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Purified Worship

A city council sent repeated notices to its citizens about a burn ban: no outdoor fires were permitted within city limits. One resident repeatedly disregarded these notices until eventually a city official showed up at the door—a uniformed police officer ready to make an arrest!

In a similar way, God had repeatedly sent warnings and reminders to His people through the prophets. The message of Malachi is one such example. It warned of the people’s unfaithfulness to the covenant and the priests’ failure to preserve proper worship and faithful instruction in the law of God. In Malachi 3, however, God intensified the message. A day was coming when not only another “messenger” would arrive, but “suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple” (Mal. 3:1). God Himself promised to show up! The time of secondhand messages would be over. His zeal for the temple and for proper worship would come, purifying and refining the dirt and dross of sin. When that happened, “who can endure the day . . . who can stand when He appears?” (Mal. 3:2).

What a powerful scene when we come to John 2 and witness the fulfillment of God’s promise in Malachi. Rather than preserving a peaceful place of reverent worship, they had turned the temple into noisy chaos: the outer courts were a marketplace that may have included unfair selling practices. Seeing this distortion of worship, Jesus “made a whip of cords, and drove all from the temple courts” (John 2:15), chastising the leadership for their failure. In the person of Jesus, God had indeed arrived at His temple for cleansing! Lest we think that God does not care about our worship, both Malachi 3 and John 2 demonstrate otherwise.

Apply the Word

How much attention do we give to worship? God considers it an essential part of our relationship with Him. Anticipating the coming times of worship this Sunday, take a moment to prepare your heart and mind for God. Confess your sin, read Psalm 95, or just find a quiet time to devote your whole self to the Lord in praise and thanksgiving.

BY Bryan Stewart

Bryan A. Stewart is associate professor of religion at McMurry University in Abilene, Texas. His particular interests are the history of Christian thought and the way that early Christians interpreted the biblical canon. He is the editor of a volume on the Gospel of John in The Church’s Bible series (Eerdmans), and he has done extensive research on the ways that the early Church preached on this Gospel. He is an ordained minister. 

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