Can we turn to Malachi chapter 1 please? [P] May I ask an audacious question? “Why are you here?”! I know that when I was a kid, it was because I was dragged along. I was forced to by my parents; it was boring and I would rather not be there. I am sure none of you are like that! But you can have a congregation all singing the same songs, doing the same things but the motives of each one may be quite different. Some may come because it is Sunday, and that is the thing that you do. It is habit. Some may come because they have a need that they want to be met. Some may come out of religious duty. This is what God requires, somehow I am pleasing God by coming. It is a way to get on His good side. Some sincerely believe by attending church regularly things will be well for them when they meet their Maker. Some may come because they enjoy the fellowship, for social reasons – I had a school friend who started going to church because there were good-looking girls there. Some may come to learn of God. Some may come to be in God’s presence. Some may come to worship. I mean that is what we do at church, isn’t it? It is not the coming; it is the motive in coming that matters. And then – what about what we do when we get here? In some fellowships there is a liturgical service – exactly the same words are said each time. We are not like that but even so; you will find that our services fall into a regular pattern: a series of songs, a Bible reading, a time that open for contributions, communion then a sermon. There is nothing wrong with a fixed pattern, but what we do have to be careful of is: JUST GOING THROUGH THE MOTIONS. [P] That is what we find in Malachi’s time: Let us read Malachi 1:6-14 Now God had proscribed a set way to worship Him. There was a right way to do it – God had specifically specified it for them; and they did it …. But their heart wasn’t in it [P]. It was just ritual that had to be carried out. This message is addressed to the priests, those in charge of conducting the service of worship. This is not a message to the godless but to those leading the people in the ways of God: [Malachi 1:6-14 “‘A son honours his father, and a servant his master. Then if I am Father, where is My honour? And if I am Master, where is My respect?’ says יהוה of armies to you, O priests who despise My Name. (here they are meant to be honouring and respecting יהוה, and they were despising His Name) But you say, ‘How have we despised Your Name?’ (of course they proclaimed their innocence and denied the charge – the continual answering back that you encounter in Malachi) “You are presenting defiled food upon My altar. (so יהוה gives them a specific example) But you say, ‘How have we defiled You?’ (again they question) In that you say, ‘The table of יהוה is to be despised.’ “But when you present the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? And when you present the lame and sick, is it not evil? (again יהוה gives specific examples) Why not offer it to your governor? Would he be pleased with you? Or would he receive you kindly?” says יהוה of armies. “But now will you not entreat God’s favour, that He may be gracious to us? With such an offering on your part, will He receive any of you kindly?” says יהוה of armies. (here they were praying, seeking to get their prayers answered, wanting יהוה’s favour, is that likely with the disrespectful indifferent attitude they were displaying?!) “Oh that there were one among you who would shut the gates, that you might not uselessly kindle fire on My altar! (יהוה had had enough of the religious carry-on – He just wanted the whole useless ritual to be put to an end) I am not pleased with you,” says יהוה of armies, (that is fairly plain language – unambiguous! You cannot get around it! A two year old can understand that!) “nor will I accept an offering from you. (their ritual was a waste of time – accomplishing nothing!)“For from the rising of the sun even to its setting, My name will be great among the nations, and in every place incense is going to be offered to My Name, and a grain offering that is pure; for My Name will be great among the nations,” says יהוה of armies. (God does not need a lamb chop! What He wants and deserves is honour! To be magnified! He is GREAT! We simply need to acknowledge who He is! If they won’t do it then יהוה will have the Gentiles do it. If they don’t cry out, the stones will! They should be magnifying יהוה’s Name …) “But you are profaning it, in that you say, ‘The table of the Lord is defiled, and as for its fruit, its food is to be despised.’ “You also say, ‘My, how tiresome it is!’ (they were performing the ritual but it was just a wearisome task to be carried out. Is that what coming to church is for you?) And you disdainfully sniff at it,” says יהוה of armies, “and you bring what was taken by robbery and what is lame or sick; so you bring the offering! Should I receive that from your hand?” says יהוה. “But cursed be the swindler who has a male in his flock and vows it, but sacrifices a blemished animal to the Lord, for I am a great King,” says יהוה of armies, “and My Name is feared among the nations.”] יהוה is great – do we treat Him as such?! Do we fear His Name or are we just going through the motions? v.6: [P] This is the second message of יהוה through Malachi and it is addressed to priests – we are priests. [Revelation 1:6 and made us a kingdom, priests to His God and Father. 