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“How have we despised Your Name?” (NLT)
[“How have we shown contempt or dishonor Your Name?”] (NIV)
Text: Malachi 1:2-2:9
Dr Alex Tang
We dishonor God by offering less than the best
In our study of Malachi, we have discovered that the book has two sections: section one deals with the spiritual status of the people of Israel and consists of a Q&A of 7 questions. Section two deals with the blessing Yahweh will give Israel if she repents. Two Sundays ago, Deacon Dr. Chuah has dealt with the first question: “How have You loved us?” God answered the people by recalling the covenant relationship He has with them. This evening, we shall deal with the second question: “How have we despised Your Name?” (NLT) “How have we shown contempt or dishonor Your Name?” (NIV)
The Holy Light Church (English) is 50 years old. This year is also the Jubilee year for Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom for she ascended the throne 50 years ago. This reminds me of a nursery rhythm:
Pussy cat, pussy cat, where have you been?
I’ve been to London, to see the great Queen.
Pussy cat, pussy cat, what saw you there?
I saw a wee mouse under her chair.
What is wrong with this picture? What is the colour of the mouse? Why are we paying so much attention to the mouse when the great Queen herself is sitting on the chair! The cat went all the way to London to see the great Queen and all he/she notices is the mouse under her chair. Talk about failure to see the big picture. We too have this type of blindness, especially spiritual blindness. We often concentrate and fight over the small things of God and do not see the great Lord Himself.
A. The Priests dishonor the Lord (1:6-2:9)
1. They dishonor Him in the performance of their duties (1:6-14)
2. They dishonor Him in their teaching of the Law (2:1-9)
1. They dishonor Him in the performance of their duties (1:6-14)
6 “ A son honors his father,
a servant his master.
If I am a father, where is the honor due me?
If I am a master, where is the respect due me?”
says the LORD Almighty.
Malachi spoke of proper relationships in society and with the Lord. Which set of relationships would Israel have considered comparable to her relationship with the Lord? Some Israelites might have suggested that God was like a father to Israel, for this analogy had been used before (Ex. 4:22; Isa. 63:16; 64:8; Hosea 11:1). The Hebrew word for ”honor“ (k_aµb_oĆd_) also means ”glory.“ The glory of God is spoken of frequently throughout the Scriptures (He is even called ”the King of glory,“ Ps. 24:7-10), and the fact that glory and honor are due Him is beyond dispute. Some Israelites consider the Lord the Master of Israel
“It is you, O priests, who show contempt for my name.
“But you ask, ‘How have we shown contempt for your name?’
7 “You place defiled food on my altar.
“But you ask, ‘How have we defiled you?’
“By saying that the LORD’s table is contemptible.
8 When you bring blind animals for sacrifice, is that not wrong?
When you sacrifice crippled or diseased animals, is that not wrong?
A sacrificial animal has to be without defect (Exod.12:5; 29:1; Lev 1:3) and without blemish (Lev.22:30). The toĆraĆh explicitly forbade the offering of blind, crippled or diseased animals.
The persons concerned were both the priests and the people. The priests were the main transgressors, because they were acquainted with the stipulations of the toĆraĆh and were mediators between God and His people in the service of the altar. The people were also guilty because they provided unworthy animals and in doing so they were trying to deceive the Lord.
The charge that the priests were calling the Lord’s table contemptible was substantiated by their actions (Mal. 1:8). They were treating it with contempt by disregarding God’s requirements concerning the kinds of sacrifices that should be placed on it. This made them guilty, deserving of death (Lev. 22:9). Also their contempt was deepened as they ate some of those unacceptable sacrifices (the priests received their food from the offerings, Lev. 24:5-9).
Try offering them to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you?” says the LORD Almighty.
9 “Now implore God to be gracious to us. With such offerings from your hands, will he accept you?”
—says the LORD Almighty.
10 “Oh, that one of you would shut the temple doors, so that you would not light useless fires on my altar! I am not pleased with you,” says the LORD Almighty, “and I will accept no offering from your hands.
A worship that does not acknowledge and honor God is worse than no worship at all.
11 My name will be great among the nations, from the rising to the setting of the sun. In every place incense and pure offerings will be brought to my name, because my name will be great among the nations,” says the LORD Almighty.
