Giving God our Very Best
This morning will be the first in a four-part series entitled “God’s Message Through Malachi.” There are four chapters in the book of Malachi, and each week we will be exploring one chapter out of this great book. If you’re wondering how to find Malachi in your Bibles this morning, it’s the little book tucked away at the very end of the Old Testament. If you find the book of Matthew, you know you’ve gone a little bit too far. If you come across some funny names like Haggai and Zechariah, turn just a couple more pages and you will be right there.
Now you may be wondering how the message of an upset prophet preaching to a group of backslidden Israelites applies to us here this morning. And in some obvious ways, the two groups are extremely different. For one, the Israelites by and large no longer cared about the word of God. And by and large, the people in this sanctuary this morning are some of the kindest, godliest people I have ever had the privilege of knowing. So when Malachi tells the people that they have been despising the name of the LORD, obviously that same condemnation is not passed along to those of you who have been born again through faith in Christ. But in another way, the book of Malachi is extremely relevant, both to a country of people who have forgotten their religious heritage, and to a preacher who often fails to give God his very best. God’s message through Malachi is both extremely powerful, and extremely relevant. So with these things in mind let’s read Malachi chapter one together this morning.
“The burden of the word of the LORD to Israel by Malachi. I have loved you, saith the LORD. Yet ye say, ‘Wherein hast thou loved us?’ ‘Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?’ Saith the LORD: Yet I have loved Jacob. And I hated Esau, and laid his mountains and his heritage waste for the dragons of the wilderness. Whereas Edom saith, ‘We are impoverished, but we will return and build the desolate places;’ thus saith the LORD of hosts, They shall build, but I will throw down; and they shall call them, The border of wickedness, and, The people against whom the LORD hath indignation forever. And your eyes shall see, and ye shall say, ‘The LORD will be magnified from the border of Israel.’ A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master: if then I 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 our 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.”
Let us pray.
The title of this morning’s message is “Giving God our Very Best.” In the course of this sermon I will attempt to answer three questions. The first question is whether or not God deserves our very best. The second question is whether or not God requires our very best. And the third and final question we will answer is why God wants our very best.
To answer the first question of whether or not God deserves our very best, we must examine the first five verses of Malachi chapter one. In these five verses, God lays out His treatment of Israel over the past 1,500 years, specifically referencing His treatment of Jacob over Esau. Let’s read the first part of verse two again together. “I have loved you, saith the LORD. Yet ye say, wherein hast thou loved us?” Can you believe that the children of Israel actually had the audacity to ask God how He had shown them love? God could have answered His ungrateful people in so many different ways. God could have reminded the children of Israel that He allowed King Darius to let them return from exile instead of being slaves for the rest of their lives. Or God could have reminded the children of Israel of how He allowed David to kill Goliath with one single shot of his sling. God could have brought up the time that He knocked down the walls of Jericho and allowed the children of Israel to defeat that undefeatable city. Or maybe God could have reminded them of the time that Pharaoh’s army was quickly approaching them from behind, and the vast Red Sea stood directly in front of them; or even of God working ten mighty plagues on the Egyptians so that His people could be free. But instead, God wisely chooses to go back in time even farther than that, all the way to the very father of the Israelites.
