Where is God’s Honor? // Malachi 1

MALACHI 1

Text: Malachi 1:1-14

Introduction

Our passage isn’t easy to digest. It’s hard, it’s convicting, but it’s also necessary. It’s like in Revelation 10 when John takes the scroll from the angel and eats it, it’s sweet to his lips, but it’s bitter to his stomach. This first chapter in Malachi might be bitter when it’s applied because it’ll touch our sin on a personal level, but when it’s all said and done, it is sweet because it draws us closer to God.

We start out the passage by seeing that this is an oracle, but if you’re reading from the King James, then you’ll see that instead of the word ‘oracle,’ the word ‘burden’ is used, and I think this is significant because the interaction that follows between God and His people is weighty.

The entire book of Malachi follows a distinct pattern: there’s a declaration made by God, then there’s a question posed by the people – “How have we done x,” then God makes a defense and an explanation of his accusation against them. Almost the entire book follows this pattern.

As we look at the text this morning, I want to us to see two main ideas. We needs to first of all, God’s Abundance of Love, and Our Lack of Honor.

God’s Abundance of Love

In the first five verses there are three ideas in this section that I want us to see: first, God’s Love Declared, then we see that God’s Love is Doubted, and then we’ll look how God’s Love is Displayed.

God’s Love Declared

“I have loved you, says the Lord. But you say, “How have you loved us?” Is not Esau Jacob’s brother? says the Lord. Yet I have loved Jacob.” – Malachi 1:2, NRSV

What does this mean? The people whom Malachi is addressing is are descendants of Jacob. Jacob and Esau were brothers, and even though Esau was the older brother, God chose to set his love on Jacob. So, this is what God is saying:

  • My love for you is electing love because I chose you for myself above your brother Esau.
  • My love for you is unconditional love because I chose you before you had done anything good or evil—before you had met any conditions—while you were still in your mother’s womb.
    • “Isaac prayed to the Lord on behalf of his wife, because she was childless. The Lord answered his prayer, and his wife Rebekah became pregnant. 22The babies jostled each other within her, and she said, “Why is this happening to me?” So she went to inquire of the Lord. 23The Lord said to her, “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger.” – Genesis 25:21-23, NIV
    • “Even before they had been born or had done anything good or bad (so that God’s purpose of election might continue, 12not by works but by his call) she was told, “The elder shall serve the younger.” 13As it is written, “I have loved Jacob, but I have hated Esau.” – Romans 9:11-13, NRSV

 

 

  • My love for you is sovereign love because I was under no constraint to love you; I was not forced or coerced; I was totally in charge when I set my love upon you.
  • And my love for you is free because it’s the overflow of my infinite grace that can never be bought. [1]

All of these qualities of God’s love have bestowed to us freely in Christ.

And yet, in spite of all of this, in spite of the fact that God has divine purpose and plan for His people, His love is still doubted.

God’s Love is Doubted

They still say in the middle of verse 2, “How have you loved us?”

Think about all the ways in which we have doubted God’s love. He has blessed us. Listen, there are things in your life that you just don’t get a say in. You don’t get a say in what language you learn as a child. You don’t get a say in what country you’re born in, you don’t get a choice in what culture you get raised in.

And God has arranged all of these things in your life that you live in a relatively prosperous culture, you were raised learning to speak one of the most difficult languages to learn. You live in a nation with a relatively decent amount of personal freedoms compared to other nations.

  • You might say, “Well, our freedoms are slowly being taken away.” Who cares! Be thankful for what God has given you now, in the present. God didn’t promise you a bill of rights. He promised you blessing if you do what is right, and a curse if you don’t do what is right.
  • Rights or not, we can confidently say with the psalmist, “With the Lord on my side I do not fear. What can mortals do to me? The Lord is on my side to help me; I shall look in triumph on those who hate me.” (Psalm 118:6-7, NRSV)

Some of you have had really hard lives growing up, but it could have been worse, and the reason it wasn’t worse is because God personally loves you, and cares for you. I would even say that God actually likes you. He doesn’t just put up with you because of a contract that He has with Jesus. God has placed His love on you and one day you will be joyously brought before Him.

“Now to him who is able to keep you from falling, and to make you stand without blemish in the presence of his glory with rejoicing,” – Jude 24, NRSV

He rejoices to save us, to sanctify, and He will, with rejoicing, escort us into His presence.

Yet, in spite of all of this we still doubt sometimes.

  • And it’s the same voice that told Eve, “you will not die” that tells us, “God doesn’t love you, God didn’t really save you.” “It doesn’t matter how much you ask for forgiveness, you will die in your sin.” It’s that condemning voice that causes us to doubt.

So, God goes on to explain in more explicit terms exactly what He means.

God’s Love is Displayed

“but I have hated Esau; I have made his hill country a desolation and his heritage a desert for jackals. 4If Edom says, “We are shattered but we will rebuild the ruins,” the Lord of hosts says: They may build, but I will tear down, until they are called the wicked country, the people with whom the Lord is angry forever. 5Your own eyes shall see this, and you shall say, “Great is the Lord beyond the borders of Israel!” – Malachi 1:3-5, NRSV

We see passages like this, and first inclination is to say, “That’s not fair.”

