We want to turn again tonight to Malachi's prophecy, the last book in the Old Testament. God willing, after next Monday's break, after Tom Orr has visited us, we'll take up our studies once again. Please do make these meetings known among your friends and fellow Christians, it's an encouragement to see as many people as possible here, of course, from the preacher's perspective - but the most important desire that we have is that the word of God should go forth to as many people as possible, whether that's through the recordings, or through people actually gathering here. You have partly a responsibility in that regard, to let people know that the word of God is going forth in this place this very evening in this series, and it would be a great benefit if you could bring people under the sound of it.
We looked last week at chapter 1 verses 1-5, and we're taking up our reading tonight at verse 6 - and, God willing, if time allows, we will get to the end of the chapter. You might say: 'If you allow it we'll get to the end of the chapter!'.
"A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master: if then I be a father", this is God speaking through the prophet, "if I then be a father, where is mine honour? and if I be a master, where is my fear? saith the LORD of hosts unto you, O priests, that despise my name. And ye say, Wherein have we despised thy name? Ye offer polluted bread upon mine altar; and ye say, Wherein have we polluted thee? In that ye say, The table of the LORD is contemptible. And if ye offer the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? and if ye offer the lame and sick, is it not evil? offer it now unto thy governor; will he be pleased with thee, or accept thy person? saith the LORD of hosts. And now, I pray you, beseech God that he will be gracious unto us: this hath been by your means: will he regard your persons? saith the LORD of hosts. Who is there even among you that would shut the doors for nought? neither do ye kindle fire on mine altar for nought. I have no pleasure in you, saith the LORD of hosts, neither will I accept an offering at your hand. For from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same my name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in every place incense shall be offered unto my name, and a pure offering: for my name shall be great among the heathen, saith the LORD of hosts. But ye have profaned it, in that ye say, The table of the LORD is polluted; and the fruit thereof, even his meat, is contemptible. Ye said also, Behold, what a weariness is it! and ye have snuffed at it, saith the LORD of hosts; and ye brought that which was torn, and the lame, and the sick; thus ye brought an offering: should I accept this of your hand? saith the LORD. But cursed be the deceiver, which hath in his flock a male, and voweth, and sacrificeth unto the LORD a corrupt thing: for I am a great King, saith the LORD of hosts, and my name is dreadful among the heathen".
Our title tonight is "Priestly Compromise". You remember last week that I told you in introduction that most of the prophets in the Old Testament, both major and minor prophets, prophesied and lived in days of change. They were either days of political upheaval, or religious turmoil, but one way or another they were times of transition - and God chose them as His men to bring His message during those turbulent times. Now you remember, I hope, that we marked that Malachi found himself unique in this sense, that he was the prophet of God in an uneventful day - in, if you like, we could call it 'a day of small things', a day when great and tremendous things were not happening in governmental life, in the policies and politics of Israelite rule. There were not great traumatic changes within the priesthood or among the prophets, spiritual life was mundane, there were no great signs and wonders that followed the prophets and preachers of God's word. We said that Malachi, perhaps we could define it that: he was prophesying during a waiting period, a period a bit like the one that we're in as the church of Jesus Christ, we're after the apostolic age where we saw signs and wonders, we're after an age when the word of God has been revealed to us, we have a full and complete canon of Scripture. Really we're waiting, as Peter has said, on the coming of the Lord: we look for our Saviour from heaven, that is the Lord Jesus Christ. We are experiencing, perhaps today, what God's people experienced in Malachi's day. They were asking the question: 'Has God forgotten us?'.
Because we're not living in significantly spiritual days, we may start to question the promises of God and ask ourselves: 'Is God really honouring His promises in our modern age, in our contemporary environment?'. These people were asking the same questions. Zerubbabel and Joshua were dead, and with them had died the promises of blessing, that if the temple was rebuilt - and now it had been rebuilt - the people would know prosperity, expansion, peace, and there would be a great return of the Shekinah glory of God to His temple, to the chosen city of Jerusalem - but, lo and behold, it had not come to pass. The day of miracles passed, as far as Israelite history was concerned, with the passing of Elijah and Elisha. People were asking, as in the days of Gideon: 'Where is the God of miracles? Where is the God that our fathers told us of?'.
