Summary: A study of the book of Malachi
One man has said that one of the biggest disappointments in his life came when he was a boy. He saw a large tent setup in a field and thought there was a circus inside. He sneaked in under the flap to watch and discovered that he was in the middle of a revival meeting. However he experienced an even bigger disappointment as an adult when he went to a church expecting to find revival and discovered that it was nothing more than a circus. To the people of Judah worship has become nothing but a show. Their hearts are no longer in it; in fact the only reason they still do it is because they have always done it and feel obligated to continue. The word worship has its roots in the thirteenth century and according to Webster’s dictionary it means: reverence offered a divine being or supernatural power; also: an act of expressing such reverence or extravagant respect or admiration for or devotion to an object of esteem. The Greek word used for worship is proskuneo which literally means “to kiss, like a dog licking his master’s hand”. So worship is bestowing honor and glory upon God. But as Malachi points out the people have reduced worship to a meaningless ritual that insults God rather than brings Him honor. As we study our text today, I want us to discover the warnings Malachi issues in regard to how we conduct our worship. If we truly take the lessons in our text to heart, our worship will never leave a bad taste in God’s mouth.
I. Worship had become a ritual that dishonored the Lord’s name.
A. The priests regarded God’s altar as polluted.
1. In verse 7 these priests denied that they had polluted God’s table or altar.
2. It was the priests’ responsibility to keep unacceptable offerings away from the altar, how strange that now they were the ones complaining of the defilement.
3. Their actions, however, indicated contempt for the entire sacrificial ritual.
B. The priests complained about their compensation.
1. They regarded the “fruit” of the altar as contemptible.
2. The food, of course, was the cereal and meat offerings the priests put on the Lord’s table.
3. Part of the priestly compensation came from the offerings which were placed on the altar.
4. The priests were complaining because God got the best part of the sacrificial animals while the priests were only getting the leftovers.
C. The priests had begun to view their work as a tiresome burden.
1. In their eyes the material reward was not worth all the trouble.
2. For them the holy service of God had become a bore, a labor of duty rather than of love, a yoke around their necks.
3. Slaying the animals, skinning them, gutting them and cutting them up was a filthy, bloody job.
4. The bottom line was that they felt their job just plain stunk.
D. The priests had sunk to a level that allowed any sacrifice to be accepted.
1. Some of the animals that had been brought had been acquired through fraud and thievery.
2. Some sacrificial animals had been snatched from the jaws of wild beasts, hence mutilated and unfit for sacrifice.
3. Sick and lame animals were also brought to the altar.
4. Rhetorically God asked, “Should I accept this at your hand?” The obvious answer is, No!
E. Influenced by the attitude of the priests, the worshipers were attempting to deceive or cheat God in numerous ways.
1. The situation envisioned is that a worshiper had available that which fully met the requirements of a vow which he had taken.
2. Once the emergency was past, however, they cheated God by offering a less valuable blemished animal instead.
3. The priests failed in their responsibility by not scrutinizing the offerings brought thus deeming anything as acceptable.
4. A curse would rest upon all who brought their blemished odds and ends to God for sacrifices.
F. The priests just failed to recognize the greatness of God.
1. All of the failings of the priests could be traced to one fundamental theological error. Their concept of God did not remotely correspond to the truth about God.
2. First, they did not recognize the position of God: “I am a great King.”
3. Second, they did not understand Yahweh’s power. He was commander of all hosts of earth and heaven.
4. Third, they did not recognize the prestige of Yahweh. One day his name would be “reverenced” among the Gentiles.
II. Malachi announces that a day is coming when God’s name would be honored worldwide.
A. The Lord will vindicate His name among the Gentiles even though His own people will not honor Him.
1. God told his faithless priests that he had others who in different places and in later times would bring acceptable offerings and give him with love and devotion the worship he demanded.