In our study, we will look at what happens when your heart is not truly devoted to serving the Savior. We look at the history of God's people and how the book relates to our time.
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An oracle: The word of the Lord to Israel through Malachi.
Malachi, whose name means "my messenger" was the last prophet to God's people before a period of silence that lasted four hundred years. He was sent at a time when the priesthood was corrupt and detached from God. Their disobedience and insincere teaching had brought about a lack of blessing. They were concerned about the outer appearance of things but completely ignored the motivations of the heart. The "oracle" refers to the fact that the message that God gave him was a burden to him and not a happy "feel good" message. Malachi was truly saddened (as was God) by the way the priests and people were acting toward God and was sent with this message to bring conviction and repentance to their hearts. He used a conversation between God and His people to help them to examine their hearts and we can do the same thing in our hearts today.
'I have loved you,' says the Lord. 'But you ask, "How have you loved us?" Was not Esau Jacob's brother?' the Lord says, 'Yet I have loved Jacob, but Esau I have hated, and I have turned his mountains into a wasteland and left his inheritance to the desert jackals.'
In this part of the conversation, God reminds His people that He loved them but they are looking for material blessings in the here and now instead of the blessing of being God's chosen people. God reminds them of the fact that Esau was related to Jacob and in fact was older yet it was Jacob that received the inheritance and blessing (see Genesis 25). Traditionally, it would have been the oldest son that received the blessing but God had chosen Jacob. Many people today are more concerned about material blessings than the fact that we are the chosen people of God and co-heirs with Christ of all that God has created.
Edom may say, 'Though we have been crushed, we will rebuild the ruins.' But this is what the Lord Almighty says: 'They may build, but I will demolish. They will be called the Wicked Land, a people always under the wrath of the Lord. You will see it with your own eyes and say, "Great is the Lord - even beyond the borders of Israel"'
We, like Edom (Esau), can try to build on our own apart from the will and guidance of the Lord but we are reminded here that God is in control. Though we may not understand all of God's plan, we can know the purpose and that is given at the end of this passage. The purpose in everything is to bring glory to God and even those that do not believe in Jesus will see God's glory.
'A son honors his father, and a servant 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, O priests, who show contempt for my name. But you ask, "How have we shown contempt for your name?" You place defiled food on my altar. But you ask, "How have we defiled you?" By saying that the Lord's table is contemptible.'
In the first five verses, God has reminded His people that He loved them but now the conversation shifts to the question of if His people love Him. By asking the questions about the honor and respect due Him, God is trying to get them to see how wrong it is. When God brings the charge that they show contempt to His name, they are thinking about words and not actions. God then points to their actions and the fact that the words they say and their actions do not match. Though the priests pay lip service to God they are not obeying what God says and therefore are showing contempt to Him. The same is true today, as the actions of the one sharing the Word of God do not match what is contained in the Word. All we have to do is look at the latest news headlines for examples of this.
'When you bring blind animals for sacrifice, is that not wrong? When you sacrifice crippled 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.
God gets specific here in what the people have done to defile Him. The people did not give God their best and the priests didn't stop them and tell them the truth. They went ahead and performed the sacrifices even though they knew they were improper! Then God asks them what would happen if they tried to give these to the government in payment for taxes. It is easy for us to say that this is all the Old Testament and sacrifices do not apply to us today. But, although we are not called to give animal sacrifices, we are called to offer ourselves and our lives as a sacrifice and as our act of worship (see Romans 12:1). That means our entire life and not just a part of it for a few hours each week. We, as Christians, are all priests and therefore, after we know what we are to do, we are just like the priests that Malachi mentions if we do not give all of our lives to the Lord.
'Now implore God to be gracious to us. With such offerings from your hands, will he accept you?' - says the Lord Almighty. '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.'
Here, God gives some simple instructions to His people to bring them back into His will. God simply tells them to beg for forgiveness and change their actions or close the temple doors. We may say that it is bad for any place of worship to close but, in this passage, God tells us the opposite. The same instructions apply to us today both individually and as groups of believers (the "churches"). If we do not want to worship the Father in spirit and in truth (see John 4:23 & 24), then we, like the people mentioned by Malachi, are bringing wounded and diseased offerings to God and He is not happy about it.
'My name will be great among the nations, from the rising to the setting sun. In every place incense and pure offerings will be brought to my name, because my name will be great among the nations,' says the Lord Almighty.
El Shaddai (Lord Almighty) is the name of God that has been used and it reminds us that He is the only one who has the ability to supply the needs of His people. He created all things and therefore owns all things so He is the only One that can rightfully give anything. When God says "In every place", that tells us that it is not a building anymore and in fact, through the Holy Spirit, we are God's temple. The problem today is that many are trying to build bigger and better buildings to be a temple for the worship of God instead of building the temple in the manner that Jesus instructed (see Matthew 28:19 & 20).
'But you profane it by saying of the Lord's table, "It is defiled," and of its food, "It is contemptible." And you say, "What a burden!" and you sniff at it contemptuously,' says the Lord Almighty. 'When you bring injured, crippled or diseased animals and offer them as sacrifices, should I accept them from your hands?' says the Lord. 'Cursed is the cheat who has an acceptable male in his flock and vows to give it, but then sacrifices a blemished animal to the Lord. For I am a great king,' says the Lord Almighty, 'and my name is to be feared among the nations.'
In this passage, God gives the details of their actions and attitudes. Not only does He know the words that they say against Him but God also knows their attitudes (heart). God knows that they think it is a burden to bring the proper sacrifice and it comes from a lack of respect for His name. Then, God tells them that not only will they not be blessed (given more) but, in fact, they will be cursed (lose what they have). We may say "That was the Old Testament" but God's "name is to be feared among the nations" even today. God did not accept half-hearted sacrifices then and He does not accept them now.