“A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am a father, where is my honor? And if I am a master, where is my fear? says the LORD of hosts to you, O priests, who despise my name. But you say, ‘How have we despised your name?’ By offering polluted food upon my altar. But you say, ‘How have we polluted you?’ By saying that the LORD’s table may be despised. When you offer blind animals in sacrifice, is that not evil? And when you offer those that are lame or sick, is that not evil? Present that to your governor; will he accept you or show you favor? says the LORD of hosts. And now entreat the favor of God, that he may be gracious to us. With such a gift from your hand, will he show favor to any of you? says the LORD of hosts. Oh that there were one among you who would shut the doors, that you might not kindle fire on my altar in vain! I have no pleasure in you, says the LORD of hosts, and I will not accept an offering from your hand. For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name will be great among the nations, and in every place incense will be offered to my name, and a pure offering. For my name will be great among the nations, says the LORD of hosts. But you profane it when you say that the Lord’s table is polluted, and its fruit, that is, its food may be despised. But you say, ‘What a weariness this is,’ and you snort at it, says the LORD of hosts. You bring what has been taken by violence or is lame or sick, and this you bring as your offering! Shall I accept that from your hand? says the LORD. Cursed be the cheat who has a male in his flock, and vows it, and yet sacrifices to the Lord what is blemished. For I am a great King, says the LORD of hosts, and my name will be feared among the nations. (Mal 1:6-14 ESV)
Despising God Revealed:
In the very first chapter of this book, Malachi gets right to the heart of the matter with what’s wrong with God’s people. The problem with the people was that they despised God.
In verse 6, God tells them that – A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am a father, where is my honor? And if I am a master, where is my fear?
It’s as the shepherds go astray that the people go astray, and it’s as the shepherds are brought back in repentance that the people are brought back in repentance. And that’s why God directs this charge against the priests of the people.
Look at how God puts Himself in two roles here – as Father and as Master. While God is a Father to us He is also our Master. He has purchased us with the precious, valuable blood of Christ. He has bought us for His purpose. We’re no longer to live for our own selfish purposes, but for the purposes that Christ has bought us for.
Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. (1Co 6:19-20)
Peter gives us a grave warning for those who deny the master who bought them when he says…
But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. (2Pe 2:1)
Now, if this same charge was leveled against you, that you were denying your Father and Master, what would your response be? Would you examine yourself in the light of Scripture with honesty and integrity? Or would you react in the same way that these rebellious people reacted…in disbelief?
These people who God called to task couldn’t see how they were denying God. Their response to God was, “how have we despised your name?” Though their transgressions were obvious to God, they were hidden from them. This can happen to us as well. That’s why it’s so very important to take the Scripture to heart and allow it to search out any hidden faults that we may be in. After all…
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? (Jer 17:9)
The Psalmist says…
Who can discern his errors? Declare me innocent from hidden faults. Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me… (Psa 19:12-13)
Though their faults are hidden from them, God declares them plainly:
- He is not honored as their Father.
- He is not feared as their Master.
The despising of God is a charge leveled at the priests, those whom God has placed as shepherds over His people. These very same shepherds that were supposed to teach the people how to worship were themselves despisers of God. And there’s no way that someone who despises God can teach others anything besides how to despise God.
It’s a biblical truth that the people will follow their leaders, whether towards the love and fear of God…or towards the love and fear of the world. God holds the shepherds responsible for what they do with the sheep, and it’s a terrible thing for the shepherds to be found unfaithful in their calling by the God who called them. Jeremiah speaks condemnation to unfaithful shepherds when he says…
“… surely because my sheep have become a prey, and my sheep have become food for all the wild beasts, since there was no shepherd, and because my shepherds have not searched for my sheep, but the shepherds have fed themselves, and have not fed my sheep, therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD: Thus says the Lord GOD, Behold, I am against the shepherds, and I will require my sheep at their hand and put a stop to their feeding the sheep. No longer shall the shepherds feed themselves. I will rescue my sheep from their mouths, that they may not be food for them. (Eze 34:2-10 ESV)
So if it’s found that a church is despising the Lord by not honoring Him as their Father or not fearing Him as their Master, then the leaders of that church are partly responsible for bringing them to this state. The people of the church are a direct reflection of the leaders of the church.
