In years past, a student would show respect to a favorite teacher with the gift of an apple. But what if the apple was rotten or full of worms? Then what would traditionally have been a sign of respect and honor would become a sign of disrespect or even an insult.
That’s essentially what happened in today’s reading. In a series of questions-and-answers, God through the prophet Malachi, condemned Israel for offering “defiled food” as sacrifices (vv. 6–9). Not even a human leader would accept the blind, lame, and diseased animals being brought as sacrifices, much less the Almighty God (see Deut. 15:21). These offerings showed the sinful state of the people’s hearts. Their worship had become phony. The priests were also to blame, since by accepting such offerings they showed contempt for the Lord.
Rather than continue with hypocrisy and evil, God said, it would be better to shut the doors of the temple and stop the fake worship (v. 10). He wanted to end the insulting charade! The spirit of true worship was a stark contrast to their hypocrisy: “‘My name will be great among the nations, from where the sun rises to where it sets. In every place incense and pure offerings will be brought to me, because my name will be great among the nations,’ says the Lord Almighty” (v. 11).
God’s faithful love for Israel contrasted with their spiritual unfaithfulness (see vv. 2–5). They regarded worship as burdensome, and even dared to say, “The Lord’s table [altar] is defiled” (v. 12). A day of reckoning was coming! Already we’re seeing basically two types of doors and gates. Through one we find a right relationship with God; the other leads to idolatry, sin, and God’s wrath.
>> Do you give the Lord the very best, “firstfruits,” of your finances or only what is left at the end of the month? Do you view your offering of money or time as a burden? Ask God to forgive this attitude and help you become a cheerful giver (2 Cor. 9:7).
What a severe warning we receive from the book of Malachi! Is our tithing a charade that makes the Lord angry? May it never be! As we study today’s passage, chapter 1 of Malachi, ask God to make you generous and cheerful givers.