|WAITING FOR SACRIFICE
Series: Waiting - Part Two
Pastor Stephen Muncherian
November 26, 2017
you stand and read together with me God’s word from
Malachi 1 - starting at verse 6 - our text for this
Malachi is the last book of the Old Testament. It was written about 445 BC. Nehemiah records the last history of the Old Testament. Malachi records the last prophecy. What comes next in history is about 400 years of silence from God until the events focusing on the birth of Jesus.
In 445 BC God’s people have returned from exile. The Temple in Jerusalem has been rebuilt. The walls of Jerusalem are being rebuilt. There have been attempts at rebuilding the spiritual life of God’s people - with marginal results. And God’s people are waiting for what comes next. Which hasn’t happened yet.
God’s people are waiting for God to fulfill the promises that He’s made to Abraham. They’re waiting for the coming of the Messiah - the king to sit on David’s throne - who’ll establish his kingdom. Who will usher in a time of unprecedented peace and prosperity. God and His people having a position of dominance over the other nations of the world. They’re waiting for God’s presence in a new Temple - with the nations of the world streaming to Jerusalem to worship God.
They’re waiting for something a whole lot better than what they see around them - where they’re living and what life is like in Jerusalem. They were expecting that when they got back from exile that God was going to fulfill His promises. Now’s the time! ...only it wasn’t.
God’s people, while they’re waiting, they’ve got questions. As we often do when God doesn’t come through in ways that we expect Him to or think He should. There are more questions per verse in Malachi than any other book in the Bible.
For the most part Malachi is a series of “discussions” - or more to the point - a series of “debates” - some pretty blunt Q and A - give and takes between God and His people. God trying to help His people to get in sync with where He’s coming from and where they need to be.
The passage we just read is the second “discussion” - which is what we’re looking at this morning.
[The Concern] The discussion opens with God’s concern - the issue God raises beginning in verse 6 - which has to do with the attitude and behavior of God’s people towards God.
God gives two illustrations of what He’s getting at. A son honors his father and if I’m your Father why are you not honoring Me? A servant honors his master and if I’m your master where is My fear?
Let’s explore that.
“Honor” translates a Hebrew word “kabod” - which speaks of the weightiness of a person. In the culture of that day - a person’s wealth or power or position - think being a father or a master - all that was weighty. It tipped the scales in someone’s favor and made them worthy of being honored - respected.
In verse 6 God compares Himself to a father. Which He is. Numerous places through Scripture we come across God as a father. Jesus even used it to teach His disciples how to address God. “Our Father…” There’s an amazing intimacy and respect attached to that.
God fathers Israel - chooses to give birth this nation as a people - to provide for them and protect them and put up with them - to disciple and nurture them. To father them.
A father is worthy of being honored. So where’s My honor?
God compares Himself to a master. Which He is.
“Kabod” - “honor” can also be translated “glory.” Which describes who a person is.
God’s glory is the revelation of Who God is. Some of which we can sort of understand because it corresponds to how we experience life. For example God is love. Which we kinda get that because we kinda get love. That God is eternity we don’t get. How are we suppose to process that God transcends the temporal limitations of duration and succession and possesses His existence in one indivisible present. Nobody gets that.
But God - in numerous ways - reveals His weightiness to us - His glory to us - all of what is worthy of honoring Him for. He is our sovereign all powerful - King of kings and Lord of lords - creator of everything - including us. He is the master of His creation and sovereign over our lives. Our existence is because of Him. And we exist to serve Him. To God alone be the glory.
God says, a servant honors his master. So, where’s My fear?
“Fear” translates a Hebrew that has the idea of “awe” - reverence. “Fear” is not an expectation of condemnation and wrath - cowering in fear because God is going to nail us with a strategic lighting strike. But an awareness of the character of Who God is - His glory - our Master. In a sense God just takes our breath away. Who He is inspires reverence - respect.
God is our master. But our response is not because we expect punishment. But, because our master - in all of His goodness and love and grace and mercy and all of Who He is - even as our Father - He alone is worthy of our respect.
To “despise” is the opposite of that. To despise someone or something is to think about them as being worthless - as being so despicable - so vile - so contemptible - that we have no respect for it.
