Questions People Ask WHATS WRONG WITH MY SERVICE
What’s Wrong With My Service? by Tom Osborn
What’s Wrong With My Service?
Intro: Please turn with me to the Book of Malachi, chapter one. This morning we’re continuing on in a series of messages from the book of Malachi which we’ve entitled, “Questions People Ask.” Malachi - unfortunately - is a book that’s easily overlooked, seldom preached from, and most people probably couldn’t tell you a whole lot about Malachi - who he was - what he said.
While your turning, let’s remember together - from two weeks ago - some of the background on this book and especially why we’re looking at Malachi. As the Old Testament comes to a close, Malachi was the last of God’s prophecies given to His people for about 400 years. After Malachi the prophetic voice from heaven ceases - there are no more revelations from God - until the coming of Jesus Christ. Malachi - bridging this gap of silent years - at it’s core is a love letter from God - a letter of hope, encouragement - a letter in which God calls out to His people - calling them to return to Him.
The reason for our series is that in the book of Malachi there are a series of questions that the people ask God. These are questions that many people are asking today. Probably, if some of these questions are not questions that you yourself are asking I encourage you to follow God’s answers because there is probably someone around you who is asking these questions and you’ll want to be ready to encourage them with God’s answers.
Two weeks ago we looked at the first of these questions: “How has God loved us?” This morning brings us the second question. Malachi 1:6 - God is speaking through Malachi: “A son honors his father, and a servant his master. Then if I am a father, where is My honor? And if I am a master, where is My respect?” says the Lord of hosts to you, O priests who despise My name. But you say, “How have we despised Your name?”
God is talking about the honor and respect that He deserves. Respect and honor that He is not being given. In response the priests ask, “How have we despised Your name?” Put another way, “What’s wrong with our service?”
Living for God can become a ritual rather than a relationship! When it is a ritual it is evidenced by a lack of genuine joy and an unwillingness to live sacrificially. When it is truly a relationship we experience great joy - even in sacrificing - because sacrificing for those we love is a natural thing. Israel’s second question to God had to do with their sacrifices and service before God. It seemed that God wasn’t pleased with either their sacrifices or service and their question basically was, "What’s wrong with our service?"
They were giving sacrifices to the Lord, they were attending worship services at the Temple … so what was wrong? It wasn’t just WHETHER they gave, it was WHAT they gave … sick diseased animals for sacrifices and ritualistic attendance at the Temple without a genuine joy or thanksgiving in their heart toward God! They had lost their focus on the purpose of worship and the commitment of the covenant … image was all that counted to them, not substance! They had lost their focus, and their question revealed how far their heart had strayed from real worship! The 2nd question people often ask God is "What’s wrong with my service?" Let’s look at this question in relation to our own relationship with God this morning and see if He has anything to be upset with us about. But first, let’s, pray.
I. Dishonoring God’s CHARACTER. 1:6-14
A. A LIFELESS Ritual. 1:6-10
Malachi 1:6-10 - "A son honors his father, and a servant his master. 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. "It is you, O priests, who show contempt for my name. "But you ask, ’How have we shown contempt for your name?’ 7"You place defiled food on my altar. "But you ask, ’How have we defiled you?’ "By saying that the Lord’s table is contemptible. 8When you bring blind animals for sacrifice, is that not wrong? When you sacrifice crippled or diseased animals, is that not wrong? Try offering them to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you?" says the Lord Almighty. 9"Now implore God to be gracious to us. With such offerings from your hands, will he accept you?"--says the Lord Almighty.
10"Oh, that one of you would shut the temple doors, so that you would not light useless fires on my altar! I am not pleased with you," says the Lord Almighty, "and I will accept no offering from your hands.
1. As a vital relationship with God slipped into just a weekly commitment to keep at the temple the joy quickly disappeared from worship.
a) Instead of looking forward to getting to the temple for worship they were looking forward to getting out of temple for home! (ever sound familiar?)
b) The ritualistic attendance had produced a very disgruntled kind of giving for sacrifice … instead of giving their best they gave their worst sacrifices and leftovers!
