INTRODUCTION: Comedian Rodney Dangerfield, who died in 2004 at the age of 82, made a living making fun of himself and the difficulty of getting what we all desire: a little respect, please. Some of his best lines:
• "I tell ya I get no respect from anyone. I bought a cemetery plot. The guy said, "There goes the neighborhood!"
• "My psychiatrist told me I was crazy. I said I want a second opinion. He said okay, you’re ugly too.”
• “I come from a stupid family. During the Civil War my great uncle fought for the West.”
• "I could tell that my parents hated me. My bath toys were a toaster and a radio."
• "My father used to carry around a picture of the kid that came with his wallet.”
• "My wife made me join a bridge club. I jump off next Tuesday."
• “I told my psychiatrist everybody hates me. He said I was being ridiculous—everybody hasn’t met me yet.”
>> No respect is funny when it’s a clown like Dangerfield soliciting our laughter with silly jokes. No respect, however, is no laughing matter when it’s God who is upset with His people for not showing respect toward Him in worship. [READ Malachi 1:6-14]
I’ll give you the big idea right upfront:
BIG IDEA: God don’t want no worthless worship! (I apologize to the English teachers in the house.)
>> But when does worship become worthless?
I. WORSHIP IS WORTHLESS WHEN IT ISN'T REVERENT (6-8)
A. “Reverent” doesn’t mean “somber, quiet, funereal, lacking joy,” etc.
1. Psalm 100: “Shout for joy to the Lord all the earth!” (Bet that's pretty loud!)
2. It means showing proper honor & respect to the Lord.
B. When the Israelites came up to Jerusalem to worship, they were to bring animals from their flocks, wheat and fruit from their fields, and whatever other gifts of gratitude they wanted to give to God.
1. They had to bring sacrifices every time they entered the sanctuary.
2. The sacrifices differed depending on the occasion
a. Some were for forgiveness and acceptance,
b. Others for dedication and celebration.
3. No one in Israel was ever “saved” by bringing the sacrifices; the sacrifices were a means to their maintaining a harmonious relationship with the Lord.
C. God did not require a great deal of the people in the way of offerings—tokens, really, of their herds and their crops, and handful of grain, or an animal or two for the family. But what they brought had to pass two important tests, and in many cases only they and God would know if they passed them. What they brought had to be the first and the best—the first of their flock, and the best animal they had. There were two very important reasons for this.
1. First, the sacrifice was a gift that was to be offered to God. The kind of gift someone gives indicates what they think of the recipient of the gift, right? To bring God an inferior gift would say that one did not think much of Him. It’s good not to insult God.
2. Second, some of the animals brought were for sin offerings, some for dedication and thanksgiving. In either case the animal had to be perfect. When the animal represented God’s provision for the sins of the worshipper, it had to be without blemish itself.
3. This principle came to fulfillment in the sacrifice of Christ on the cross: he was the sinless Lamb of God who gave his life for the sins of the world.
a. If Christ had been defiled, a sinner, his death would have been no better than our own.
b. The only one who could redeem us from sin was the only one who was sinless.
4. God has no pleasure in or respect for worshippers who offer to Him something that is corrupt or ruined, and therefore worthless.
D. ILLUSTRATION: Around Thanksgiving a few years ago, radio commentator Paul Harvey shared a true story of a woman and her frozen Thanksgiving turkey. The Butterball Turkey Company set up a telephone hotline to answer consumer questions about preparing holiday turkeys. One woman called to inquire about cooking a turkey that had been in the bottom of her freezer for 23 years. That's right—23 years. The Butterball representative told her the turkey would probably be safe to eat if the freezer had been kept below freezing for the entire 23 years. But the Butterball representative warned her that even if the turkey was safe to eat, the flavor would probably have deteriorated to such a degree that she could not recommend eating it. The caller replied, "That's what I thought. We'll give the turkey to our church."
>> Are we making meaningful offerings to God with our time, talent, & treasure? Or is God just getting our leftovers? Your leftovers? (BI) God don’t want that.
E. ILLUSTRATION: We live in a fast-paced culture, but some things just ought to happen slowly. The book Final Salute tells the story of Major Steve Beck, a U.S. Marine whose heart-wrenching task is to inform the nearest of kin when a Marine is killed in Iraq. Beck doesn't just break the sad news and then leave; for several days he may help the family through the process of the funeral. That includes supervising the Marine honor guard who stands near the fallen soldier's body. The honor guard learns from Beck how to salute their fallen fellow-Marine as they leave or resume guard with a slow salute that isn't taught in basic training. The slow salute requires a three second raising of the hand to the head, a three second hold, and then a three second lowering of the hand—a gesture of respect that takes about nine times longer than normal. Beck explains: "A salute to your fallen comrade should take time." Indeed, those who die serving our country are worthy of great honor, worthy of a slow salute, worthy of extra time. To do some things fast, just to get them done so we can move on to the next thing in our lives, sends a subtle message of disrespect.
So it is with our worship of God. God deserves a slow salute. The Savior who gave his life for us is worthy of our time!
>> So worship is worthless when it isn’t reverent, and ...
II. WORSHIP IS WORTHLESS WHEN IT ISN'T REPENTANT (9-11)
A. The prophet strongly tells the people in v.9 what they must do, and do quickly: “plead with God to be gracious to us.” They have to pray for divine favor. But in order to do this they had to admit something they were doing greatly displeased God.
1. The choice of the word gracious is fitting here: it provides the purpose of the prayer and repeats the main idea of seeking favor.
2. The word means undeserved favor—they are to “plead with God” in order that He may give them favor they do not deserve—forgiveness by His grace. They would only do this if they were now convinced they had sinned against God.
