Malachi 1:1-14 | My Name Will Be Great Among The Nations

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My Name Will Be Great Among The Nations

 

Malachi 1:1-14

Key Verse 1:11

 

“’My name will be great among the nations, from the rising to the setting of the 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.”

 

There is one thing we can be sure of— that God Almighty cares about his honor very much. He wants to be honored. He wants his name to be honored. The words the Lord Jesus taught us: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.” are not a new truth in the Bible. “Honor the Lord” (Proverbs 3:9) had been ringing in the ears of God’s people since antiquity. And it carried through to the New Testament times and it still has its weight pressed upon our hearts. There should be no question in our hearts as to why we should honor the Lord, nor how we should honor him. Every human being has an innate and pressing conviction to honor the Lord our God. In other words, we all know deep in our hearts why and how. Why then must we honor the Lord? Because he is God our Creator— our Father— our Master— our King— who deserves every honor we could accord him. And how then must we honor the Lord? We honor him with everything that we are and with everything that we have, and more. (Romans 12:1) With our hearts and minds— with our services, our abilities and our talents and gifts— with our time, with our possessions and more! And even if we give all that we are and have to the Lord, it would not be enough, because the Lord is a Great King and he is worthy of much more than we can ever imagine. (14) Today’s passage is the story of those who did not honor the Lord properly. They were the people of God and their priests. They had sunk into a spiritual stupor where they were doing a lot of thing on the outside, and it looked as if they were honoring the Lord, but nothing they did was coming from their hearts anymore. So God rebukes them to do what is right, to repent and to honor him as they should. This is not the story of the ancient Israelites alone; it is the story of the modern church; It is our story as well!

 

Read verses 1-5. “An oracle: The word of the Lord to Israel through Malachi. ‘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.’ 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!’”

 

In the original language, verse 1 reads like this: “The burden of the word of the Lord to Israel by Malachi.” (KJV) This word burden is really an amazing word that describes the heart of God for his people. God had a burden on his heart and will now share it with his people. Although most of the prophesy is filled with rebukes, God’s purpose in rebuking his people reflects his own love burden for them. He deeply loved them, and wanted them to see their sins. Why? So that they might repent, turn away from their sins and love the Lord the way that they should— with all their hearts— with all their souls— and with all their strength. (Deuteronomy 6:4-5) They had fallen away from loving God and no longer loved him the way he deserved to be loved. It was the same sin our Lord Jesus mentioned to the churches in Revelation when he said: “You have forsaken your first love.” (Revelation 2:4) It was also the first sin listed in his letters to the churches. Why? Perhaps because loving God is critical to our life and happiness, to our blessing and fruitfulness. You simply cannot experience the blessing of life and fulfill your purpose of life in this world if you do not love God. It just won’t happen! On the other hand, not loving God is the source of all our other sins. God so much wanted to restore a love relationship with his people. It was a huge burden on his heart!

 

We talked a lot about the love of God last time. God dearly loved them. But they sinned by doubting his love. They said: “How have you loved us?” So God began to relate to them evidences of his love for them. The first evidence of course was God’s own declaration that he loved them! God himself is love and he is Truth. And unlike us, God does not lie. When God says that he loves us, he really does, and there is no question about it. And there is no reason to doubt it either, especially if and when we are being disciplined by him. The second evidence of God’s love for them was that he chose Jacob over Esau, and consequently chose him over and above all other peoples. When God says “I have loved Jacob, but Esau I hated”, he was talking about God’s election of Jacob to Sonship. A person would love his own son more than any other in the world, and would treat them in a very special way all together different from how he treats any other person. And that’s what God did. He chose Jacob by grace and loved him and treated him as one treats a beloved son. We cannot forget the truth that it is only by his grace that God has chosen each of us to be his sons and daughters. And if and when in his wisdom he disciplines us, it is really God’s expression of love. God in his great love chose his people by grace as a special people and they had no reason to doubt his love.