2. They had soon forgotten the special place they held in God’s heart, and without joy in who they were they held no honor for God in their hearts!
a) They were reluctant worshippers!
b) They were reluctant givers!
3. In their new prosperity they resented what God wanted from them, He wanted their very best and not their leftovers … this is the irony of prosperity, we tend to give better when we have less than when we have more!
4. They had lost focus on God and got lost in self and the rituals of worship!
5. They had taken much pride in calling themselves "God’s sons" yet did not honor God as a proper father!
a) God said, "If I am a father, where is the honor due me? If I am a master, where is the respect due me?" Mal. 1:6
b) They were good at declaring it, but not good at showing it!
6. Sure, they still went through the motions, came to temple, brought a sacrifice, said the prayers, did the songs, etc. but their hearts were far from God.
a) This was evident by the joyless attendance
b) This was evident by the sickly sacrifices
c) This was evident by the lousy attitude
7. AND YET … they dare ask God, "What’s wrong with our service?"
8. God asks them to consider giving the SAME quality sacrifices to their own governor and see how he likes it! Mal. 1:8 - "Try offering them to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you?" says the LORD Almighty."
9. The problem wasn’t a lack of service, it was the quality of service!
10. How does this question relate to us today? How have we defiled the altar of God?
a) The counterpart of all these sheep and oxen and pigeons and doves is found today in the words of the Apostle Paul, in Romans 12:1: “I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.” Offering our own lives to God - heart - soul - mind - and strength.
b) While we examine the lives of the men and women of Malachi’s day - it’s appropriate for us to examine ourselves on precisely the same issues. What is our motivation in worship? What brings us here on Sunday mornings or keeps us away? Is our focus in worship on God - or elsewhere?
c) Too often we respond as the people of Malachi’s day responded - giving God less than the best. We take God for granted - our sacrifice too lightly - offering only a part when He deserves the whole. Going through the motions as a part of our tradition - our culture - our religion and practice as a people.
d) Do you know people like this? Who’s worship is simply a matter of convenience? Who go through the motions as a matter of obligation and routine? Who go on with it because they’ve always done it that way and are bored with the whole process? People who are indifferent to God? Who say, “We can wear what we want. We can show up when we want - late - or not at all. We can give what we want. We can serve when we want.” The whole focus becoming what works for us - what pleases us.
B. A FOOLISH Resistance. 1:11-14
Malachi 1:11-14 – “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. 12"But you profane it by saying of the Lord’s table, ’It is defiled,’ and of its food, ’It is contemptible.’ 13And you say, ’What a burden!’ and you sniff at it contemptuously," says the Lord Almighty. "When you bring injured, crippled or diseased animals and offer them as sacrifices, should I accept them from your hands?" says the Lord. 14"Cursed is the cheat who has an acceptable male in his flock and vows to give it, but then sacrifices a blemished animal to the Lord. For I am a great king," says the Lord Almighty, "and my name is to be feared among the nations.”
1. Their resistance to honor God would not prevent God from being honored in the world … God will still be honored by the nations in good time!
a) Their resistance to worship God properly would be THEIR loss.
b) They resisted the true nature of their giving perhaps by justifying that they were at least giving something!
2. They resisted giving God their best … but they did care about their image, so they did give, but they gave their garbage!
a) It wasn’t that God wouldn’t accept a poor sacrifice … if indeed it came from someone who was genuinely poor, but this was not the case, they were wealthy and had been blessed, but they held the best for themselves while giving God the worst of what they had.
b) God clearly identifies the problem in His comment here, "Cursed is the cheat who has an acceptable male in his flock and vows to give it, but then sacrifices a blemished animal to the Lord."
c) Notice God calls such a person a "cheat" who can give better sacrifices but chooses not to thought pretending to do so.
