Arguing with God-Haftarah Shabbat HaGadol
“Your words have been harsh against Me, says God. Yet you say, what have we spoken against You? You have said, it is useless to serve God; what profit is it that we have kept His ordinance and that we have walked as mourners before the Lord of Hosts? So now we call the proud sinners with praise, for those who do wickedness are raised up; they have even tested God and been spared (Malachi 3:13–15).”
“What’s the use in serving God? No matter what we do, we still get abused; we don’t have anything, and we are prosperous!” These are their words even though they had just been relieved from seventy years of captivity and slavery!
King David describes his response to such arguments and complaints in Psalm 73:
This is what the wicked are like
always free of care, they go on amassing wealth.
Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure
and have washed my hands in innocence.
All day long I have been afflicted,
and every morning brings new punishments.
If I had spoken out like that,
I would have betrayed Your children.
When I tried to understand all this,
it troubled me deeply
till I entered the sanctuary of God;
then I understood their final destiny.
Surely You place them on slippery ground;
You cast them down to ruin.
How suddenly are they destroyed,
completely swept away by terrors!
They are like a dream when one awakes;
so You, My Master,
You will despise them as fantasies.
When my heart was grieved
and my spirit embittered,
I was senseless and ignorant;
I was a brute beast before You.
Yet I am always with You;
You hold me by my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel,
and with glory You will receive me.
Whom have I in heaven but You?
And earth has nothing I desire besides You.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but the Lord is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever.
Those who are far from You will perish;
You destroy all who are unfaithful to You.
But as for me, it is good to be near God.
I have made My Master, the Lord God my refuge;
I will tell of all Your deeds.
Isaiah too, responded to such complaints:
“But now listen, Jacob, my servant,
Israel, whom I have chosen.
This is what God says—
He who made you, Who formed you in the womb,
and who will help you:
Do not be afraid, Jacob, my servant,
Jeshurun, whom I have chosen.
For I will pour water on the thirsty land,
and streams on the dry ground;
I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring,
and my blessing on your descendants.
They will spring up like grass in a meadow,
like poplar trees by flowing streams.
Some will say, ‘I belong to God’;
others will call themselves by the name of Jacob;
still others will write on their hand, ‘God’s,’
and will take the name Israel (Isaiah 44:1-5).”
Malachi continues his message by reminding us that each word we speak is recorded:
“Then those who feared God talked with each other, and God listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in His presence concerning those who feared God and honored His name.
‘On the day when I act,’ says God, Master of Legions,, ‘they will be my treasured possession. I will spare them, just as a father has compassion and spares his son who serves him. And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve the Lord and those who do not’ (Malachi 3:16-18).”
Malachi well understands our fears and frustrations. He urges us to accept God’s promise of assurance and protection. He wants us to remember that each word of complaint we speak leaves a permanent Mark on our soul. He urges us to fear God, not His wrath, but rather to be in awe of Him, and hold on to His promise of protection just as did the Children of Israel when they risked their lives and took the animal worshiped as a god by the Egyptians and tied them up in front of their homes, provoking their former masters, and saying, “We fear God, not you.”
When the people returned from Babylon to Jerusalem they were still frightened of the military powers who threatened their existence in their new home. They did not fear God as much as they feared men. They cried out against God, rather than to Him, in rejection and anger, rather than connection. They were unchanged despite experiencing redemption. Their complaints were no different from those in King David’s time, and those to whom Isaiah spoke. Their words were the same even after experiencing Redemption. This is our challenge on Pesach- “Peh Sach,” a mouth that converses; has our vocabulary and speech changed because of our positive experiences? (Please see our special series on TheFoundationStone.org: Nisan-Perfecting Our Speech, and Nisan-Fighting The Fire of Anger)
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