Why does God place this kind of love and care on Jacob and his lineage and not on Esau and his people? Paul gives a commentary on this passage when he writes Romans 9.

“It is not as though the word of God had failed. For not all Israelites truly belong to Israel, 7and not all of Abraham’s children are his true descendants; but “It is through Isaac that descendants shall be named for you.” 8This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as descendants. 9For this is what the promise said, “About this time I will return and Sarah shall have a son.” 10Nor is that all; something similar happened to Rebecca when she had conceived children by one husband, our ancestor Isaac. 11Even before they had been born or had done anything good or bad (so that God’s purpose of election might continue, 12not by works but by his call) she was told, “The elder shall serve the younger.” 13As it is written,

“I have loved Jacob,
   but I have hated Esau.”

14What then are we to say? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! 15For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”

16So it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God who shows mercy.”

– Romans 9:6-16, NRSV

When we look at Malachi 1 and Romans 9, and we say, “It’s not fair. God should show this kind of mercy to everyone,” what we’re saying is that God owes it to them. No one is owed mercy.

Remember 2 Corinthians 4:1-6. I won’t read, I’ll let you look it up on your own. But when we say, “It’s not fair.” We’re saying that someone who chooses to be blinded by the god of this world deserves sight, and that’s not the case. When God gives sight to blind, when God gives life to the dead, when God grants us repentance and faith, it’s not because He owes it to us, it’s because His grace is more powerful than our sin.

His kindness to us is more more powerful than our desire to rebel against Him.

God displays His kindness in His electing love that He has placed on us by the atoning blood of His son. And so, we see God’s abundance of love, but what about our lack of honor?

Our Lack of Honor

If we continue on in Malachi 1, we’ll see that there’s three ways that God is not shown the honor that’s due him:

God’s Name is Despised

“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. You say, “How have we despised your name?” – Malachi 1:6, NRSV

What’s the accusation here? God is actually accusing them of breaking the 3rd commandment.

“You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.” – Exodus 20:7, NRSV

If you think this is simply an issue of saying God’s name when you curse, you’re not going deep enough. God’s name is His identity. So, taking His name in vain isn’t necessarily about taking the verbal usage of His name lightly (although we shouldn’t do that either), it’s about taking His character and His identity lightly.

  • See, now the 3rd commandment isn’t so manageable when we see it like that, and that’s good because it’s opportunity to see God’s grace and forgiveness at work in our lives.
  • We have a problem of not seeing the big picture when it comes to the Bible. We’ll get into Malachi 3 later, but if you think Malachi 3 is simply about giving your 10% to the church, you’re mistaken. The big picture of Malachi 3 is giving to what God what’s due, and what’s due to God is honor, not in the form of lip service, but in the form of tithes that go into the storehouse to feed the hungry, and clothe the naked.
  • God’s law always has a big picture application to our lives, but we want to break it down into manageable pieces so that we can have checklist, mark off the things we’re supposed to do, and make sure we don’t do the things we’re not supposed to do, but the problem is that if you can manage God’s law, all of it, then you don’t need Jesus.

  • This is what Paul says in Galatians, if righteousness could come through the law, then it would, but it doesn’t, so it can’t. Righteousness comes by grace through faith in Christ apart from works of the law. (Romans 3:20; Galatians 2:16)

So, what does it mean that they have despised God’s name, and what does it mean when we despise God’s name? Now, that the 3rd commandment isn’t as manageable as we thought it was, what are the ways that we despise God’s name? How do we doubt His character and His identity?

If we keep going in Malachi 1, one of the ways that God’s people despised His name was through their offerings. So, they ask, “How have we despised your name?” And this is the answer God gives.

God’s Altar is Polluted

“By offering polluted food on my altar. And you say, “How have we polluted it?” By thinking that the Lord’s table may be despised. 8When you offer blind animals in sacrifice, is that not wrong? And when you offer those that are lame or sick, is that not wrong? Try presenting that to your governor; will he be pleased with you or show you favor? says the Lord of hosts.” – Malachi 1:7-8, NRSV

God’s people had the audacity to come into God’s house and bring their lame, their broken, and blemished animals to God.

You can’t give your leftovers to God, and think He’s going to let you live in His favor. We don’t do animal sacrifices anymore. So, what does this mean for us as the New Testament church? It means that we’re the offering.

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.” – Romans 12:1, NIV

This is about your attitude in worship. This is about your attitude in service to God. Do you give yourself wholeheartedly to God, and to the service of His people or do you give the bare minimum of yourself?

We can’t separate our attitude toward God from how we offer ourselves to Him.

“Contempt for the Lord’s Table is contempt for the Lord of the table.” [2]
– Peter J. Leithart, Blessed Are the Hungry

So, what this means is that everytime we refuse God the wholehearted worship that He deserves we actually show contempt for Him. That’s not an easy thing to come to terms with, that there’s actually a part of you that wants to rebel against God, but it’s the flesh, it’s the sin nature. It’s why the writer of the hymn says, “Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, prone to leave the God I love. Here’s my heart, Lord, take and seal it, seal it to thy courts above.”