Now the routine of the religious establishment, religious rites and practices, were continuing. But everybody in the nation, including the ecclesiastical hierarchy, would have to admit that there was no meaning behind it, it was powerless, the unction and Shekinah glory of God had departed from Israel. Individuals and leaders in the nation were asking: 'Where is God?'. They were becoming disillusioned, and some of them were even going as far as to ask the question: 'Does it really matter if we serve God, if we honour Him, or not?'. Because of that, some of them were losing their faith.
Now we saw last week that this book of Malachi, four chapters, three in the Hebrew Bible, takes the format of a dialogue, a hypothetical dialogue that the prophet writes, which has God first of all charging Israel with a breach of their covenant relationship with Him. We saw it last week, where God pronounces His love for His people, and He charges them with breaking the covenant of love, they have not reciprocated the love that He has shown toward them. The second stage in this dialogue that we find is that the people give a response, demanding from God evidence for the grounds of His accusation towards them. We find it couched in this word, continually through the book, 'wherein'. In the first five verses they replied to God's pronouncement of love to them: 'Wherein have You loved us?'. In other words, 'Prove it! Where is the evidence of Your love to us in our lives today?'. Then we find the third part of the dialogue is that God gives His evidence, and then He pronounces His judgment upon the people for breaking their covenant relationship with Him.
Now we saw last week that the first symptomatic sign of their spiritual bankruptcy that God cites was their insensitivity to His divine love. They were questioning that God, their covenant God Jehovah, should love them: 'Wherein have You loved us? Prove, Lord, that You have loved us!'. We saw God's pronouncement of His love: 'I have loved you deeply', verse 2, 'saith the Lord'. Then we saw that the people ask again in verse 2, the people protest against God's love: 'Where, how, have You loved us?'. Then we see at the end of verse 2, God gives the proof of His divine love: 'Jacob have I loved, Esau have I hated', and we tried to explain that very delicate truth last week.
What we're going to look at this evening is the second symptomatic sign of their backsliding. God, if you like, is creating a legal case to these people of why He is going to judge them if they do not repent. The first was their insensitivity to His divine love, and the second symptomatic sign now is not just their doubt of His love, but God accuses them of actually despising His name! Now that is a very serious accusation, but six times in these verses the Lord refers to His name. You see it in verse 6, verse 11, and verse 14: 'My name' - God is jealous for His name, the reason is, in the biblical language 'His name' is a euphemism, another term simply for His character or His reputation. It sums up who He is in His holy, righteous character and personality. What God is saying here is that His name is at stake, in other words His holy reputation is at stake because of His people's backsliding and spiritual indifference and apathy. Now in verse 5, if you look at it, we read it last week: 'Your eyes shall see, and ye shall say, The LORD will be magnified from the border of Israel'. It was God's desire that His name should be magnified in all the earth, but now He's coming and accusing His people of not magnifying His name as they should have done as His chosen nation of Israel, to be a light unto the rest of the world and the Gentile people. But He actually accuses them, not only of doubting His love, but despising His holy name; in other words, despising His character.
He addresses primarily the priests, and this is so important that we know this right at the outset of our study tonight. He's accusing not just the people, although that is inferred, but particularly the priests or the leaders of the people, of despising His name. They were the chief culprits. If you like, from verses 1-5, God is now turning the tables from the people to the priests, those who should have been leading the people spiritually, those who should have been spiritual and upstanding and defending the name, the reputation and the characteristics of God - they were the ones who were chiefly guilty in this regard of despising God's name. Now God has already proved His love for them, that it's not in dispute, but now He is actually questioning the quality of the people's love for Him. It's clear, it's been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt: 'Jacob have I loved, Esau have I hated', this elective love that He has shown to the people of Israel right from the beginning of their existence proves that God has loved them. But now He turns to the spiritual leaders, the priests of the land, and questions their love, their respect and reverential fear for Him.
Now, of course all of the people were guilty, but God rounds His condemnation on the priests. We could ask the question: why is that? It's simply because the responsibility for the spiritual health of the people rested upon the spiritual leaders of the people. Their responsibility was to guard the sanctuary, to make sure that nothing went on within the temple of God that was unseemly or despised His name, or took away from the character and the reputation of Almighty God. They were to keep the cultis free from defilement, the sacrifices and the offerings. They were to inspect the sacrifices to make sure that no one was offering a blind lamb or a blemished sacrifice. They were the ones who were to prevent the people bringing lame and sick and weak offerings to God. Yet the indictment that is brought by the prophet of God, Malachi, on them is: far from being the ones to protect God's name, they were actually engaging themselves in these despicable sacrifices.
