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Malachi Series: Offering Acceptable Worship (Mal 1:6-14)

Updated: Mar 20



Offering Acceptable Worship


“A son naturally honors his father and a slave respects his master. If I am your father, where is my honor? If I am your master, where is my respect? The Lord of Heaven’s Armies asks you this, you priests who make light of my name! But you reply, ‘How have we made light of your name?’ You are offering improper sacrifices on my altar, yet you ask, ‘How have we offended you?’ By treating the table of the Lord as if it is of no importance. For when you offer blind animals as a sacrifice, is that not wrong? And when you offer the lame and sick, is that not wrong as well? Indeed, try offering them to your governor! Will he be pleased with you or show you favor?” asks the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. “But now plead for God’s favor that he might be gracious to us”. “With this kind of offering in your hands, how can he be pleased with you?” asks the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. “I wish that one of you would close the temple doors, so that you no longer would light useless fires on my altar. I am not pleased with you,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “and I will no longer accept an offering from you. For from the east to the west my name will be great among the nations. Incense and pure offerings will be offered in my name everywhere, for my name will be great among the nations,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. “But you are profaning it by saying that the table of the Lord is common and its offerings despicable. You also say, ‘How tiresome it is.’ You turn up your nose at it,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “and instead bring what is stolen, lame, or sick. You bring these things for an offering! Should I accept this from you?” asks the Lord. “There will be harsh condemnation for the hypocrite who has a valuable male animal in his flock but vows and sacrifices something inferior to the Lord. For I am a great king,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “and my name is awesome among the nations.”

Malachi 1:6-14 (NET)



How can we offer worship that is acceptable to God?


Throughout Scripture, we see that God does not accept all worship. Some worship is displeasing to him and therefore rejected. When Cain and Abel offered worship to God, Cain’s offering was rejected while Abel’s was accepted. Likewise, in 1 Corinthians 13:1-3, Paul talked about various types of worship offered to God including speaking in the tongues of angels and men and offering all one had to the poor, and yet if the offeror lacked love (for God and others), it was unacceptable.


When God inspects our worship, he always inspects the worshiper first and then the offering. They both must be acceptable. In John 4:23-24, Christ said this to the Samaritan woman:


But a time is coming—and now is here—when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such people to be his worshipers. God is spirit, and the people who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.


God is seeking true worship, worship that is acceptable to him, and we must aim to offer that type of worship.


In the book of Malachi, God speaks to the post-exilic Jews to challenge them about their sins. He begins the book by reminding them of how he had loved them by making a covenant with the nation of Israel (v. 1-5). However, they had not lived up to that covenant love. Therefore, throughout the letter, God challenged them so they can get right. Here in Malachi 1:6-14, God challenged them specifically about their worship. He started with the priests, as they were the spiritual leaders of Israel. He said, “You priests who make light of my name! But you reply, ‘How have we made light of your name?’ You are offering improper sacrifices on my altar” (1:6-7). But then he later challenged the people as well:


“There will be harsh condemnation for the hypocrite who has a valuable male animal in his flock but vows and sacrifices something inferior to the Lord. For I am a great king,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “and my name is awesome among the nations.”

Malachi 1:14


What was true of the spiritual leaders was also true of the people. They were all offering displeasing worship to God that dishonored him.


The condemnation God gave to the post-exilic Jews could also be given to the contemporary church. From the pew to the pulpit, we often offer worship that is displeasing to God and therefore rejected and at times even disciplined. The root word of worship is worthy. We offer displeasing worship to God any time we offer him something that does not represent his innate worth and glory. Worship does not just refer to singing and what we do on Sunday; it ultimately refers to everything we offer him. Romans 12:1 (ESV) says, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” Because of all God has done for us, everything we do should be worship. It should demonstrate how worthy he is.


Therefore, in this study of Malachi 1:6-14, we’ll consider principles about offering God acceptable worship—worship that is pleasing to him—both corporately at church and personally through our acts of devotion.


Big Question: What principles about offering acceptable worship to God can be discerned from Malachi 1:6-14?


To Offer Acceptable Worship, We Must Reverence Our Great God


“A son naturally honors his father and a slave respects his master. If I am your father, where is my honor? If I am your master, where is my respect? The Lord of Heaven’s Armies asks you this, you priests who make light of my name! But you reply, ‘How have we made light of your name?’ … . For when you offer blind animals as a sacrifice, is that not wrong? And when you offer the lame and sick, is that not wrong as well? Indeed, try offering them to your governor! Will he be pleased with you or show you favor?”

