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Malachi 1:6-14: Polluting Sacrifices

July 17, 2022 Speaker: Jeremy Caskey Series: Guest Speakers

Topic: Default Passage: Malachi 1:6–14

Polluting Sacrifices
Malachi 1:6-14

Back in 2017, I received a personal invitation in the mail from the White House, with the President inviting me to join him and the First Lady at a Gold Star Family ceremony, a reception for family members who had lost an immediate family member in combat. So, naturally I went. This was an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. And I did it at my own expense. I took leave from work, bought a plane ticket from Utah to D.C., paid for a cab, then a hotel, put on my service dress uniform, waited in line to be screened through security at the White House, waited in line to meet the president and take a picture, and observed a ceremony honoring my brother among 40 other lost-loved ones. It was moving and meaningful.

I do not share this to brag, or even garner sympathy at losing my brother in combat. I share this to prompt the question, would I go to such lengths to meet with God? Would you? It cost the President no more than a couple of hours of his evening, as the taxpayers covered the rest. Don’t get me wrong, I was unbelievably honored and appreciative.

But would I have gone to such lengths to meet with God? In today’s text we see Israel taking God for granted, offering him worthless worship. They would not do for God, what they would have done for their nation’s leadership. Which brings us to the main idea of our passage. We as God’s children have been called to give God our best for he is worthy.

Earlier in the chapter, God met his people in their discouragement, by grounding his love for them in his special choosing of them, by electing them to be his children over and against others whom he did not choose. But this special choosing does not excuse them from responding in a God-honoring way. While God is sovereign, man is responsible. But we do not see God’s people taking responsibility for their high calling in our text today. Instead, we see…

I. Those offering God worthless things in the name of worship reveal hearts of
indifference and inconsideration for God.

A. God deserves our adoration and reverence:

“A son honors his father, and a servant his master.” So, God begins his argument with a point they could all agree on. It is lawful, good, and right for children to honor their parents, and servants their masters, whether they are worthy or not. “Yes,” they would say, “We affirm the lawfulness and goodness of such things. This is as it should be.” But what starts as affirmation, quickly turns to rebuke, for God goes on to say, “If then I am a father, where is my honor? And if I am a master, where is my fear? says the Lord of hosts to you, O priests, who despise my name.” So God accuses the priests—the leaders of worship—of not rendering to God the honor they would have given to an earthly father or an earthly master. In fact, God goes even further in saying that they actually have contempt for his name. This goes beyond taking God for granted. God sees that they regard him as worthless, as someone unworthy of their time and talent; someone undeserving of their best. But apparently this comes as a shock to the priests, who have been going through the motions in their sacrifices, “But you say, ‘How have we despised your name?’” They’re caught unawares. There’s a blindness to their sinful condition, kind of like that scene in the movie, The Sixth Sense, where the
young boy addressing his dead psychologist who doesn’t know he’s dead, says, “I see dead people. They don’t know their dead… they only see what they want to see.” The priests don’t know the deadness of their worship. They only see what they want to see. Why? Because, veering off course often happens so slowly and incrementally that we hardly realize just how far off course we have gone. And it’s not just one little thing we need to fix that’ll get us back on course. No. That ignores the fact that our entire approach towards God has been wrong. That he’s become peripheral: an accessory that we picked up at Clare’s boutique or a part we grabbed at Ace Hardware. We’re not in his orbit. He’s in ours. And this is wrong. And God knows it. In fact, we see…

B. Offering God worthless things shows contempt for him:

You have probably heard the phrase, “contempt of court.” Someone chargedwith contempt of court has either disrespected or failed to obey a court order. For instance, if I were on trial and I failed to stand up when the judged entered the courtroom, or if I called him by his first name rather than his title of “Your honor,” or if I failed to show up on the day of my trial without significant reason and communication as to the reason for my absence, I could be chargedcontempt of court. In like fashion, these priests have shown contempt for God, a far greater offense, being guilty of the charge of despising his name.