1 Peter 2:9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.] It has application to us! He is talking to us. Hebrews tells us that priests offer gifts and sacrifices, their role is distinguish between the profane and common. But these priests were offering the profane, the defiled – lost their distinctive. We are meant to be salt but if the salt has lost its flavour [Matthew 5:13 “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.] Priests are meant to be honouring יהוה’s Name, promoting the fear of that Name among the people. But what were they doing? יהוה accused them of defiling His Name! What an accusation to lay against the priests, the spiritual leaders, the godly! We live in a society where children disrespect their parents, rebel against them. But the Bible commands children to honour their parents. Honour is expressed in obedience - willing, unquestioning, submissive and respectful. That is a father’s due: respect! Likewise we live in a society that back-chats against the boss, mocks and criticizes management’s decisions – but a master is meant to be respected. Now יהוה is both our Father and our Master – so He is worthy of double honour – and far more honour and respect than our earthly father, or our boss at work. He is sovereign over ALL! He deserves respectful submissive obedience as both our Father and as our Master. And here יהוה is accusing the spiritual leaders of disrespect, of despising His Name! A stinging accusation! It is a relevant question: “Where is My respect?!” Today, where is the respect for God, the sense of His holiness? - even among the spiritual leaders. Today, you often find pastors are very "pally" and familiar with God, bold in their claims and audacious in their words and attitude to Him - but very little honour, fear, respect - where has the concept of יהוה’s holiness gone?!! There is no fear of God before their eyes! [Psalm 36:1 An oracle: the wicked has rebellion in the midst of his heart. There is no fear of God before his eyes.] Instead of honour there is contempt and disdain - they despise His Name. And when their sin is pointed out there is no contrition - but a questioning of God, an implicit denial, they are convinced of their own righteousness. They have no conscience about what they are doing - having lost the sense of יהוה’s holiness you soon lose the sense of personal holiness. Oblivious of their sin, Once reverence and honour are gone, יהוה is no longer held as significant; instead there is contempt for God. The same disdain is seen in church leaders today, where it is all about me, and יהוה is sidelined! v.7-8 [P] יהוה accuses the priests of despising His Name but these cynical, arrogant self-righteousness they questioned יהוה’s word! “Like, how?” This continual answering back! That in itself shows the lack of honour and fear. So יהוה presents them with overwhelming evidence – they were despising His Name by presenting defiled offerings. Their heart wasn’t in it, they were just going through the motions, any offering will do, just so long as we carry out the required ceremony and get it over with. Slap-dash worship – it isn’t worship at all! The priest’s religious service was a position of honour but they had no true respect for יהוה - it was mere empty ritual, there was no reality to it. The traditional ceremony was carried out (religion) but there was no relationship with יהוה. It didn’t really matter what food they offered because יהוה was not real to them - "why waste high quality food when it wasn’t eaten?" They let standards slip - they inevitably slip unless there is a knowledge of יהוה, a fear of Him! His reality! His surpassing greatness! They were offering יהוה second best - any offering will do! Do we give the LORD second best – the first place in our time, affections, efforts, service? There was a preacher who had a great influence on my life and he used to talk about: “$1 in the collection plate Christianity” - doing the bare minimum to discharge your religious obligation - imagining that that will please God, appease Him! That is religion, not relationship – you think that there is some gain in carrying out a religious ceremony or ritual. The heart is not in it - it is better to offer nothing at all if it is not sincerely given. Do we think that God does not examine and know our heart when we perform religious service?! The priest despised יהוה’s standard and replaced it with one of their own making. Is this not the spirit of our age? - to replace יהוה’s standard with one of our own making, what is acceptable in current society – this is relativism. We compare with the accepted standards and appear OK. But righteousness and holiness is redefined. Righteousness now is regarded as not eating gluten or salt, saving whales, being Carbon neutral, tolerating all opinions, religions and sexual preferences. They may have thought that God didn’t know or notice - but יהוה does know, He does notice! He catalogues their trespasses. They offered blind animals! Yes, He saw! Was this right? [Deuteronomy 15:21 But if there is a physical defect in it, such as lameness or blindness, any