“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. (Mal 1:6-13)
If you just skimmed over that passage above, stop right now, go back and read it carefully.
My sisters and I trod very lightly as we read through this first chapter. We put off the pain as long as possible, talking about whether Malachi was really a prophet named Malachi or an anonymous writer called "Malachi," which means "my messenger." We decided Malachi was indeed the prophet Malachi. After all, every name in Hebrew means some sort of ordinary word. Just because we choose to give our children names that are a conglomeration of syllables and sounds that we have no clue what means doesn't mean everyone does.
Then we spent more time discussing when Malachi was written, which, due to the nature of the similar problems in both Malachi and Nehemiah, seemed a no-brainer. And after that came an explanation of the disputation method of speaking, which several of the prophets employed. Only Malachi uses it throughout an entire book.
Finally we could put it off no longer. "How," the question in our study began, "can we apply this passage to ourselves?" "How can we,"
someone asked, "when we live in such different times?" Ah, but do we?
Those people had returned from captivity to restore the nation of Israel and its true worship. They had built the altar first, so they could begin their worship immediately. Then they built the Temple and finally the walls of the city. Here they are about 100 years after the return, going about the daily sacrifices and annual feasts, yet still God has not brought about the glorious kingdom he had promised. Still the Messiah has not come. They are in a waiting period and, as they wait, their worship has become dull, meaningless routine. Their heart is no longer in it. They are bored in their assemblies and snort at the rituals rather than remembering the reason for them.
Let's see… Aren't we in a waiting period? Jesus promised his return 2000 years ago, but here we sit, going through the same routines, forgetting why we worship and neither giving it our best effort nor our best sacrifice.
So how are we like those people sometimes? Hang onto your hats as we go through those verses above from our perspective!
1) Worship has become all about our entertainment and approval rather than obedience and reverence. We have completely forgotten that we are not the audience—God is—and He expects us to worship to the best of our abilities even if the preacher is boring and we don't like the songs. It doesn't matter—AT—ALL—what we think about the services, only what God does.
2) We treat the Lord's Supper like some kind of magic potion. As long as we "make it in time for that," we are okay. Never mind that we have missed singing with our hearts to our Creator. Never mind that we have not taught and admonished each other. Never mind that we have not been there to provoke one another to love and good works. That teensy bite and sip (where did that come from?) will keep us safe for another week. We fail to treat this precious opportunity as a grateful memorial and unifying communion with the Lord and our brethren.
3) We offer God skimpy or exhausted leftovers, not only in the plate, but in our time and energy for prayer, study, and service. ("Study? I read my chapter every night. What more is there to do?")
4) We compartmentalize our religion to Sunday at the meetinghouse and forget that we are to offer our "living sacrifice" every day of the week. When we wake in the morning, it should be with an eye how to best serve God that day—not ourselves.
5) We fail to teach what is unpopular with the world. Why, we will just run them off if they know we believe that! (2:7,8)
How are your toes feeling now? Malachi hits the nail on the head and never apologizes for it. Could it be that he knows this truth: God won't be happy with us either if this is the way we serve him. We may be waiting a long time yet. The world may last another millennia or two, but maybe not. Let's not get as bad those people. Wouldn't it be awful if God said of us as he did of them, "I wish there were one among you who would close the meetinghouse doors, that you no longer worship me in vain?" (1:10)
Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. But if that servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed in coming,’ and begins to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and get drunk, the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces and put him with the unfaithful. (Luke 12:43-46)