They say the road to hell is paved with excuses, and this is chillingly close to the mark, as I noticed in my reading of Malachi. The book reads like a scolding by a parent to a kid caught red-handed pinching his brother under the dinner table. Rather than receiving the rebuke and keeping his mouth shut, the child pathetically maintains his innocence: “What do you mean? What did I do?”
Malachi is the last book of the Old Testament, and God is handing out a bad report card to his children for 2,000 years of spotty behavior. And yet, at every turn in the book, Israel contests God’s charges and pathetically protests her innocence rather than humbly accepting the rebuke and repenting:
“‘I have loved you,’ says the LORD. But you say, ‘How have you loved us? …’” (Malachi 1:2, ESV).
“If I then am a father, where is my honor? … But you say, ‘How have we despised your name?’ By offering polluted food upon my altar. But you say, ‘How have we polluted you? …’” (1:6–7, ESV).
“And this is the second thing you do. You cover the LORD’s altar with tears, with weeping and groaning because he no longer regards the offering or accepts it with favor from your hand. But you say, ‘Why does he not?’ …” (2:13–14, ESV).
“You have wearied the LORD with your words. But you say, ‘How have we wearied him?’… [B]y asking, ‘Where is the God of justice?’” (2:17, ESV).
“‘… Return to me and I will return to you, says the LORD of hosts. But you say, ‘How shall we return?’ Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ …” (3:7–8, ESV).
“Your words have been hard against me, says the LORD. But you say, ‘How have we spoken against you?’” (3:13, ESV).
Synonyms for petulant include peevish, bad-tempered, querulous, pettish, fretful, cross, irritable, sulky, snappish, crotchety, touchy, tetchy, testy, fractious, grumpy, disgruntled, crabby. And let me add to the list excuse-making and back-talking.
These human approaches to God and responses to His plain Word may seem to “fly” here on earth among ourselves—and the questions may even (when spruced up in polysyllabic words) pass for academic and intellectual inquiry—but they will not fly when we meet God face-to-face by and by. May as well get used to receiving His corrections here in the land of the living and changing our ways while there is still time.