Giving God Our Best
Have you ever been disappointed when you opened the package? In the infomercial or catalogue it looked so good. It promised to make life easier, make you look better, make feel great, but it didn’t. Sometimes a product or service isn’t all that it is promised to be. Is God happy with what we give to him through our service in his kingdom? Are we giving God our best or just what’s left over?
6 “A son honors his father, and a slave 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 priests who show contempt for my name. “But you ask, ‘How have we shown contempt for your name?’ 7 “By offering defiled food on my altar. “But you ask, ‘How have we defiled you?’ “By saying that the Lord’s table is contemptible. 8 When you offer blind animals for sacrifice, is that not wrong? When you sacrifice lame 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. 9 “Now plead with God to be gracious to us. With such offerings from your hands, will he accept you?”—says the Lord Almighty. 10 “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. 11 My name will be great among the nations, from where the sun rises to where it sets. In every place incense and pure offerings will be brought to me, because my name will be great among the nations,” says the Lord Almighty. 12 “But you profane it by saying, ‘The Lord’s table is defiled,’ and, ‘Its food is contemptible.’ 13 And you say, ‘What a burden!’ and you sniff at it contemptuously,” says the Lord Almighty. “When you bring injured, lame or diseased animals and offer them as sacrifices, should I accept them from your hands?” says the Lord. 14 “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 1:6-14 NIV).
Malachi boldly confronted the people of his day with the fact that their sacrifices and service dishonored God.
Do We Dishonor God By Giving Less Than Our Best? (1:6-14)
Malachi is written as a series of dialogs between God and his people. The dialog in these verses is between God and the priests who serve him at the temple. God begins the dialogue by asking two rhetorical questions of the priests. First God asks, “If I am a father, where is the honor due me?” (6b) The word “Father” (Hb., ab ; abba) is the intimate name of a child for his father. “Honor” (Hb., kabod) means “heavy, weighty, worthy of respect.” Second God asks, “If I am a master, where is the respect due me?” (6c) The term “Master” (Hb., adonai) of “Lord” is a name often used for God in the Bible. “Respect” (Hb., mora) means “to hold in such high esteem that one obeys.” The priests would agree that God was both father and master, but they did not act as if he was their father and master.
God brings his charge, “It is you, O priests, who show contempt for my name” (6). When confronted with a failure or fault, our natural tendency is to become defensive. The priests respond with denial. They protest, “How have we shown contempt for your name?” (7)
God delivers his first piece of evidence. “You place defiled food on my altar” (7). The priests again respond with denial by asking, “How have we defiled you?” (7) The word “defiled” means “improper; unacceptable; unfit.” It does not mean spoiled. A holy God requires holy, pure, acceptable sacrifices—only the best.
God’s lays out his second piece of evidence. They have defiled the altar “By saying that the Lord’s table is contemptible” (7) The actions of the priests speak louder than words. They show contempt for the Lord by the unfit sacrifices that they lay on his altar. The sacrificial animals were unfit because they were blind, lame, or sick. Sacrifices were to be without defect or blemish according to the law. “The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect . . .” (Ex. 12:5). “Do not offer to the Lord the blind, the injured or the maimed, or anything with warts or festering or running sores. Do not place any of these on the altar as an offering made to the Lord by fire” (Lev. 22:22). It was the priests’ duty to ensure that the sacrifices were fit for offering to the Lord.
God reveals his clinching argument. If you don’t think there is anything wrong with your sacrifices, try offering such animals to your Persian governor (8). Bosses are often demanding. They want excellence all the time. They may not notice the good things that we do but are quick to point out our mistakes. If it is hard to get away with providing less than our best to human bosses, why do we think we can fool our heavenly Master by giving him less than our best? The priests showed more honor and respect to their governor than they did to God.
If we don’t honor God, we might as well shut the doors and go home (10). God declares that the unfit sacrifices offered by the priests are not accepted by him. They are ineffective in their purpose which is the forgiveness of the people’s sins. The sacrifices we make are given to build God’s kingdom and to reach the lost. If we are not giving our best to this purpose, we might as well shut the doors too. God’s name will be honored even when some of his people show contempt for it (11). God preferred almost any other worship to that which was being offered in Jerusalem. Not only did the priests offer bad sacrifices, they also complained about their duties. Their willingness to accept unfit sacrifices reveals a bad attitude toward God. They “sniff,” literally “snort,” at God and the burden of their duties. Hmpf—I have to do that! Folks, let’s honor God’s name in all that we are and all that we do in serving him. It’s not that we HAVE TO serve God, it’s that we GET TO serve WITH GOD.
Actions Have Consequences (2:1-3)
1 “And now, you priests, this warning is for you. 2 If you do not listen, and if you do not resolve to honor my name,” says the Lord Almighty, “I will send a curse on you, and I will curse your blessings. Yes, I have already cursed them, because you have not resolved to honor me. 3 “Because of you I will rebuke your descendants; I will smear on your faces the dung from your festival sacrifices, and you will be carried off with it (Malachi 2:1-3 NIV).
God admonished the priests and people with a prophecy of disaster. They must set their hearts on honoring God. There must be a change of attitude. They must listen. In the Hebrew listening applies obedience to what is heard. Not only must attitudes change but actions must change as well. If attitudes and actions don’t change, then God will take action. God admonishes, “I will curse your blessings” (2). The implication is that this has already been done. It could be the blessings that the priests pronounced upon worshipers. It could more likely be the blessings the priests received from serving God. Furthermore God declares, “I will rebuke your descendants” (3). The word “rebuke” (Hb., no’er) is a powerful term used of God in rebuking the forces of nature (e.g., sea, watery chaos, locusts in Mal 3:11. The “descendants” (Hb., zera) are “offspring,” literally “seed,” the children and grandchildren of the hearers. Either God will correct the priest’s children or damage their crops—perhaps both. God says, “ I will spread on your faces the offal from your festival sacrifices, and you will be carried off with it” (3). The word “offal” (Hb., peres) refers to the “entrails/guts removed from the sacrificial animal.” God says the actions of the priests have defiled them and made unfit for service. Like the unfit parts of the offering, they are to be carried out to the city dump. They are disqualified from service to the Lord and removed from their positions as priests!
Serving God is serious business. We must take our service to God seriously. Our sacrifices of service and giving are not offered to save us as in Malachi’s day. Our sacrifices of service and giving are offered to God out of our love for him and our desire to love others in his name. We must give God our best not because we have to but because we get to..
Are We Giving God Our Best?
Do our words and actions show honor or contempt for God? What sacrifices of service and giving do we offer God? Are the sacrifices we bring fitting for the God of the universe? Is what we give to God given out of love and with joy or grudgingly out of obligation?
1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will (Romans 12:1-2 NIV).
In every day of life with God, may we give him only our best.