serious defect, you shall not sacrifice it to יהוה your God.] The priests’ role was to distinguish between what was clean and unclean, maintain the standard of holiness for the nation. But the very ones who were meant to uphold the standard were the ones who broke it! יהוה says "Is this not evil?" Indeed it is! They stand condemned before the Righteous Judge! They offered lame and sick animals! They were offering these flawed sacrifices to יהוה, animals that they would not dare to present to their governor! Look, a new baby princess has just been born! Everyone is very excited! And presents pour in from well-wishers. I heard that New Zealand is going to give her a teddy bear. Now I was in K Mart the other day with Hannah and you can get a cute little teddy bear for $2. Right, we need to get a teddy bear for the princess – does John Key pop along to K Mart and buy a $2 bear? The obligation is fulfilled. No, it is a most special bear, hand crafted, of the finest materials. It has to be fit for a princess. If Princess Charlotte received a K Mart bear there would be a diplomatic incident! It would be seen as a deliberate and calculated slight and insult. Despite the fact that the little princess would not know the differenced and it will get chewed, sucked and vomited upon just the same. If the gift is not fit for a human ruler how much more are they unworthy for the LORD of heaven and earth!! יהוה says, "Offer it to your governor and see what response you get!" He would refuse to accept it! Yet the priests are surprised when יהוה rejects it - in mock innocence they say, "How have we defiled Thee?"!! These are mocking words from יהוה in v.9 [P] – He addresses them with stinging sarcasm. יהוה says, "Go on, entreat God’s favour, that He may be gracious". How preposterous! They wouldn’t dare try it on with the governor! This is strong, forceful, devastating language, stinging sarcasm! Does this fit our concept of how יהוה speaks? The way church officials and leaders disregard יהוה’s honour, make merchandise out of religion, build up their empires, their “ministries”, parading around as the head guru, raking in money from mega-congregations with their commercial empires selling books, DVDs, TV shows. Claiming to have some hotline to God yet with a total lack of fear of God and sense of His holiness - stronger words than these are appropriate! Will God respond to their prayers when their heart is far from Him? Will He receive them kindly? Of course he won’t – and so their prayers are totally ineffective. They make them but they are not talking to יהוה because there is not relationship with Him, they are talking into thin air! They evidently have no concept of who יהוה is because they do not honour Him or fear Him. Their heart is far from Him. Their offerings reflected their heart. And יהוה had had enough! v.10 [P] He just longed for someone to put an end to it all, to stop the empty charade. They went through the ritual but there was no reverence for God. יהוה was not pleased with their religious ritual, the ceremonies that they performed brought Him no delight. For there was no reality - it was mere form, going through the religious motions. On this basis, is He pleased with the worship we offer? It’s the heart that counts [1 Samuel 16:7 For God does not see what man sees, for a man looks on the outward appearance, but יהוה looks on the heart.”]. Oh that there was one who was at least honest enough to act consistent with his heart and close the temple doors, end the whole empty charade. The offerings were in vain, they meant nothing to the priest; in fact יהוה Himself meant nothing to the priest - otherwise they would not offer the maimed animals that they did. יהוה wished that someone would bring the whole futile show to an end! He’d rather have no worship at all than have empty ritual carried on just for the sake of it - out of superstition, tradition, or to provide religious employment. Who did Jesus have the harsh words for when He was here? Not the sinners, but for the religious who were putting on a show. He has no time for hypocrites! Look, all over the world people are going to church, ceremonies and rituals are performed, but those doing so do not believe in יהוה or His word, tremble at them. It is just a religious ritual, a Christian culture that has been established, something you do. My grandparents thought they were Christians because they were in a Christian country, had been christened. To multitudes, Christianity is merely part of their culture. But we too can be guilty of putting on a Christian show. I don’t know that there is a time that I preach without having been made to feel what a hypocrite I am, before I get up. We want to be seen as fine Christians, we can say the words: “Bless the LORD!” “I’ve been redeemed hallelujah!” Just trust God, wait on Him.” The sanctimonious pious platitudes roll of our tongue – and they can just be words. If there is no reality behind them, it is meaningless! יהוה said that He would not accept their offerings. Yet hadn’t He commanded them? Yes, but they have meaning and value only if the done from the right heart. The psalmist said: [Psalm 40:6 Sacrifice and meal offering You have not desired; My ears You have opened; (he wanted someone who