God is Worthy (P1) | Malachi 1.6-14
September 29, 2013 Series: Malachi | Rhetorical God
Topic: Old Testament Passage: Malachi 1:6–1:14
6 “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?’ 7 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. 8 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. 9 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. 10 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. 11 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. 12 But you profane it when you say that the Lord’s table is polluted, and its fruit, that is, its food may be despised. 13 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. 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, and my name will be feared among the nations. Malachi 1.6-14
Introduction: The Love of God
This text is about how the Israelites worship. How they worship tells us a lot about who they worship—or at least what they think of Him. We too are gathered together to worship. We no longer worship exactly as the Israelites did by making sacrifices at the temple. Romans 12.1 tells that that our bodies and living sacrifices, meaning, our entire lives tools for worship. The question for us is, what does our worship reveal about our love or fear of God?
God’s message through Malachi is that worship matters. It has been 100 years since the scattered Israelites returned home to gather; 100 years since they rebuilt the temple; 100 years since they appointed priests and began to worship and make sacrifices. Nehemiah 12 records the day when the people rededicated the walls of the city and restored the first services in the temple. The priests were assembled, instruments were gathered, and two great choirs sang as they walked along the walls of the city. And they offered great sacrifices that day and rejoiced, for God had made them rejoice with great joy (men); the women and children also rejoiced. And the joy of Jerusalem was heard far way (12.43). In all the excitement, people were eager to serve. Some signed up to manage the storerooms, others to sing on the worship team, a few to administrate the finances, and even a couple to act as security at the gate. And all Israel in the days of Zerubbabel and in the days of Nehemiah gave the daily portions for the singers and the gatekeepers; and they set apart that which was for the Levites; and the Levites set apart that which was for the sons of Aaron. (12.47). Worship was an important time of great joy, great unity, and great sacrifice for both the priests and the people.
Israel is no longer zealous for worship. In only 100 years, two generations, worship has become heartless and obedience unimportant. Neither the priests nor the people are excited about worship. It has become a routine, a checked box, a joyless duty. Having not experienced the prosperity they expected, the Israelites find themselves disillusioned about their lives and doubtful about God’s promises. Even though God declares “I LOVE YOU,” they don’t believe Him, and their attitude toward worship evidences that. Anytime men declare, by word or deed, that worship “isn’t worth it”; they in fact declare that God is not worthy to be honored or obeyed.
First, the Holy Sacrifices of God
In verse 6, we see that God describes himself as both a Father and a Master to Israel. God is a Father, he is owed our honor. Unlike our earthly Fathers, God the Father is perfect. He perfectly loves. Perfectly provides. Perfectly knows. Perfectly shepherds. He is due honor because He is worthy of honor. As a Master, God is also owed our unconditional allegiance. Unlike the leaders of our world, he is perfect. He perfectly rules. He is perfectly wise, perfectly just, perfectly powerful, and perfectly protective. He is due our respect because he is worthy of respect.
God is worthy of both our honor and our obedience, not because of what He can do for us, but because of who He is. As Pastor Tim Keller writes, “God is not just wise and loving, but he is gloriously or surpassingly so. (He is the best and greatest in every quality). He is not just important and worthy of your adoration, submission, and attention, but gloriously or supremely so. (He is infinitely more worthy of your adoration, submission, and attention than anyone or anything). Every other being is “less than nothing” in comparison with his glory.” God says they Israelites do not find him worthy of honor or respect as evidenced by how what they sacrifice at the altar of worship—the table of the Lord.
Why are the Israelites offering sacrifices? In the beginning, God established a relationship with man in the Garden of Eden. There was communion, fellowship, and love. All was in perfect harmony as men and women depended on God’s Word, enjoyed God’s provision, and fulfilled their obligations under God’s rule with all joy. For a time there was peace. Then there was a fall and sin entered the world. With man/God’s relationship broken, peace gave way to chaos and life to death. God in his perfect holiness cannot have relationship with sinful man; therefore, men were sentenced to die. But in his perfect love, God desired to see men restored in order to have relationship with them. Beginning with choosing of Abraham, God makes a several sacred promises, covenants, to rescue men and heal the world. Then, God establishes a covenant with Moses—what we know as the law. Through God’s giving of the Law, He made it possible to have relationship with sinful men. The intentional and unintentional sins of men would be atoned for, and the penalty absorbed by, a substitute—an animal is sacrificed at the temple.
What kinds of sacrifices were allowed and why? The book of Leviticus is full of specific requirements God commanded regarding these sacrifices. There were divine consequences if the priests, or the people, failed to adhere the laws about offering. In Leviticus 22, God describes what is an acceptable sacrifice for offerings. Leviticus 22.20-22 20 You shall not offer anything that has a blemish, for it will not be acceptable for you. 21 And when anyone offers a sacrifice of peace offerings to the LORD to fulfill a vow or as a freewill offering from the herd or from the flock, to be accepted it must be perfect; there shall be no blemish in it. 22 Animals blind or disabled or mutilated or having a discharge or an itch or scabs you shall not offer to the LORD or give them to the LORD as a food offering on the altar. God is not particular about these sacrifices because an unblemished animal is somehow intrinsically more holy and a disabled one. God is particular because the sacrifice has less to do about forgiving the sin of men and more about displaying His glory, beauty, perfection, and immeasurable worth of God. The demand for perfect blood sacrifices displayed God as a just King who is serious about sin; but they also declare Him to be a FATHER who is loving, forgiving, and merciful. The purpose of worship through sacrifice was to make the name of God great among His people and the nations.
