Summary: Malachi identifies four changes God’s people need to make in order to honor God’s name.
Last week I was talking with a man who owns a rental property in this neighbor-hood. It is a nice looking house and he told me that he had just finished fixing it up – again. “People just don’t care,” he told me. “My last renters put holes in the wall, broke three windows plus the glass in the front door, tore the digital thermostat off the wall leaving only the two bare wires, and ruined the garbage disposal.”
He said he had installed the disposal, thinking that renters would appreciate it, but they had put stuff in it that didn’t belong there and burned out the motor. “Never again,” he said. He had tried to provide a nice place for people to live and when his renters got behind in their rent he tried to work with them so they could catch up, but in the end, he had to evict them.
“People just don’t care,” he said again. “They have no respect.” He went on to say, “If you are going to live in this world, you need the Lord. I figured that out when I met my wife. She showed me the way.” But his renters had not figured it out.
We all know that some landlords are in the business only for the money and sometimes don’t keep their end of the deal, but most of those I know really want to provide quality housing for people because they believe that is what God wants them to do. Unfortunately, renters don’t always appreciate their efforts.
Bible Scenario. Our scripture from Malachi describes a similar scenario between God and his people. Even though God had graciously provided for his chosen people, they didn’t honor him. The priests didn’t revere him. The people didn’t respect him. It was like my friend said, “People just don’t care.” And, eventually, God had them evicted from the land he had provided for them.
The very first words of Malachi’s message are “I have loved you, says the Lord.” Note that he doesn’t just say, “I love you” or “I loved you,” but he says “I have loved you.” The grammar of this sentence means that not only had God begun to love them, not only had he loved them in the past, but he continues to love them. This is the way God is. He is a God of love. Deut. 7:8 says, “It was because the Lord loved you that he set his heart on you and chose you.” And if you haven’t heard it recently, let me remind you that God loves you. He loves your family. He loves his church. The story of salvation is one of love. The key verse of the New Testament, John 3:16, declares that God so loved the world he sent his son to die for our sins. I have loved you,” says the Lord. I hope that truth finds its way deep into your soul.
So if God has chosen you, has brought you out of Egypt, has freed you from slavery, has led you through hardship, has provided food to eat, land to live on, leaders to guide you, and a covenant to live by, how are you going to respond? You are going to love him and offer yourself to him, right? You will honor him, respect him, reverence him, and worship him.
But herein lies the problem, because that is not what God’s people did. Malachi says they despised God’s name. In spite of all that God had done for them, the people just didn’t care. So God sent prophet Malachi with a message. And Malachi makes a blistering attack on the religious leaders, but he doesn’t end there. By the time he is finished, the priests, the people, and we ourselves, all realize that we have not honored God’s holy name.
When I studied chapter 1, I was amazed at the prominence of God’s name in these verses. The phrase “my name” is used six times in these verses and implied another time. We all understand that a name represents the person or entity behind it. The advertising world certainly understands that. If they can get more people to buy products with names Nike or Sony, Verizon or Honda, they have succeeded in making that product popular. The name of God represents the person and honor of God. So despising the name of God is the same as despising God himself. Malachi not only accuses God’s people of despising God’s name, he sets out guidelines for honoring God’s name.
So how do we honor God’s name? After all, as v.11 says, God’s name is great among the nations, but it doesn’t seem great among God’s people. God’s name is honored in other places, but it isn’t honored here. What do we need to change in order to honor God? This passage identifies four changes we need to make.