3. It was hypocrisy to expect God to continue blessing them with His best when they refused to give their best!
4. This can be the attitude of worshippers today too, we want God’s best but don’t give God our best.
a) In fact, we sometimes refuse to give anything for God because we are bitter that God hasn’t blessed us better!
b) It is not just ancient Israel that struggled with attitude in service, this is a long standing problem with God’s people.
5. If we have the ability to give to God good sacrifices and we instead give Him poor ones we will not find joy in our relationship with God.
a) We genuinely reflect the kind of joy we have in our relationship with God by the kind of sacrifices we make to Him.
b) This is why "God loves a cheerful giver" … because He knows they have joy in their giving.
II. Dishonoring God’s COVENANT. 2:1-9
A. An ANGRY Rebuke. 2:1-6
Malachi 2:1-6: "And now this admonition is for you, O priests. 2If you do not listen, and if you do not set your heart to honor my name," says the Lord Almighty, "I will send a curse upon you, and I will curse your blessings. Yes, I have already cursed them, because you have not set your heart to honor me. 3"Because of you I will rebuke your descendants; I will spread on your faces the offal from your festival sacrifices, and you will be carried off with it. 4And you will know that I have sent you this admonition so that my covenant with Levi may continue," says the Lord Almighty. 5"My covenant was with him, a covenant of life and peace, and I gave them to him; this called for reverence and he revered me and stood in awe of my name. 6True instruction was in his mouth and nothing false was found on his lips. He walked with me in peace and uprightness, and turned many from sin.”
1. God now directs His displeasure towards the ones who failed to correct God’s people, the priests!
a) The spiritual leaders should have addressed the problem, but they didn’t!
b) They were too worried about their own popularity rather than God’s honor.
c) They were afraid to confront the people about their giving, instead they chose to just sit back and complain about the portions they got from sickly sacrifices.
(1) Remember, the portion given to the priest came from the sacrifices!
(2) So, they got diseased animals to eat from … no wonder God states their reaction in 1:13 "’What a burden!’ and you sniff at it contemptuously,"
(3) They were full of resentment over what they got, but not enough to confront the people about their giving!
2. God is angry with the priests, the spiritual leaders because they had held back in fear from confronting the poor quality sacrifices given by the people, fear that the people would not like them or give them anything at all if they called them on the quality of sacrifices given.
a) They didn’t like what they got, but didn’t want to lose everything.
b) They were more concerned about their own welfare than God’s!
c) They were cowards in preaching the truth!
3. This will mirror the last days when leaders will be afraid to speak the truth and so will teach what "itching ears" want to hear!
4. It is imperative that we preach the truth … we get the kind of Church we preach for!
a) If not challenged, God’s people will wander from the truth.
b) This is an old problem!
5. Sometimes a leader must stand up and be counted for God’s sake, not his or her own!
a) ILLUSTRATION: Charles Spurgeon, the great English preacher, was once invited by a wealthy man to come and preach in their country Church. He was invited by this wealthy man to help their Church membership raise funds to pay off a debt. The man told Spurgeon he was free to use his own country house, his town house, or his seaside house when he came, whichever he wanted to stay in. Spurgeon wrote the wealthy man back this reply, "Sell one of the places and pay the debt yourself!" ... and thus Spurgeon refused to come! -- Unknown
6. God’s covenant included giving His best when they gave their best … because the priests had accepted less than the best they were now experiencing less than God’s best … and they just continued to accept this poor commitment.
a) The covenant with Levi had been one of commitment to the truth, to standing up for God and speaking the truth.
b) God had blessed Levi because he had turned his brothers from sin, God had a covenant of peace with Levi and his descendants because they had not been afraid to speak up for God.
c) But now this generation of Levites had forsaken this commitment, and instead of turning the worshipper from their sins the priests simply accepted the poor quality of the people’s sacrifices thus allowing them to sin!