Now before we go on any further, I want us to highlight two lessons that I hope we already, from the Spirit of God speaking in a still small voice to all our hearts, learned. These will be borne out as we go through this study this evening. Here is the first lesson, and it would do well for all leaders, whoever you are in the place tonight, whether you're an elder or a deacon, or a leader in a youth work or a children's work, to mark this: a congregation, whoever the congregation may be, will never rise above the spirituality of her leaders. The second lesson that outflows from that is that with the privileges of leadership must follow the fulfilment of its responsibilities. Privilege brings responsibilities, but no more than in this Christian realm of leadership. If you're an elder tonight that's a tremendous privilege. If you're a deacon that, although you may not think it, is a privilege. To be one who is a leader among youth or among children is a privilege. There are decisions that you get to make that others don't make and don't have a say in. You have a certain amount of God-given power that others, perhaps, do not have - and you ought to command a respect from others - but all too often those divine privileges are not met with the balance and the parallel of the reflection of the responsibility that God requires of those blessings.
The greater the responsibilities, the greater the accountability. That is what God is trying to impress upon these Israelites, and that's what the Lord Jesus Christ said, did He not, in Luke's gospel 12:48: 'For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more'. That's why James said in James 3 verse 1: 'Do not desire to be many masters, for you will incur a greater judgment' - a stricter judgment! It's a great privilege to be a master or to be a leader in the household of faith, but there's a greater responsibility upon you! If you can remember our study in Ezekiel, I'm sure you'll not remember this point, but Ezekiel's executioners were to go throughout the people and wipe out those who were unfaithful to the Lord - but in Ezekiel 9 he was told to start in the sanctuary of the Lord. The executioners were to begin slaying those who were meant to stand for God's name, because they were despising God's name! Is that not what Peter means when he says: 'Judgement must begin in the house of God'?
That's why the Lord singles out the priests. Now if I was to ask you the question tonight: what was the highest office in all the nation of Israel? I doubt that some of you would probably reply back: 'Well, it must be the king', but that is false. The priesthood was the highest office in all of Israel, because the priest was, in the Old Testament, a mediator between God and men. The priest had the holy obedience of taking the sacrifice, the atoning sacrifice, that would pave man's way to God, and offer it. So he was conveying to God man's repentance, but he was also conveying from God to man God's love, mercy, and God's incumbent blessing on all the nation. It was the priest who had the wonderful position of instructing the people of God in the laws of holiness that God gave them. But more than that, the priest also functioned in Israel's High Court as a judge, he had a say on legal matters, matters of purity, ceremonial ritual qualifications. To mark the greatness of this office the priest, in his elaborate consecration ceremony, was taken and his body was washed clean with water, a blood atonement was made on behalf of his sins, and then holy anointing oil was poured over him, and official garments of service were put on him - all of them pointing to the awesome privilege, but the awesome responsibility before the Lord of being a priest to Israel for God.
But by the time Malachi wrote his prophecy, they had desecrated the office, they had defamed God's name, and they were held in disgrace by all the people. As far as God was concerned, God had given them His very best. He had loved them with His love, He chose them, He gave them the covenants and the blessings, and He expected in return their best from them to Him - but what the priests did was this: they took the best for themselves! We read in verse 6, God says to them: 'A son honours his father, and a servant his master: if then I am a father, where is my honour? if I am a master, where is my fear?'. God is accusing them that their sense of propriety was more sensitive on a human level than it was towards God. They had business etiquette, they had etiquette within the family relationship, they knew who their seniors were and the very important people in society and in the religious establishment, but God throws towards them an accusation that they were more responsible in pleasing men than they were in pleasing Him!
God, in a kind of shock therapy, tries to bring them to their senses, and He contrasts their honour for others with their dishonour for God. A son is meant to honour his father, an employee is meant to honour the employer, and you do it - you do it in Malachi's day, God is saying, you do it in your modern day today - but God asks them: 'Where is my honour? You're showing impartiality in your reverence. In verse 8 He challenges them: 'If ye offer the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? and if ye offer the lame and sick, is it not evil? offer it now unto thy governor; will he be pleased with thee, or accept thy person? saith the LORD of hosts'. What the Lord is saying here is: test the quality of your sacrifices by offering them to your Persian governor instead. At this time, although the Israelites are in their own land, they're back in Jerusalem, they've built the temple, they're worshipping God, they're still under the empirical rule of the Persian Empire. They still have over them a Persian Emperor, and God is saying: 'Give these offerings, the offerings of the blind, and the sick, and the lame, to your Persian governor and see if he accepts them!'.