 

Malachi’s third evidence of the love God for Jacob was his blessings to him, while at the same time God removed his hand of blessing from Esau and his generations. We can list all the blessings given us in God’s great love, but the greatest blessing of all is God’s dwelling in us, with us, through the sacrifice of his Son Jesus. There is no blessing greater than to have a personal relationship with God through the redeeming grace of his Son. It is the mother of all blessings. And we cannot measure that blessing by whether we are well provided for or not, or by whether our lives are comfortable and easy going or trouble free or not. That would be a mistake! But we can measure that blessing by the sheer privilege of being the children of God. (Luke 10:20) And why is this so significant? Because God’s children have one concern above all else. And that is to honor the name of their Father and God. In verse 5, Malachi tells us why we must never doubt the love of God in the first place? Because God expects us to see and acknowledge his love not only in our own lives and church, but in all the works of God anytime anywhere! And to share that love with the whole world, that the world in turn might honor his name as well.

 

Malachi now begins to address the priests— those in charge of caring for the flock of God. Look at verses 6-14. Instead of living lives that exemplify the holiness and righteousness of God, they were guilty of dishonoring God and his name. The expression My Name is repeated many times in this text, referring to God’s character and reputation not only among the people of God alone, but also among all people of all nations. In other words, God not only wants to be honored by his own people, but his heart’s desire is that all people on earth honor him and his name. But the priests who were supposed to honor God’s name were instead disgracing God and his name before the Lord’s congregation whom they were called to serve and educate in matters of God’s honor. The priests were supposed to be God’s children. But they were not honoring their Father. They were called to be God’s servants. But they showed no respect for their Master God. When Malachi confronted these priests, they arrogantly asked: “How have we shown contempt for your name?” “How have we defiled you?” (6-7) So God told them how.

 

To begin with, they were offering defiled sacrifices on the altar. The animals God required them to sacrifice should have been perfect; and nothing imperfect should have ever been brought to be sacrificed on the altar. God would never accept it! And there’s a good reason for that. Most people think that God should accept whatever they bring before the Lord, like Cain did! But in truth, all the sacrifices pointed to the “Lamb of God” who one day would be sacrificed for the sins of the world. (John 1:29; Hebrews 10:1-14) If the sacrifices they were giving were not perfect, how would they ever be able to represent and reflect Jesus, the “Lamb of God” who is the Perfect Sacrifice? They wouldn’t! In fact every imperfect sacrifice would actually dishonor the very holiness and purpose of the altar which symbolized God’s grace of forgiveness and his reconciliation with his sinful people. But the priests were letting the people bring God imperfect sacrifices. They were letting them bring less than the best of what they had. And Malachi is right to challenge them! What if they gave these defective sacrifices to their governor! Would he accept them? No! How then is it that they thought these defective sacrifices would be good enough for the Lord? What does this say of professing Christians who spend themselves and their monies on personal gifts, but who offer God their worthless leftovers!

 

Even though our sacrifices to the Lord are at times not all material in nature, but sacrifices of time, of effort, or abilities or such, they are sacrifices nonetheless! Usually our offerings to God show what’s in our hearts. And what we give God shows how much he’s worth to us. What we offer shows how we value God. These people were offering God crippled, blind and diseased animals. (8) These were worthless on the market. No one would buy them nor could they sell them. That was what they were bringing to the holy God, their King. Those who love God value God more than anything else in the world, more than their lives, especially more than their possessions. They gladly give him their best of everything. And sometimes, even in their poverty, they give more acceptable gifts to God than all that others in their riches give. One who values God usually gives God his or her best. Once the Lord was seated watching as the rich gave large sums of money to the temple treasury. (Mark 12:41-44) Then a widow also came and gave two small coins. Jesus said that she had given more than all of their offerings put together, because these two small coins were all she had to live on. You see, to the others, even large sums of money were a worthless offering because it didn’t affect their lives in any way. They gave from what they had and could afford. But for this widow it was a matter of life or death. She gave from what she did not have. Her offering was like fragrance to God because it pained her to give. She valued and put God ahead of her own life. Then there was a Mary who poured out her alabaster jar of perfume on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. (Mark 14:3) This alabaster jar of perfume may have been her dowry, or her life savings, or her future life security. Her offering and sacrifice were painful. But she didn’t count the cost!. Why? Because she valued Jesus and his grace! Jesus was worth to her more than her life savings, more than her dowry and marriage, even more than her future life security. She loved the Lord, and expressed it in what she gave him.

