Recently, my church began a sermon series on the book of Malachi. When it comes to the most popular books of the Bible, Malachi likely doesn’t finish near the top of the list. Malachi is a small book at the end of the Old Testament. It may be small in size, but its message is big and timely. As you read Malachi, you will begin to see that the people were going through the motions of worship, but their hearts were far from God. One section really seems to highlight this. If you have time, I highly encourage you to read Malachi 1:6-14 today.
The people had dishonored God by bringing defiled sacrifices, and the priests disobeyed God by allowing it to happen. God was not pleased, and plainly tells them they can keep their lame sacrifices (Mal. 1:8-10). They were supposed to be giving God their best (Leviticus 22:19-20). Instead, they were giving God their leftovers, because they wished to sell all the valuable livestock for thier own profit. To follow God’s law required a sacrifice. It required them to put God first, trusting that if they honored God with their best, He would bless them abundantly. However, they had become apathetic in their worship. They were too busy making worship about themselves to worship God properly.
It seems God’s people have a history of amnesia. Time and time again, all too quickly, they forget who they are dealing with. Despite God intervening for them in miraculous ways, His people constantly turn away from Him. As you follow their story throughout the Old Testament, you can see them follow God and obey for a while only to turn aside and chase worldly things.
In this section of Malachi, God calls for their best and they offer stolen, lame and blind animals. These sacrifices are both literally and figuratively lame. These are not a sacrifice. They cost them nothing. A sovereign King deserves better. God is having nothing of it and it is as if God is saying, “You’ve got to be kidding me!” Adding insult to injury, the people are so far gone they don’t even realize how offensive their sacrifices are. When God calls them to account, they ask God, “How have we done this?” (Mal. 1:6-7). The lack of respect is staggering. The audacity leaps from the page.
However, before we are too harsh with the Israelites, let’s ask ourselves the same question. “How have we done this?” Have we ever brought lame offerings to God?
a) Do we ever compromise our convictions for convenience?
b) Do we ever schedule other things over the priority of corporate worship and offer God the leftovers of our week?
c) When we are not entertained with the music do we ever say, “I just wasn’t feeling the Spirit move today”?
d) When we dislike the Sunday message, do we disregard and devalue its truth? Who told us it was acceptable to disregard and disobey simply because we disagree?
e) When it is inconvenient to serve do we step forward or do we quit?
f) When we don’t feel like praising God, do we still lift our voice in song to God to offer a sacrifice of praise that is due His name or do we quietly hold our coffee?
g) Does the business of worship consume us or have we become consumers?
This should break our hearts: God has called us to selfless sacrifice and we offer selfish sacrilege. Modern worship is filled with this sad irony. What is supposed to be all about God (worship) we’ve turned into something about us. In so doing, we have shown the world a little god and we should not blame them if they are not interested in that.
How does this happen? We don’t wake up one day and decide to offer God our leftovers. It is my contention that slowly, our hearts naturally drift from God. Resting comfortably in the very protection and provision He provides, God shrinks in our eyes and simultaneously, we get bigger. The result is half-hearted worship. Half-hearted worship arises from a small view of God. We need a bigger view of God. We need to regularly be reminded of His majesty and greatness and glory. That will fuel a life of worship. We get it twisted around. We often judge the quality of a church gathering by its music, lighting, attendance and preaching. We want to be entertained instead of entertaining God. We do not need to be entertained by great music. We do not need eloquent speakers. We do not need to attend the most “happening” or “relevant” church. What is needed is for God’s revelation of Himself to set our hearts ablaze regularly. We need to make much of Jesus in every single gathering. Let him grow in our eyes. When God grows in your eyes, so does your worship. When you can get a fresh perspective of who God is, no one will have to convince you of His worth. When people see Him they melt to the ground. When people see God they are turned from “Sauls” into “Pauls.” They are all at once terrified and yet mesmerized.
The phrase “Lord of Hosts” is mentioned 7 times in this short passage from Malachi. What is this term? It is translated “Lord almighty” in the NIV. It carries a military connotation of supreme commander of Heaven’s armies. Think power, wisdom, respect, reverence and fear. The Lord of Hosts does not lose. He does not fear anything. He is supremely victorious over any opponent and He holds life and death in His hands. God has primarily revealed himself to us in grace through the incarnation of Jesus, the Lamb of God. But never forget that is not all that He is. Because God is so compassionate and graceful it’s easy to forget His power, wrath and holiness. When we get a little too comfortable with God, it leads to a lack of Respect and Reverence. Let us not lose the full picture of who God is. He is the Lamb of God, but He is also the Lion of Judah.
Lions are inherently majestic and dangerous. When you get into intimate proximity with a lion you feel something down deep. When he fixes his gaze upon you, do you not shudder? If you dare to peer into his eyes your guts churn a little bit, right? God is not only meek, gentle and graceful. He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He is the beginning and the end. He is the eternal mysterious triune God. The mountains melt like wax before Him. He has swallowed entire armies with earth and sea. Let us never forget that the same God which can rain down blessing can pummel with pestilence and plague with only a word from His mouth. Consider the following from Ecclesiastes:
Eccl 5:1-2 Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. Better to draw near in obedience than to offer the sacrifice as fools do, for they ignorantly do wrong. 2 Do not be hasty to speak, and do not be impulsive to make a speech before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few.”
“Lord of Hosts” is not just about a powerful military figure. It is first used at the beginning of the Old Testament. In Genesis 2:1, “Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the HOST of them.” When He is “Lord of Hosts” He is Lord of all. God is also the mighty creator. Look up at the stars and witness His brilliance. Gaze upon His beauty and you will fall silent. (Isaiah 40:26, Psalm 147: 4-5) Scientists estimate the number of stars conservatively at 1024. That is 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000. Some of them are so big that if you were to board a passenger airliner it would take 1,100 years to fly around them. Can you fathom that size? Can you grasp that number? God calls each one out by name. He created them with just words from His mouth.
Our God is huge! We are tiny. We are a vapor and He is eternal. He is infinite and beyond reckoning. If you can truly see that, I won’t need to tell you to put Him first. You will gladly offer him everything. If you can just get a glimpse of Him, I will not need to convince you of His worth. You will quickly fall before Him in adoration. You will open your mouth, and your heart and soul will want to spill forth in song or fall silent in reverence. Isaiah saw Him in a vision and was floored by His magnificence and holiness.
This is our King. He is so holy, so powerful and magnificent that we would die in His presence. But this great King has also given us Jesus. He has stooped low and walked among us. Even now, we have King Jesus standing in our place interceding for us in the heavens where there is no sun or moon or day or night but the Glory of God fills the heavens. Because of Him we are healed. Because of Him our sins are no more. Because of Him we can come before the feet of God to love and be loved. Don’t you just love King Jesus?
Remember all this as you approach God. Remember our propensity to worship ourselves and remember a worthy King is waiting to be remembered and worshipped by you. Lift your voice, humble yourself and pray. Your King is listening.