“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.” (Malachi 1:6)
I simply do not like to be disrespected. Whether it is my daughter disrespecting me with her words or a student who is being a distraction during the time that I am teaching, few things can fuel my anger more. Perhaps this is why the message of Malachi stings my heart with such conviction this morning. As much as I hate to be disrespected, how much more do I disrespect my Lord with my half-hearted response to him as God? The priest’s response to this is to almost apathetically ask “How have we despised you?” I tend to offer the same question, though, in my own apathy sometimes. Yet, that question alone is a sign of my deep sinfulness. Much of my ‘despising God’ is found in the omission of both holding an adequate view of who he really is and, subsequently, holding an appropriate fear of him. After all, notice God’s own description of himself given by the prophet…
“For My name will be great among the nations, from the rising of the sun to its setting. Incense and pure offerings will be presented in My name in every place because My name will be great among the nations…For I am a great King, and My name will be feared among the nations.” (Malachi 1:11, 14b)
Here the message to God’s own anointed priests drew a contrast between how God’s name would be received and worshiped by the Gentiles and how his own chosen people currently ‘despised him’ through their sleepwalk brand of worship. They had lost sight of who God really was and began to just go through the motions, even cutting corners in the types of offerings they presented to God. Sound familiar? Sure! It sounds like me! How casually I enter into his presence with my half-hearted, lackadaisical offering of worship; and, I am not just speaking about Sunday worship gatherings. Worship is holistic, and too often we seek to compartmentalize our lives, leaving certain (usually a very few) areas that are designated as places of worshipful response. No…our whole lives are to comprise a melody of worship, declaring our submission to his Lordship, our gracious response to his great salvation, a humble fear of the reality of who he really is, and a declaration to the world around us of the Gospel that has both saved us and is transforming us.
But, too often we are guilty of bringing “polluted food,” “blind animals,” and offerings that are “lame or sick” to lay upon the alter as our offering to God. The point is this: we do not get to decide what we will offer. Of the priests in Malachi’s day, they were commanded to bring only a male, unblemished sacrifice. Today, we are commanded to bring the best we have to offer. We are called to holiness and to approach him with hearts that have been sprinkled clean through confession, in the reality of the shed blood of Christ’s sacrifice.
I am often compelled to ask the questions of my students, “Do they really think that I’m that stupid?” Do they really think that they can come into the presence of my authority, disrespect me when I’m not looking (or when they think that I’m not paying attention) and expect me to be too dumb to realize what they are doing? Perhaps this is the question God is asking here. “Do you really think that you can just offer any insufficient offering (that falls desperately short of reflecting my holiness and character) and think that I will just be ok with that?” The answer is found in verse 13, and perhaps it is one that should convict our hearts…
“Cursed be the cheat who has a male in his flock, and vows it, and yet sacrifices to the Lord what is blemished.”
Translation for us today: “Cursed be the cheat who offers to the Lord only what is comfortable and expendable to give and refuses to ‘sacrifice’ that which the Lord demands.” What does the way you live your life today say about the worth of your Lord to watching world around you?