Today’s Reading: Malachi
Do you ever question why we have some of our traditions or why we do the same things year after year? After God’s people returned to Jerusalem, they asked the question: “Should we continue to mourn and fast each summer on the anniversary of the Temple’s destruction, as we have done for so many years?”
The Lord of Heaven’s Armies sent me this message in reply: “Say to all your people and your priests, ‘During these seventy years of exile, when you fasted and mourned in the summer and in early autumn, was it really for me that you were fasting? And even now in your holy festivals, aren’t you eating and drinking just to please yourselves?” – Zechariah 7:3-6
A question of responsibility was answered by a question of sincerity. The heart of God’s people was being exposed. I have to admit I felt a little exposed as well. How often do we go through the motions on a Sunday Morning? Has the worship become more about what pleases us or are we sincerely offering our praise to God so that He will be pleased? How often do religious holidays such as Christmas and Easter become more about family traditions, foods and gifts than about God? Do we have a routine of going to Church and participating in Church social activities, or do we have a growing relationship with Christ?
The prophet Malachi also spoke of the tendency of God’s people to offer less than their best to God – to sacrifice for the sake of fulfilling a ritual instead of making a true sacrifice of the heart.
The Lord of Heaven’s Armies says to the priests: “A son honors his father, and a servant respects his master. If I am your father and master, where are the honor and respect I deserve? You have shown contempt for my name!
But you ask, ‘How have we ever shown contempt for your name?’
You have shown contempt by offering defiled sacrifices on my altar.
Then you ask, ‘How have we defiled the sacrifices?’
You defile them by saying the altar of the Lord deserves no respect. When you give blind animals as sacrifices, isn’t that wrong? And isn’t it wrong to offer animals that are crippled and diseased? Try giving gifts like that to your governor, and see how pleased he is!” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.
“Go ahead, beg God to be merciful to you! But when you bring that kind of offering, why should he show you any favor at all?” asks the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.
“How I wish one of you would shut the Temple doors so that theses worthless sacrifices could not be offered! I am not pleased with you,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “and I will not accept your offerings… – Malachi 1:6-10
Our sacrifices and offerings to God are defiled when we give less than our best, less than He requires of us. He wants us to give from our heart, genuinely showing our love and faithfulness. He wants us to give to please Him and not to please ourselves, or to satisfy the minimum requirement of being a member of a congregation.
Malachi also speaks of how unconfessed sin can stand in the way of God accepting our worship – again pleasing ourselves instead of obeying God to please Him:
Here is another thing you do. You cover the Lord’s altars with tears, weeping and groaning because he pays no attention to your offerings and doesn’t accept them with pleasure. You cry out, “Why doesn’t the Lord accept my worship?” I’ll tell you why! Because the Lord witnessed the vows you and your wife made when you were young. But you have been unfaithful to her, though she remained your faithful partner, the wife of your marriage vows. – Malachi 2:13-14
These blocks to our sacrifice and worship involve loyalty – putting God first includes the vows we made before Him, whether that’s marriage or anything else we have promised to do. God wants us to put Him first and to give Him first place in our lives. If we pour out ourselves to God, He will pour out blessings on us.
“Now return to me, and I will return to you,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.
“But you ask, ‘How can we return when we have never gone away?’
Should people cheat God? Yet you have cheated me!
But you ask, ‘What do you mean? When did we ever cheat you?’
You have cheated me of the tithes and offerings due to me. You are under a curse, for your whole nation has been cheating me. Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test! Your crops will be abundant, for I will guard them from insects and disease. Your grapes will not fall from the vine before they are ripe,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. “Then all nations will call you blessed, for your land will be such a delight,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies (Malachi 3:7b-12).
SINCERITY – Are we going through the motions of our Christian walk or are we sincerely following Him?
QUALITY – Are we giving our best or doing our best with what God has entrusted to us? Are we hanging on tight to it or do we live as if everything we have comes from Him and belongs to Him?
LOYALTY – Are we committed to God? Are we faithfully following through on all we have promised before God and to God?
Lord, open our eyes to the areas of our life where we are cheating you, and therefore cheating ourselves of your blessings. Lord, open the windows of heaven for us. Pour out a blessing so great we will not have enough room to take it in! Lord, bless us with your presence today and reveal where we have lost our spiritual fervor. Give us the desires of your heart and help us to see what you see. We love you, Lord – sincerely, giving our best to you, and remaining forever committed to who you have called us to be. Everything we do, we long to do for you and not just to please ourselves. Amen.
Today wraps up the last book in the Old Testament. Thank you for joining me on this journey through the Scriptures, starting at Genesis 1 in January and ending in Malachi in May. Tomorrow I will start going through the New Testament in what is believed to be chronological order. I hope you will join me each morning as I start my day with the word of God and a hot cup of my morning coffee.