  • This is where we need to pray, “Seal my heart, Lord.” Because if God seals our hearts with the seal of the Holy Spirit, then we’re never going to wander so far that He can’t bring us back.

We’ve seen how God’s name is despised, and God’s altar is polluted, but here’s where we finally see that our godless, ritualistic service is denounced.

Godless Service is Denounced

“And now implore the favor of God, that he may be gracious to us. The fault is yours. Will he show favor to any of you? says the Lord of hosts. 10Oh, that someone among you would shut the temple doors, so that you would not kindle fire on my altar in vain! I have no pleasure in you, says the Lord of hosts, and I will not accept an offering from your hands. 11For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name is great among the nations, and in every place incense is offered to my name, and a pure offering; for my name is great among the nations, says the Lord of hosts. 12But you profane it when you say that the Lord’s table is polluted, and the food for it may be despised. 13“What a weariness this is,” you say, and you sniff at me, says the Lord of hosts. You bring what has been taken by violence or is lame or sick, and this you bring as your offering! Shall I accept that from your hand? says the Lord. 14Cursed be the cheat who has a male in the flock and vows to give it, and yet sacrifices to the Lord what is blemished; for I am a great King, says the Lord of hosts, and my name is reverenced among the nations.” – Malachi 1:9-14, NRSV

I just read that from the NRSV, but I’m not sure if you can really see the meaning of verse 9. So, I’ll read verse 9 again this time from the New King James.

“But now entreat God’s favor, that He may be gracious to us. While this is being done by your hands, will He accept you favorably? Says the Lord of hosts.”
– Malachi 1:9, NKJV

There are severe consequences for believing that you can flippantly ignore God’s call to repentance.

Malachi wants us to call on God because he encourages us, “entreat God’s favor because He will be gracious,” but the prophet also wants us to understand what that means because he says, “While this is being done, will He accept you favorably?” Saying, “God, I’m sorry” while your fingers are crossed behind your back doesn’t work. The New Living Translation says, “when you bring that kind of offering, why should he show you any favor at all?” (Malachi 1:9, NLT)

God actually goes on to say, in verse 10, that He wishes that someone would shut the door of the temple so that they would not kindle fire on His altar in vain.

  • God would rather us close doors at Mount Carmel than to have us come in here and think that we can slide by on half hearted worship.

The close of this chapter ends with God reminding us of who He is. Notice the end of verse 14, “…I am a great King, says the Lord of hosts, and my name is reverenced among the nations.” God made a promise that He would always have a remnant. He would always have a people that worshipped Him in Spirit and truth. Even in the midst of a great falling away, there would still be a people who loved God, and worshipped Him with their whole heart. The question is: will it be us or will be those give God what’s left?

Conclusion

If you go back to verse one, you’ll notice that Malachi doesn’t get the traditional introduction to prophetic office, “The word of the Lord came to Malachi…” Instead, we get simply, “An oracle.” But the King James calls this a burden. It’s a heavy word that’s been given to Malachi, and like all heavy things, to carry it you have to get completely under it. But, unlike a couch or a heavy box, there’s no way you can lift with your legs to avoid hurting your back. There’s no easy way to take a word from the Lord that says, “You have despised my name, you’ve polluted my altar, and you have shown me no honor.”

It’s going to be heavy on your heart, it’s going to pour over your soul like any a burden should, but there’s good news. Jesus has taken your faithlessness, your rebellion, and your lack of honor, and He has nailed those things to His cross, and they did rise from the tomb with Him. And He did it, not because you’re good or because you’re worth it, but because He desires for you to become His righteousness.

“For our sake [God] made him [Christ] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” – 2 Corinthians 5:21, ESV, brackets added

I know that every week I say that these altars are open, but I really mean that. These altars aren’t just a place where we come and pray gently for our prayer needs for 3-5 minutes every Sunday, this is a real place where you can approach a real God with your real sin, and in exchange for your sin, He will give you His righteousness.

In the Book of Common Prayer, there is a prayer for confession of sin, and I want to pray that prayer over us today, and as we sing, know that the gifts of faith and repentance are yours in Christ.

Closing Prayer

Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We are truly sorry and we humbly repent. For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ,
have mercy on us and forgive us; that we may delight in your will, and walk in your ways, to the glory of your Name. Amen. [3]

_____

[1] “The Greatness of God’s Electing Love.” Desiring God, 24 May 2018, http://www.desiringgod.org/messages/the-greatness-of-gods-electing-love.

[2]  Leithart, Peter J. Blessed Are the Hungry: Meditations on the Lord’s Supper. Canon Press, 2000.

[3] Book of Common Prayer, Evening Prayer: Rite Two, pg. 116-117

Author: RevLoganDixon

26. Simul Justus et Peccator. Pastor. Libertarian. Musician. Thinker. Dreamer. Coffee-drinker.

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