Malachi 1:6, 8


In challenging the priests about their worship, God gave two illustrations that the priests would have understood. He says, “A son naturally honors his father and a slave respects his master. If I am your father, where is my honor? If I am your master, where is my respect?” The verb “honors” comes from the Hebrew root word “kabod,” which is commonly translated “glory.” In the verb form used in verse 6, it means “to be heavy” and figuratively “to be important.” The Jews were not giving God the honor and glory he was due as their father and master. Instead, they were making light of his name through their disrespectful worship (v. 6, 7).


Respecting one’s parents according to Jewish law was very important. God promised long life to those who honored their parents in the Ten Commandments (Ex 20:12), and those who didn’t were to be put to death. Leviticus 20:9 says, “‘If anyone curses his father and mother he must be put to death. He has cursed his father and mother; his blood guilt is on himself.” Children were to give strict reverence for their parents. No doubt, God made this law because when the authority in the home breaks down, it breaks down in every part of society. If children dishonor their parents, they will dishonor their teachers, pastors, bosses, government officials, and ultimately God. A society where children dishonor their parents will soon fall apart.


The priests would have commonly taught the need for this in the temple (and the synagogues), especially when the children were gathered. However, they were dishonoring their heavenly Father by the worship they offered him. When God delivered Israel from Egypt, he called them his firstborn son. In Exodus 4:22-23, God said this to Moses: “You must say to Pharaoh, ‘This is what the Lord has said, ‘Israel is my son, my firstborn, and I said to you, ‘Let my son go that he may serve me.” God chose Israel to be favored above all nations as his firstborn son, so they would be the stewards of his temple, teachers of God’s Word, and eventually the messiah would come from them to save the world. They were not only sons of Yahweh but also his servants, as they were called to be witnesses to the Gentiles and cultivate the worship at the temple. Since God had delivered Israel from slavery and favored them so much, shouldn’t they have given him honor and respect? If that were not enough, God reminded them that he is the Lord of Heaven’s Armies (v. 6)—that he has millions of angels at his side ready to respond at his command. Certainly, this makes him worthy of praise and honor.


Likewise, Paul used a similar argument when considering our worship. In Romans 12:1 (ESV), he said, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” The “therefore” points back to Romans chapters 1-11. There, Paul talked about how we and the rest of the world were under sin and therefore judgment, how Christ died for us, and we received his righteousness through faith, how we have been delivered from the power of the law and given the Holy Spirit so we can conquer sin and please God. Then in Romans 12:1, his argument is because of everything God did for us, it is only reasonable that we offer him everything as an act of worship. Similarly, 1 Corinthians 10:31 says, “So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God.” As mentioned, worship is not just our reading of God’s Word, listening to it preached, and singing it, nor is it just our practicing the ordinances, it should be everything we do. Because of everything God has done for us, we should glorify him in everything we do, especially in corporate worship. With that said, if we are not truly revering and worshiping during our corporate worship, then we certainly won’t do so in our daily endeavors.


God corrects Israel’s worship by teaching them they needed to revere him as their Father and Master and also by implication the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.


Application Question: How can we revere God more in our church gatherings, daily routine, and acts of devotion so we can better worship him?


1. To revere God, we must know him more deeply through his Word.


When God says they had made “light of his name” (v. 6), “name” refers to God’s character, person, and reputation. As mentioned, in this text, Malachi declared how God is their Father and Master and the Lord of the Armies of Heaven (v. 6). Later, in verse 14, he declared that God is a great King with an awesome name among the nations (v. 14). Malachi simply reinformed the Israelites about a Scriptural truths about God to help them revere him more. Likewise, the reason many of us don’t revere God as we should is because we don’t know him deeply from his Word. It’s commonly been said that orthodoxy (right doctrine) is necessary for doxology (worship). Therefore, the more we know God’s Word which teaches us about God’s characteristics and acts, the more we will be able to worship him properly. However, if our time in and knowledge of God’s Word is weak, then our reverence for God will be as well.


2. To revere God, we must remember his gracious acts towards us.


As mentioned, when God referred to himself as a father to the priests, this would have naturally reminded them of when God adopted Israel as his firstborn son. He radically delivered the nation from slavery in Egypt and called them both his children and servants. Likewise, we must constantly remember God’s gracious acts to us—how he saved us and adopted us as his children, how he continually sanctifies us through his Spirit, his Word, and his church to make us more holy, how he meets our daily needs and opens doors for us, and how he has used various trials and difficulties for our good. As we remember the many blessings God has given us, it will help us better reverence him in worship.


