Have you heard the jokes, “I’ve got some good news and some bad news?” These jokes range across most subjects! As a former Drivers Ed. Teacher, here’s one about driving, said by someone who borrowed your car: “The good news is that your airbags work great!” In the medical field, a doctor tells his patient: “The good news is that there’s going to be disease named after you!” The bad news is you won’t survive it. Even among pastor’s we have these jokes: said to the Senior Pastor by the Personnel Team, “The good news is we found you an Associate Pastor to lighten your load! The bad news is he preaches way better than you.”
Malachi has some good news for us. The good news is really good. That makes the bad news easier to take. The bad news, though, is disturbing. These words, although they were written 2,400 years ago, contain good news and bad news for all of us today.
These words are written to God’s people, who have returned to Israel after being in exile. We’re going to see God give good news to his people, but also diagnose a problem which, if left uncorrected, will be fatal for them. That’s why it’s important for us to hear today. God’s got his finger on a condition that we don’t always know that we have. It’s not all hopeless – there is good news as well as bad news. It’s important that we know we have this problem, though, and to address it as soon as we can.
In the prophecy of Malachi, we find that God was not pleased with His people. The Lord had been put on the national “back burner.” God preferred the honesty of no worship at all to this hypocritical show of paying lip-service to honoring God. Worship had degenerated into nothing but form. There was no powerful, dynamic relationship between the holy God of Abraham and the children of Israel. They had allowed both their sacrifices to God and their attitudes toward God to become “blemished.” They weren’t giving, nor did they care about giving their best. Let’s not read Malachi as ancient history. Unfortunately, these sins are with us in the church today.
The church of God today must also be careful to offer acceptable worship to God. We have a tendency in our day to do what pleases ourselves, rather than what pleases God. Instead of giving God our best, we give him leftovers. Why should we give God our best
God’s Love Should Compel Us to Give our Best
Here’s the good news! God’s first message through Malachi was “I have always loved you” Malachi 1:2. Although this message applied specifically to Israel, it is a message of hope for all people in all times. Unfortunately, many people are cynical about God’s love, using political and economic progress as a measure of success. Because the government was corrupt and the economy poor, the Israelites assumed that God didn’t love them. They were wrong. God loves all people because he made them; however, it’s not always obvious that he does. God spoke these words to a nation which had just spent years in captivity in Babylon. The good news is that even when life knocks it out of us, God says he loves us deeply. The ultimate expression of this love is Jesus Christ, who showed us his love by dying for us. God loves us.
The most famous verse in the Bible says, “For God so loved the world…” It’s easy to read a verse like that and leave it as an abstraction. God’s love for us isn’t an abstraction. Right here, right now, as God looks at you, he loves you. We are the object of our Creator’s affection.
I’m glad God gave the good news first, because it helps us deal with the bad news. The bad news is that God has diagnosed us with a spiritual problem that needs correcting. Left unchecked, this problem is spiritually fatal.
When we go to the doctor, the doctor usually tells us what things should be like. He’ll say, “A normal blood pressure reading is 120/80.” Then they’ll tell us what our condition is. They might tell us that our blood pressure is 140/90. Then they will tell us what will happen if we don’t deal with the problem. God takes these same steps. He tells us what we should be like, what we are like, and what will happen if we don’t address the problem.
God begins by describing what our relationship should look like. He says:
The LORD Almighty says to the priests: “A son honors his father, and a servant respects his master, but you despise my name” Malachi 1:6
That is God’s charge. You despise my name. They said, “How have we despised your name? We don’t see this. What do you mean?” And the Lord answers (verse 7):
“By offering defiled food upon my altar.” Malachi 1:7a
“Your attitude and your actions toward me are shoddy. You are content to give me just the trash, the defiled things.” But they pursue it further:
‘How have we defiled it?’ Malachi 1:7c
And again God makes it very clear. Whenever you ask God how, he will tell you. God says (verse 8):
“When you offer blind animals in sacrifice, is that not evil? And when you offer those that are lame or sick, is that no evil? Present that to your governor…” Malachi 1:8a
“Will you get by with that?” God says, “You people that are content to be cheap about worshipping me, try living that way in your business life and see if you get by with it! And yet you say you are honoring my name. You are claiming to worship me and to be my people.” The God of reality always cuts right through all the excuses and all the hypocrisy right down to the real issue.
God’s law required that only perfect animals be offered to God (see, for example, Leviticus 1:3). But these priests were allowing the people to offer blind, crippled, and diseased animals to God. God accused them of dishonoring him by offering imperfect sacrifices, and he was greatly displeased. The New Testament says that our lives should be living sacrifices to God (Romans 12:1). If we give God only our leftover time, money, and energy, we repeat the same sin as these worshipers, who didn’t want to bring anything valuable to God. What we give God reflects our true attitude toward him.
What does this say to professed Christians who spend hundreds of dollars annually, perhaps thousands, on gifts for themselves, then-family, and their friends, but give God a dollar a week when the offering plate is passed?
Our offerings to God are an indication of what’s in our hearts, for “where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matt. 6:21). People who claim to love the Lord and His work can easily prove it with their checkbooks! Giving is a grace (2 Cor. 8:1, 6-9), and if we’ve experienced the grace of God, we’ll have no problem giving generously to the Lord who has given so much to us. How can we ask God to be gracious to us and answer prayer (Mal. 1:9) if we’ve not practiced “grace giving” ourselves
God’s Name Should Compel Us to Give our Best
“But my name is honored by people of other nations from morning till night. All around the world they offer sweet incense and pure offerings in honor of my name. For my name is great among the nations,” says the LORD Almighty.” Malachi 1:11
“For I am a great king,” says the LORD Almighty, “and my name is feared among the nations!” Malachi 1:14
A theme that can be heard throughout the Old Testament is affirmed in this book: “My name is honored by people of other nations.” God had a chosen people, the Jews, through whom he planned to save and bless the entire world. Today God still wants to save and bless the world through all who believe in him—Jews and Gentiles. Christians are now his chosen people, and our offering to the Lord is our life. Are you available to God to be used in making his name honored by the nations? This mission begins in our home and in our neighborhood, but it doesn’t stop there. We must work and pray so that God’s name will be honored everywhere.
Malachi told the people that it would be better to close the doors of the temple and stop the sacrifices altogether than to continue practicing such hypocrisy and disgracing the name of the Lord! Better there were no worship at all than a worship that fails to give God the very best. If our concept of God is so low that we think He’s pleased with cheap halfhearted worship, then we don’t know the God of the Bible. In fact, a God who encourages us to do less than our best is a God who isn’t worthy of worship.
The day will come when the Gentiles will worship God and magnify His great name (v. 11). Malachi looked ahead to the time when the message of salvation would be taken to all nations, and beyond that, he saw the establishing of the kingdom on earth when the Gentiles would “flow into it” (Isa. 2:2). God’s call to Abraham involved the Jews becoming a blessing to the whole earth (Gen. 12:1-3), just as His call to the church involves taking the Gospel to all nations (Mark 16:15).
As I close this out, guilt is not the goal of this passage. Guilt doesn’t get us any closer to dealing with the heart issues, if you are motivated by guilt today, you may make some changes and they’ll last about a week, but no more.
What is God speaking to you about today? He’s given you the good news – he loves you. Now how will we respond?
Lord, may you have the best that we have to give.
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