A merely human governor, or a master, or a father receives and deserves greater honour than the supreme Father, the supreme Master. God is saying: 'Human leaders get more than you give to the great God of all the earth!'. What an indictment! Well, what I want to ask to you, seeing that this Malachi's prophecy is also a modern message to us all, is: if we gave the same commitment that we give to the things of God to our family, and to our employer, how many of us here tonight wouldn't be divorced or unemployed? The commitment that we give to the things of God, if we gave the same commitment to our business, to our relations, to our hobbies, to our appearance, to our physical, financial, psychological, emotional well-being - where would we be? The same spiritual principle applies to us today as it did to Israel. Of course, perhaps we, like the priests, are nonplussed. Their reaction was: 'What on earth is God talking about? We don't understand!', and they say, 'How, wherein have we despised Thy name? Us? We're the priests, we're not just the people of God! We're the leaders of the people of God! How have we despised Thy name?'.
Doesn't that tell a tale? Sinful attitudes are often concealed to those that hold them, and often those sinful attitudes are secret faults - and those that are guilty of them are most oblivious to them. They couldn't even see it. In fact, I would go as far as to say that they had deluded themselves into thinking that when it came to worship, when it came to their offerings and their execution of the ministry of the priesthood, something was better than nothing. They were doing something for the Lord, was that not something better than nothing? Was the lukewarm not better than the cold?
Now God's reply hits at the heart of what I think is an evangelical attitude, especially in the Christian West today. You may have heard this statement at times, or at least you may suspect that people are thinking it in their minds, it's the attitude of: 'Well, that'll do'. 'That'll do rightly', people say here in Ulster, 'It's for the church, or it's for the Lord, and the Lord knows my heart, and the Lord'll take what's from my heart even if it's not the best or even my best - that'll do rightly!'. What we tend to do is, because we live in a dispensation of grace, we think that God should be satisfied with our spiritual leftovers. When we've enjoyed our lives, whatever that may be, we scrape the titbits off our plate - and that's God bit! Malachi says: 'That'll not do'. In verse 7 he says: 'Ye offer polluted bread upon mine altar' - now that bread does not mean the shewbread, I believe it means actually the sacrifices and offerings that were sometimes spoken of as bread; and the altar there is literally the tables that many of these sacrifices were made upon, it's not the table of shewbread. But they're asking the question: 'How have we defiled these offerings?', and God says this: 'In that ye say, The table of the LORD is contemptible'.
Now they ask a question, mark this: 'How have we defiled the offerings?'. Now that is a practical question: 'What have we done, physically done in an action or a deed, to defile the offering?'. Now the answer that God gives back is: 'No, you haven't done anything, it is something you have said, in that you have said 'The table of the LORD is contemptible''. So what God is saying is that it's not just the fact that you have defiled the offering, the problem is not just the offering that you have given, but the problem is the attitude wherewith you have given it: 'in that ye have said, The table of the LORD is contemptible'. They ask the question: 'Wherein have we polluted', some versions say, 'it', the Authorised says correctly, 'Thee?' - 'Wherein have we polluted thee?'. Now here's a lesson for us all, that when you get to the stage, whether as a Christian or not, that you despise not just God but the things of God, you don't just defile the workings and the mechanics of an ecclesiastical spiritual system, but God is actually telling us that it is as if you are polluting God Himself!
Now I don't take that unadvisedly upon my lips, because I don't believe you can pollute God, you can't take away God's holiness by your unholiness, but God is saying: 'My name! My reputation! My character is at stake in you! You are to be a reflection of it, and you are polluting me!'. It was their attitude, but as many of you will know it's not long until eventually hidden attitudes become open actions. They manifest themselves in our deeds, and in verse 8 we see this, the attitude that they gave the sacrifices and offerings in was manifest in that they actually offered blind sacrifices, they offered lame and sick sacrifices. God asked: 'Will I be pleased with those things?', and God had reason to ask for in Deuteronomy 15:21 God had forbade them giving exactly that - blind, and lame, and sick sacrifices. Some scholars even believe, and I'm sympathetic to their view, that some of the people may have brought pure and unblemished sacrifices, but the priests were so corrupt and despised God's name that they actually took the blind the weak and the lame, and they swapped them with the good ones and they took the good ones home to their own farm!