How have they despised God’s name? “By offering polluted food upon my altar,” God says. I want you to notice that the priest’s sinful behavior directly profanes the name of God. In other words, they see God as worthless, as unworthy of their efforts. He’s nobody, he’s nothing to them. And so, they did what the law strictly forbade. They were supposed to bring sacrifices that were unblemished, undefiled—the best. God calls his people to give of their firstfruits—meaning the first and best of their flocks, herds, talents, time, you name it. And this is not simply an Old Testament admonition for Old Testament people, but also a New Testament admonition for New Testament people. Except we no longer give of flocks and herds, but of ourselves, for we are the firstfruits according to 2 Thessalonians 2:13 and James 1:18. Meaning, we give the best of ourselves out of the abundance of what God gave us in Christ. He paid it all. So, we dare not give God the leftovers of our time and talents, but the best.
2 Thessalonians 2:13 says, “But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth.” So, because of the sacrifice of Christ on our behalf to save us from our sins, our life now becomes a fragrant offering that we offer to God as he delights in our growing in the grace and knowledge of him. That doesn’t merely happen once a week for an hour on Sunday, but it’s a lifestyle of gratitude and of growing in the Lord. James 1:18 says, “Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.” As a result of our being the firstfruits of his creatures, he goes on in v22 to command us to be doers of the word, and not hearers only. In other words, we do not merely give mental assent to propositions of truth, but live in that truth. These priests gave mental assent to their work, and even physically went through the motions of offering worship. But they offered polluted sacrifices that did not meet the requirements of the law. The kind of gift that we give is indicative of what we think of the person we give to. For instance, a couple of months ago someone gave me something that I did not want or need, and I re-gifted it to my niece or nephew with little thought and no sacrifice. That is how these priests approach God: keeping the best for themselves, and giving God what’s leftover.

But instead of admitting and/or repenting, the priests offer an incredulous response, “But you say, ‘How have we polluted you?’”—as if they cannot comprehend, once again, what God means. How? You don’t know? “By saying that the Lord’s table may be despised. When you offer blind animals in sacrifice, is that not evil? And when you offer those that are lame or sick, is that not evil?” God asks them rhetorical questions. They know its evil. It would be one thing if the best they had were blind, lame, or sick. But God had given them better. He gave them the best. And they’re giving him the worst.

If God has given you or I better, we should use it for his glory. For example, when I was a young Airman newly away from home, I would occasionally toss a dollar or two in the offering plate at church, if at all. I saw the money I had as mine. Not as something God gave me. And with that self-centered attitude what I had was never enough. I never had enough money to buy what I wanted, and what I had was costing me: car breaking, phone bills skyrocketing,and buying things that promised satisfaction, but didn’t truly satisfy. Now the worldly mind might say, “He just needs more money. That’ll fix it. Throw more money at the problem.” But I didn’t have a money problem. I had aheart problem. When my heart changed—or should I say, when I got married at 19, and Adina performed some much needed heart surgery on me—when I finally saw what I had as God’s gift to me, when I started to give to God out of my firstfruits, settingaside a portion of every paycheck I received, the problem went away without me even getting a raise. Friends, God is after his people’s hearts. Not their flocks and talents, but their hearts. God requires your best for your benefit. Is he worthy of your best? Let’s look at the next section, by way of illustration.

C. We should not offer God what we would not offer someone we honor:

“Present that to your governor; will he accept you or show you favor? says the Lord of hosts.” Again, a rhetorical question. Of course not. But this question is really meant to get them thinking. They’re trying to pass off to God what they would never pass off to someone in authority. Meaning, they do not see God as God. They do not see him as authoritative, as having the power of life and death, and wellbeing over them. This prompts us to consider: do we think more of our politicians, celebrities, and cultural figures then we do of God? To use the vernacular of the day, “Who is your influencer?” Whose opinion matters to you? Whose word do you see as authoritative? Now that word “authoritative,” may in fact, be too strong a word for our plastic, malleable postmodern culture. Anyone and everyone might fit that role, or no one, depending on the mood of the day. We think we have the freedom to choose who we’re listening to, when in fact we’ve been conditioned by our choices, and by online algorithms giving us more content to consume based on our previous searches and our own laziness, and perhaps, even we, may in fact, be in spiritual bondage. These priests are in bondage to their sin. In vv6-8, we see that those offering God worthless things in the name of worship reveal hearts of indifference and inconsideration for God. But there’s an alternative.

