Updated: Jun 1, 2021
This Week's Scripture & Reflection: Malachi 1:6-14
When we want to make a good impression on someone, we typically venture to extreme lengths to do so! That man who really wants to impress his significant other on their first date will usually try to take her to the most high-end, expensive restaurant he can find. That tenacious job-seeker who finally finds his or her dream position will usually spend countless hours perfecting their resume and cover letter. In whatever we do, we tend to offer and present our best to those people and those causes that we honor the most! Conversely, we tend to offer and present less than our best to those people who we do not particularly admire or causes that do not necessarily capture our hearts. If we’re truly indifferent towards a specific person or thing, we might even present something that we know is lackluster and reserve no concern over it. When we start to exhibit this type of attitude in our service to God, we have officially stepped into dangerous territory! Actually, to exhibit this type of attitude and behavior in anything that we do dishonors the Lord because we are commanded to do everything to the glory of God the Father and in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ (cf. I Corinthians 10:31, Colossians 3:17).
In today’s passage, Jehovah Tsaba, meaning “the Lord of hosts”, speaks through His prophet Malachi to address the Israelites’ flippant behavior regarding their offerings and sacrifices, specifically the Israelite priests. The Old Testament Levitical system of offerings and sacrifices was both exhaustive and incredibly stringent. By virtue of Him being both holy and perfect, and unchanging in both respects, God demanded offerings and sacrifices from His chosen people that were not only set aside for Him solely, but ones that also possessed no defect and the most excellent quality (cf. Leviticus 4:32, 14:10). Ultimately, it was the responsibility of the Levitical priests to inspect everything that would be placed on the altar to ensure that it would meet the standard of acceptability according to the Law. Any failure to do so, especially in a negligent manner, was likened to a slap in the face to God, a sign of total disrespect!
As a result, the Lord heavily stresses the principle of honor in His charge against the Israelite priests. By establishing that a son honors his father and that a servant honors his master, God questions Israel as to the location of the honor and reverence that is due Him considering that He is both their Father and Master. By consciously offering unclean food and defected animals on God’s holy altar, both the Israelite priests and people spewed dishonor on the Lord’s name. Ultimately, God’s disdain for the Israelites’ behavior was so severe that He wished that one of them would close the doors of His temple permanently rather than continue to blatantly burn defected sacrifices on His altar. And if He had not already made Himself clear through His slew of thought-provoking rhetorical questions, God blatantly tells Israel that He is not pleased with them nor will He accept an offering from them!
In His omniscience, God cites the source of the Israelites' negligent attitude towards their offerings and sacrifices: weariness. Several decades prior to this prophecy, these Israelites had returned to their homeland of Judah after King Cyrus released them from Babylonian captivity, which they were in due to their own disobedience and rebellion. Having returned to an uninhabited land in ruin after being exiled for 70 years, the Israelites began to rebuild the Jewish temple and were reinforced in their efforts through the prophetic encouragement of the prophets Haggai and Zechariah, all the while struggling to persevere through the economic decline of their nation. In their weariness, they began to treat their offerings and sacrifices to the Lord with contempt and indifference. While God may have been sympathetic towards their fatigue, He did not excuse their blatant disrespect of His altar! While the priests were guilty of both failing to ensure that each sacrifice met God’s holy standard and proceeding to offer them anyway, the people of Israel were equally as guilty for bringing sacrifices to the priests that they knew were unclean and defiled.
Although the Levitical system of offerings and sacrifices has ceased due to Jesus’ single atoning sacrifice on the cross, the principle of it has not ceased. As believers and followers of Jesus Christ, we are still called to offer and present our best to the Lord in whatever we do! In our praise & worship, our tithes & offerings, our careers and avocations, all of these and others should be done and presented unto the Lord in excellence! If we were to offer up these things as physical sacrifices on the Lord's altar, would we be able to do so in full confidence that we offered Him our best? Consider Abel whose notable sacrifice over millions of years ago still speaks today as an honorable and reverent act of faith (cf. Hebrews 11:4). Perhaps the greatest offering that we can present to the Lord is our own bodies! The apostle Paul admonishes us in this way saying, “I appeal to you therefore brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (cf. Romans 12:1).
By consistently yielding to the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit who dwells on the inside of us, we can continuously offer up our bodies as living, holy, and acceptable sacrifices to the Lord! Surely, God did not withhold His best from us when He sent His only begotten Son into the world to atone for the sins of the world! Likewise, Jesus Himself did not withhold His best from us when He allowed Himself to be beaten, tortured, and crucified on the cross to purchase our eternal redemption! Therefore, it must be our conviction that we will not withhold our best from Him! God deserves our best simply because He is God, the Self-Existing One, a great King above all and the owner of a name that is to be feared among the nations! Because no other god compares to Him, no other god deserves the quality of offering that He is due! We must view the opportunity to present offerings and sacrifices to the Lord as a privilege, not an implicit right, for His self-sufficiency rejects the notion that He needs anything from us! Let honor, gratitude, and reverence permeate everything that you present to the Lord so that it may rise up to Him as a pleasing, sweet-smelling aroma!