Religion Delineated and Depreciated
Malachi 3:13, 14
Your words have been stout against me, said the LORD. Yet you say, What have we spoken so much against you?…

Your words have been stout against me, saith the Lord, etc. In these words we have religion delineated and depreciated.

I. PRACTICAL RELIGION DELINEATED. Three expressions are here used to represent it.

1. To serve God. "Ye have said, It is vain to serve God." There is a great difference between serving God and serving man.

(1) In the one case the servant benefits the master, in the other the sole benefit is the servant's.

(2) In the one the service is estimated by work actually done, in the other by work earnestly purposed.

(3) In the one there is a surrender of freedom; in the other there is the attainment of it. He who engages to serve man must surrender some portion of his liberty; he who serves God alone secures the highest freedom.

2. To keep God's ordinances. "We have kept his ordinance." This is only a branch of the service, or perhaps the method of doing it. God has ordinances or institutes, some of which are moral, some are ceremonial; the latter may cease to bind, the former are everlastingly in force.

3. To walk mournfully before the Lord. "We have walked mournfully before the Lord." To "walk" before the Lord is religion in perfection, religion in heaven. It implies an abiding consciousness of the Divine presence, and continual progress in the Divine will. Walking "mournfully" characterizes the religion of earth; it is associated with penitence, contrition, etc. The walk of religion is only mournful here.

II. PRACTICAL RELIGION DEPRECIATED. "Your words have been stout against me, saith the Lord. Yet ye say, What have we spoken so much against thee? Ye have said, It is vain to serve God: and what profit is it that we have kept his ordinance?" Men say this:

1. When religion does not answer their secular expectations. Many take up with religion in these days because of the secular good they expect will accrue from their profession of it; if the good comes not, they think it vain.

2. When they see the truly religious in poverty and affliction. Asaph saw this, and he said, "I have cleansed my heart in vain" (Psalm 73:13).

3. When they have taken up religion from selfish motives. A man who takes up with religion for the sake of good will get no good out of it: he will get disappointment and damnation; for "he that seeketh his life shall lose it." No truly religious man has said religion is vain; he feels it to be its own reward - the highest reward. For in truth, it is the only service on earth that will not prove vain. Whatever other labour fails, the success of this is ensured - ensured by the Word of God, the constitution of mind, and the arrangements of the universe. "Therefore be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding," etc. (1 Corinthians 15, 58). - D.T.

Parallel Verses
KJV: Your words have been stout against me, saith the LORD. Yet ye say, What have we spoken so much against thee?

WEB: "Your words have been stout against me," says Yahweh. "Yet you say, 'What have we spoken against you?'

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