In verse 9 we read: 'And now, I pray you, beseech God that he will be gracious unto us: this hath been by your means: will he regard your persons? saith the LORD'. Now some people interpret that as being a call of God to repentance: 'See the error of your ways!'. I don't believe that's what God is saying, I believe it's a statement that is ironical. The New King James translates it better, I feel: 'While this is being done by your hands, will He accept this offering favourably?'. What He's saying is: 'Oh, go on, repent of this sin, but I'm not going to accept these sacrifices, these offerings'. In other words, 'It doesn't matter how much you pray, how much you ask forgiveness, unless you change your ways I'll never forgive you!'. There we have the doctrine of repentance, as one writer put it: 'The prayer of the impenitent who has no intention of altering his ways can only be ineffectual'. What God is saying is: 'You would be better to shut your mouth. You would be better, my people, to withhold your beggarly apology than insult me by saying you're sorry, and saying you're offering the best sacrifices, and offering to me what is unacceptable - because I am God who changes not! I am the holy and righteous God that will not tolerate hypocrisy and insincerity: these things are repugnant to me!'. Can I tell you tonight: God, though He is the God of grace and love, has not changed.
In verse 10 God says: 'Who is there even among you that would shut the doors for nought? neither do ye kindle fire on mine altar for nought', now some believe that that means that these priests wouldn't even serve God by shutting the door of the temple and kindling a fire on the altar without being paid for it. I'm sure that's the spirit that they had, but the real meaning is this, God is saying: 'Who is there spiritual enough to shut the doors of the temple and put an end to all this hypocrisy?'. What is God is saying? He's saying: 'I would rather see the temple closed than my name being despised and you Israelites playing religion, honouring me with your mouth, when your hearts are far from me. This slovenly, irreverent, hypocritical worship must cease!'. Imagine this! God is declaring that it would be better that the doors of the temple would be closed, than that they offer to Him these unfit sacrifices.
Maybe you find this hard to believe? Turn with me to Isaiah chapter 1, Isaiah 1 verse 11, God says: 'To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the LORD: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats. When ye come to appear before me, who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts? Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting. Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them. And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood'. Then Revelation chapter 3, to just see that our God in the New Testament has not changed, you will remember to the church at Laodicea in verses 15 and 16, out of the many things He says to them, He says this: 'I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth'.
There it is from the very mouth of the Lord Himself: 'I would rather that you were cold, I would rather the temples of my worship were shut, than that you were lukewarm and engage in some outward sign of godliness without the power'. God always rejects indifferent, insincere, hypocritical religion! In verse 11 he looks forward, I believe, to a day when: 'from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same God's name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in every place incense shall be offered unto His name as a pure offering'. Some people think that the pagans were worshipping God righteously in Malachi's day, that's not what it means, and it doesn't condone a pluralistic ecumenism or syncretism in our world today, thinking that all roads lead to God. The Roman Catholic Church believes this is talking about the Mass - it's not talking about anything like that, it's talking about Ezekiel 43 through to 48, where there will be a millennial temple when all the nations will come to the hill of the Lord and worship Him, and there will be these offerings that will rise in absolute purity and perfection in Christ. But I want you to feel the import of what God's prophet is saying to the people: 'You're my chosen people, yet what I'm looking for now is not you to glorify me, I'm looking for a day that hasn't come yet when the Gentiles - yes, those pagans, those unclean, impure ceremonially, ritualistic people - they will worship me in a way that you have not!'.
How would you translate that argument into the modern church today? Well, one way you perhaps could do it, maybe not exactly, but you could say: how is it that many of the false religions in our world and cults serve their false deities and salvation ethics in a way that is far more zealous than we as Christians do? How is it? Why is it?