Let’s pick up where we left off in verse two and read through the end of verse three. “Was not Esau Jacob’s brother? Saith the LORD: yet I have loved Jacob. And I hated Esau, and laid his mountains and his heritage waste for the dragons of the wilderness.” God here challenges the children of Israel to look at the ruins of their neighbors to the southwest, the children of Esau, also known as the Edomites. If you are familiar with the book of Genesis, you know that Jacob and Esau were twin boys who were born to Isaac and Rebekah. God told Rebekah before the boys were born that He was going to choose Jacob over Esau, and that one day Esau’s descendants would serve Jacob’s descendants. You see, back in the time of the Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the firstborn son received two distinct privileges. Even though Esau was born only minutes before Jacob, in the eyes of the law, Esau was entitled to the full privileges of being the firstborn. The first privilege was the birthright, which entitled Esau to a much larger inheritance than Jacob after their father passed away. The second privilege was the special blessing of the father, in which Isaac would bless Esau with continued prosperity and superiority over Jacob for generations to come. But as you are probably familiar, Jacob robbed Esau of both of these special privileges. The first he robbed by tricking Esau to give up his birthright for a bowl of stew after Esau returned from a long hunt. It’s impossible for us to know whether Esau here was physically starving and needed the stew, or he simply was not thinking about the long-term consequences. Either way, Jacob took this opportunity to deceive his brother. When Isaac was on the verge of death, he called in Esau and told him that it was time for him to receive his blessing. Isaac told Esau to go hunt some game and prepare a special meal, after which Isaac would bless him. As you probably know, Jacob then had his mom prepare for him a goat. Jacob then dressed up as Esau so that he would smell like his brother, and then went in to Isaac with the prepared meal. Isaac thought that the voice sounded like Jacob’s, but Jacob felt and smelled like Esau, so Isaac gave Jacob Esau’s blessing by mistake.
The point of that story is this: Jacob, and all of the Israelites by extension, did not deserve the blessing of the Lord. God had been so good to the children of Israel, while He had allowed the children of Esau to come to ruin. God even said that he “loved” Jacob and “hated” Esau. Now we know from an overwhelming number of verses that God does not hate anyone. We know that in actuality God loves the entire world. God uses the words “love” and “hate” to bring a sharp contrast between the way He treated the Israelites and the way He treated the Edomites. He blessed the children of Israel over and over, and He allowed the Edomites to be conquered over and over, until they were completely blotted out. And did they deserve any of this rich blessing? Absolutely not! In fact, they didn’t even acknowledge that God had been good to them.
Unfortunately, sometimes you and I do the same things in our lives. There is no doubt in my mind that we live in the most blessed nation in the world. And do we deserve to be blessed more than the people in China, or in Venezuela, or in Cuba? No, we do not. We only have the good things we have because God, in His sovereignty decided to bless us more than He blessed so many others. Even more than that, we are blessed as followers of Christ to have complete forgiveness of sins, and to have the sure promise of heaven after we die. Do we deserve these amazing spiritual blessings? Of course not! But still, so often even we Christians are unhappy with what God has given us. Sometimes we even come to the conclusion that God doesn’t even really care about us. But the message in these opening verses of Malachi is that not only has God loved us, He has given us the very best He has to offer. The first of our three questions this morning is whether or not God deserves our very best. The only possible answer to this question is “Yes!”
To answer the question of whether or not God requires our very best, we must look to verses six through ten, which make up the heart of this passage. Listen closely as I read these five verses again. “A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master: if then I 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.”
God begins this section of our passage by making an analogy of a father and of a master. God says that children honor their fathers, and servants fear their masters. God’s charge against the children of Israel is that they are neither honoring Him as their Father, nor are they respecting Him as their Master. I hope you know that as Christians here this morning, God is both our Father and our Master. He is our Father in that we can take all of our problems to Him, and He can fix them. But He is also our Father in that just as human fathers love and protect their children, God will always love us, and He will always protect us. But God is also our Master. So many times people like to refer to God as “the old man upstairs,” or they will refer to Jesus as “my homeboy.” But God is no man upstairs, and Jesus is no homeboy. No, God is the very Lord of the universe, and He is the Master of all those who call themselves Christ-followers. So as Christians, it is our job to both honor God as a loving Father, and respect Him as our supreme Master.
God goes on to describe in verses seven and eight exactly what it is that the children of Israel are doing wrong. They were presenting unworthy sacrifices to God in the temple. Worst of all, the priests in the temple were not even bothered by the people’s disrespect for God. You see, in the book of Leviticus, God lays out a very specific set of rules that describe which animals qualify for a sacrifice, and also how that sacrifice is to be made. Only the cream of the crop was worthy to be given to God. But also in the book of Leviticus God describes how only certain inedible parts were to be actually burned up on the altar, and how the rest of the sacrifice was to be given to the priests as food.
