Raise your hand if you’d like to have a better memory. Now, imagine having a brain that could remember every day of your life from the time you were around 10. There really is such a condition. Neurobiologists call it “Superior Autobiographical Memory,” and have only found 37 people on Earth with the condition, including the actress Marilu Henner. These people aren’t geniuses; they make average grades in school. They aren’t any better than the rest of us at remembering lists, numbers or trivia. But name a date, any date, to someone with this condition, and they can tell you what day of the week it was, what the weather was like, what they wore that day and what they did. The first person to be diagnosed with this condition was Jill Price, who wrote a memoir a few years ago. In her book, she talks about living with a superior memory. She can remember every episode from the TV shows she loved. When she worked as a secretary at a law firm, her skills came in very handy. But it turns out this condition is more of a curse than a blessing. She writes, “Imagine being able to remember every fight you ever had with a friend, every time someone let you down, all the stupid mistakes you've ever made.”
I doubt anyone here has superior autobiographical memory. But we all know what it’s like to suddenly remember a mistake we made long ago, that we thought we had forgotten. Maybe a person we hurt brings it up; maybe lying in bed, the memory just flashes randomly through our brain. Either way, it’s amazing the amount of shame we feel in those moments; it’s almost a physical pain. If we could pay someone to erase those memories from our minds, wouldn’t it be worth it? I think this is one reason many of us have a sort of uneasy relationship with God. We know we’ve done bad things. We’ve been able to fool most of the people around us into thinking we’re better than we actually are; they don’t know the dark things we’ve done, and they certainly don’t know the truly horrible things we think. But we know that God knows. He knows every single bad deed, word and thought. And He has the ultimate Superior Memory. He cannot forget what we’ve done. So some of us avoid God until we have nowhere else to turn: “Lord, I promise if you’ll do this one thing for me, I’ll never ask you for anything again.” Others of us make ourselves and everyone we know miserable, trying desperately to earn God’s love, to make up for who we are, what we’ve done. There is no joy in the Christian faith for far too many people. We’re ruled by guilt and shame.The book of Malachi was written for people like us. It’s the last book of the Old Testament, and we don’t know much about the man who wrote it. The name “Malachi” simply means “messenger” in Hebrew, so we’re not entirely sure whether that’s the prophet’s name or just a title. Whoever he was, he wrote to God’s people in the days after they had come back home from exile, after they had re-built the temple, and probably after Ezra and Nehemiah had helped revive them spiritually and politically. Malachi wasn’t afraid to tell the people ways in which they needed to change: Stop giving God sacrifices that are worthless, stop divorcing your wives, and start tithing again. But over and over again, he wants the people to know that God loves them. They were descended from a generation of Jews who had lost their homeland because of their own sin. They had come home to the Promised Land, and it wasn’t a land of milk and honey anymore. They had their rebuilt temple and a rebuilt Jerusalem, but a son of David didn’t rule them anymore; they took their orders from the King of Persia now. They kept trying to win God’s favor back, but they never felt good enough. So keep that in mind as you read Malachi 3:17. This Sunday, we'll look at what God was saying to His people through this obscure verse, and how it's a truth that can change your life forever.