The prophecies of Malachi are the final words of God until the arrival of John the Baptist who prepared the way for Jesus. In these prophecies God is calling upon the people to think about their actions and realize that they were not doing as well as they thought. The prophecies are written as a dialogue between the people and the Lord. God will state the charge against people. The people will ask how they are committing that sin and the Lord will explain the problem. In the first five verses God describes His love for the people, though they question His love for them.
What Are You Giving To God? (1:6-11)
“A son honors his father, and servants their master. If then I am a father, where is the honor due me? And if I am a master, where is the respect due me? says the LORD of hosts to you, O priests, who despise my name.” (Malachi 1:6; NRSV). The Lord begins by presenting a very simple argument. Does not a son honor his father? Does not a servant honor his master? Since a son gives honor to a father and a servant gives honor to his master, the Lord wants to know why he does not receive honor as the master and father of Israel. The Lord charges the people with despising the name of the Lord. Of course, they ask, “How have we despised your name?” The Lord says that they have been offering polluted food on the altar. Again, the people ask how they have polluted it. The Lord’s response is that the people think the Lord’s table may be despised.
The people were not bringing the best to the Lord for sacrifice. God commanded what condition the animals must be in when being offered: “You are not to present anything that has a defect, because it will not be accepted on your behalf” (Leviticus 20:22; HCSB). Also, God said, “But if there is a defect in the animal, if it is lame or blind or has any serious defect, you must not sacrifice it to the LORD your God” (Deuteronomy 15:21; HCSB). Yet look at what the people were offering and the priests were accepting! Blind, lame, and sick animals were being offered as sacrifices rather than the best. The Lord asks if their governor would accept such a sacrifice. Of course, no dignitary would accept such an offering. Yet the people feel comfortable making such an offering to God and the priests feel comfortable accepting that offering.
Because the people were offering these blemished animals and the priests were accepting these animals, the Lord asks a rhetorical question if the people really think that God is going to show favor toward them with such offerings. How can the people implore for the favor of the Lord when they are offering the leftovers to God?
What we offer the Lord is an indication of what is in hearts. The people offering the first of their fruits showed that their love for the Lord was first, and they did not love themselves first. When the people offered blemished animals, the offering showed that God was second-rate. The people did not care what would be offered to the Lord. Yet they would still make their prayers and petitions to God for favor. But these requests were in vain. In fact, God says in verse 10 that he wishes that someone would shut the temple doors so that people would no longer waste their time with their offerings. The sacrifices were pointless because they were bringing the leftovers rather than the best.
What we are reading about is God’s command for excellence in our activities for the Lord. We need to do our very best in our worship and service to the Lord. Too often leftovers are exactly what we give the Lord. Because we wanted to watch television, go to the movies, or do something else, we did not read or study our Bibles. We did not prepare ourselves for Bible class. We are simply giving God the leftovers. Rather than praying, preparing for class, studying, preparing for singing, preparing for the Lord’s Supper, or any other activity, we do other things, simply showing God that we will give him our tired leftovers. God has called us to do things in excellence because we are reflecting the glory of God. When I serve another person, I need to do it well, to the best of my ability because this is my act of worship to the Lord. I dare say that we rarely are giving our best to the Lord. I believe we think it is acceptable to God just to give something, regardless of whether or not it is our best effort.
Can you imagine if the Lord stood at the door of our building today? If we walked up, would he tell us that we should not waste our time coming in because we are not going to give our best today? Would the Lord tell us that we have not been giving our best toward our neighbors? Would God tell us that we have not been giving our best on the job? Would the Lord ask for the doors to be shut because our worship consists of the thoughtless, tired leftovers?
How Are You Giving To God? (1:13-14)
There is another problem that the Lord identifies along the same lines. It was bad enough that the people were bringing blemished animals and the priests were accepting these animals. But the manner in which the people brought the animals is also called into question. “‘What a weariness this is,'” you say, and you sniff at me, says the LORD of hosts” (1:13). They were saying what a misery it was to have to worship the Lord and offer these sacrifices. In fact, they were trying to come up with excuses to get out of making the offering required of them. In verse 14 the Lord describes how the people would vow an animal for offering but then weasel out the offering, and give a blemished animal instead.
The Lord identifies a heart problem with the people and the priests. I don’t think any one in a marriage would like to hear from their spouse that it is such a weariness to be a husband or a wife. No one would be happy to hear that his or her spouse is trying to get out of his or her responsibilities. That is simply not what we want out of the other person. Why would we think this kind of attitude would work with God? Does God want to hear about how we are trying to get out worshipping God? Is God pleased when we skip Bible class because it is such a weariness? We use the exact same words as the people of Israel toward our worship and service. We are too tired to come on Wednesday night. It is too hard to come on Sunday night. It is such a pain to be here at 9:30am. Am I missing something, or are we saying the exact same thing that God condemned Israel for saying? I believe we are. We come up with excuses why we should not serve our neighbor and teach our friends. We talk about it being hard to serve and hard to worship the Lord. Is this the attitude that God wants from us? “What a weariness this is.” How often we act the exact same way. When we think that God is such a weariness and such a pain, then we truly our wasting our time and doors of the building ought to be shut. How are you giving your worship and service to God? How we make our offerings matter to God.
Cursed Instead of Blessed (2:1-3)
We do not give our best and what we do give we do not give from zeal or desire but out of compulsion. Yet we think that God ought to listen to our prayers and bless our lives. “If you do not listen, and if you do not take it to heart to give honor to My name,” says the LORD of hosts, “then I will send the curse upon you and I will curse your blessings; and indeed, I have cursed them already, because you are not taking it to heart” (2:2; NASU). God says that he is taking their requests for blessings and turning them into curses because they are not glorifying the name of the Lord and are not taking the Lord’s instructions to heart. We cannot think that God is going to bless our lives and listen to our prayers when we are giving worship that violates God’s law, worship that is without excellence, or worship that lacks zeal and love for God.
What are you giving to God? God is to receive the firstfruits of our labors and efforts. We need to do things with excellence, not as our tired leftovers. The activities of the Lord need to take precedence over the things in our lives and the things of the world.
How are you giving your worship and service to God? When you are giving and serving, how are you doing it? Is your worship a weariness? Do you come, but you do not want to be here? Do you serve, but you do not want to be serving? These things matter to God, and these things should matter to us. God will not bless us with such attitudes. Consider your ways for you may find that we are cursed because we are not giving God our best.