As leaders we must ask ourselves:
- Have we been feeding ourselves or the sheep that God has entrusted to our care?
- Have we strengthened the weak, healed the sick, and bound up the injured?
- Have we brought back the straying and sought out the lost?
Does the church seek out the lost? Do they proclaim the Gospel of Christ to those who are perishing? If they’re not doing this important kingdom work then as a church they must ask themselves, “Are we being led to proclaim the Gospel?”
What kind of shepherd would not seek out lost sheep? What kind of shepherd, knowing that there are sheep ready to perish at the mouths of lions, would sit in comfort by the fire with the rest of the sheep and ignore such a great tragedy?
Shepherds are not only called to care for the sheep that stay close, but they are called to care for ALL sheep, even if it means getting uncomfortable by moving away from the campfire and moving into the cold darkness that’s found outside of the Church.
So as leaders we must ask ourselves these questions…and as a church we must ask ourselves if our leaders are caring for the people as they should.
Despising God Expressed:
Now that we’ve seen how the despising of God is revealed, both in the people and their leaders, we move on to see how this despising of God is EXPRESSED.
God brings two specific charges against His people in how they express their hatred of Him. These charges are:
- Dishonoring the greatness of God as their Father in their failure to worship
- Disrespecting the greatness of God as their King in their approach to worship
In vv. 7-10 of our main passage we see how the people dishonored God the Father in their failure to worship…
7 By offering polluted food upon my altar…8 When you offer blind animals in sacrifice…And when you offer those that are lame or sick…9 …With such a gift from your hand, will he show favor to any of you? says the LORD of hosts. 10…I have no pleasure in you, says the LORD of hosts, and I will not accept an offering from your hand.
The Scripture is clear in what God demands of us…
“If his offering is a burnt offering from the herd, he shall offer a male without blemish… (Lev 1:3 ESV)
God demands our best, not our leftovers. Those who bring God what they would not dare bring to their earthly governors dishonor God in their failure to worship, because we can’t properly worship God unless we first honor Him. We can’t insult Him with our offerings without incurring His just discipline. So how does God respond to the people who are disrespecting Him in this way?
He challenges them to bring their leftovers to their earthly governors. You see, God knew by their actions that they feared earthly rulers more than Him. He knew that they would not dare disrespect those who could place their body under subjection, but they had no problem with disrespecting God who had their souls in subjection as well. Christ Himself tells us to …
…not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. (Mat 10:28 ESV)
Where do you stand today? Are you willing to give God His due, or are you content with giving Him your leftovers? Do you give the IRS what is due them because you fear what they can do to you? We should all fear God more than the IRS and be sure that we give Him our first-fruits. Not just the first-fruits of our money, but also of our devotion and time. God deserves and demands the best of all that we have, He’s not content with our money alone.
God’s response against those who give Him their second-best is to not receive them. If you don’t expect the IRS to treat you favorably when you cheat them, don’t expect God to treat you favorably when you cheat Him.
Not only does God not receive such into His favorable presence, He also tells us that He’s not pleased with them. God tells them that if this is the kind of worship they bring to Him they shouldn’t even come to worship Him. The offerings that are meant to be a sweet smelling savor to God become a stench in His nostrils when they’re given with such a selfish heart.
God doesn’t only respond to the way He’s despised among His people, He also gives correction. He tells them that His name will be great among the nations, and that they will worship Him properly. How much more then should these, His people, worship Him properly?
God uses the Gentile nations to stir Israel to jealousy that they might return to honoring God properly. Paul tells us that God uses this same paradigm when he says of Israel that …
…through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous. (Rom 11:11 ESV)
What about us? Are we stirred to jealousy when we see those who are not of God’s household being more faithful in some things than we are? When we see Jehovah’s Witnesses constantly witnessing to people about their faith, are we convicted by our lack of witness? Seeing that they are so faithful with a message that’s not from God, shouldn’t we be more faithful with our message that is from God? When we see them giving so much of their time, energy, and resources to their faith…are we moved to jealousy and provoked to walk with the true God with more devotion?