7. The role of the priest is not to be popular with man, but with God … and thus he or she must stand in the gap at times and speak the truth in love.
a) No wonder God rebuked the priests of Malachi’s day … they had failed to do this.
b) The results were evident in the life of the nation, people worshipped God out of obligation instead of their heart.
B. An OMINOUS Rejection 2:7-9
Malachi 2:7-9: "For the lips of a priest ought to preserve knowledge, and from his mouth men should seek instruction--because he is the messenger of the Lord Almighty. 8But you have turned from the way and by your teaching have caused many to stumble; you have violated the covenant with Levi," says the Lord Almighty. 9"So I have caused you to be despised and humiliated before all the people, because you have not followed my ways but have shown partiality in matters of the law."
1. God said that their failure to speak the truth had "violated" the covenant with Levi.
a) The term used here "violated" means in Hebrew "to morally corrupt."
b) They had great influence, unfortunately their influence brought about moral corruption through compromise.
c) Their critical role had been compromised, this had brought corruption.
2. Ironically, they had failed to correct the people in hopes that the people would "like them" and instead they had discovered just the opposite, they were "despised" by the people!
a) You don’t become popular by telling people what they want to hear, you tell them the truth.
b) Such a watered down gospel won’t make a preacher MORE acceptable to the world, it will only show a preacher that he or she is a waste of talent if all we have to say is what the world already says!
3. We cannot pretend to be important by pretending to speak the truth, we will only look like fools!
a) ILLUSTRATION: A newly promoted army Colonel had just moved into his new impressive office. As he sat behind his new big desk a private knocked at his door. "Just a minute" the colonel said, "I’m on the phone." He picked up the phone and said loudly enough for the private outside to hear, "Yes Sir, General, I’ll call the President this afternoon. No Sir, I won’t forget." Then he hung up the phone and told the private to enter. "What can I help you with private?" he said as the private entered. "Well Sir, I’ve come to hook up your phone!" -- Unknown
4. What really counts in life is that God is pleased with us, the rest comes from respect that others have in knowing we are disciplined enough to follow God’s ways instead of the world.
5. What would God have to say about your sacrifices?
a) Do you give Him the best … or the leftovers and diseased stuff?
b) Do you find real joy in worship, or is it just ritual to you?
c) Do you find yourself wanting to do less and less for God?
When we come to worship - we should be overwhelmed by who God is - and humbled by His graciousness. We worship the holy God who is loving and gracious and merciful - who has saved us through His Son, Jesus Christ.
If we come - focused on Him - because we’ve surrendered our heart before Him - because His spirit is freely working within us - and in honesty consider who He is and who we are before Him - then real worship takes place. There’s nothing worse than being locked up in church having to worship God when your heart isn’t in it. And, there are few things more odious to God.
Praise God that He allows Himself to be known and worshipped. The Westminster Shorter Catechism of Faith states, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.” To glorify God - that’s worship. To enjoy Him forever - that’s the all encompassing reward of worship.
In worship we’re reminded of God’s forgiveness - we recognize His holiness and accept His forgiveness. In worship we experience God’s love. God - in the Bible - promises that if we honor Him first in our lives - worship Him alone - He will give us wisdom and guidance for our lives - He will meet our material needs - He will watch over us in all of the circumstances of our lives - He will enable us to do the things He requires of us. In worship we are reminded that one day we will inherit a new heaven and new earth and join the company of believers and angels in perfect - eternal - worship.
A relationship to God that has minimal sacrifice will have minimal joy! The fewer the investments, the less the dividends! It is a simple but profound truth that the vitality of our faith is only as good as the value of our sacrifices! Israel gave the worst sacrifices but wanted God’s best -- instead all they had was an empty heart. How fulfilling is your walk with God right now? What do you give and are you and God happy with it? As you evaluate your life right now, is there anything wrong with your service to God? The second question people ask God is, “What’s wrong with my service?” We don’t have to go far to find God’s answer. The question we do have to dig into this morning, is what are we going to do about what He has said? Let’s pray.