I remember reading Bruce Springsteen’s biography, his Father was angry and often drunk and hard on Bruce, one day Bruce’s father said to him “Bruce you have been good to me but I have not been good to you.”
I wonder if we could say the same for God “God you have been good to me but I have not been good to you.” That is what Israel should have said to God in the time of Malachi. God you have lovingly chosen us from among the nations but we have not given you our best. The priests were at the heart of the problem. Look at verse 6
“A son honors his father, and a slave his master. If I am a father, where is the honor due me? If I am a master, where is the respect due me?” says the Lord Almighty. “It is you priests who show contempt for my name. (NIV)
God is Father of Israel who watched over his people, He is Lord God almighty who rescued his people and instead of honouring this God they showed him contempt.You see that contempt in their pathetic sacrifices in verses 6-8.
“But you ask, ‘How have we shown contempt for your name?’ “By offering defiled food on my altar. “But you ask, ‘How have we defiled you?’ “By saying that the Lord’s table is contemptible. When you offer blind animals for sacrifice, is that not wrong? When you sacrifice lame or diseased animals, is that not wrong? Try offering them to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you?” says the Lord Almighty. (NIV)
As they approached their majestic God in temple worship, a God who chose them, saved them, adopted them. A God who loved them, forgave them, redeemed them. A God who blessed them, put up with them, they offered up food that had gone off and animal sacrifices that were no better than road kill.
True worship requires 3 things
They were worshipping the right God but not in the right way. God required only the best animal without defect. Their lousy sacrifices exposed a lousy heart to God. What makes it even worse, they would never treat their rulers that way because they wouldn’t get away with it. Like many of us who treat our family so badly and our friends so well. We give our best at work and leave our worst for home. For one reason, we think we can get away with it.
Notice how personal it is with God in verse 10
“Oh, that one of you would shut the temple doors, so that you would not light useless fires on my altar! I am not pleased with you,” says the Lord Almighty, “and I will accept no offering from your hands.” (NIV)
The great motivation for offering sacrifices is that it would result in an aroma pleasing to God. (Leviticus 1:13). Every culture offers sacrifices but only Israel’s sacrificial system could put a smile on His face, a soothing smelling scent. But instead of being a pleasing aroma it was more like the stench of rotten egg gas. Verse 13 tells us that great privilege of coming to the temple had become a drag for them.
And you say, ‘What a burden!’ and you sniff at it contemptuously,” says the Lord Almighty. (NIV)
The people didn’t care and the priests cared even less. They sniffed at it like they were a dead dog.
Imagine going to someone’s home for a meal and they provide the meal by going to the compost bin. The bread had mould, the milk was off, and everything stunk. Then you see them feed the dogs from the fridge. Once upon a time the priest would have complained, now they just don’t care.
Friends: When it comes to worship it is a dangerous thing to stop caring!
It wasn’t as if they didn’t have the best to offer, it wasn’t as if they didn’t promise to give it. But they would promise to give it and then renege on their promise. They made their pledges and did not follow through. Like making a New Year’s resolution to serve God with a passion. So you join a ministry team but then by April others are having to cover up for you because you repeatedly don’t turn up, because you just don’t care for God or his people.
No matter what we say, it’s not the thought that counts. The sacrifices were having the opposite effect, instead of pleasing God they provoked him to anger. So God wanted to shut the whole thing down. In Revelation 3 Jesus says to the luke warm church “Who is half heartedness (Laodicea), If you don’t repent I will personally vomit you out of my mouth.” God is not an idiot. There is no reason to think MBM will be here in 50 years, if we as a church fail to fear the Lord and seek first his kingdom.
Malachi then looks to the future, when people from all nations will offer sacrifices that are pleasing to God. See verse 11.
My name will be great among the nations, from where the sun rises to where it sets. In every place incense and pure offerings will be brought to me, because my name will be great among the nations,” says the Lord Almighty. (NIV)
A day will come when our great God will be great among all nations, that day has come. Where ever the sun rises and sets, God has his people praising him around the world. It's why we sent two new missionaries this year and will send another next year.
If God deserves the best in the time of Malachi then how much more, we who live after the cross where
Romans 12:1 puts it this way:
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God — this is your spiritual act of worship. (NIV)
We are called to offer living sacrifices, not dead ones. No more bull and goats on altars for our sins because Jesus did it. Now the whole of life is our altar. Seeking first his kingdom, with minds renewed and lives transformed.