The statement ‘will be’ corresponds with other Old Testament prophecies and with the Book of Malachi itself. The prophets predicted a time when Gentiles will see the light and become worshipers of the Lord (Isa. 45:22-25; 49:5-7; 59:19). The Messiah will become King over the entire earth. Believers in all nations will worship Him (Isa. 11:3-4, 9; Dan. 7:13-14, 27-28; Zeph. 2:11; 3:8-11; Zech. 14:9, 16). Malachi also spoke of the coming of the future day when the Lord will return and will bring about pure worship in Israel (Mal. 3:1-4).
12 “But you profane it by saying
of the Lord’s table, ‘It is defiled,’
and of its food, ‘It is contemptible.’
13 And you say, ‘What a burden!’
and you sniff at it contemptuously,”
says the LORD Almighty.
In verses 7-8 the actions of the priests were condemned; here their attitude was condemned. Their attitude was one of contempt and disregard. Apparently the priests recognized that these sacrificial practices were irregular, for they said that the Lord‘s table (cf. v. 7) is defiled and that its food . . . is contemptible. But they did not care to take the trouble to set things straight. Being involved in offering the sacrifices was just a burden and a chore. Such a response was a form of contempt (cf. James 4:17).
“When you bring injured, crippled or diseased animals
and offer them as sacrifices,
should I accept them from your hands?” says the LORD.
14“Cursed is the cheat who has an acceptable male in his flock and vows to give it, but then sacrifices a blemished animal to the Lord.
For I am a great king,” says the LORD Almighty, “and my name is to be feared among the nations.
2. They dishonor the Lord in their teaching of the Law (2:1-9)
2 “And now this admonition is for you, O priests.
2 If you do not listen,
and if you do not set your heart to honor my name,”
says the LORD Almighty,
“I will send a curse upon you, and I will curse your blessings. Yes, I have already cursed them, because you have not set your heart to honor me.
“Because of you I will rebuke your descendants; I will spread on your faces the offal from your festival sacrifices, and you will be carried off with it.
The curse Malachi referred to would affect the priests’ blessings, either their own blessings (as income from people’s tithes and offerings) or blessings they pronounced on the people (Num. 6:22-27). Because of their hearts’ condition, the curse was already in effect.
The dung of sacrificial animals, which were slaughtered in connection with the annual feasts, will be spread on their faces, causing them to become unclean and therefore incapable of performing their duties. Finally they will be dump onto the dunghill, as an indication that their place is no longer in the sanctuary but with the refuse.
4 And you will know that I have sent you this admonition
so that my covenant with Levi may continue,”
says the LORD Almighty.
The tribal name Levi is used for the descendants of Levi who made up the priestly class. The covenant mentioned here refers to what may be called a covenant of grant (Num. 18:7-8, 19-21), a covenant made with an individual (and sometimes his descendants) because of some service the recipient performed. God made a similar covenant of grant with Phinehas (Num. 25:10-13). NU 25:1 While Israel was staying in Shittim, the men began to indulge in sexual immorality with Moabite women, 2 who invited them to the sacrifices to their gods. The people ate and bowed down before these gods. 3 So Israel joined in worshiping the Baal of Peor. And the LORD's anger burned against them.
NU 25:4 The LORD said to Moses, "Take all the leaders of these people, kill them and expose them in broad daylight before the LORD, so that the LORD's fierce anger may turn away from Israel."
NU 25:5 So Moses said to Israel's judges, "Each of you must put to death those of your men who have joined in worshiping the Baal of Peor."
NU 25:6 Then an Israelite man brought to his family a Midianite woman right before the eyes of Moses and the whole assembly of Israel while they were weeping at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting. 7 When Phinehas son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, the priest, saw this, he left the assembly, took a spear in his hand 8 and followed the Israelite into the tent. He drove the spear through both of them--through the Israelite and into the woman's body. Then the plague against the Israelites was stopped; 9 but those who died in the plague numbered 24,000.
NU 25:10 The LORD said to Moses, 11 "Phinehas son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, the priest, has turned my anger away from the Israelites; for he was as zealous as I am for my honor among them, so that in my zeal I did not put an end to them. 12 Therefore tell him I am making my covenant of peace with him. 13 He and his descendants will have a covenant of a lasting priesthood, because he was zealous for the honor of his God and made atonement for the Israelites."
The phrase a covenant of life and peace seems to recall how Phinehas’ zeal for the Lord turned away God’s wrath from the people
5 “My covenant was with him, a covenant of life and peace, and I gave them to him;
this called for reverence
and he revered me and stood in awe of my name.