responded to His voice) burnt offering and sin offering You have not required.] David sinned greatly, remember what he said?: [Psalm 51:17-19 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise. By Your favour do good to Zion; build the walls of Jerusalem. Then You will delight in righteous sacrifices, in burnt offering and whole burnt offering; then young bulls will be offered on Your altar. ] Once the heart was right, then the sacrifice was acceptable. But the heart had to be right first. Look, we take communion every week. It can be just a bit of bread and a tiny sip of wine – we can do it, just because that is what we do – or it can be full of most wonderful meaning in appreciation of what our Saviour has done. Two people side by side in the pew – to one it is ritual, to the other it is worship. It depends upon your heart. That is what makes it either worship or judgement [1 Corinthians 11:26-30 For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. But let a person examine himself, and in this way let him eat from the bread and let him drink from the cup. For the one who eats and drinks, if he does not recognize the body, eats and drinks judgment against himself. Because of this, many are weak and sick among you, and quite a few have died.] v.12 They made the table of the LORD profane, common. By their worthless worship they were profaning יהוה’s great Name - יהוה twice (in v.11) decrees that His Name will be great among the nations. They were priests, whose very role is to uphold that Name before the people; but instead of making it great, magnifying and exalting; they made His Name nothing, valueless, of no importance, disdained, despised and profaned. The priest’s task was to make holy - but they actually make the holy, common - removing the concept of holiness, separateness. The same has happened today. God is no longer regarded has holy but has been made common - "our pal". We defile יהוה’s holy Name by what we say. When we say the instructions that He laid down for worship are tradition and we shouldn’t be bound by them or are no longer culturally relevant (e.g. qualification for elders, place of women in the church etc.) - we are making the holy things common - not the inviolable authoritative directions of Almighty God, but mere suggestions that we pass judgement on whether they are appropriate for us today. They said that the table of יהוה is defiled and its food despised - no longer holy, set apart, special - but ordinary, common place. What we say about the service of can defile the Name of יהוה. When I say "the meeting was dead" and we have met around the "LORD’s table" - have I not done this very thing?! - said His table is defiled! I have profaned the Holy name of יהוה! v.13 [P] You see? Because יהוה was not real to them, the whole rigmarole had become tiresome. Their duties were just wearisome ritual - carrying on the same ceremonies time after time. This was because there was no reality for them to the symbol they observed. If our religious observance is just tradition, if there is no reality behind it, if we don’t know Jesus - it soon becomes a wearisome carry-on. They disdained the worship ceremony because underneath they disdained יהוה Himself! The priests sniffed in disdain at the Name of יהוה Himself. Because He meant nothing to them, then it didn’t matter what they offered – any old offering would do, the less it cost them the better, so even a stolen animal was OK. Where there is no love you get by with the bare minimum. Why do people get by with as little as possible at work, yet when they are self employed they work their tails off? At Araunah’s threshing floor he offered to give David what was required for a sacrifice but David said:[2 Samuel 24:24 “No, but I will certainly buy it from you for a price; I will not offer to יהוה my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.] You see the gift expresses the heart – I remember Rhoda’s 21st birthday, we were just starting to get a bit friendly and I was invited! – that was pretty special. So what was I going to get her for this special birthday? I didn’t know too much about what she liked but I thought about it and decided that a Bible was fitting for someone who loved the LORD, I could think of nothing more precious to give to someone than God’s Word. Now, I could have picked up a paperback TEV for ten bucks. Is that fitting? No, I wanted something special to express my heart, so I bought a fine leather Bible, one that would last, as I wanted our friendship to. If you give a cheap gift, it reflects your heart to the other person. You can tell a person’s heart by what they give. At another fellowship I had the privilege of counting the offering. Yes, it is a privilege! People give in secret, no one knows except themselves, God, and the person counting the offering. I knew secrets that the pastor didn’t! It was a blessing – you saw people give sacrificially, generously and you could tell no one. You were let in on a secret between them and God. One thing that I noticed – that when people had a real blessing from the LORD, almost invariably there would be a response in what they gave. The heart responded in giving. What heart did their gift express when they gave stolen, lame and sick animals? Cynical