II. Those seeking God’s forgiveness for offering worthless things in the name of
worship continue in God’s favor:

A. Pray earnestly for God’s forgiveness or give up the worship charade:

“And now entreat the favor of God, that he may be gracious to us. With such a gift from your hand, will he show favor to any of you? says the Lord of hosts.” If we would treat God with such contempt as the priests did here, we would do well to heed this imperative: don’t wait, but earnestly entreat God’s favor immediately. This requires we admit wrongdoing on our part, not paperingover it with excuses, “I was tired, or I was rushed, etcetera.” No. Notice that God’s grace is conditioned upon his people asking for it. Yes, he gives some form of common grace to all, brining rain on the just and the unjust, as we see in Matthew 5:45. But special grace—saving grace, the kind of grace that receives forgiveness—must be asked for. But this can only happen if we have
been convinced that there is something for which we need to be forgiven. One commentator says, “God has no pleasure in, or respect for, the worshipper who offers him something that is corrupt, ruined, and therefore worthless.” It’s the Old Testament equivalent of taking the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy manner. In other words, partaking in the symbol of God’s forgiveness without seeking forgiveness. That is what they’re doing. Sacrificing blemished animals, animals infused with symbolism of Christ’s future, perfect sacrifice. Unknowingly, they tarnish the image of Christ in so doing. Do we do any better? Surely there is grace and mercy offered in the sacrifice of Christ, but it must be sought. We must earnestly entreat the favor of God, heeding theadmonition of 2 Corinthians 13:5, “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” God is not pleased with the priests’ worship, saying, “Oh that there were one among you who would shut the doors, that you might 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 hand.” He’s saying it would be better for you to stop all attempts at vain worship altogether rather than break the law. There are churches across the land that God would rather see shut down, than continue in unfaithfulness. And we as a church are not immune to this. We see repeatedly throughout scripture, particularly in the book of Judges, that there arose another generation after them who did not know the LORD or the work that he had done. Why do you think we are doing a parenting seminar? We don’t want that. We want to see another generation arise who knows theLORD and the work that he has done. But should we take our eyes off of the prize, sometimes it would be better for us to stop all attempts at vain worship, than to break God’s law. Now we need to be careful here. We may be tempted to interpret this to mean, that we should only worship when we feel like it. That’s not what he’s saying. If we waited until we felt like it there would be very little worship. God condemns their worship, because it was expressly forbidden in the law. In other words, if you’re offering worship in a way that has been expressly forbidden in scripture, that’s not worship pleasing to God. We see this in the Corinthian church, where the church—in the name of “love”—accepts gross sinfulness in their midst: with one of the church members having an incestuous relationship with his father’s wife in chapter 5, with others violating theconsciences of weaker brethren by eating food offered to idols in chapter 8, and still others eating so much at the Lord’s Supper that they leave nothing for other members in chapter 11. God would see this kind of thing shut down. It’s unacceptable worship, if we can even call it that. We bear God’s name. We dare not drag that name through the sewer of flagrant, gross sinfulness. For, if we do…

B. God will find other worshippers who will honor him:

“For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name will be great among the nations, and in every place incense will be offered to my name, and a pure offering. For my name will be great among the nations, says the Lord of hosts.” And this is exactly what happened. Jesus declared in Matthew 21:43, “The kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits.” But remember the context. God has divinely elected them to be his. He has shown Israel special favor, as we see in the first 5 verses of Malachi. Romans 11:11-12 gives us the clue as to what God is doing with all his people, both Jew and Gentile, “Did they”—the Jews—“stumble in order that they might fall? By no means! Rather, through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous. Now if their trespass means riches for the world, and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean!” He will restore them. But their trespass means Gentile inclusion, our inclusion.

