Note: Lesson 1 can be found here.
Malachi is one book of the Bible that does not mince words. The prophet doesn’t soften the Lord’s words that he shares with the people. He gives it to them straight. The Lord is a little frustrated with the religious leaders here, and His words through Malachi are blunt.
“A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If I am a father, where is the honor due me? If I am a master, where is the respect due me?” says the LORD Almighty. “It is you, O priests, who show contempt for my name.
“But you ask, ‘How have we shown contempt for your name?’
(Malachi 1:6 NIV)
There are some positions in our society where respect is not earned. It is given based on the title. An employee should show respect to their employer. Leaders in society get respect on their elected positions. A parent should receive respect from their child (there are some arguments on whether or not some deserve this respect, but we are only talking about the position and not the person). A parent shouldn’t have to wait 10 or 20 years to see how their job performance is. Respect should be shown immediately due to the positions.
God says “If I am a father, where is the honor due me?” The leaders and the people would call on God as their father, but in His eyes, they were not giving Him the respect that He should have been granted with the title and position of Creator of all things. The leaders then asked in complete innocence, “What have we done?”
When confronted with our wrongs, humans tend to protest. We don’t want to see where we have transgressed. Innocence coats us, or so we believe. What the Lord is accusing the Hebrews was not just addressed to them. It is addressed to us as well.
You truly want to know what you did wrong to the Lord? Alright, here is how you disrespected your Father, how we all do.
“You place defiled food on my altar.
“But you ask, ‘How have we defiled you?’
“By saying that the LORD’s table is contemptible. When you bring blind animals for sacrifice, is that not wrong? When you sacrifice crippled or diseased animals, is that not wrong? Try offering them to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you?” says the LORD Almighty.
(Malachi 1:7–8 NIV)
Having food placed on the altar was an important part of the temple ceremonies for the Hebrews. It wasn’t because God was hungry. It was because he wanted people to sacrifice their best to show loyalty and selfishness. When you generously donate your best possessions, you are showing respect, honor, and love to others. So what were the leaders doing? They gave him things they did not want. For example, If I visit your house and you give me the food that you usually feed your dog, does that show a visitor respect? No, it is complete disrespect. Share the best wine not the wine you cook with.
The best items are supposed to have no blemishes whatsoever. That is what made it a sacrifice — it’s perfect. You were not to look at the perfect lamb and and see all the money you could get selling it, breeding it, or using it. You should say, “Thank you, Lord, for this perfect gift. I give it back to you as a thanks.” But that was not what was happening. God was receiving imperfect gifts. Political leaders got better gifts than him. He got some of the worst.
Do we give Him the best of our time? the best of our heart? Or do we squeeze Him in when we see fit?
“Now implore God to be gracious to us. With such offerings from your hands, will he accept you?”-says the LORD Almighty. “Oh, that one of you would shut the temple doors, so that you would not light useless fires on my altar! I am not pleased with you,” says the LORD Almighty, “and I will accept no offering from your hands. My name will be great among the nations, from the rising to the setting of the sun. In every place incense and pure offerings will be brought to my name, because my name will be great among the nations,” says the LORD Almighty.
(Malachi 1:9–11 NIV)
God is a bit angry here. If you won’t give Him the best, then don’t give Him anything at all. The thought doesn’t count here. He doesn’t want our thoughts. He wants our hearts and our actions just as He did of the Hebrews. He reminded them that there will be a day when everyone will acknowledge and worship Him. No one will be able to ignore Him. But they don’t get it. They have the “inside track” with Him. They are already there, and yet they are rejecting Him. That makes them no different from the other nations around them.
“But you profane it by saying of the Lord’s table, ‘It is defiled,’ and of its food, ‘It is contemptible.’ And you say, ‘What a burden!’ and you sniff at it contemptuously,” says the LORD Almighty.
“When you bring injured, crippled or diseased animals and offer them as sacrifices, should I accept them from your hands?” says the LORD. “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. For I am a great king,” says the LORD Almighty, “and my name is to be feared among the nations. (Malachi 1:12–14 NIV)
They were bringing such beautiful gifts to the rulers of their land and other lands, but they were only giving the Lord leftovers. He wasn’t as highly regarded as He should have been.
How are you coming before the Lord? Are you really giving Him the best of possessions? Does He get the best of your time? I’m a morning person. The first few hours of the day are when I have the most energy. When I thought about it, I realized that I was using those first few minutes of every day for other things instead of focusing on Him. I began to use those first minutes of my day to focus on God and study His Word. Does that make a difference! I’ve given Him the best of my time and He has blessed me.
Does He get the best of your money? Or do you hold back for that flat screen TV?
Does He get the best of your material possessions? Or do you hold back for others to admire?
Does He get the best of your heart? Or do you give Him only what is left after everyone else has their share?
Where does God fit into your life?