3. To revere God, we must fear his discipline.


The illustrations of God being a Father, Master, Lord of Heavens Armies, and a great King, properly considered, would strike fear in the hearers. Godly fathers not only reward their children and meet their needs, but also discipline them when they sin. Good masters do the same. In addition, armies not only protect but also bring justice, and the same is true of kings. God’s discipline will be emphasized later in verse 14. Malachi says, “There will be harsh condemnation for the hypocrite who has a valuable male animal in his flock but vows and sacrifices something inferior to the Lord” (v. 14).


Certainly, this is one of the reasons that many do not revere God in worship as they should. They have no fear of his discipline. Proverbs 9:10 says the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. It should be remembered that God killed Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu, in Leviticus 10 for offering a profane fire in worship. He also killed Ananias and Sapphira for lying about their offering in Acts 5. Finally, God judged the Corinthians for abusing the Lord’s Supper. Some were sick, weak, and some even died (1 Cor 11). Many people don’t revere God in their worship because they have no holy fear of him.


If we are going to offer acceptable worship to God, we must reverence him. We must know who God is according to his Word, remember his blessings, and fear his discipline.


Do we have a holy reverence for God in our worship?


Application Question: Why is reverence for God so important in worship? In what ways does the contemporary church often show a lack of reverence for God in worship? How can it be restored?


To Offer Acceptable Worship, We Must Offer God Our Best by Being Sacrificial


You are offering improper sacrifices on my altar, yet you ask, ‘How have we offended you?’ By treating the table of the Lord as if it is of no importance. For when you offer blind animals as a sacrifice, is that not wrong? And when you offer the lame and sick, is that not wrong as well? Indeed, try offering them to your governor! Will he be pleased with you or show you favor?” asks the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. “But now plead for God’s favor that he might be gracious to us”. “With this kind of offering in your hands, how can he be pleased with you?” asks the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.

Malachi 1:7-9


After God rebuked the priests for not giving him honor and defaming his name, he gave a specific example of how. They were giving him deplorable sacrifices. Jews were supposed to give their best to God. Because God saved the firstborn of the Jews and their animals during the Passover in Egypt, they were supposed to consecrate the firstborn of their sons and animals to the Lord (Ex 13:12-13). Also, when sacrificing to God, they had to give a male without blemish. Deuteronomy 15:21 says, “If one of them has any kind of blemish—lameness, blindness, or anything else—you may not offer it as a sacrifice to the Lord your God.” Essentially, they could only offer God their best—the firstborn and the unblemished.


This seemed to be true even before the Mosaic law. When Cain and Abel offered sacrifices to the Lord, apparently Cain’s was rejected because he didn’t offer his best. Genesis 4:3-5 says,


At the designated time Cain brought some of the fruit of the ground for an offering to the Lord. But Abel brought some of the firstborn of his flock—even the fattest of them. And the Lord was pleased with Abel and his offering, but with Cain and his offering he was not pleased. So Cain became very angry, and his expression was downcast.


Cain gave “some” of the fruits of his field, while Abel gave the “fattest” “firstborn” of his flock. Their offerings reflected their hearts. Cain kept the best back for himself because he prioritized himself over God, while Abel offered his best which reflected his reverence for God. Likewise, that seems to be what was happening among the post-exilic Jews. When they chose which lamb to give God, they gave him their worst and kept the best for themselves.


God responded by challenging them to offer their blemished sacrifices to their governor and to consider whether he would be pleased (v. 8)? In light of this, Michael Powell, in his book Moments with Malachi, gave a challenging reflection to help us consider our devotion to God. He says:


Here you have what could be called the Malachi ethic. The anthem of this ethic is “You wouldn’t offer it to your governor, would you?” We can avoid sin and measure our respect for and interest in God by comparing it with our respect and interest toward other, less important people. If you go two days without talking to Christ you might hear His conviction, “You wouldn’t offer that to your spouse, would you?” If you avoid reading God’s Word you might hear, “You wouldn’t avoid your favorite magazine, would you?” If you skip corporate worship you might hear God say, “You wouldn’t skip out on work that easily, would you?” We shouldn’t be comfortable treating God more poorly than we treat humans. Malachi’s ethic is basically this – if a human would be insulted with your effort or your gift, then God is greatly insulted. You may want to begin using the Malachi ethic today.