As this verse in Malachi—v11—predicts, a pure offering will be—and now has been—offered. According to Hebrews 9:12, “[Jesus] entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.” Amen. And for what purpose? Verse 14, to “purify our conscience from dead works”—like the ones we see here—“to serve the living God.” And so, as a result we offer our lives as incense being offered to God’s name. “For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing,” 2 Corinthians 2:15. God’s name will be great among the nations. Hallelujah! In the meantime, we’re warned…

C. Worship becomes a drudgery for those offering worthless worship:

As the priests continue bringing sacrifices taken by violence, sacrifices lame or sick, as they continue to live out their sinful behavior, they come to theconclusion, “‘What a weariness this is,’ and they snort at it, says the Lord of hosts.” Because they had forgotten the object of their worship, their form of worship had become wearisome. What’s the point? You see this in dying churches. You see this in several of the churches mentioned in the first few chapters of Revelation. God removes their lampstand, their witness. God throws them on a sickbed. They’re weak and ineffective. God spits them out of his mouth. They are no longer his. For often they have forgotten the object of their worship, God. Jesus warns us how to spot this in Matthew 7:16, “You will recognize them by their fruits.” Are they bearing good fruit in keeping with repentance? Or are they bearing bad fruit in justifying sinfulness and exhibiting lethargy? And what is God’s response to this wearisome “worship?” “Shall I accept that from your hand? says the Lord.” The answer is an emphatic, “No.” For…

D. God’s punishment awaits those who ruin worship:

In short, he says, “Cursed be the cheat” who offers what is blemished. This is strong language. I’m not sure we realize just what it means to be cursed by God. We see something of what cursed looks like in Luke 17. Jesus says to his disciples, “Temptations to sin are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin.” Leading others in the worship of God is serious business, so serious in fact that God warns in James 3, “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.” The worship of God is serious, so we best take it seriously.

Recently, Robert Brown, a young man attending our church and my community group these last few months, drew my attention to a new video on YouTube by the psychologist, Jordan Peterson, entitled, “Message to theChristian Churches.” In it, he calls churches to its responsibility, particularly its responsibility to young men. In it, he says, “Ask more and not less of those you are inviting. Ask more of them than anyone ever has. Remind them who they are, in the deepest sense. And help them become that. You are churches for God’s sake. Quit fighting for social justice. Quite saving the planet. Attend to some souls. That’s what you’re supposed to do. That’s your holy duty. Do it! Now! Before it’s too late. The hour is nigh.” Strong words. Needed words. Words coming from a man who does not even necessarily claim Christianity in any orthodox sense of the word. The priests were to lead the people in the worship of God. Their failure in rightly doing so brings cursing. Why? “For I am a great King, says the Lord of hosts, and my name will be feared among the nations.” His name will be feared, revered—reverenced—from Pittsburgh to Paris to Papua New Guinea, and everywhere else in between. God will receive worship, for he is worthy of worship. If it’s not from you, it will be from another.


Now perhaps I asked the wrong question at the beginning. Rather than wonder as to whether or not we would go to such lengths to meet with God, perhaps we instead reveli n the reality that God went to such great lengths in meeting us. He sent his son to be the payment for our sin, putting on him the punishment we rightly deserved. But this payment must be asked for. We need to ask for forgiveness, turning from trusting in our sins and self to trusting in God. Afterall, God made it all and God paid it all. Would we in turn give him less? Jesus didn’t pay it all for us to squander it on worthless worship and bad living. He’s called us to be his firstfruits, to give of ourselves in worship and honor of him. His name will be great among the nations. Would you offer him worship worthy of his majesty, or would you be cursed among the rest? Earlier I had mentioned that the priests’ offering of polluted sacrifices is the Old Testament equivalent of taking the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy manner. In other words, partaking in the symbol of God’s forgiveness without seeking forgiveness. So, as we come to the Lord’s table today, let us not be guilty of the same. Let us seek God’s forgiveness for our sins, let us live lives reflecting God’s worth to us, let us not have for God’s grace by continuing to excuse, live in, and love our sin.

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