Not only do the Israelites dishonor God as their Father in their failure to worship, they also disrespect God as their King in their approach to worship. Look at how little they really cared about worshiping God. Our passage tells us that they said, “what a weariness this is,” and they snorted at it (v.13). They saw the worship of an infinitely holy, glorious, loving, perfect God as something that had become tiresome, boring, mundane, and common.
God had given His people the wonderful blessing of drawing near to Him in corporate worship, and they defiled it as if it was something unimportant, something to “get over with” rather than enjoying the time spent with God in worship.
How many who claim the name “Christian” for themselves in our time and our culture fall into this same sin of despising God in our approach to Him? How many can’t wait until their Sunday hour is up so that they can stop worshiping and go on to more important things…like watching football or going out to lunch?
Let this passage from Malachi be a stern warning to us. May we be drawn to repentance and strive for a closer walk with Christ as we begin to grow in our love for corporate worship. When we come to God in this most holy convocation, I pray that we would be stirred with a love for Him. And by that love for Christ we would be consumed with a desire to worship Him…not as a matter of duty and obligation that we must “put up with,” but rather as a sincere outworking of the love that we have for our great Lord and Savior.
There is nothing common about the worship of God. If we have become casual and common in our approach to it, then the problem is with us. And just as God condemns His children in the book of Malachi, so He condemns us as well. May we heed our Lord’s discipline and turn back to a more complete love of Christ.
God’s response to this kind of worship in our passage is two-fold: He did not receive their worship, and He cursed them. We see this clearly when we read God’s response to their tainted worship in vv. 13-14 of our main passage:
13…Shall I accept that from your hand? says the LORD. 14 Cursed be the cheat who has a male in his flock, and vows it, and yet sacrifices to the Lord what is blemished. For I am a great King, says the LORD of hosts…
The fact that we only earn the disapproval and curse of God with improper worship should stir us to a careful examination of how we worship Him. The worship of God is nothing to be played around with. Worshiping God is not some past-time that we entertain ourselves with every Sunday for an hour. It’s the most important thing that we do. The whole purpose of us being here, the point of us being created at all, is to glorify God and enjoy Him…and this purpose is wonderfully experienced when we come together on Sundays for worship.
Surely, if our worship is bringing God’s disapproval and curse we’re doing something wrong, just like the people of God in our passage. So we should all look carefully at how we approach God in worship to see if we’re neglecting worship outright: by missing Sunday services and by limiting God’s time to only one hour…or if we’re not approaching Him properly: by coming to Him without the fear and reverence that He deserves and by not preparing our hearts to come into His holy presence. There are many other ways in which we can abuse the worship of God, but this certainly gives us a place to start.
As we examine ourselves by the light of Scripture, we must be willing to change where we see ourselves straying from the standard that God requires of us. And we can only be conformed more to what God requires by the grace of Christ as He works in us by His Holy Spirit. It won’t do any good to try and change ourselves, but we must strive to change by God’s power.
So how, specifically, should our worship be corrected? We look at v.14 for one of the corrective measures:
14…For I am a great King, says the LORD of hosts, and my name will be feared among the nations.
Our perception of God must be right. We must see Him as a great king. Unlike our presidents who are up for election every 4 years, our God is a king and reigns forever. What God requires in our worship today He will require in our worship 100 years from now. There’s not going to be a change in policy as we see in our political system, but God is an unchanging and powerful king who exercises complete rule and dominion over everything.
God won’t be dismissed or placated. He’s a most terrifying God to those who are against Him, and a most satisfying God to those who are His…as He defends them and sustains them in all that they do. Look at how Psalm 2 describes those who would come against such a holy and powerful king…
Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against his Anointed… He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision…(Psa 2:1-12 ESV)
And in the KJV we read of those who submit to God as their king as we read in Ps 89…
For thou art the glory of their strength: and in thy favour our horn shall be exalted. For the LORD is our defence; and the Holy One of Israel is our king. (Psa 89:17-18 KJV)
We are in one of the two camps. We either rage against God by worshiping Him in an unworthy manner, or we submit to His rule as king in our lives as we worship in a way that pleases Him rather than in a way that pleases us or the world around us.