Are we offering others, including ourselves, better than we offer God? Sadly, many show up to church with no sleep and late when they would never show up to a job interview that way. They give more respect to potential employers than to the one who ultimately promotes them. Psalm 75:6-7 (KJV) says: “For promotion cometh neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south. But God is the judge: he putteth down one, and setteth up another.” Are we offering humans better than we would offer God?


Likewise, if our favorite sports team or a new blockbuster movie were playing, we typically would show up not only on time but early and with excitement, but when it comes to worshipping our heavenly Father and Master, the Lord of the Armies of Heaven, and the King of the earth, we show up late, tired, unexcited, and sometimes not at all.


Our offering demonstrates what we think of God. Most of us would never say church, Bible reading, prayer, and worship are worthless, just like the priests wouldn’t have said that. But the way we treat them often does. If we give our best to school, work, and friends, and give God only the last five minutes of the day or our sleepy bodies, it reveals what we really think of God.


Unanswered Prayer and Unoffered Blessings


With that said, after rebuking the Jews, Malachi said this to them in verse 9: “‘But now plead for God’s favor that he might be gracious to us’. ‘With this kind of offering in your hands, how can he be pleased with you?’ asks the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.” Some commentators believe Malachi is challenging them to repent of their half-hearted worship, so that God would answer their prayers and meet their needs. However, the context argues that Malachi is just using irony. In the same way, a governor would not favor someone who disrespected him by offering a diseased animal, God will not favor worthless worship.


We must remember that wise parents do not reward sin. If a child is disrespecting them and they in turn keep buying him ice cream and toys, that will only harden the child in his rebellion. Rewarding sin only leads to more sin. Likewise, our disrespect in worship only hinders God’s blessings and instead brings his discipline on our lives. In Psalm 66:18 (ESV), David said, “If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.” James 1:7-8 says a double-minded man will receive nothing from God when he prays. And later in James 5:16, he says the prayers of the righteous are powerful and effective. By implication, that means the prayers of the unrighteous are not. Therefore, when we’re living an apathetic Christian life and offering lifeless worship, we should not be surprised when God doesn’t bless us or answer our prayers. If he did, it would only harden us in our sin. We should only expect discipline for our disrespect.


Spiritual Sacrifices


In context, Malachi was addressing the Aaronic priests who offered animal sacrifices according to the Old Testament law. In the New Testament, we don’t offer animal sacrifices like the Jews did because they foreshadowed Christ who died for the sins of the world. Therefore, they are no longer needed. However, Scripture does say that in the New Covenant, we are all priests who offer spiritual sacrifices as worship to God. First Peter 2:5 says, “You yourselves, as living stones, are built up as a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood and to offer spiritual sacrifices that are acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” And, certainly, as considered, when we offer these spiritual sacrifices, we must offer our best to demonstrate how great our God is and our commitment to him.


Interpretation Question: What spiritual sacrifices does Scripture say we should continually offer the Lord?


There are five spiritual sacrifices that we offer God as described in the New Testament:


1. Offering our bodies (or lives) to the Lord is a spiritual sacrifice.


Romans 12:1 says, “Therefore I exhort you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a sacrifice—alive, holy, and pleasing to God—which is your reasonable service” In considering this, it’s often been said that the problem with living sacrifices is that they often get off the altar. In following Christ, we’ll often need to sacrifice our time, comfort, relationships, plans, money, and other resources to honor God and bless his people.


Are we still offering ourselves as living sacrifices in our worship of the Lord?


2. Our financial offerings to the Lord and his people are spiritual sacrifices.


In Philippians 1:18, Paul said, “For I have received everything, and I have plenty. I have all I need because I received from Epaphroditus what you sent—a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, very pleasing to God.” The Philippian church sent finances to support Paul while he was imprisoned in Rome, and though they gave it to Paul, it was also an acceptable and pleasing sacrifice to God.