 

Those who love God express what God is worth to them by what they give him in offerings— in material offerings, in time offerings or in devoted effort to serve his work. God’s history has been built by those who know the Lord’s worth, who would never imagine to give their leftovers, their pocket change, bits and pieces of their time and effort to the Lord. Rather they give him their best. Abel was such a man. (Genesis 4) His was the first offering that changed history, because it taught mankind that God first looks on the heart, because the offering is a reflection of the heart and what’s in that heart. Abel offered the first fruit of his flock, while Cain offered the fruit of the land he farmed. They both offered. But before God looked at their offerings, he looked at their hearts. And what he saw in Abel’s heart pleased him. He saw humility and devotion; he saw love for the Lord and faith to trust him. But whatever he saw in Cain’s heart wasn’t good at all. So he tried to counsel him as God counseled the people of Malachi’s time, as he counsels us. God knows that we are concerned too much with our material possessions, our time restrictions, our busy lives, and the troubles of the day. He knows that it is not easy to offer God our hearts and homes, our possessions and our efforts to show him our love and to serve his purpose. And he counsels us to value him as he valued us! God did not spare his own Son but sacrificed him for our sins. How can we not see his own great worth and give our all to him! “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.” (6)

 

How much is God and his love and his grace and his blessing in your life worth to you? Is he more precious than anything in this world or is he just another chore you have to do to appease him? If we accept his rebuke, we need to repent and offer sacrifices that are worthy of him, instead of sacrifices that are worthless to us and to him. When these people prayed and pleaded for God to be gracious to them Malachi told them: “’With such offerings from your hands, will he accept you’ says the Lord Almighty?” (9) He went on to tell them that it would be better to close the doors of the temple and stop sacrificing all together, rather than to continue practicing hypocrisy and sacrilege! (10) It’s true! It’s better that we do nothing or give nothing at all, than fail to give God what he truly deserves— which is the best of the best of who we are and of what we have. Anyone whose view of God is so low that they think God would be pleased with cheap, tawdry and halfhearted worship, then that person surely doesn’t know God at all.

 

Look at verse 11. “My name will be great among the nations, from the rising to the setting of the 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.”  Malachi is looking forward to the time when all people— not only God’s people— but all people of all nations will worship God and honor God and magnify his holy name. What a beautiful vision to have in the midst of all the hypocrisy and profanity of temple worship the priests were leading at the time. He envisioned the time when God’s salvation would spread throughout the whole earth and God’s name would be honored and respected in every believing heart. This should be our hope and vision as well because we are living in such times when the gospel has spread throughout the world. But how could God’s name be honored and respected if God’s own children, those chosen to honor his name have no fear nor respect for God! Malachi saw what was happening in his time and church and warns us against it.

 

How then were the priests defiling God’s name? Look at verse 12. Malachi tells them that they defile the Lord’s name by the way they look at things— when they consider the Lord’s altar defiled and the Lord’s sacrifices contemptible in their own eyes, and then do nothing about it. Look at verse 13. Their guilt multiplies when their attitude towards their own calling and mission is that of contempt. “And you say, ‘What a burden!’ and you sniff at it contemptuously,’ says the Lord Almighty.” They despised the very privilege of being priest. They took for granted the high calling God had entrusted to them and treated their ministry with contempt. To them serving at the altar just a job they had to do and not a ministry to the Lord. They did it to their own benefit and not to honor God. What a terrible thing to consider the work the Lord gives as a burden rather than a privilege, and to sniff at it as if it were something distasteful that needs be done rather than a privilege to uphold! The priests’ labor was a burden to them. They didn’t thank God for the privilege of being called to God’s service. There are many like this in the Christian world— men and women who serve God, worship him, sacrifice to him, all the while considering it to be a heavy burden. Rather than giving thanks, they huff and puff every time they are to do something for the Lord and his work. It is a sin that a lot of Christian workers commit— not knowing how serious it is to grumble at everything they should willingly and gladly doing as a privilege. I have to honestly ask myself: What is my attitude towards God’s calling and mission in my life?