Despising God Examined:
Some of the ways that we despise God might not be obvious from this passage since we worship differently than the OT saints. We don’t bring unblemished lambs to sacrifice because Christ the perfect sacrifice has already come. But we do, many times, fail to honor the greatness of God.
Some have a hard time honoring God as our Father. Our culture no longer seems to honor fathers. There are so many single-mother homes where the father has abandoned his responsibility to his family. The entertainment culture that we’re so in love with rails against the authority of the father in the home, and instead makes him the butt of its jokes.
There aren’t many examples in our culture where the father figure is the leader of the family. Where he has the biblical characteristics of authority, wisdom, and strength. Where he earns the respect of his family and those in his community.
In our culture the phrase “honor your father” is so foreign that we lose grip on what it really means. So how can we honor God when we’re immersed in such a culture? How can we understand God’s role as our father when all around us the biblical role of fathers is being torn down?
We must submit to Scripture rather than our culture. As Christians we should be less concerned with being like the culture around us, and more concerned with confronting the culture around us with biblical truth.
Unlike earthly fathers, God is faithful; He doesn’t leave us because He can’t take the responsibility. God is authoritative, He’s not to be rebelled against but submitted to in honor and reverence.
Besides honoring God as our Father, we’re also called to honor Him as our master. This is another term that we’re not very well acquainted with in our society. We live in a culture where those who have authority over us are disdained and hated simply because they have such authority. We’ve become such lovers of freedom that we neglect the importance of submitting to those with the right to have authority over us.
We disrespect our employers; we disrespect those in the government who we didn’t vote for. People in this very church have spurned the spiritual authority of those placed over them, even though they promised to respect and honor that authority. We live in a culture that spurns authority and desires nothing further than self-rule. And it’s in this culture that we’re called to respect God as our Master.
As our master, God is to be feared. It’s only with a proper sense of reverence towards God that we can worship Him as our master. Consider what Ps 25 says…
The friendship of the LORD is for those who fear him, and he makes known to them his covenant. (Psa 25:14 ESV)
Do you see how it puts friendship and fear together? God is not just some warm fuzzy teddy bear that comforts us as we sleep in the dark. God is an awesome, powerful, holy, loving, and fearful God. So as we approach God as our Father, with the proper respect due to that title….we also approach Him as our Master, with the proper fear and reverence do to that title.
Despising God Answered:
The answer to our problem won’t be found in any self-help book…even from the Christian section of the book store. You won’t find it in “12 steps to your best life now.” The Christian character is developed by the 66 books of God in our Bible, and not by any 12-step program that’s meant to show us a short cut.
If we find that we suffer from some of the spiritual sickness that I’ve spoken of, we can only seek healing from God our Great Physician. Specifically we must come to an understanding of who God is to worship Him properly.
We must not be satisfied with seeing Him as a tame lion, but as a lion that does as He pleases, one that deserves our fear and reverence.
We must not be satisfied with Him being a King who is always happy to give and never considers discipline, but rather as a King who wields His great authority over everything and every area of our lives. Not just to rule over us for an hour on Sunday, but always and everywhere.
Our worship will please God as we begin to treasure Him in our hearts above all else. Not through mere lip service, but by how we live our lives. Do we place Him as first importance when we’re afraid to tell others about Him or when we proclaim His glorious Gospel to others? Do we place Him first when we pray as long as we get what we want from Him, or when we pray to Him without ceasing in the good times and the bad…whether His answer is “yes” or “no?”
We must make God more than an accessory to our lives. He has to be more than a piece of jewelry or a bumper sticker to us. He must be our entire life…a consuming fire to us. I pray that we would sacrifice everything for the glory of Christ and no longer be satisfied with giving Him whatever time’s left over from our busy schedules.
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