6 True instruction was in his mouth and nothing false was found on his lips. He walked with me in peace and uprightness, and turned many from sin.
7 “For the lips of a priest ought to preserve knowledge,
from his mouth men should seek instruction
—because he is the messenger of the LORD Almighty.
Usually people think of priests as specialists in bringing sacrifices, and that seems to be their characteristic function in the time long after the return from exile. Nevertheless, the OT ideal of a priest was different. The teaching function precedes the sacrificial function in Deu.33:8-10 and 2 Chr. 15:3
These two functions are complementary. As mediators between God and His people, the priests offer sacrifices acceptable to the Lord on behalf of the people, and through their instruction in the law they represent the will of God to the people.
8 But you have turned from the way
and by your teaching have caused many to stumble;
you have violated the covenant with Levi,”
says the LORD Almighty.
9 “So I have caused you to be despised and humiliated before all the people, because you have not followed my ways but have shown partiality in matters of the law.”
The word instruction is toĆraĆh, also the word for ”Law.“ The priests were to teach the Law (Deut. 33:10). As teachers, each priest was to be a messenger (malŐak). However, since they were not giving true instruction, the prophet whose very name, ironically, means “My messenger” rebuked them. Their teaching . . . caused many to stumble because they themselves had turned from the way. Saying that defiled sacrifices were accepted violated God’s covenant with Levi (see Num. 18:19, 21).So the priests were despised and humiliated before all the people. This actually was a light sentence, for their penalty should have been death (Num. 18:32).
Lessons for us
We are all priests.
1 Peter 2:5
5 you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
1 Peter 2:9
1PE 2:9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
Offering Less Than The Best
We dishonor God when we are offering less than the best to Him.
q Our calling/vocation. Most of us are not called to full-time Christian service. We are called to be doctors, nurses, lawyers, teachers, mechanics, music teachers or homemaker. We are also called for ministry or service to the community of faith, which includes Holy Light Church. There is always this tension between our work, our families and our service in church. The tension will always be there. However, we must resolve to be the best doctors, nurses, lawyers, teachers, mechanics, music teachers or homemaker there is, or we are offering less than the best to Him.
q Worship. We offer Him less than the best when we come to the worship service unprepared. Worship is the time when we meet God. How many of us really prepare to meet God. Often we rush into the service after interrupting whatever we were doing. Our mind is still on what we were doing. Do we still our hearts and set apart a time to meet God. Or do we come to church like a movie critic. Ready to criticize and find faults with the service itself. If we are not able to offer our attention to God in a worship service, we are offering Him less than the best. God said, He would rather close the door to the church than to receive half-hearted worship from His people!
q The Lord’s Table. When we come to the Lord’s table, we come to remember the ultimate sacrifice – God’s only Son. The cross is hard. The wood is hard. The nails are hard. The bread is our Lord’s body broken for us. The blood is His death on the cross, which cleanse all our sins. When we approach the Lord’s table, do we accept His sacrifice for us or do we reject it by harboring sin in our lives- sins of willful disobedience, unforgiveness, anger, bitterness, unbelief or contempt. 1 Cor 11:27 1CO 11:27 Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. 28 A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. 29 For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself. 30 That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. The Lord will not accept less than the best for His table.
q Our soul. When we accept Jesus as Lord and Master, we are to offer our bodies as living sacrifice. Paul wrote in Rom.12:1 RO 12:1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship. The problem with living sacrifice is that they keep crawling off the altar! Our Christian journey is the process of offering our self-centeredness as a sacrifice and replacing it with Christ as the center of our lives. It is the hardest project you can do. Your old nature will fight you every inch of the way. It is only possible because of the Holy Spirit that is in you. God does not expect you to be perfect instantly. Teresa of Avila, Interior Castle, said our lives are like a castle made of a single diamond...in which are many rooms, just like in Heaven there are many mansions. As the Holy Spirit goes from room to room to clean out the sins, God expect us to cooperate, no matter how hard. Failure to cooperate will be offering God less than the best. We need to offer to God everything – holding nothing back. Our most precious possessions, our achievements, our happiness, our security and our pain and sufferings.
"While sitting on the bank of a river one day, I picked up a
solid round stone from the water and broke it open. It was perfectly dry in
spite of the fact that it had been immersed in water for centuries.
Let us pray that we are not like that stone. Let us be like clay, able to be molded by our Lord into His likeness. Let us honor God but offering Him our best.
Soli Deo Gloria
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