The message of the book of Malachi is presented in a unique fashion. In a number of cases, what Malachi writes sounds like a conversation. It goes like this: God charges the Jews with wrongdoing, they respond by saying that they are innocent, and then He refutes the Jews’ plea and shows wherein they have erred. It is an attention-catching approach that unveils what was going on in Malachi’s time.
The first chapter of Malachi’s writing reveals that God was not pleased with the Jews’ attitude toward Him or their mindset about worship. Hear one of God’s appeals to His people:
(6) A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am the Father, where is My honor? And if I am a Master, where is My reverence? says the LORD of hosts to you priests who despise My name. Yet you say, ‘In what way have we despised Your name?’ (7) You offer defiled food on My altar, but say, ‘In what way have we defiled you?’ By saying, ‘The table of the LORD is contemptible.’ (8) And when you offer the blind as a sacrifice, is it not evil And when you offer the lame and sick, Is it not evil? Offer it then to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you favorably?’ says the LORD of hosts.
Again, in that same chapter we read:
(12) But you profane it, in that you say, ‘The table of the LORD is defiled; and its fruit, its food, is contemptible. (13) You also say, ‘Oh, what a weariness!’ And you sneer at it, says the LORD of hosts. And you bring the stolen, the lame, and the sick; thus you bring an offering! Should I accept this from your hand? says the LORD. (14) But cursed be the deceiver who has in his flock a male, and takes a vow, but sacrifices to the Lord what is blemished – for I am a great King, says the LORD of hosts, and My name is to be feared among the nations.
What lessons can we learn from these statements? First, when it comes to Almighty God, He is worthy of respect – at all times, in all places, from all people. Why is that so? He is Jehovah of hosts (1:4,8,9,10,11,13,14). He said that His name is to be feared among the nations (1:14). What else?
Just as God was a Father to the Israelites (1:6), He is our Father, too (Galatians 3:26), and fathers deserve to be honored by their children.
Just as God was Israel’s Master (1:6), so He is our Ruler as well (Acts 17:24), and masters deserve to be honored by their servants.
Just as God was Israel’s King (1:14), He is our King also (1 Timothy 1:17), and kings are worthy to receive honor from their citizens.
There is no way to bypass this truth: because the Lord God is our Creator, our Father, our Master, and our King, He is worthy to receive honor, praise, and glory (Revelation 4:11; 5:12).
A second observation: the Jews were “missing it” in their approach to worshipping God. Here are the unalterable facts: some of the Jews despised His name (1:6,7), they offered defiled food on His altar (1:7), they claimed that His table was contemptible (1:7), they offered blemished animals as sacrifices (1:8,13), they considered worship to Him to be a “weariness” (1:13), and they sneered at the thought of worshipping Him (1:13). For sure, Israel had an attitude issue.
Yet there is something of far greater concern to us than what was going on in the hearts and lives of God’s people who lived over 2000 years ago. We want to beware lest those same mindsets creep into our hearts! We need to learn from their failures. We ought to see worship as a privilege, not a burden. We should approach worship with a heart of joy, not drudgery (Psalm 122:1). We need to look at worship as a holy, sacred occasion, not an affair to be approached in a lackadaisical, haphazard manner.
The text of Malachi one makes it plain that Jehovah expected the Israelites to offer Him their best in worship. Nothing short of that would be acceptable. They would not dare offer something of inferior quality to their governor (1:8). Why not? They knew that he would not be pleased with such. Why, then, would they think it would be permissible to offer less than their best to their Lord-Father- Master-King?! As you and I strive to “serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear” (Hebrews 12:29), let us be prepared to give Him the best that we have – our best spirit and our best effort in every possible way. In the matter of worshipping our Creator, let us do our best to prepare mentally and physically before we ever arrive at the worship assembly. If matters distract or hinder us from being at our best, let us find a way to lay them aside.
Once we actually engage in acts by which we offer our praise and honor to God, we need to focus on what we are doing – truly worship Him “in spirit” from the heart (John 4:23). That is not a time for chit-chatting, checking and sending text messages, working on homework, or preparing a list of things to do after worship. Proper reverence for the Lord will cause us to (1) be willing to submit to what He says, (2) speak respectfully about Him and His ways, and (3) approach Him in worship with a sense of awe, humility, joy, and gratitude.
Read again those verses quoted from Malachi one. They open our eyes. They humble us, challenge us, and cause us to evaluate ourselves and how we approach God and worship. How are we doing?
— Roger D. Campbell