Now, we want to learn the lessons from this lax priesthood, lest we contract their same lukewarmness in our spiritual life as Christians. Let me leave two practical principles that we can learn as lessons from this lax priestly compromise. Here's the first thing: their worship was careless, and their service was heartless. Their worship was careless, and their service was heartless and burdensome. Look at verse 13: 'Ye said also, Behold, what a weariness it is!'. They began to do God's work carelessly, it was wearisome to them. William Kelly said this: 'Familiarity with the presence of God, unless it be kept up in His fear, borders on contempt'. You become familiar with the Lord's Table, you become familiar with the worship service, you become familiar with the leaders in the assembly, you become familiar perhaps with the very blood of Christ and the spiritual principles and dogmas and doctrines of holy Scripture - and you can almost get to the stage in your familiarity with holy things that it breeds contempt.
How many Christians today are getting bored with their blessings? How many Christians are wearied in the work? The reason for it all is simply this, the same lesson that we need to learn from these priests: their heart is not in it. You will become weary if your heart is not in it. In Isaiah 43, God actually says to His people: 'Thou hast been weary of me, O Israel. In Micah 6, He says: 'O my people, what have I done unto thee? and wherein have I wearied thee? testify against me'. Imagine the true people of God becoming weary with God Himself! The outcome was that these priests disparaged and disdained the offerings of the Lord, and verse 13 - look at it - actually says: 'They snuffed at it', literally they snorted at it, they were treating it with the utmost contempt. You could translate it like this: 'They turned their nose up at me, says God'!
Now here's a lesson for us all: I don't care who you are, but if you despise the things of God, God says you are despising Him Himself. The two are inextricably linked. That means if you despise a brother in Christ, you are despising one for whom Christ died, who is in the body, a part of Christ Himself - and as much as you may not like what he is, or what he does, you despise God Himself! If there are certain doctrines that you just can't take, so you reject them, or certain Scriptures that don't fit in with your scheme of things - you're not despising those doctrines, you're despising God! Someone has envisaged the priests in this way, he writes: 'What a weariness to stand all day long, and be ready whenever someone feels like bringing a sacrifice. What a weariness it must have been for them to slay it, and to skin it, and to gut it, and to cut it up - a filthy, bloody job - and 'What do we do? What do we get out of it?', the priests say, 'A few pieces of tough meat, unfit for food - what's the point?''.
This is how they reasoned, their heart was out of the work, they became wearied in it, they were careless in their service because their service became burdensome. Do you remember everything that Paul went through? I think he suffered in every possible physical and mental way. He was discouraged, near to death, he knew every weariness that has ever been known by any servant of God in the ministry - but what did he say in 2 Corinthians 4 verses 16 and 17? 'For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory'. Wasn't it D. L. Moody who said: 'I may become weary in the work, but I will not become weary of the work'. When you become weary of the work, you become weary of God.
Let us learn the lesson how their worship was careless and their service burdensome, and may our worship never be careless and our service never be burdensome. Here's the second lesson: they kept the best for themselves, and they thought that they were deceiving God. They kept the best for themselves, and they thought that they were deceiving God. At the end of verse 13 we read about these torn and lame and sick sacrifices that were brought as an offering, God says: 'Should I accept them at your hand? But cursed be the deceiver, which hath in his flock a male, and voweth, and sacrificeth unto the LORD a corrupt thing'. They were not giving God their best. Now that is the question we need to ask ourselves tonight, in the mirror of God's word as we see ourselves: do we give God our best? Do we give Him our best hours in the day? Do we give Him the best years of our life? Do we give Him the best cut and the first of our pay packet? Do we give Him the best energies of our body? Do we give Him the best intellect of our mind? Or do we give God Sunday, maybe a midweek, maybe some other monthly or occasional activity, but He doesn't get our best!
Do you remember when David wanted to buy Ornan's field? Ornan said: 'No, I'll give it to you because it's for the service of the Lord, and it's for the King, I'll give it to you free gratis'. What did David reply? 'I will not take what is yours for the Lord. I will not offer burnt offerings of that which doth cost me nothing'. You see, the priests in Malachi's day lost sight that God measures the value of the offering by its worth to the offerer. If it doesn't cost you anything to give it - now listen carefully - it's not worth anything in the sight of God!
In verse 14 he tells us that there were cases were the priest promised to give a male sacrifice unblemished, and after he vowed to give the male sacrifice, he would switch the sacrifice to a corrupt sacrifice - probably a female sacrifice. Do you see this? With their mouth they're promising to give God what He has asked of them, and then they fulfil the vow and they give an unsuitable animal, and God said: 'This is an insult to me, for I am the great King, I am the LORD of hosts, my name is dreadful among the heathen'.
