Malachi 1:6-14 – Being honorable!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
December 11, 2011 AM
We can dishonor someone by not holding them in high regard. The people of Israel had done this with God. Within the Ten Commandments given to them on Mt. Sinai was the first and most important command that instructed, “You shall have no other gods before me.” Following this command was the simple reasoning that they were also not to make any “idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.” They were not only not to make them, they were not to “bow down to them or worship them (Exodus 20:3-4).” Yet, in all of this, the Israelites had dishonored God and done all of the above.
Malachi’s second burden therefore deals with the dishonor God’s people can have for the Lord. While it may be easy for us to point to specific denominations today that make idols and worship them, we often as evangelical Christians can fail to see the idols we form and impure worship in our lives. In this, Malachi’s burden is just as much a message for us as it was for the Israelites. We are to honor God with acceptable sacrifice. Let’s find out what Malachi teaches us about being honorable…
Relationship is important to God. We discover this from the very beginning in Genesis to the final chapter of the Book of Revelation. When God told the Israelites, “You shall have no other gods before me.” (Exodus 20:3 NIV) he meant it. It is also why Jesus reiterated that the greatest commandment was to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” (Mark 12:30 NIV) Therefore, Malachi’s burden begins with…
I. A charge of a dishonorable relationship (1:6)!
1. A relationship by any other name is not a relationship!
1) Malachi spoke of proper relationships in his society. The Israelites understood the idea that “A son honors his father and a servant his master.” People respected relationships and the structure they had. In fact one of the Commandments stated that a person was to honor their parents (Exodus 20:12). However, God asks the applicable question that goes to the heart of the issue, “If I am a father, where is the honor due me? If I am a master, where is the respect (fear) due me?” If God was seen as the Father of the Israelite people and also as their Master, where was the respect due Him? God did view Israel as his “firstborn son” (Exodus 4:22) and the Commandments stated very clearly that children were to honor their parents. Israel recognized that “O Lord, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand (Isaiah 64:8 NIV).” What had happened then to the relationship Israel was supposed to have with God? They had allowed false and perverted ideas of worship to creep into how they honored God.
2) The absurd response of the people, especially the priests, proves the point God made through Malachi. So conceited and into themselves are the people and their spiritual leadership that they have no idea they had flagrantly and deliberately strayed from God! They act like they are the ones offended and arrogantly ask, “How have we shown contempt for your name?” (I can almost see Malachi stepping off to one side to get out of the way of the righteous fire from heaven!) Fear of God does not necessitate being terrified of him; but rather having a proper respect and reverence for him, a reverence that leads his people to worship and obedience! They had deliberately followed their own selfish desires instead and dishonored their relationship.
EXAMPLE: Their contempt was in the manner in which the Israelites totally disrespected their relationship with God. They called him “Father” and “Master,” but wanted what they could get out of God rather than what they could sacrificially bring to his temple and altar. America has become a nation of consumers. There is nothing wrong with this except where our relationship with God is concerned. We consume God instead of offering our sacrifice to him. We look for ways to get the most bang-for-our-buck instead. This is why so many hardly give anything to their church in time, talent, or treasure. Churches often do ask folks to join and instead offer up bigger and better Sunday morning shows knowing that the consumers in the pews may shop elsewhere. It is contemptible when we continually want God to fill our plastic bag with goodies, but never sacrifice anything for his kingdom. It is a matter of honoring our relationship with the one who sacrificed everything for us. The Israelites had dishonored God.
When folks give the Lord something that doesn’t really cost them anything, it is not a sacrifice. The idea of sacrifice demands that it cost the giver. Very little that is given in the church today is truly sacrificial in nature. The Israelites understood what it meant to sacrifice because they were required to give the very best they had to God in order to show that they truly honored the Lord. Malachi goes on to tell the people that if you really want an answer how they had dishonored God, well here is…
II. The evidence of dishonorable sacrifices (1:7-14)!
1. The proof was in the pudding and it contained a huge hairy fly!
1) The priests were responsible to teach the people God’s covenant and turn their hearts to God! If the priests failed to honor God, what could be expected of the people? The “food” here refers to the sacrifices that were to be offered to the Lord. They were warned against offering such sacrifices and thereby profane God’s name (Leviticus 22:2, 32). These sacrificial offerings were symbols of obedience, trust, and the cost involved. God savors and honors righteous sacrifice and they were bringing contemptible ones to his temple and table. Apparently they had become so hardened they rationalized their sin! They arrogantly brought blind, crippled, and diseased animals. If they thought it was okay to do, they should try offering them to their Persian governor! Would he be gracious and accept them? The answer is, “Of course not!”
2) In our day and age we think that if we feel it, it must be sincere! God knows better. He isn’t “pleased” with half-hearted offerings—they are contemptible and he “will accept no offering from [our] hands”. Notice it would have been better if they had “shut the temple doors” so they did not “light useless fires on” God’s altar! The Hebrew word “because” actually begins verse 11 and is not found in the NIV. It was “because” God’s name would be “considered great among the nations” that they needed to make “pure” sacrifices. It was a matter of the Israelites witness to the world! They not only profaned God’s table by bringing the worst they had but they contemptuously turned their noses up to it as well! Levitical law stated they were to get a share to eat, but they didn’t want the diseased food they had brought God! They were blatant hypocrites. God tells them, “Cursed is the cheat who has an acceptable male in his flock and vows to give it, but then sacrifices a blemished animal to the Lord.” Are there evidences where Christians “cheat” God with their blemished sacrifices and then say that God’s church is a “burden”? I suspect there is.
EXAMPLE: Both the priests and the people dishonored God. God related, “Because of you I will rebuke your descendants; I will spread on your faces the offal from your festival sacrifices, and you will be carried off with it.” Much of what is done as worship will end up being wiped waste on folks faces! Even today there are those who deserve the condemnation of Malachi, who have taken the holy out of worship. They do not bring pure sacrifices to God’s table, yet think God should bless them. It makes one wonder if the words of Jesus are not more accurate than we realize. He related that, “by their fruit you will recognize them.” And went on to admonish, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’” (Matthew 7:21-23 NIV) Is there evidence of dishonorable sacrifices in God’s church today? Malachi’s words should give us pause.
What is disrespect? The dictionary defines it as “a lack of respect or esteem.” We can disrespect something or someone by not holding them in high regard. We honor God with a righteous relationship with him and our pure sacrifices.
Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 25 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2011 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.