The book of Malachi is a fascinating book for a number of different reasons. It is the last book of the Old Testament Canon, the final word from God to His people before the fulfillment of that to which the entire Old Testament looked – the coming of the Messiah. It also depicts the spiritual condition and attitude of the people about 450 years before the coming of the Lord. It is the message of the book upon which I want to focus. There are timeless lessons contained within it.
By the time of Malachi, the people had been back in Judea for over 100 years. God had brought them back just like He said He would. The temple was rebuilt, although not to its previous glory, and the walls of the city of Jerusalem had been very recently rebuilt. They had every reason to be a worshipful, thankful people. However, instead of getting better spiritually, they had gotten worse. Malachi addresses indifference on the part of God’s people to the moral and ceremonial aspects of divine law. Their worship was in a state of decay. They did it, but it was not occupying the place of priority in their hearts and lives that the worship of God deserved. As a matter of fact, Malachi teaches that worship that is mere ritual is of no value at all. Worship only has value when it is the result of sincere love and adoration of God. They were giving God the leftovers, so to speak, and not the first fruits. That included the animals offered in sacrifice and the tithes that they gave. Let’s look at some examples. In Malachi 1:6-8 we find:
“A son honors his father, and a servant his master. Then if I am a father, where is My honor? And if I am a master, where is My respect? says the Lord of hosts to you, O priests who despise My name. But you say, How have we despised Thy name? (By the way, this is the ‘didactic-dialectic method – Greg). You are presenting defiled food upon My altar. But you say, How have we defiled Thee? In that you say, The table of the Lord is to be despised. But when you present the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? And when you present the lame and sick, is it not evil? Why not offer it to your governor? Would he be pleased with you? Or would he receive you kindly, says the Lord of hosts.”
Instead of giving God the very best, they were giving Him the worst. Why offer to God perfectly healthy animals that would prove profitable to themselves when they had sick and lame animals that weren’t worth so much? God said that if they gave the same kind of gifts to a political ruler, it would be an insult to him and he would not accept it. How much more of an insult is it to give God less than our best? That is the lesson. In verse 10 we read, “Oh that there were one among you who would shut the gates, that you might not uselessly kindle fire on My altar! I am not pleased with you, says the Lord of hosts, nor will I accept an offering from you.” What is God saying here but that it is better to shut the gates and stay home rather than to pervert the worship by giving God less than our best?
Look at verses 13-14, “You also say, My, how tiresome it is! And you disdainfully sniff at it, says the Lord of hosts, and you bring what was taken by robbery, and what is lame or sick; so you bring the offering! Should I receive that from your hand? says the Lord. But cursed be the swindler who has a male in his flock, and vows it, but sacrifices a blemish animal to the Lord, for I am a great King, says the Lord of hosts, and My name is feared among the nations.” Instead of their worship being an expression of joy out of a grateful and reverent heart, they viewed worship and their part in it as a burdensome chore. Do you ever feel that way come Sunday morning, evening, or Wednesday night? Consider Malachi 3:8, “Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing Me! But you say, How have we robbed Thee? In tithes and offerings.” God is God of all, and everything is His. Yet the people were not willing to freely give their tithes and offerings as an acknowledgement of God’s ownership and their stewardship.
Now we are not obligated to tithe under the New Covenant, but we are most certainly obligated to recognize God’s position of ownership and ours as stewards. We are most certainly obligated to demonstrate our love and recognition in our offerings to God. In 2 Corinthian 8:8 Paul wrote, “I am not speaking this as a command, but as proving through the earnestness of others the sincerity of your love also.” That statement was made in the context of a discussion about giving and he spoke of it as proof of “the sincerity of your love also.” We are most certainly obligated to give freely and cheerfully out of a heart filled with love and gratitude. Just one chapter over, in 2 Corinthians 9:6-7, we find, “Now this I say, he who sows sparingly shall also reap sparingly; and he who sows bountifully shall also reap bountifully. Let each one do just as he has purposed in his heart; not grudgingly or under compulsion; for God loves a cheerful giver.”
All was not lost however. The book closes with marvelous words of anticipation. Malachi 4:5-6 says, “Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord. And he will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the land with a curse.” John the Baptist would come and prepare the way of the Lord.
Let’s be sure that we are not guilty of apathy when it comes to our service and worship to God.