 

There was another offense. Look at verses 13-14. The priests themselves— those chosen to serve the people and to educate them in God’s holiness— allowed the people to cheat on their vows. If a man promised God a sacrifice— or in other words, if a man sets his heart on giving God a gift, whatever that gift may be— but then changes his mind and brings something less or something worthless or imperfect, the priests allowed it; the priests accepted it. That was tragic and is still tragic in God’s house. What is tragic is that the priests didn’t treat God as the Great King that he is, nor did they insist on the people doing so. Why on earth would they allow such things to happen? Why would they dishonor God and encourage the people to worship God in such a cheap and careless manner? Perhaps because the priests themselves were not giving God their own best, so how can they make greater demands on the people? As Hosea the prophet once said: “It will be: Like people, like priests. I will punish both of them for their ways and repay them for their deeds.” (Hosea 4:9) And as Jeremiah said: “A horrible and shocking thing has happened in the land: The prophets prophesy lies, the priests rule by their own authority, and my people love it this way.” (Jeremiah 5:30-31) No ministry can rise higher than its own shepherds. If the shepherds are corrupt, the people grow to be corrupt and corruption is tolerated. Actually according to Jeremiah, the priests do as they please, dictate what they please, and the people love it that way. Why? Because they really don’t have to struggle to please God. Just go through the motions and trust that all is well. But nothing is well when both shepherd and sheep are corrupt and follow corrupt ways of worship.

 

Worship is holy and sacred. Offering is holy and sacred. Coming before the Lord is holy and sacred. Vows and decisions of faith, and dedications to the Lord are all holy and sacred to the Lord. If we violate these, or allow these to be violated, or influence one another in desecrating these, then what a tragedy this is in the church! We too have often despised the Lord’s altar and treated it with contempt. “How have we done so?” We have done so by coming to service late; by having no prayer preparation before service; by not preparing our own hearts with humility to as we gather to worship; by not listening to the Lord’s words with such respect and honor that we are cut to the heart by them every time; by not offering our hearts on the altar of sacrifice! We also didn’t think about the consequences of our actions— what a terrible influence this has on each other; and what kind of teaching and behavior we are passing on to our children and family and friends, and especially on those who rely on us to learn the way of worship. That’s how we utterly despise and defile the Lord’s altar and dishonor the name of the Lord! We must repent first as a Christian and then as a church community of all these things and renew our respect for the altar of worship. This is what our attitude should be like: “I urge you, brothers [and sisters], 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.” (Romans 12:1) “Live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (Ephesians 5:2)

 

There may be another reason why the priests accepted cheap, imperfect and worthless sacrifices from the people. The priests and their families were fed from the meat sacrificed on the altar. And the priests wanted to be sure that they had food on the table. The economy was bad. The taxes were high. Money was scarce. Everyone was suffering. And only a few of God’s people were devoted enough to offer the Lord the best of what they had. For this reason the priests settled for less than the best and even encouraged the people to bring whatever was available to them. Otherwise, how would the priests survive! And here’s how they justified it. A sick animal would die anyway. A crippled animal was useless to his owner. So we might as well give them to the Lord. For the priests it was a security problem that turned into sacrilege! They depended on the people to bring sacrifices, any sacrifices, so that they might ensure survival. How sad it is when the servants of the Lord tremble at the future security— when they worry about their food and clothing— and concern themselves too much with their provisions because they have no faith to trust God. We can understand them. It is not easy for God’s servants to live in a world like this, where material things and future security are paramount in a man’s or woman’s life. Who will take care of them if they devote their lives to God and to his work? Who will build a future for themselves and their children. But regardless of the urgency of our situation, we must never doubt the Lord’s love and his provision in our lives and the lives of those we love. It is better to trust God even if we suffer loss, than to seek for gain and lose our faith and dignity as priests of God most high. We are called to love God and to have a love relationship with him— and to reflect that love through our sacrifices on his altar. May he discipline us and revive our hearts so that we might honor him and his name in our life and church and in this generation. Amen.

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