Second, the Lame Sacrifices of Men
But God tells the Israelites they are despising His name by polluting His table. Specifically, the people are bringing their leftovers. Instead of offering the best of their flocks, they bring the blind, lame, and sick animals to the priests to offer as sacrifices for their sin. God does condemn the Priests for offering the unacceptable sacrifices. They were responsible to protect the purity of worship so as to NOT profane God’s name. He will have more to say to the priests. But God is indirectly speaking to the people bringing the lame sacrifices to His table. They have despised His altar and taken it lightly. In truth, they despised God Himself and taken Him lightly. They do not love God the Father enough to honor Him, and they do not fear God enough to obey Him. Our worship is our declaration of God’s worth. Period.
SIDE NOTE} There is a very personal aspect to worship. No one truly knows what is being offered by another. Even if the priest might be able to tell, they are not saying anything. It’s unlikely that anyone could tell the difference between a blind animal and one with sight as it is is offered up to be burned. By all appearances, their worship looks pure. But God knows what is in the man’s flock. God knows what He has given and what He has held back. God always desires men’s hearts more than their sacrifice—and God knows when someone has given him a heartless lame sacrifice.
The Israelites worship is half-hearted and disobedient because God is no longer important to them—they do not love Him nor do they fear them. To reveal their hearts, God presents a challenge to the Israelites in verse 8: “Present that to your governor; will he accept you or show you favor?” The question is rhetorical and the answer is no. They would never imagine paying part of their taxes, or holding back what they owe, or otherwise giving less than to the world. Why? Because they love the world more than they love God—and they fear the world (or what it has to offer) more than they fear God. We only hold back from God when something has become important than Jesus—when by, our attitude or actions, declare something more supreme than God; more central to our lives than God; or more enjoyable than bringing God joy.
• We fear God as master when we recognize God as supreme—that He is the measure of all things. It is the conviction that He is better than all other so-called gods; that He is the Creator of all things; that He is the very definition of goodness, power, love, and wisdom.
• We honor God as Father when we make God central to our lives. We make him the most important thing in our lives because we see him as the most important thing in our lives. We trust him more than anyone else, obey him before anything else, and trust His opinion on everything else. Bringing Him honor, or not bringing Him dishonor, becomes the governing force in our decision-making.
• We worship God as God when we find our ultimate joy in Him. To find something beautiful to enjoy is to find it completely satisfying in itself—not in what it can give. We find joy in God’s presence. We find joy in God’s’ provision. We find joy in God’s promises. We find joy in bringing Him joy.
If all of life is worship, we must consider what our lives declare about God’s value? Is he valuable enough to deny myself anything this world might have to offer, even my own comfort? Is He valuable enough for me to give up my money? Is He valuable enough for me to give up my time? Is He valuable enough to give up my reputation? Is He valuable enough for me to give up my power? Is He valuable enough for me to give up my child? Is a valuable enough for me to give up my life?
Third, the Perfect Sacrifice of Christ
So how can Jesus become the most important thing? We must look at the cross. At the cross, we see God’s worthy how valuable enough he found us to be. Until we see the worthiness of God in the sacrifice Christ, we will struggle to love and obey God.
The cross reveals God to be a just King/Master who demands our obedience. This is God’s world. This is God’s rule. The crucifixion of Jesus reveals that God is more serious about sin than we could possibly imagine. God is Holy. God hates rebellion. God hates partial obedience. God hates sin. And God justly pours His wrath out to punish all sin. Allegiance is not optional. The Creator demands unconditional obedience from His creation. Failure to obey is a failure to fear. . Our faithfulness matters. Our obedience matters. To approach the altar of God without fear is deny the ugliness of your sin, and the INFINITE value of the price it cost displayed on the cross of Jesus Christ. Matt. 10.28-29 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.
The cross also reveals God to a loving Father who is immeasurably merciful. He is worthy of all we value because he is loving enough to sacrifice His most valuable possession—His One and Only Son. He saves us by offering an infinitely costly sacrifice. God could not give us more mercy. God could not love us more. God could not sacrifice more. The cross of Christ reveals what God thinks of us; He thought us so valuable, that he was willing to give us everything He had to give. Romans 8.32 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?
The cross brings Father and Master together. We will joyfully sacrifice for God when we see the cross as the picture of God as both loving Father and Holy Master. Love without obedience is a failure to see God as Master worthy to be feared. But obedience without joy is a failure to see God as Father, worthy to be adored. We need both. The cross moves us to obey God out of love for Him. We will only live lives of sacrifice to God, when we see how God has sacrificed for us. If Jesus Christ be God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him." - C.T. Studd.
The cross of shows us that total sacrifice is what characterizes genuine worship—it is our confession that God is supremely important. God did not sacrifice His Son simply so He could declare us worthy; God sacrificed His Son so that we might declare HIS NAME WORTHY by living sacrificial lives for Him.
Conclusion: The worship of God
Many will hear a message like this and think to themselves, “Ok, I just need to go sacrifice more to be more holy.” Know that any sacrifice you offer for your own benefit is imperfect and lame. God does not want your sacrifices—He wants your heart. And when he grabs our heart and opens our eyes to see His glory in the face of Christ, you’ll see that whatever you might give to Him pales in comparison to what God has already given. Our worship is, therefore, both a declaration of our unworthiness and a declaration of God’s worthiness at the same time. We are gathered here to worship the one God through giving the best of our time, talent, and treasure. How we worship is important. But every act of sacrificial worship is only worthwhile in so far as it declares to how worthy, how supreme, how loving, and how and great our King is. For I am a great King, says the LORD of hosts, and my name will be feared among the nations