to confess their own evils; even when their conscience goads them, they deceive themselves with vain flatteries, and always endeavor to draw over them some veil that their disgrace may not appear before men. John Calvin (1509-1564), Commentary on Malachi 3.13-15

Pray Psalm 50.16-21.
Pray these verses aloud. Listen as the Lord speaks. Let Him search your heart for any hypocrisy or other “harsh words” that may yet be lingering in your soul. Confess and repent as the Lord leads.

Sing Psalm 50.16-21.
(Austrian Hymn: Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken)
“All of you My Word despising, who are you to claim My grace?
Praise may from your lips be rising, but you scorn Me to My face.
You approve of all transgressions, scheme against your mother’s son!
I will crush your vain aggressions and destroy what you have done.”

T. M. and Susie Moore

Two books can help us understand our own captivity and lead us to seek revival and renewal in the Lord. The Church Captive asks us to consider the ways the Church today has become captive to the world. And Revived! can help us find the way to renewal. Learn more and order your free copies by clicking here and here.

Support for Scriptorium comes from our faithful and generous God, who moves our readers to share financially in our work. If this article was helpful, please give Him thanks and praise.

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Except as indicated, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. For sources of all quotations, see the weekly PDF of this study. All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalteravailable free by 
clicking here.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
Books by T. M. Moore

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