The LORD Almighty says to the priests: “A son honors his father, and a servant respects his master. I am your father and master, but where are the honor and respect I deserve? You have despised my name! “But you ask, ‘How have we ever despised your name?’ ”You have despised my name by offering defiled sacrifices on my altar. “Then you ask, ‘How have we defiled the sacrifices?’ “You defile them by saying the altar of the LORD deserves no respect.
Do we show God the respect that he is worthy of? Our country still reveres the name of the Lord enough to refrain from taking the Lord’s name in vain on broadcast television but this is about as much respect as God gets. Sure, we’re probably not going to be heard taking the Lord’s name in vain but Malachi’s message still rings true for many Christians today. Worshipping God is a burden for many people because it’s not what they really want to do on a Sunday morning.
Maybe this isn’t the case for you. Maybe you really want to be here and not just because this is where your friends are at or because you’ve done so for decades. Maybe you really want to be here to hear God’s word proclaimed and you want to worship God. If this is true for you, I’d say you’re in the minority. For most people if you don’t show up to talk to your friends, church is a burden. There are many better things to be doing on a Sunday morning. Two hours out of the 168 we get each week is an awful lot for a lot of people. Add in an hour on Sunday evening and then a midweek meeting and you’ve doubled your time to 4 hours a week! This is highly obtrusive to our schedules; if that is what God wants, he’s asking way too much.
The Israelites didn’t have trouble with how they spent their time concerning God. It was how they valued their possessions in comparison to God. God had clearly asked for unblemished sacrifices. It was the practice that was set up from the very beginning. The unblemished lamb pointed to the sinless savior who would be sacrificed once and for all. But the Israelites weren’t willing to make the sacrifice God required and the Lord told them that they held no respect.
8 When you give blind animals as sacrifices, isn’t that wrong? And isn’t it wrong to offer animals that are crippled and diseased? Try giving gifts like that to your governor, and see how pleased he is!” says the LORD Almighty. 9 ”Go ahead, beg God to be merciful to you! But when you bring that kind of offering, why should he show you any favor at all?” asks the LORD Almighty. 10 ”I wish that someone among you would shut the Temple doors so that these worthless sacrifices could not be offered! I am not at all pleased with you,” says the LORD Almighty, “and I will not accept your offerings. 11 But my name is honored by people of other nations from morning till night. All around the world they offer sweet incense and pure offerings in honor of my name. For my name is great among the nations,” says the LORD Almighty. 12 ”But you dishonor my name with your actions. By bringing contemptible food, you are saying it’s all right to defile the Lord’s table. 13 You say, ‘It’s too hard to serve the LORD,’ and you turn up your noses at his commands,” says the LORD Almighty. “Think of it! Animals that are stolen and mutilated, crippled and sick – presented as offerings! Should I accept from you such offerings as these?” asks the LORD. 14 ”Cursed is the cheat who promises to give a fine ram from his flock but then sacrifices a defective one to the Lord. For I am a great king,” says the LORD Almighty, “and my name is feared among the nations!
This is about half hearted worship. God is plenty mad about the people’s attitude toward him. The people are going through the motions, bringing worthless sacrifices, hoping nobody will notice. The people believe that the ritual is what is bringing their salvation.
Let me assure you that ritual saved no man, no woman, no child. There are no sacred rituals, none that will get us into heaven, none that not doing will keep us out of heaven. The Old Testament saints were saved not because they presented a sacrifice. They were saved because they believed God would send a savior to forgive them of their sins. And because of this faith, they worshipped God in the manner which he had prescribed.
We like the concept of a loving and forgiving God. Certainly scripture gives us many pictures of God’s love and forgiveness. But we serve a God who is capable of great anger also and I believe he is quite mad at this point. The people aren’t giving God what they should.
If we owe the IRS $2,000 in taxes, would they let us alone if we sent them a check for fifty bucks? If we were expected to work forty hours a week, how long would the supervisor keep their mouth shut if we only came to work for thirty hours a week?
In both cases, the consequences wouldn’t be pleasant and they would be swift. Revelation describes a similar setting with a group of people who half been half hearted in their worship. Revelation 3:15-16 describes the church of Laodicea. “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were one or the other! So because you are lukewarm – neither hot nor cold – I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” A better word for spit is actually vomit. This group of believers leaves such a bad taste that it makes our Lord want to vomit. I believe this is similar to the half hearted worship that Malachi faces in his day.
“It is too hard to serve the Lord,” echoes the cries of the people today. There’s too much persecution. There are too many temptations. There are too many other things that need my attention. So we go about serving the Lord in our own way, half hearted, and we hope that no one will notice.
We aren’t fooling anyone. We’re certainly not pulling the wool over God’s eyes. God declares that “Cursed is the cheat who promises to give a fine ram from his flock but then sacrifices a defective one to the Lord.” God deserves better and we need to give him better.
“I wish that someone among you would shut the Temple doors so that these worthless sacrifices could not be offered! I am not at all pleased with you,” says the LORD Almighty, “and I will not accept your offerings.”
I have prayed this prayer before. There are many churches that are nothing more than country clubs. There are many churches that are dead in their worship. Worse yet, there are many churches that have a bad name in the community and give God a bad name. It would be far better for the true believers to disperse among other solid churches than to have a church that continually presents a bad witness of Jesus Christ and offers God nothing other than pointless repetition in its worship.
God is very serious about worship of Him and he takes our offering – whether it is in time, talent, or treasure – seriously as well. Malachi 3 will dive deeper into this topic when God outright accuses the people of robbing Him of what He is due.