THE LORD REBUKES THE SELF RIGHTEOUS PRIESTS FOR OFFERING SUB-STANDARD WORSHIP
In the church we are all priests … what is the application to us?
What is the standard today? “Worship God in Spirit and in Truth”
How do we violate that?
– mere lip service
– substituting entertainment that is man-focused
– not coming with a cleansed heart that is prepared to worship
– treating worship as a tiresome exercise
Let’s look at how the priests of Israel stirred up the Lord’s anger on this important issue
I. (1:6-14) INTEGRITY OF WORSHIP DEMANDS RESPECT FOR GOD’S NAME
A. (:6a) Violation of the Basic Principle of Respect for Fatherly Authority
“’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.”
Piper: “Reverential esteem” is not typically demanded by parents or given by children. Whether this is the cause or the result of our lopsided view of the fatherhood of God, I’m not sure. I suspect that it works both ways: the less we emphasize the need for children to reverence their human fathers, the less God’s fatherhood will trigger our reverence; and the less God’s fatherhood wakens our reverence and honor, the less we will make that part of the human ideal of fatherhood.
B. (:6b) Self Righteous Question
“But you say, ‘How have we despised Thy name?’”
Implication: Isn’t it enough to go through the external motions of religious activity?
C. (:7-9) Charge of Presenting Cheap Sacrifices = Stealing from God
1. (:7-8) Specific Examples of Sub-Standard Worship
a. Issue is one of Defilement
“You are presenting defiled food upon My altar.”
b. Indignant Denial
“But you say, ‘How have we defiled Thee?’ In that you say, ‘The table of the Lord is to be despised.’”
c. Shameful Reality
1) Offering God the blind
“But when you present the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil?”
2) Offering God the lame and sick
“And when you present the lame and sick, is it not evil?”
3) Simple Litmus Test – not even adequate judged just on externals
“’Why not offer it to your governor? Would he be pleased with you? Or would he receive you kindly?’ Says the Lord of hosts.”
Piper: So the origin of careless worship is a failure to see and feel the greatness of God.
Stedman: “Will you get by with that?” God says, “You people that are content to be shoddy about your religious experience, try living that way in your business life and see if you get by with it. And yet you say you are honoring my name. You are claiming to worship me and to be my people.” The God of reality always cuts right through all the excuses and all the flimflam of hypocrisy right down to the real issue.
2. (:9) Compassionate Invitation to Seek Forgiveness
“’But now will you not entreat God’s favor, that He may be gracious to us? With such an offering on your part, will He receive any of you kindly?’ says the Lord of hosts.”
D. (:10-14) Rejection of All Worship that Fails to Respect God’s Name and Standards
1. (:10) Worthless Worship Totally Rejected
“’Oh that there were one among you who would shut the gates, that you might not uselessly kindle fire on My altar! I am not pleased with you,’ says the Lord of hosts, ‘nor will I accept an offering from you.’”
Piper: The essence of careless worship is worthless religious activity. Or to be more precise: it’s religious activity that illustrates how little a person values God. . . . true worship comes from a heart where God is treasured above all human property andpraise, and it aims to inspire the same God-centered passion in the hearts of the congregation.
2. (:11) Worldwide Exaltation of Greatness of Lord’s Name
“’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 the Lord of hosts.”
3. (:12-13a) Whining About Priestly Service
“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! And you disdainfully sniff at it,’ says the Lord of hosts.”
4. (:13b) What Violates God’s Standards for Worship?
“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 the Lord.”
5. (:14) What Disrespects God’s Name in Worship?
“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 the Lord of hosts, ‘and My name is feared among the nations.’”
II. (2:1-9) UNFAITHFULNESS IN PRIESTLY SERVICE BRINGS DOWN GOD’S CURSE
A. (:1-4) Gravity of Honoring God’s Name in Worship
1. (:1) Wakeup Call to the Priests
“And now, this commandment is for you, O priests.”
2. (:2) Urgency of Repentance – Curse Already Upon Them
“’If you do not listen, and if you do not take it to heart to give honor to My name,’ says the Lord of hosts, ‘then I will send the curse upon you, and I will curse your blessings; and indeed, I have cursed them already, because you are not taking it to heart.’”
3. (:3) Intensifying the Curse
“Behold, I am going to rebuke your offspring, and I will spread refuse on your faces, the refuse of your feasts; and you will be taken away with it.”
4. (:4) Sanctity of the Priestly Covenant
“’Then you will know that I have sent this commandment to you, that My covenant may continue with Levi,’ says the Lord of hosts.”
B. (:5-7) Heritage of Proper Priestly Conduct
1. (:5) Establishment of the Priestly Office on Proper Foundation =
The Fear of the Lord / Respect for His Name
“My covenant with him was one of life and peace, and I gave them to him as an object of reverence; so he revered Me, and stood in awe of My name.”
2. (:6) Four Essentials of Proper Priestly Ministry
a. Teaching the Truth
“True instruction was in his mouth”
b. Purity of Conduct
“and unrighteousness was not found on his lips”
c. Intimacy of Fellowship
“he walked with Me in peace and uprightness”
d. Effectiveness of Ministry = Fruit of Changed Lives
“and he turned many back from iniquity.”
3. (:7) Exalted Role of Priestly Ministry
“For the lips of a priest should preserve knowledge, and men should seek instruction from his mouth; for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts.”
C. (:8) Corruption of Priestly Office (with its ungodly effect on the people)
“’But as for you, you have turned aside from the way; you have caused many to stumble by the instruction; you have corrupted the covenant of Levi,’ says the Lord of hosts.”
Spiritual leaders have tremendous influence over people’s lives and can easily cause others to stumble. That is why there is stiffer accountability. (James 3:1)
D. (:9) Curse of Corresponding Disrespect Upon the Disobedient Priests
“So I also have made you despised and abased before all the people, just as you are not keeping My ways, but are showing partiality in the instruction.”
Showing partiality to the rich and powerful and influential is always a temptation for spiritual leaders.
Piper: So my conclusion is that Malachi 2:1-9 is very relevant for us today because the priestly failure that Malachi talks about has to do especially with their duties as teachers and moral examples for the people. The failure he warns against would be just as much failure today!