Are you a fully devoted disciple to Christ? Then use your gifts, don’t bury them. Be devoted to one another in love and don’t neglect each other. Keep a fire in your belly for Jesus
Give your best because that is what God did.
I heard the story of a missionary who got a package from their supporters. They were so excited! But when they opened it up they found it had used tea bags. How disrespectful! That is how God feels when we don’t give our best at church. The church is his body and his bride.
Malachi then focuses on the teaching ministry of the priest. This is one aspect of the Old Testament Priest which is applied to any who teach God’s word. Whether it's taught at church, growth group, youth or kids. Old Testament Priests came from the tribe of Levi and God had entered a special covenant with them. Part of their job description is seen in verse 5-6. They were to honour God by teaching the truth and live out the truth. Instead pure garbage came out of their mouths, causing many to sin. See verse 8
But you have turned from the way and by your teaching have caused many to stumble; you have violated the covenant with Levi,” says the Lord Almighty (NIV)
A member of our church was meeting with leaders in another denomination. At that meeting, the leaders of this denomination were talking about how they were going to celebrate Mardi Gras. Such teachers will not guard God's word, they are given a stiff warning, firstly before God in Chapter 2, verse 3.
“Because of you I will rebuke your descendants; I will smear on your faces the dung from your festival sacrifices, and you will be carried off with it.” (NIV)
That is graphic - they rubbed God’s nose into their bad sacrifices. So God says to priests, “I will rub your nose into the faeces of those diseased animals you sacrificed to me. I will shame you in the eyes of God and men, verse 9
“So I have caused you to be despised and humiliated before all the people, because you have not followed my ways but have shown partiality in matters of the law.” (NIV)
Friends, I went to church twice on my holidays, the welcoming was warm and the music was inspiring but both times the bible was not taught. All we had were motivational stories and a vague sprinkling of the scripture. I am not responsible for other churches.
I heard last month that someone did not think their bible study leader prepares well, if at all. I would not have been upset if they were a little boring or went over time but it is upsetting when they have failed to preserve knowledge. There is no awe for God. There is no love for God's people. Give God your best, he is so worthy. He did not hold back by giving you his best.
Imagine getting picked for Australia in Cricket and then deciding to skip practice and not bother to prepare before the big game. You won’t give God your best if you’re not prepared to pay the price.
In 2 Samuel 24:24, when King David was offered free land to build an altar to worship God he said “no way..”
“I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.” (NIV)
Sacrifices cost the worshipper. MBM has grown from 6 people to 1100 because God is both gracious and powerful. He has raised up an army of saints who sacrificed much of their time, talents and treasures. From the beginning when the work was uniquely hard we had a few who did so much, it was long hours for everybody. As we moved from my home to Tyndale school to Doonside, Fairfield, Bossley Park and Rooty Hill. We would unpack the trailer early in the morning and again in the hot afternoon sun, we did this twice a day for 20 years. One service turned to 2,3,4 and now 5 and with each new service we made costly changes for the sake of the lost.
We chose not to pass a plate so the outsider knew the Gospel was free. It meant we got less money. We decided to give 10% of our budget for local and global mission. It meant less staff at Rooty Hill. With each new church plant we lost the fellowship of friends and their financial giving from Rooty Hill. But we did it because God is to be feared and he has the right to be glorified among the nations. It cost many of us as we saved a million dollars for this building that many of you enjoy.
At whatever point you joined us at MBM, someone sacrificed for you to enjoy this ministry. There was the costly sacrifice of a failed church plant like Bossley Park, but we pushed on realising if we don’t take risks we can’t grow the kingdom. And from week to week and year to year so many endless hours of sacrificial service behind the scene in so many ministries. The cost in seeing people walk away from Christ and the cost of having people judge our motives.
So why do it? Because before time, God chose us and then chose Christ to die for us, we are his dearly beloved and we want his name glorified by the nations.
I ask you to join the army of saints at MBM who have sacrificed so much over these last 28 years. At the end of time, when we wipe the sweat of our brow we say “We are unworthy servants we are only doing our duty and my goodness it’s a privilege.
Our great God deserves to be praised among the nations. So give him your best. Don’t hold back! That is exactly what he did for you brothers and sisters.