Summary: Who are you serving in your mionistry whatever it is? It needs to be God alone if it’s to be authentic ministry
I wonder whether you’ve given any thought during the week to what we saw last week as we looked at Malachi 1. It was quite challenging wasn’t it? Were you conscious, as you exercised your various ministries for God this week, of the things that motivated you? Were you conscious of the need to focus on the glory of God rather than on your own needs? Were you seeking to offer God the best sacrifice you could muster, whatever that sacrifice happens to be? When you gave him thanks, was it from the bottom of your heart? When you wrote out the cheque that was going in your offering envelope, or got onto the computer to do your regular bank transfer into the St Theo’s account, or as you thought about whether you should increase your regular transfer amount now that we’re into a new financial year, did you do it with a thankful heart or begrudgingly? As you went to your small group were you looking forward to what you’d learn about God this week, or were you just thinking about having a pleasant time with your friends?
Well today we hear a bit more about the need to reflect God’s glory through our ministry to one another.
These first 9 verses of Chapter 2 are addressed to the priests whose service has obviously become second rate. Last week we saw that the people were finding worship a bit dull and repetitive, and now we see where that attitude has come from. The priests have let them down. By their actions and their inaction they’ve failed to provide the lead that they were put there to give.
But before you all turn off because this isn’t addressed to you, let me remind you how God thinks of us who live under the new covenant: (1 Pet 2:9) "You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light." & (Rev 1:5-6) "5To him who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood, 6and made us to be a kingdom, priests serving his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever." You see, the things we find written here are as much addressed to us as they were to those priests of the 5th century BC, even if our context is quite different. We need to listen to God’s word here just as much as they did.
In fact that’s how it begins isn’t it? Look at v2: "If you will not listen, if you will not lay it to heart" It wasn’t a question of whether they’d heard God word. They heard it every day. They read it out; probably chanted it. In fact they’d most probably memorised it as Jewish rabbis still do today. But hearing isn’t enough. You also have to listen. We too need to listen. I could preach the most outstanding sermons ever written but if no-one pays attention, if no-one makes a decision to change their life as a result of hearing God’s word preached then I’m wasting several good hours of my time, aren’t I. What’s more you’re wasting a beautiful Sunday morning sitting here while I speak.
No, they’re to listen and to lay it to heart. You know, there are people around who are extremely well educated in theology, who know the ins and outs of all the arguments of theology, but who have little or no personal experience of Jesus Christ. Some of the most influential figures in the liberal part of the church are extremely well read when it comes to theology, yet they’re the ones who would argue against the basic tenets of Christianity - the bodily resurrection of Jesus, Jesus’ death as a means of taking away the punishment we deserve for our sin, Jesus miracles, etc. So we need to do more than just hear, we need to listen and lay it to heart. We need to put our beliefs into action. And what he says they need to lay to heart is the glory of God. Their ministry needs to be focussed on God’s glory not their own glory or comfort.
We talked last week about the danger of exercising ministry for the sake of our own self esteem, or our own glory didn’t we? Here the seriousness of the problem is highlighted by the warning that God gives of what will happen to them and their ministry if they ignore his warning. If they ignore his warning their ministry will be destroyed and that destruction will happen at two levels.
Look at v2: "I will send the curse on you and I will curse your blessings; indeed I have already cursed them, because you do not lay it to heart." The thing that makes their ministry useful to people, a blessing to people, will be turned on its head. Because of their rebellion their blessings will turn out to be curses and no good will come of them. So first of all their ministry will be destroyed because the good things they should be doing will be spoilt and only bad will come from them.