Summary: This sermon addresses how we tend to give God our "leftovers" instead of our best.
The passage of scripture that we’ll be studying today was written around 432 B.C. and it was proclaimed to the children of Israel in city of Jerusalem. Open your bibles with me if you will to Malachi chapter one.
I want to give you just a little background on what led up to this message from the Lord through the prophet Malachi. The Jewish people have had it pretty rough the last hundred years or so before this point. The Babylonians had laid siege to Jerusalem and finally destroyed the Holy City along with the temple of the Lord and taken the Jews into captivity. By the grace of God, gradually the Jews were allowed to return to Jerusalem and begin the work of rebuilding the city and the temple. With great difficulty, after many decades, the rebuilding was finally completed and the people repopulated the city of God. The Levitical priesthood was soon reestablished and the Jewish people resumed their role as the Lord’s holy nation. This meant that people once again brought their sacrifices to atone for their sins, once more blood flowed from the altar and the sweet smell of incense permeated the air.
But yet something was still very wrong… Although the temple and all of its furnishings were rebuilt to the exact specifications given by God and people were bringing their sacrifices and offerings.. the Lord had not yet come to this temple and allowed His glory to dwell there. In short God had not accepted the worship of his people.
The message of the Lord given through this prophet is God telling His people why He is displeased with them and their worship. Let’s look at this message together… (Malachi 1:6-14)
What’s the matter with these Israelites? God has brought them out of exile and back to Jerusalem. Against all odds, He has enabled them to rebuild the temple and the walls of the city. Their identity as God’s chosen people is finally beginning to be restored…. And how do they show their eternal gratitude to God? By bringing Him unacceptable sacrifices!
I don’t know about you but when I read stuff like this, I just can’t understand how God’s chosen people who have witnessed first hand the power and Glory of the Lord could forget so quickly! Of all the people on the planet, the Israelites should have realized just how much they were dishonoring or “profaning” God’s name by presenting Him with substandard or unacceptable sacrifices and offerings.. And then they have the audacity to ask why it doesn’t seem that the Lord has been blessing them!
The sacrifices and offerings presented to God by His people were meant to HONOR God. They were to be the BEST of their flocks—the first fruits of their crops because as we all know the offerings that were made usually represented Jesus, the spotless Lamb of God.
In these few verses of Malachi, we find bad news and even worse news about the spiritual condition of Israel. The bad news is that the Jews no longer think God worthy of their very best..
Instead of their best, they now offer Him blind, crippled, diseased, and even stolen sacrifices while keeping the best for themselves. How you may ask could it get any worse? I’ll tell you how, the spiritual leaders of Israel were allowing it without objection. And by doing so, they not only profaned the altar, the temple, and the very name of God, but they hindered the Lord from blessing the nation. So in short, not only were the priests failing God but they were failing the very people they were supposed to be interceding with God for. By allowing them to give less than their best to God, their sins weren’t being forgiven and God wasn’t blessing them!
I’m so glad that we don’t have to offer bulls, rams, cattle and lambs on this altar today! I’m glad that the repeated spilling of innocent blood isn’t a part of the New Covenant system of worship. Jesus came to this sin-sick world and offered Himself, once and for all, as the ultimate sacrifice for our transgressions. And by doing this He freed us from the written code and the supervision of the ceremonial law. Praise God for that!
That being said, why is it do you suppose that God put it on my heart to preach from this particular passage of scripture that speaks very specifically about sacrifices and offerings? I’ll give you two hints in the form of two other scriptures.
The first Romans 12:1,2 which says; “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. 2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”