Are we faithfully giving our financial offerings to the Lord? Throughout Scripture, people gave their tithes to the Lord which was ten percent of their income (Lev 27:30). Since we are not under the OT law (Rom 6:14), we are not commanded to give ten percent in the New Testament. In fact, the expectation of our giving is much higher. In the context of giving, Paul said this to the Corinthians: “But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you—see that you excel in this act of grace also” (2 Cor 8:7). Many give their ten percent and never consider giving more. However, just as we are continually trying to grow in loving God and others more and knowing God’s Word, we should always challenge ourselves to grow in giving as well. First Corinthians 16:2 says, “On the first day of the week, each of you should set aside some income and save it to the extent that God has blessed you, so that a collection will not have to be made when I come.” As God blesses us (or prospers us), we should seek to give. Ten percent is just a great place to start.


Are we sacrificially giving to the Lord as part of our worship?


3. Our praise and worship of the Lord are spiritual sacrifices.


Hebrews 13:15 says, “Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, acknowledging his name.” As we corporately sing at Sunday worship, other church gatherings, and personally when we are alone, these are sacrifices that please God. We should sing to him all the time. For this reason, it is helpful to continually play worship music at home and work or have a hymnbook available so they can help us offer spiritual sacrifices of praise to the Lord.


Are we singing praises to the Lord, not only on Sunday at church, but throughout the week? In Ephesians 5:18-19, singing to the Lord is described as a sign of somebody who is filled with the Spirit. The Spirit of God continually brings glory to God (John 16:14), and he works in us to do the same as well.


4. Our acts of righteousness both to God and others are spiritual sacrifices.


Hebrews 13:16 says, “And do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for God is pleased with such sacrifices.” When we do good to our neighbor, co-worker, family member, or church member as a way of honoring God, it pleases him. In fact, Jesus said what we do the least of his brothers and sisters, we do directly to him (Matt 25:40).


Are we sacrificing to God by serving others, our church, our family, friends, and co-workers?


5. Our disciples are spiritual sacrifices to the Lord.


In Romans 15:16, Paul said, “… I serve the gospel of God like a priest, so that the Gentiles may become an acceptable offering, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.” He considered those he led to Christ and discipled as priestly offerings to the Lord. Are we taking time to share the gospel with unbelievers and disciple believers? These are pleasing sacrifices to God.


As we consider all these spiritual sacrifices, we must remember that in context the Jews were giving God what was convenient and uncostly. Most believers, in considering their commitment to the church and God’s kingdom in general, have nothing about their worship that they would consider a sacrifice. We should remember that without sacrifice, nothing we offer is really worship. It doesn’t show how special God is. In 2 Samuel 24:24, David said this: “I will not offer to the Lord my God burnt sacrifices that cost me nothing.”


Are we worshiping and serving the Lord with no sacrifice, no cross in our lives? We must remember that when we go to bed early to get up early to seek God that pleases him. When we stay up late or toss our plans for the day to talk with somebody who is hurting that pleases him. Are we offering God our best or our scraps? Are we offering our boss, friends, spouse, and kids better than we offer God? Because God is a great King, we should offer him our best.


Application Question: What spiritual sacrifice stood out most and why? In what ways do we as worshipers often offer God worthless offerings or less than our best? How is God calling you to grow in offering him spiritual sacrifices that demonstrate his immense worth?


To Offer Acceptable Worship, We Must Recognize Worship as a Privilege That Can Be Taken Away


“I wish that one of you would close the temple doors, so that you no longer would light useless fires on my altar. I am not pleased with you,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “and I will no longer accept an offering from you. For from the east to the west my name will be great among the nations. Incense and pure offerings will be offered in my name everywhere, for my name will be great among the nations,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.

Malachi 1:10-11


Because the Israelites’ worship dishonored God instead of honoring him, God declared that he wished the doors of the temple would be shut (v. 10). No worship was better than dishonorable worship. This challenges us because often we feel as though offering God something is better than nothing. Showing up to church late and half asleep is better than staying home, right? Also, praying for a couple of minutes before bed after neglecting him all day is better than not praying at all, right? Certainly, that logically makes sense. Something is better than nothing. However, to God who is a great King, no worship is better than dishonorable, half-hearted worship.


We may see something of this in Christ’s words to the Ephesian church in Revelation 2:4-5. He said:


But I have this against you: You have departed from your first love! Therefore, remember from what high state you have fallen and repent! Do the deeds you did at the first; if not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place—that is, if you do not repent.


