For the week of November 17, 2001 / 2 Kislev 5762
Torah: Bereshit / Genesis 25:19 - 28:9
Haftarah: Malachi 1:1 - 2:7

Negative Words

"And now this admonition is for you, O priests. If you do not listen, and if you do not set your heart to honor my name," says the LORD Almighty, "I will send a curse upon you, and I will curse your blessings. Yes, I have already cursed them, because you have not set your heart to honor me" (Malachi 2:1,2).

Negative words. Malachi has some negative words for the Jewish people concerning his and their religious leaders. Of course if you believe as I do that God inspired him, then it was God that dished out these negative words. If you have ever read the Bible, you know that it contains a lot of negative and harsh words.

Most of us don't like being told off. Most of us would rather hear how wonderful we are. Some people think that only positive words are constructive and helpful to others. But if that is the case, then why would God say such negative things?

I think there is a big difference between negative words and destructive words. When we are angry with someone, we are likely to try to hurt them with our words. Other times our critical speech can be insensitive to a person's real need. When we correct someone, but our motive is simply to satisfy something in ourselves, neglecting the welfare of the other person, our words will have no benefit.

But that is not what is going on here. God is not out for himself. His desire is his people's welfare. He sees that their attitudes and actions are leading them in harmful directions, and wants to draw them back to the pathway of life.

This was not the time to candy coat words of correction. The people needed to hear the truth about their lives. To speak otherwise would give them a wrong impression as to how God saw what they were doing. They needed to understand the severity of their situation, and make radical changes.

Maybe our rejection of correction comes from our past. Sometimes parents and other authority figures may load their words of correction with their own personal pain, burdening others with things other than what the situation calls for. This is tragic, because we need to learn to take correction gracefully.

Could you imagine an athlete taking offense at his or her coach when corrected? They would never reach their God-given potential that way. Many of the most successful people are the ones that have learned to respond well to negative words. Instead of overreacting to correction, they hear what is actually being said, and, when reasonable, adjust what needs to be corrected.

God is our coach. He desires that we live good lives. His words, all his words - positive and negative - are for our good. So when we read the negative words in Scripture, it would do us well to adjust our lives accordingly. It may be a matter of life and death.

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