In this section of Malachi, we read about the priests who dishonored God by permitting the offering of polluted (sick or lame) animals as sacrifices in the Temple. In the Law of Moses, the Lord made clear that animal sacrifices were required to be of a “male without blemish” (Lev 1:3). The Lord rebuked them for failing to show Him the honor He deserves and then called them to repent and ask Him to be gracious to them.
Where is My Honor? Where is My Fear?
True worship of God involves fear of God. When the Bible speaks of fearing God, it does not mean we are terrified of Him. Fearing the Lord means highly respecting Him. We have a deep appreciation and admiration of Him. When we fear God, we are careful to do what is pleasing to Him. Martin Luther illustrated this by speaking of “a child who has tremendous respect and love for his father or mother and who dearly wants to please them.”
The people, with the priests’ permission, brought lame or sick animals to sacrifice as part of their worship. What is the big deal? Alan Ross summarizes the problem, “To bring God an inferior gift would say that one did not think much of God, for the quality of the gift indicates the value the giver places on the one receiving it.” The people brought polluted animals because they did not fear the Lord. They offered their sacrifices out of convenience (what they wanted to get rid of) rather than on what God required.
By permitting worthless sacrifices to be offered, the priests despised the Lord’s table; treating it as if it was worthless. This is why God says in verse 8, “Present that to your governor; will he accept you or show you favor?” The obvious answer is ‘No’. The people and the priests were more fearful of offending their governor (regional officials during the Persian period) than they were of offending God. They honored their fathers and feared/respected their masters, but God asks, “Where is My honor…Where is My fear?”
As the people and priests despised the Lord’s sacrifice, they quickly became weary of the entire process. In verse 13, the people “snort at it” in disdain. They forced themselves to perform the outward tasks of worship while begrudging the entire act. They knew what rituals were required and they set out to perform it as conveniently as possible. If you must sacrifice an animal, why not get rid of the sick one?
My Name Will Be Feared Among the Nations
What is God’s response to vain worship? Look at verse 10, “Oh that there were one among you who would shut the doors, that you might not kindle fire on my altar in vain.” God is not pleased with vain worship. He would rather it cease than continue. He goes on to say in verse 10, “I have no pleasure in you, says the Lord of hosts, and I will not accept an offering from your hand.” The Lord calls them to cease their vain worship and to worship Him properly. In verse 11, He speaks of a day when “My name will be great among the nations.” In verse 14, He adds: “My name will be feared among the nations.”
Let every Christian take notice: God takes no pleasure in vain worship. Jesus said in Matthew 15:8-9, “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me; in vain do they worship Me…” Let Jesus’ words echo in our ears, “in vain do they worship Me.” Vain worship is that which is professed with the tongue but not possessed in the heart. God takes no pleasure in vain worship and polluted sacrifices. Take a moment to reflect on the following:
- Why do you pray?
- Why do you read the Bible?
- Why do you attend the weekly worship service?
- Why do you give your tithes and offerings?
- Why do you urge your friends and family to be reconciled to God through Jesus?
- Why do you serve in the church?
Are there any of the above that you have stopped doing? If you still do these things, do you do them begrudgingly? Do you do them in a way that is most convenient for you? If so, you have lost the fear of the Lord.
Entreat the Favor of God
What is the answer to vain worship? In verse 8, Malachi writes, “Entreat the favor of God, that He may be gracious to us.” How does one entreat the favor of God?
- First, pray earnestly for God to forgive. Acknowledge your sin of failing to honor and fear Him. Confess that your behavior has displeased Him.
- Second, pray earnestly for God to be gracious. Trust that God is gracious by nature and is willing to forgive. Depend upon God’s desire to grant forgiveness according to His grace and mercy.