Zechariah & Malachi
...the Streets of the City...
Perhaps this particular verse stuck out to me because we are in the thick of my favorite time of the year. I love these days. I love running in sprinklers, and kickball games, and snowcone shacks and late night bench sitting. I love no bedtimes and sun-kissed faces and watermelons and water fights. I love, love, love the summer. Summers create happy memories. Happy memories mean we are living happy lives. It is a perfect indicator that life is good.
At the time of Zechariah, the children of Israel are not living good days. Their rebellion has resulted in their precious city being lost and their futures dim. This happens a lot in the Old Testament, unfortunately.
But Zechariah prophesied to a sad scattered Israel that one day someone would enjoy happy lives in Jerusalem again.
You are about to love this description.
“I am returned unto Zion, and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem…there shall yet old men and women dwell in the streets of Jerusalem…and the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in the streets thereof.” (Zechariah 8:3-5).
The children of Israel will play in the streets of Jerusalem again. Isn’t that a perfect description of a happy people?
Zechariah is prophesying of a future day. A day when God’s covenant people will return to Him and live His law. A law that brings happiness.
Reading the Old Testament quickly reveals themes and patterns that might otherwise be missed. How often have we pled with the ancient church to turn to the Lord and enjoy the felicity of blessings He was offering? How often have we been exhausted to read Jehovah’s prophets cry repentance again and again on deaf ears? Have you ever said out loud, “why don’t they just repent!?”
The Old Testament ends with a church crumbling in apostasy, but accompanied with a promise of a return to the covenants. One day, someone would follow Zechariah’s advice--
“Turn ye unto me, saith the Lord of hosts, and I will turn unto you…Be ye not as your fathers, unto whom the former prophets have cried, saying…Turn ye now from your evil ways and from your evil doings…” (Zechariah 1:3-4)
May happy summer days always be a reminder of the good life we live as we learn from the past and turn to Him.
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MALACHI Messenger of God
...open the windows...
There are several verses in Malachi that we are very familiar with.
But hidden within those verses there are two words that I had never noticed until just recently ––two words that completely changed my heart on the subject of paying tithes.
If you look in the footnotes for verses 8-10 of chapter 3 in Malachi, you will discover the two words I am talking about.
The first is found in the footnote for verse 8, "Will a man rob God?" The word contained in this footnote is ingratitude. It leads me to wonder if gratitude has a place in the payment of our tithes.
What does gratitude have to do with tithing?
It has been about ten months since my husband saw a boy that we had mentored for half a decade standing on the sidewalk with all of his belongings. His family was being evicted. The boy had nowhere to live. "What should I do with Garett?" Greg called to ask me after he had pulled over to the side of the road.
"Bring him home."
I'll be honest, I didn't know how long he would make it here. The boundaries, the structure, the unfamiliar surroundings day in and day out.
We took it a day at a time.
He starting going to Church. He was home and in bed by eleven. Slowly, he began turning his life around.
He got a job...and he started paying tithing.
One day he asked me, "M, why do I pay tithing again? I don't get it. Aren't I supposed to be seeing blessings?" He was serious, thoughtful, trying to understand.
"Do you see the blessings?" I asked him.
"I don't think so," he replied.
"Do you have a job?" I asked.
"Have you ever had a job before?"
"Do you have a roof over your head? A comfortable place to sleep? Clothes to wear? Do you feel safe here? Welcome? Do you feel happy?"
As he begin nodding his head I asked again, "Do you see the blessings?"
He tilted his head, reflecting, and then I watched the understanding come into his eyes.
"I am blessed," he said, "I am happy. Is that what it feels like when you pay your tithing?"
In that moment it became clear to me that gratitude pays a huge part in the payment of our tithes.
The Lord asks us to prove Him. He promises to open the windows of heaven, to pour out a blessing that there will not be room enough to receive.
But what if He is pouring out blessings and we don't recognize them there...
Every so often, in the moments when I remember, after I have filled out the tithing slip and placed it in the little grey envelope, I pause. If I am in a place where it is appropriate I offer up a silent prayer of gratitude.
...for the opportunity I have to pay tithing. ...for the blessings that surround us everywhere ––even the ones I may forget to acknowledge.
In those moments I remember the quote by George Herbert, "O Thou who has given us so much, mercifully grant us one thing more, a grateful heart."
Ever since I learned the lesson I have tried to remember to make gratitude an integral part of the payment of tithes.
The second word you will notice in the footnotes is generosity. It is linked to the phrase, "open the windows of heaven." Those verses in Malachi remind us how generous the Lord is with us.
It was a story of President Henry D. Moyle, told by President James E. Faust, that taught me that I could be generous with the Lord.
"As I grew up out in the Cottonwood area of the Salt Lake Valley, President Henry D. Moyle was our stake president. Years passed and I became bishop of our ward. President Moyle, in the intervening years, was called to the Council of the Twelve and later to the First Presidency. Like the other faithful members of the ward, President Moyle always came to tithing settlement. Invariably each year he would make out a check for the balance of his tithing. As he handed me the check he always said, “Bishop, this is a full tithe and a little bit more because that’s the way we have been blessed.” (Doing the Best Things in the Worst Times, James E. Faust, Aug. 1984)
Just two simple words.
Gratitude and Generosity.
And two simple stories that have forever left an impression on my heart.