When God promised to remove their lampstand if they did not repent of their half-hearted worship, this was a promise to remove their effectiveness in ministering for Christ and ultimately a promise to close the doors of the church. Today, there is no Ephesian church. This was a church with tremendous privileges, possibly more than any other church. Paul, Timothy, and John were pastors there. Many believe Onesimus, the slaved talked about in the book of Philemon, eventually became the Bishop of Ephesus. However, even though they had great pastors and teaching, they eventually became a spiritually dull church that offered half-hearted worship to God. God eventually removed their light, their effectiveness, and eventually their presence altogether.


Sadly, this also eventually happened to Israel which Malachi’s comments seemed to foreshadow. When God said he wished somebody would shut the doors, this eventually happened in 70 AD. After Israel rejected their messiah, eventually the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and the temple and exiled the Israelites again from their land. In 1948, Israel was again given back their land after World War II. However, they still have no temple to offer sacrifices at and no Aaronic priests if they did.


In addition, after God said that he would no longer accept Israel’s offerings, he said this in verse 11:


For from the east to the west my name will be great among the nations. Incense and pure offerings will be offered in my name everywhere, for my name will be great among the nations,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.


The reasoning seems to be that God rejected Israel’s half-hearted worship because he didn’t need it. He would raise up worshipers from every nation in the world. Israel was not the only nation that could worship him. In fact, it was always God’s plan to use Israel to reach the nations. Because they failed to worship God and complete his mission for them, they were temporarily rejected as God’s priests. We see this talked about in several New Testament passages. In Matthew 8:11-12 and 21:43, Christ said this to the Jews:


I tell you, many will come from the east and west to share the banquet with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, but the sons of the kingdom will be thrown out into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.


For this reason I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit


Likewise, in the book of Acts, the apostles would first try to preach to the Jews but when they rejected Christ, they went to the Gentiles. In Acts 13:46, Paul and Barnabas said this to the hard-hearted Jews they were witnessing to: “It was necessary to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we are turning to the Gentiles.”


In explaining this hardening of the Jews’ hearts and the widespread acceptance of the gospel by the Gentiles, Paul said this:


I ask then, they did not stumble into an irrevocable fall, did they? Absolutely not! But by their transgression salvation has come to the Gentiles, to make Israel jealous. Now if their transgression means riches for the world and their defeat means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full restoration bring? … For I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers and sisters, so that you may not be conceited: A partial hardening has happened to Israel until the full number of the Gentiles has come in.

Romans 11:11-12, 25


Eventually, the Jews, as a nation, will accept Christ at his return which will lead to great blessing on the earth as they fulfill God’s original call on them as a people (Rom 11:26-27).


However, the point, we need to take from this is that worshiping God is a privilege that we must not take lightly. If we continue to offer half-hearted worship like Israel and the Ephesian church did, God will remove our lampstand. The world is full of churches that shut down, denominations and Christian institutions which eventually became theologically liberal and died out or became secular. It is full of Christians who were once on fire for God, sharing the gospel and serving in the churches, who eventually let their hearts become cold. Some of them eventually fell away from God altogether; others simply stopped being a light to anybody.


We also see this truth nationally. In many nations the gospel once shined bright. The nations were being transformed and consequently sent many missionaries abroad, but when the hearts of believers grew cold, God removed that light. Other nations took up that light and now are vibrant while the previously vibrant nations now struggle to keep any gospel witness. We’ve seen this happen in England, other European nations, and now the US. The gospel once was vibrant in these nations and they sent missionaries to various nations around the world, including in Asia. However, in many Asian nations, the gospel shines brighter and now they are sending missionaries back to the US, England, and other European nations.


Worshiping God and serving him are both a privilege and obligation. If we don’t faithfully worship and serve God, it will lead to our spiritual impoverishment and the privilege being taken away and given to others. In Mark 4:24-25, Christ describes this reality in considering our response to God’s Word. He says:


Take care about what you hear. The measure you use will be the measure you receive, and more will be added to you. For whoever has will be given more, but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.


If we faithfully hear and respond to God’s Word, he will bless us. If not, he will judge us by taking away what we previously had and allowing our hearts to become cold. Worship is both a privilege and obligation. If we do not worship properly with the right heart and acts, it always leads to our spiritual demise as it did with Israel and the Ephesian church, and the opportunity to worship will be given to others.


Are we thankful for the opportunity to worship? If we don’t worship with the right heart, God will take away our great privilege and find others who will be faithful with it.


Application Question: How have we seen God remove his light from churches, Christian institutions, and nations? In what nations is the light of the gospel shining brightest in these times? How is God challenging you to keep your light shining, lest it be removed?


