Summary: God wants your life, not your leftovers.
Bringing Your Best to God
Rev. Brian Bill
Beth was out of town for a few days this week. Our girls did a great job filling in while their mom was gone but I didn’t do so well on the meal deal. I caught a break on Sunday after “Pizza with the Pastors” when I was able to take some of the leftover pizza home (I actually discouraged people from having “seconds” so there would be leftovers).
We ate pizza for dinner Sunday night. On Monday when our two younger girls were getting ready for school (there was no Casmir Pulaski holiday at PCS – that’s tough for me because I’m Polish), I packed them each a piece of pizza for lunch. Monday night we ate leftover pizza again. On Tuesday morning they packed up some pizza for their lunches once more and I sent them on their way. When I picked them up from school on Tuesday one of them asked, “Are we having pizza for supper again tonight?” Thankfully I had thrown something in the crock pot that morning and proudly announced that the menu had changed. They breathed a sigh of relief – I think they were secretly hoping that I hadn’t put pizza in the crock pot!
Not only did I serve leftovers to the ones I love, I was giving the girls something that cost me nothing. Today we’re serving up a meal in the Book of Malachi, the very last book of the Old Testament. This sermon concludes our four-part series called “The Old Testament Journey.” Over the past four winters, in 38 sermons we’ve gone through each of the major sections of the Old Testament. If you’d like to go on your own journey online, all the messages are posted as full-text manuscripts and audio files at www.pontiacbible.org.
Malachi’s message can be summed up in one phrase: God wants your life, not your leftovers. The setting of his sermon comes about 100 years after Haggai’s preaching. The Jews have returned to their land after living as exiles in modern-day Iraq. The Temple has been rebuilt and the worship of God has been reestablished. But things are not easy. While outwardly everything seems OK, on the inside a condition of complacency is eating away at their commitment.
Instead of experiencing expansion and peace, they seem to be in a holding pattern. The people responded with eagerness to Haggai’s message but now these people have turned mediocre as they go through their religious routines with no reverence for the Almighty and in a relationship that has grown cold and distant. In Haggai, the people listened and responded. In Malachi, the people bristled and rejected. They’ve become disillusioned and have started to ask if worship, family responsibilities and giving are really worth it any longer.
Can anyone relate? As God’s final spokesman at the end of the Old Testament, Malachi comes on the scene to challenge them, and us, to bring our best to God. There is so much meat in this little book that it’s difficult to grasp everything in one sermon. For our purposes this morning, we’re going to focus on how God wants our life, not our leftovers in three key areas: Worship, Family and Giving.
Here are a few distinctive features about this book that are worth mentioning before we dive in.
* God is speaks in the first person in 47 out of 55 verses. That’s the highest % in the entire Bible.
* Similar to Haggai, God presents Himself as “Lord Almighty,” or Jehovah Sabaoth, 23 different times. The Lord Almighty has all the hosts of heaven ready to do His work.
* God uses the Socratic teaching method, long before Socrates did, by employing a hypothetical dialogue, asking and answering their questions
* This is the last message from God for 400 years. Therefore we need to pay attention to it.
God wants your life, not your leftovers. Let’s look first at the area of worship.
Giving Your Life to Worship
In chapter one, we see that both the people and the priests had become complacent in their worship. Look at verse 6: “‘A son honors his father, and a servant 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…” during the first half of verse 6, the priests are probably saying, “Amen, that’s right God. Bring it on. Let the people have it.” But notice the second half of the verse: “It is you, O priests, who show contempt for my name.” Ouch. Now it’s time for them to listen.
The priests were showing “contempt” for God, which means they no longer thought of Him as weighty. They were despising their duties and scorning the sacred because worship had become wearisome, and they were taking God for granted. And, they had the nerve to lash out at the Lord of Hosts. Look at the last part of verse 6: “How have we shown contempt for your name?” In verse 7, He answers them: “You place defiled food on my altar.” Unbelievably, the priests persist in their questioning: “How have we defiled you?” God replies, “By saying that the Lord’s Table is contemptible.”