Summary: God does not want us to be apathetic when it comes to adoring Him. He would rather have no worship at all than for us to come with paltry praise.
Giving God Your Best
After listening restlessly to a long and tedious sermon, a 6-year-old boy asked his father what the preacher did the rest of the week. “Oh, he’s a very busy man,” the father replied. “He takes care of church business, visits the sick, works on his sermon, counsels people…and then he has to have time to rest up because speaking in public isn’t an easy job.” The boy thought for a moment and then said, “Well, listening ain’t easy, either!”
Why are some of you nodding your heads? It ain’t easy to listen, is it? Especially when it’s something that we don’t really want to hear. Let me tell you up front that you can relax a little this morning because our passage in Malachi 1:6-14 is directed more to paid pastors than it is to you. You can listen in and apply what spills over because these verses will mess with each one of us.
I want to acknowledge those of you who have taken the time to read through this short book of Malachi. If you haven’t been able to do it yet, I encourage you to read these four chapters at least once a week. This congregation is truly amazing. I talked to someone a few days ago who said, “I want to step it up spiritually.” Someone else told me to “bring it on” because they want to be challenged in their faith.
Let me remind you of the situation that Malachi is addressing. The Jews have returned to their land after living in modern-day Iraq for 70 years. 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 cancer of complacency is eating away at their commitment. As God’s final spokesman at the end of the Old Testament, Malachi comes on the scene to challenge them, and us, to give God our best.
As we’re listening in to this dialogue between God and His people, we learned last week that of all the things God wants us to know, the most important is that He loves us. He loves us with a tender, affectionate, and unconditional love. Just as people 2400 years ago wondered if God really loved them, so too, we often ask the same question. Malachi starts with love and then talks about the status of their lives. Actually, because they didn’t respond to God’s love, things started to head south for them. Their worship became wimpy, their leaders became lightweights, their relationships ruptured, their offerings were anemic and they stopped serving.
To help us understand our passage today, think of the beginning and the end of Malachi as two bookends. At one end is the beautiful statement found in verse 2: “I have loved you.” On the other end we find a promise in verse 2 of chapter 4: “But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings. And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall.” The prophecy of Malachi begins with God’s love in the present and ends with God’s promise in the future. And everything in between is God’s program to get us from here to there.
As part of His program for our spiritual progress, God longs for us to give Him our best. Let’s focus on three ways we can do that.
1. Embrace an authentic faith (6-7). What we see right away in verse 6 of chapter 1 is that there are two sides to the Father’s love. One side is tender and the other a bit tougher. He is relational in His giving, and He is resplendent in His glory, and as such, we must honor Him: “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…” John Piper argues that we must hold these truths in tension. We should have a childlike security in His care for us and we should have a childlike reverence for His authority.
God refers to Himself as the Father of Israel in Exodus 4:22: “This is what the LORD says: Israel is my firstborn son.” And, in Exodus 20:12, He tells us to, “Honor your father and your mother…” To “honor” someone is to consider them weighty, or heavy. While the priests probably celebrated this statement because they wanted their own children to honor them, God is saying that His people, including the priests, no longer consider Him to be weighty.
God deserves to be honored because He is holy. I want you to notice the phrase, “Lord Almighty.” As we learned during our “Metaphors of the Messiah” series, “Lord” is the name “Yahweh” and was too holy to be spoken by human lips. In fact, it was so revered that it was only pronounced once a year on the Day of Atonement, and then only by the high priest in the most holy place of the Temple.