contempt! Twice יהוה speaks in this verse: "אָמַר יהוה צְבָאוֹת " and "אָמַר יהוה". He speaks directly and forcefully, with the weight and authority of His Name, condemning this attitude. "Any offering will do"! "Just as long as the sacrifice is performed, as long as we perform the ritual, carry out the magic ceremony to keep on side with God"! They offered what cost them nothing!" Does not יהוה know their heart?! Do not morality and ethics count?! Will any sacrifice do?! Is it just ceremony? This is an offering to יהוה צְבָאוֹת, the holy God! - will a stolen animal be an appropriate offering to Him?! Will a maimed, second-rate, worthless beast be fitting?! Does what I give to God cost me? Or do we serve God in a way that causes the minimum of inconvenience? ($ in the collection plate Christianity). Will יהוה be pleased with such offerings? NO! He will not! He will not accept from us something that hasn’t cost us (be it in money, time, inconvenience, thought or preparation). Look at the big churches today; they are set out exactly like a theatre or cinema. Not that I think that building matters much – but the whole set up is for an audience. All you do is turn up, are part of the audience, all that is required is you bottom on the seat and your money in the collection plate. You sit back and enjoy the show, the fine band the light and video show, the polished preacher with his entertaining message. What sacrifice have you brought יהוה? Three times in Scripture it says: [Deuteronomy 16:16 they shall not appear before יהוה empty-handed.] We don’t bring animals but it says in [Hebrews 13:15 Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name.] We have a format of meeting where there is opportunity for everyone to bring an offering to the LORD. Some bring their sacrifice behind the scenes in acts of service. You can welcome people on the door, make a cup of tea an act of worship to the LORD. But in the congregation we can all bring a sacrifice – it is not easy for our brother Bruce to articulate – but when he says “Praise the LORD!” – it does something in my heart. It is a sacrifice to God the fruit of his lips. It is not to be slapdash, it is the best that we have that we bring – something with preparation. We don’t come before יהוה empty-handed: [1 Corinthians 14:26 What is the outcome then, brethren? When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.] v.14 יהוה will not tolerate such heartless, convenience "worship"! He ACTUALLY curses those who do not offer Him the best of what they have. He must have our best, the first place of what we have. יהוה hates hypocrisy - religious pretence - they vowed a male (fine pious profession) but sacrificed a blemished animal! Does our action match our fine words? Do we think we can swindle יהוה and get away with it?! We have to stop and consider just WHO HE IS! He is THE GREAT KING! [P] - and we would withhold our best?! We would offer a blemished offering?! We would give Him something second rate! Would you serve the queen with your cracked crockery?! Wouldn’t you bring out your finest china? How much more does the Great King of the Universe deserve the very best we can give! He is LORD over all! Supremely great! His Name is "great among the nations" back in v.11 twice יהוה צְבָאוֹת says: "MY NAME WILL BE GREAT AMONG THE NATIONS"! [P] Hallelujah! All glory, all honour be to His Name! The priests were to revere יהוה’s Name, make it holy, sanctify the Name. But they were doing the opposite! They had failed in their God appointed task. They had become executors of religious services, ceremony and ritual. If they didn’t magnify His Name יהוה would cause it to be magnified by the nations, the goyim – that’s us! As priests, our role is to uphold that GREAT NAME! If they wouldn’t exalt His Name, then He would use the heathen to do so. For the NAME OF יהוה WILL BE GREAT! They may fail to magnify His Name, but nevertheless יהוה’s Name will be magnified! Hallelujah! From East to West - world-wide, from sunrise to sunset - all the day - יהוה’s Name will be great, magnified. His glory will be revealed, all will recognize His indisputable greatness! Hallelujah! This is so wonderful that we must spend more time on it next time. In every place among the nations incense will be offered to יהוה’s Name – that is prayer and worship ascending to Him. The priests do not honour His Name but His Name, nonetheless, יהוה WILL BE HONOURED! This will be true worship - the offerings will be pure and everywhere - not because of legal requirement but because people honour יהוה’s Name. To them His Name is GREAT! – hence true worship will result. Israel did it the wrong way around - performed the service without the motivation. If the motive is right the act will follow and it will be done in truth [.John 4:23-24 “But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in Spirit and truth.”] יהוה has declared, so it will be: HIS NAME WILL BE GREAT! AMEN! And those that recognise His true greatness will fear Him. His Name feared among the nations! [P] Hallelujah! If we truly know יהוה and His greatness, we will fear Him, reverence Him, honour Him. Is יהוה REAL to you?! If He is, we will honour, we will fear [P] - this is the inevitable consequence of KNOWING HIM – WORSHIP!