Now friends, God never changes, we know that from Malachi. Though we live in a day of waiting, a day, perhaps, of insignificance in Christian history we may feel - God still says, as He says in Malachi's day: 'I am the LORD, I change not'. He doesn't change, what He expects from us doesn't change. You remember Ananias and Sapphira in the book of Acts chapter 5, and they tried to deceive God. They sold a field, and they were making out that they were giving all the proceeds of the field to the church. How did God react? They paid the penalty for their prevarication, and God struck them down!
Now here is perhaps the most frightening statement of this message tonight. The days of the Levitical priesthood have passed, but we as Christians are all priests unto God, everyone of you. Does that not frighten you? It's a tremendous privilege, and never lose the thrill of the blessing, but please do not forget about the responsibility. Peter says: 'We are also to bring spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God'. What are those sacrifices? Warren Wiersbe outlines it well, he says the first is our bodies, Romans 12:1-2: 'I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God'. Have you given your body? You've to give of your substance, Paul said to the Philippian believers that when everybody else forgot him the Philippians gave to him, and their financial giving to the work of God, he says, was like a sweet smelling savour to the nostrils of God. Are you giving of your substance? For if you're not, you're despising God.
Our bodies are an offering, our substance is an offering, our praise is an offering: Hebrews 13:15, 'By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name'. Are you a praising Christian? When you sing the hymns, do you praise from the depths of your soul? Hebrews 13:16, the next verse, tells us that good works are also our offerings as priests: 'But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased'. Doing good - we demean good works, don't we? We can't get saved by them, but you can't be saved and not have them! Then finally, one of the offerings is souls won for the glory of the Lord Jesus. Romans 15 and verse 16 talks about this, Paul said that he was given grace to preach to the Gentiles, that he should 'minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God' - mark - 'that the offering up of the Gentiles might be acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Ghost'. A priest is to win souls!
You're to give your body, have you done it? You're to give of your substance, are you doing it? You're to give praise unto God morning and evening! You're to give good works! You're to give souls to God! Are we bringing Him our best? Or are we deceiving ourselves and thinking that we're deceiving God? Jesus asks the believer priest today: 'Why call ye me 'Lord, Lord', and do not the things that I say?'. There is a charge to keep, we are priests. There is a trust to keep when you claim Christ as your Lord, are you keeping it? David Levy, in his commentary on Malachi, ends this chapter with this story, and I end my message with it this evening. He tells how Charles Wesley caught this vision that we have been speaking about tonight when he was reading Matthew Henry's commentary on Leviticus 8:35. Henry wrote these words, I quote: 'We shall, everyone of us, have a charge to keep, an eternal God to glorify, an immortal soul to provide for, and one generation to serve'. Wesley was so inspired by those words that he wrote a hymn entitled: 'Keep the Charge of the Lord That Ye Die Not', and later it was entitled 'A Charge to Keep I Have'. Here's how it goes, and we're going to sing it for our final hymn, but listen
'A charge to keep I have,
A God to glorify,
A never-dying soul to save,
And fit it for the sky.
To serve the present age,
My calling to fulfill:
O may it all my powers engage
To do my Father's will!
Arm me with jealous care,
As in Thy sight to live;
And O Thy servant, Lord, prepare
A strict account to give!
Help me to watch and pray,
And on Thyself rely,
And let me ne'er my trust betray,
But press to realms on high'.
Can you sing that hymn sincerely from your heart? If you cannot, and I wonder even if I can myself, why not again, afresh, submit to the Lordship of Christ and give Him all of yourself now and forevermore as a living sacrifice unto God.
Father, I know that I in the light of God's word feel myself weighed in the balance and found wanting. Lord, who of us can say that we have apprehended, but O God we pray that as we have seen the standard that Thy holy Word implores upon His priests, and we have seen that God does not change, nor does what He requires of us men and women change, we pray that we will be given grace that we may not betray our God-given charge, but we will live lives worthy of the calling wherewith we were called. May we follow our Master who said: 'I have come to do Thy will, O God, I have finished the work that Thou gavest me to do'. A perfect High Priest we have, may we follow Him well. Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the second recording in his Malachi's Modern Message series, titled "Message On Service" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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