But you profane it, in that you say, “The table of the Lord is defiled; and its fruit, its food, is contemptible.” You also say, “Oh, what a weariness! And you sneer at it,” says the Lord of hosts. “And you bring the stolen, the lame, and the sick; thus you bring an offering! Should I accept this from your hand?” says the Lord. “But cursed be the deceiver who has in his flock a male, and takes a vow, but sacrifices to the Lord what is blemished — for I am a great King,” says the Lord of hosts, “and My name is to be feared among the nations.” (Malachi 1:12-14)
When Worship Becomes Tiresome
When the Jews returned to Jerusalem after seventy years of exile, the temple was rebuilt and under the leadership of Nehemiah, the walls of the city were restored in fifty-two days. Instead of there being a renewal of spiritual worship praising God for His grace, mercy, and kindness to restore a remnant, the people fell into a religious carelessness of worship that was a weariness and drudgery. They dishonored God by offering unholy sacrifices, neglecting the commandments and marrying among the heathen. The burden of the word of the Lord to Israel by Malachi was a stinging rebuke of how apathy had spread through the hearts of the people who worshiped the Lord with insincerity, profanity, and deception. It was clear from the Law of Moses the guidelines for offering sacrifices and presenting offerings at the table of the Lord. All of the sacrifices were to be without blemish yet the people offered blind, sick and broken animals. They did not have the willingness to give God their best. Instead, they brought the Lord the left-overs, the rejected and the refuse of their animals and crops. Their hearts loathed the commandments of God. Worship was only a process that must be endured until they could return to the abundance of their lives. They had corrupted the covenant of Levi, dealt treacherously with one another and profaned the institution of marriage. Malachi’s warning was to tell the people to repent for the day of the Lord was coming and judgment would be meted out to the unruly.
Man has always struggled in his worship to the Almighty. The nation of Israel was the most powerful people on earth blessed by the providence of God and the might of the arm of the Lord. No enemies could stand before them. The abundance of their crops was measured by their faithfulness. The Lord has promised to care for Israel as long as the people’s heart remained loyal to Him. Sin destroyed that relationship and after many years of rebellion, the Lord sent Israel into a foreign land to be punished by the Babylonians. Seventy years would pass before a remnant returned to Jerusalem and the promised land. The new generation did not have the heart of the older generation. They struggled to rebuild the temple waiting sixteen years to finally see the fruits of their labors. It would be a cup-bearer of king Artaxerxes that would rally the people to rebuild the walls. Still, the heart declined in its love and devotion of God. Worship was restored but only at half-mast. The temple was restored and the walls rebuilt but the spirit of the people languished under the burden of having to interrupt their lives to offer some petulance of worship. They thought it useless to serve God and believed there was little profit in keeping His law. Worship had not changed in the mind of God. He still demanded unblemished sacrifices but all He received were the blind and broken. This did not please the Lord and through Malachi challenged the people to reexamine their lives and their relationship with the Lord. Worship must be in spirit and in accordance with the truth.
Two and a half millennia removed from the plight of Israel and the burden of Malachi, the people of God still suffer the pains of apathy, insensitivity and a remarkable ability to offer worship that is filled with the same challenges of Israel long ago. The church was bought with the blood of Jesus Christ to allow man an avenue of worship to the great I AM and to show in their hearts their love for the sacrifice of Jesus. Worship is a central theme of this relationship between man and God. Is it possible the spirit of those from Malachi’s day still find themselves among the church of God today? Have the worship services become weariness and time of restlessness? Many forsake the worship for carnal pleasures. Others come and sit on a pew disassociated as far away from the meaning of worship as possible; they go through the motions to do and say the right things in the right manner. Blind hearts try to offer sacrifices to God and find little joy or peace. The final book of the Old Testament is a testimony to the struggle with sin. In Genesis man refused to obey the Lord and was cast out of the garden. Malachi binds the covenant books together to remind the people that sin still has its power over the true worshipers of God and that apathy must be resisted. A great day of the Lord is coming but those who seek to please the Lord will find the joy and blessing in true worship that is in accordance with the will of God. The Lord still loves His people. He sends men like Malachi to remind all of us of how special our worship should be to serve the Creator of the world, heavenly Father and eternal Savior.