Some historians believe that King Darius actually gave the Israelites many of the blind and crippled animals from his royal flocks and herds. He gave them in honor of the dedication of their new temple. So there is a very good chance that the animals the Israelites were sacrificing actually belonged to King Darius. In other words, their sacrifice to God wasn’t a “sacrifice” at all. A sacrifice by definition means something that it hurts to give away. But did the Israelites honor God by giving Him the best that they had? No. The Israelite people were dishonoring God by giving Him the ugliest and weakest animals that they had, and the priests didn’t care to say anything, because they cared more about their own full bellies than they cared about the word of the LORD.
In verse eight God gives a very convicting illustration. Let’s read verse eight one more time. “And if ye offer the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? And if ye offer the lame and the 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.” In this verse, God has Malachi tell the children of Israel that the slop they are giving Him would never pass as a gift for their governors. This illustration once again shows that the children of Israel simply did not care about honoring God. They might say that they cared. They might have even believed that they cared. But when the rubber met the road, they were only giving God the leftovers in their lives.
Are there any ways that we here today are only giving God the leftovers in our lives? I know that as the pastor, I am supposed to stand before you as a good example, but I want you to know that I struggle with this. It is extremely easy to only give God a few minutes of our time every day, after we have done everything else. Why is it that the average Christian spends more time making their bed each morning than they spend reading God’s word? The only reason I can think of is that like the Israelites 2,500 years ago, we care more about ourselves than we care about God. But as these verses have shown us, God not only deserves our very best, He requires our very best. Is God going to refuse you entrance to heaven because you did not read His word enough, or because you missed one too many Sunday night services? No, He won’t, because our salvation is not bound up in our works, but is freely given by grace. But, we have seen how God deserves our very best, and also how He does require from us our very best, and the only question that remains to be answered is why He wants the very best we have to give.
So to answer the question of why God want our very best, we must look to verse eleven of our text. Let’s read this verse again. “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.” This is one of the best verses in the entire Old Testament for showing the true missionary heart of God. Very often the Israelites acted as if God only loved them because they were His chosen people. But in this verse God says that His name will be great among the Gentiles, and people will offer incense to Him in every place. And what kind of offering does it say that the Gentiles are going to offer God? It says they will offer him a pure offering. And while God’s name is going to be magnified no matter what His followers do, He knows that the primary way people on the outside see Him is through His people. I believe that that is the primary reason God was so disgusted with the children of Israel’s poor sacrifices. The nations around them, including their former conquerors, were watching very closely at how the Jews would conduct themselves once they had their new temple. You see, every pagan nation in that region knew that the Jews claimed that their God was different. They claimed that unlike the Baals, the Ras, and the Zeuses of the world, the God of Israel was a true God, and that He was the maker of Heaven and earth. But when it came down to it, the Jews treated God’s house much worse than the Greeks treated the Temple of Zeus, or the Egyptians treated the Temple of Ra. And that poor respect of God reflects poorly on God Himself. God demands our very best because anything less shows the world around us that He is not great, and He does not deserve our very best. And as Sis. Janette comes to the piano I would just like to say that I praise God that I see good fruit in so many of your lives. In the little time that I’ve known you, I’ve seen how you love one another, and I’ve experienced that love in the way you have so quickly adopted my family. My prayer for us here this morning is that we will strive more and more and more to give God the best that we have. I pray that we will love Him better, and that we will honor Him better by spending more time in His word and in prayer to Him.
But if you’re here this morning and you’ve never accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior, then you are just like the children of Israel in the days of Malachi. They were practicing a form of religion that was entirely empty and hollow. If you are here this morning and you have never accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord, let me first off say how glad I am that you decided to come this morning. But if you are a non-Christian in the house of God this morning, let me be the first to tell you that your sacrifice, like the children of Israel’s, is not good enough. The only way that you can truly please God this morning is by acknowledging Him as your Lord and Savior. The book of Romans says that all who call upon the name of the Lord will be saved. And if you are interested in making Christ the Lord of your life, or if you have been a Christian for years, yet have neglected to give Him the very best that you have, I invite you to come to the altar this morning.
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