B. ILLUSTRATION: In 1914, not long after the sinking of the Titanic, Congress convened a hearing to discern what happened in another nautical tragedy. In January of that year, in thick fog off the Virginia coast, the steamship Monroe was rammed by the merchant vessel Nantucket and eventually sank. Forty-one sailors lost their lives in the frigid winter waters of the Atlantic. While it was Osmyn Berry, captain of the Nantucket who was arraigned on charges, in the course of the trial Captain Edward Johnson was grilled on the stand for over five hours. During cross-examination it was learned, as the New York Times reported, that Captain Johnson "navigated the Monroe with a steering compass that deviated as much as two degrees from the standard magnetic compass. He said the instrument was sufficiently true to run the ship, and that it was the custom of masters in the coastwise trade to use such compasses. His steering compass had never been adjusted in the one year he was master of the Monroe." The faulty compass that seemed adequate for navigation eventually proved otherwise. The Times reported: "Later the two Captains met, clasped hands, and sobbed on each other's shoulders." The sobs of these two burly ship captains are a moving reminder of the tragic consequences of misorientation. The reminder for us is this: if the heart is like a compass … then we need to (regularly) calibrate our hearts, tuning them to be directed to the Creator, our true north. When we do this, our worship is worthwhile.
C. If the people don’t do this, if they don’t admit their sin and ask God for orgiveness & grace, the Lord declares it would be better to lock the doors of the temple and keep the people out. God would rather they repent and worship correctly, but if not, it is better not to worship at all.
1. (BI) God don’t want no worthless worship!
2. Where sin has been committed, forgiveness is needed.
3. If people do not worship properly with love and devotion, but only out of compulsion to follow a ritual, their gift will be worthless, and their corrupt worship counted as sin.
D. What would be the outcome of shutting down the temple and keeping false worship out? God would turn to the Gentiles to find people who would honor Him (11). And as we know, that is what actually happened.
1. The prophecy of turning to the Gentiles began to be fulfilled even in Old Testament days, but found its greatest and true fulfillment in New Testament times.
2. The NT explains that once the Messiah came, all worship had to be in him, for he is the perfect sacrifice. But when Israel rejected him, then the Lord turned to a people who would bear fruit.
3. And when the gospel went to all nations, people came to faith in the sacrifice of Christ Jesus. When Paul found Jewish opposition in city after city, he turned to the Gentiles, who heard him gladly.
>> Worship is worthless when it isn’t reverent and isn’t repentant. And most of all,
III. WORSHIP IS WORTHLESS WHEN IT ISN'T REAL (12-14)
A. Malachi repeats his charge about worthless worship, but even worse, says they are not even trying to hide their true feelings (13).
1. The ritual had become a meaningless drudgery to them. There was no joy in worship, no delight in serving God, because they did not value Him.
2. This attitude prevails today in so many circles of worship where the ritual has become a routine, then drudgery. People go through the motions, but it has become something to be endured. When genuine praise and thanksgiving are missing, life is missing.
B. The warning concludes with a curse (14a) on the one who is faking worship for the sake of appearances.
1. The word “cursed” means to remove from the place of blessing, to banish; essentially it refers to the loss of God’s blessing. The blessing jeopardized could be anything, from temporal blessings to spiritual blessings to eternal life.
2. The theology of this passage is the same today as it was then, even though the form of worship has changed considerably. Worship of our holy and sovereign God must never be treated as profane, worthless, or drudgery; if that happens, then worship has been defiled and God has been despised. (BI)
C. The principle is that in worshipping God people must be spiritual and faithful in all we do and say so that He may be glorified.
1. In John 4 the Lord Jesus Christ told the woman at the well that the Father was seeking worshippers who would worship “in spirit and in truth.”
2. Worship must be genuine. Worshippers must put their heart into it and it must be spiritual. And they must do it honestly, not deceiving others into thinking they are pious when they are really defrauding God.
3. APP: From our own perspective, none of us has enough time or money. There are so many demands in so many areas that we have to do what we can just to get by. We are not the first to feel this way, and unfortunately will probably not be the last. Judah also tried to get by with “good enough” in their worship. They brought the required animals, but they were only second rate, because anything more might cost too much.
4. Part of worship is bringing gifts of love, as a token of thanksgiving. Based on the value of the sacrifices that Judah brings, God knows that the people do not value Him or His relationship with them more than just a token. God does not want perfunctory, meaningless ritual, bringing offerings that are neither sacrificial nor loving.
CONCLUSION (BI) GOD DON'T WANT NO WORTHLESS WORSHIP, SO LET'S MAKE OUR WORSHIP WORTH HIS WHILE
In a TV show a few years ago, a young man is struggling with whether to go through with an arranged marriage. In his home country arranged marriages were the norm. But after living in America, he was having second thoughts about adhering to this ancient custom, especially since he'd never met his wife-to-be.
Still, when she flew into the airport, he dutifully waited for her, flowers in hand, and a gloomy expression on his face. But when she stepped through the terminal, everything changed. She was beautiful! Suddenly his glum demeanor disappeared. The thought of marrying this woman was no longer a dreaded duty; it was a delight. What had changed? He'd met her.
Often we serve God out of obligation. We drag ourselves to church, force ourselves to serve others—but our hearts aren't in it. We're like that guy at the airport, grudgingly holding flowers for God. We're trying to live holy lives because we know we should, but it's burdensome, joyless.
What can change this? Meeting God. When we get a vision of who God truly is, and come to truly know Him, suddenly we're energized to do His mission. Once we gaze upon his grandeur and glory, obedience ceases to be arduous. Once we grasp his great love, serving is no longer a duty—it's a joy!