To Offer Acceptable Worship, We Must Guard Our Hearts Against Sinful Attitudes


“But you are profaning it by saying that the table of the Lord is common and its offerings despicable. You also say, ‘How tiresome it is.’ You turn up your nose at it,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “and instead bring what is stolen, lame, or sick. You bring these things for an offering! Should I accept this from you?” asks the Lord. “There will be harsh condemnation for the hypocrite who has a valuable male animal in his flock but vows and sacrifices something inferior to the Lord. For I am a great king,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “and my name is awesome among the nations.”

Malachi 1:12-14


In verses 12-14, God continues to challenge the Israelites about their improper worship. Their actions in worship demonstrated sinful heart motives that we must be careful of. In talking to the Samaritan woman, Christ said that God “seeks” worshipers who worship in “spirit and truth” (John 4:23-24). Truth refers to our offerings being in line with biblical truths. For instance, with Israel, offering the blind and lame were wrong because they contradicted what God taught about sacrifices—that they needed to be without blemish. However, “spirit” refers to one’s heart. It’s commonly thought to refer to the Holy Spirit, but the NET is right in using a lowercase “s” in referring to the human spirit. When we worship, God not only checks to make sure our offering aligns with the truth but also if our heart is right before him. A wrong heart will lead to our offerings being rejected. As mentioned, in 1 Corinthians 13:1-3, Paul described several types of worship—speaking in the tongues of man and angels, offering all we have to the poor, sacrificing our bodies to the flames—however if we don’t have love (love for God and others), he says, it is worthless and profits us nothing. God looks at our hearts. Similarly, in 2 Corinthians 9:7, Paul said this about our giving, “Each one of you should give just as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, because God loves a cheerful giver.” Essentially, he says, if we give (or worship) reluctantly or because we feel like we have to, it’s not acceptable worship to God. He wants our hearts more than our actions. He loves a cheerful or joyful giver.


As mentioned, when God challenged the Israelites, he demonstrates several attitudes we must be careful of in worship.


Observation Question: As described in Malachi 1:12-14, what wrong attitudes do we need to be careful of in worship?


1. In worship, we must be careful of a critical heart.


God said this about the Israelites, “But you are profaning it by saying that the table of the Lord is common and its offerings despicable. You also say, ‘How tiresome it is.’ You turn up your nose at it” (Mal 1:12-13). They were being critical of the worship. The priests were probably declaring how the offerings weren’t any good. Both the priests and people were declaring how the liturgy was boring and tiresome. In fact, many were turning their nose up at it or sniffing at it (v. 13 NIV), which was a physical gesture like a quick, forcefully breathing out of the nose to show their disgust during worship


We must be careful of a critical spirit as well—critical of the worship music, the preaching of the Word, the aesthetics in the building, the children’s ministry, and everything else. When worship is truly a privilege, we’ll be less critical of it. Now, certainly, there is a place for making sure everything aligns with God’s Word. We should do that. God is seeking worshipers who worship in spirit (right heart) and truth (aligning with Scripture). However, often our critiques are more a matter of preference than biblical principles. Be careful of a critical heart. It will spoil your worship, as it takes your focus off God and makes it something else.


2. In worship, we must be careful of a self-focus instead of a God-focus.


Warren Wiersbe said this about the priest’s ministry at the temple:


But there was another reason why blemished sacrifices were acceptable: the priests and their families were fed from the meat off the altar, and the priests wanted to be sure they had food on the table. After all, the economy was bad, taxes were high, and money was scarce, and only the most devoted Israelite would bring a perfect animal to the Lord. So the priests settled for less than the best and encouraged the people to bring whatever was available. A sick animal would die anyway, and crippled animals were useless, so the people might as well give them to the Lord! They forgot that “to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams” (1 Sam. 15:22; Ps. 51:16–17; Micah 6:6–8; Mark 12:28–34).


The priests had a self-focus in worship instead of God-focus. It was about providing for their families and not honoring God. Therefore, they accepted everything instead of rejecting certain offerings. Ministers do this all the time today. If they preach what God’s Word says about gender roles in marriage and the church, sexuality, parenting, abortion, election in salvation, or any other controversial topic, people might get upset, leave the church, and take their tithes and offerings with them. Because many ministers have a self-focus on protecting and prospering themselves, they no longer preach God’s Word. They are seeking to get or keep the crowds rather than honor God.


Likewise, in the pew, many come to church simply for what they can get instead of what they can offer to God. They ask themselves, “How is the worship, the preaching, the children’s ministry, the seating, and the coffee?” They want the preaching light and funny, the worship uplifting, and the overall time for service short, so they can get on with the rest of their day. They have a consumer-mindset that is all about self and not about worshiping and serving God. We must be careful of a self-focus in our worship—where it’s all about pleasing ourselves instead worshiping God.


3. In worship, we must be careful of a hypocritical spirit that focuses on the approval of others instead of God’s.


In verse 14, God says, “There will be harsh condemnation for the hypocrite who has a valuable male animal in his flock but vows and sacrifices something inferior to the Lord.” In the Old Testament law, vows were voluntary, they were not required. However, if one made a vow to the Lord, they were required to keep it (cf. Ecc 5:4-6). Numbers 30:2 says, “If a man makes a vow to the Lord or takes an oath of binding obligation on himself, he must not break his word, but must do whatever he has promised.” Apparently, a person made a public vow to the Lord at the temple to sacrifice an animal in his flock, but later, he chose to give God something inferior to that animal. Therefore, God calls him a hypocrite (NET), deceiver (HCSB), or cheat (ESV) for his actions. He was hypocritical because he was putting on a show of religion and piety before others to look good before them when he was in fact sinning against God by breaking his vow.


Christ warned about hypocrisy in our worship in the Sermon on the Mount. He said when we give, fast, or pray that we should not do it to be seen by others (Mat 6:1-8, 16-18). If we do, we will have no reward before God. Instead, we should practice secrecy in our worship—not letting others know how much we are giving or that we are fasting to protect ourselves from pride and hypocrisy. It’s easy to preach, sing, or lead in the church to be seen and appreciated by others. When can often tell that we’re too focused on others by how we respond to others’ critiques or lack of appreciation. If we get too high when others approve of us or too low when they disapprove, that may show that we’re too focused on others’ approval instead of God’s.


When we come to worship God, we must guard ourselves against wrong attitudes including a critical spirit, a self-focus instead of a God-focus, and a hypocritical spirit that seeks others’ approval instead of God’s. Proverbs 4:23 says, “Guard your heart with all vigilance, for from it are the sources of life.” Also, 2 Corinthians 10:5 says, “we take every thought captive to make it obey Christ.” Likewise, in worship, we must guard our hearts against all wrong attitudes and thoughts that would hinder our worship of our great King (v. 14). He deserves all of our heart, mind, and soul.


Application Question: Why is it important to guard our hearts against wrong attitudes in our worship and service of the Lord? In what ways do you struggle with wrong attitudes in worship, church gatherings, or general service of the Lord? How do you combat these wrong attitudes?


Conclusion

In Malachi 1:6-14, God rebuked the post-exilic Jews for their unacceptable worship. They thought their worship was fine. To them, at least they were showing up and offering something! However, their half-hearted worship was sinful and dishonoring to God. God would rather that the doors of the temple be shut. Unfortunately, the sins of the post-exilic Jews in worship are common in the house of God today. Though we are right to work hard at planting more churches and developing Christian institutions to expand God’s kingdom, this text says that the kingdom would be better served if some churches and “Christian” institutions were in fact closed and the offerings of those in them stopped. According to John 4:23-24, God is not looking for any worship. It has to be worship in spirit (the right heart) and truth (according to God’s Word). He is a great King, and he will not accept anything. Malachi teaches us that:


1. To Offer Acceptable Worship, We Must Reverence Our Great God

2. To Offer Acceptable Worship, We Must Offer God Our Best by Being Sacrificial

3. To Offer Acceptable Worship, We Must Recognize Worship as a Privilege That Can Be Taken Away

4. To Offer Acceptable Worship, We Must Guard Our Hearts Against Sinful Attitudes


Application Question: What stood out most in the study and why?



Prayer Prompts


• Pray for God to help us reverence him in everything that we do, but especially in our corporate worship and daily devotions.

• Pray for God to give us grace to sacrificially give our best in our service to him and others.

• Pray for God to forgive us for half-hearted worship and cleanse our hearts from pride, self-promotion, hypocrisy, apathy, and anything else unpleasing to him.

• Pray for God to revive our corporate and personal worship and that of his churches and people throughout the world.

• Pray for God’s people and churches to shine like bright lights all around the world, especially in dark places where there is little to no Christian witness.


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