God’s name represents Who God is - His character - His reputation - His very nature and essence - His glory. To despise God’s name is to despise God. To consider God as totally unworthy of honor.
In verse 6 - God is calling out the priests - the spiritual leaders of the nation. The priests - by their position - had greater accountability before God. It was the business of the priests to represent God to the people and to present the people’s offering before God. That was their place in the community.
God - through Malachi - addresses the priests. But with the same words He could have addressed the people. Spiritually, they were all in the same condition. The priests were leading and representing the nation well.
“You all, instead of giving Me the honor and fear I deserve - you all are treating Me with contempt. Like I’m worse than worthless.”
[The Question] Part two of the “discussion” is the response of the priests: “How have we despised Your name?”
“What do you mean we haven’t honored You? How haven’t we respected You?”
Behind that question - apparently - was the priest’s assumption that they were doing their job - what it was that God was asking them to do.
They punched in at the Temple at 9:00 in the morning and worked until 5. Bring wood for the fire. Chop this. Slaughter that. Wave this. Heave that. Decked out in priestly robes - under the blazing sun in Jerusalem - that all was hot sweaty hard work. Day in and day out - doing the work of the Temple. Representing the people to God. Representing God to the people. They were doing all the stuff that God had commanded them to do.
It would be easy for us to track with where these priests are coming from. Each of us could be someplace else. There are a lot of options. But we’re here. Even on a holiday weekend. We should get extra credit for that.
And we serve. We put money in the offering. We’re reasonably careful with how we live our lives - the kind of language we use - the stuff we watch - what we do with our time. We read our Bibles. We pray. We even share what we believe with other people. We’ve even invited other people to come here.
So what’s up with the attitude? What more do you want?
[The Answer] God’s answer - verse 7: “You’re despising My name by offering polluted food on my altar.”
Polluted meaning unholy - unclean - unacceptable. Some translations use the word “defiled.” Meaning what?
Meaning... By saying that the Lord’s table may be despised. When you offer blind animals in sacrifice, is that not evil? And when you offer those that are lame or sick, is that not evil?
In Malachi’s day the way to honor and revere God - the way to worship God and demonstrate God’s having first place priority over every part of their lives - the acceptable to God way to do that was through the sacrificial system in the law of Moses.
Meaning - this is acceptable sacrifice and this unacceptable sacrifice. Undefiled and defiled. Not polluted and polluted.
All of which was to be done by God’s people - in a from the heart - God honoring - demonstration of their understanding of Who God is and their faith in God.
Reading through the verses we read together - God’s answer - what God is being blunt about here is that they way they were worshipping demonstrated that the people really didn’t give a rip about God at all. They really didn’t care. They were indifferent to God. They’d stopped worshipping God in anything like a way that honored God.
What God wanted - according to God’s instructions - what honored God - was the first and the best - because God alone is worthy of the first and the best and that’s what God had asked for. But, they were keeping the best of the flock for themselves and going through the motions - presenting injured and crippled and diseased animals to God.
Why? Because at the heart level they’re not even thinking about Who God is and what it means to honor Him.
Which is what God hits them with in verse 13: But you say, ‘What a weariness this is,’ and you snort at it, says the Lord of hosts.
“Weariness” meaning it’s a tiresome burden to have to do this. “Snort” meaning a sound of contemptuous disgust.
“Aghh… Here we go again. One more time.”
Their worship had become a routine - a matter of convenience. Meaning when it was convenient for them to show up to worship they showed up and worshipped in a way that was convenient for them to go through the motions of worshipping God.
Have you ever run across someone who’s going through the motions of the Christian life feeling a sense of obligation or routine? Maybe because that routine is what’s expected or because they don’t know what else to do? And they’re just bored with the whole thing.
Showing up when they have to. Maybe because they don’t have anything else going on or because on that Sunday they’ve obligated themselves to some kind of service. But any degree of enthusiasm or interest is marginal at best.
You might see that in them by the what they offer of themselves. God is not the priority - in their giving or how they do life - or by what other things they give themselves to do on a Sunday. Or in how they order their priorities - even with showing up to any other opportunity to worship or serve God.
In a very real sense Jesus is Lord of what they value less than other parts of their life. So Jesus gets what’s pretty lame worship.
God is pretty blunt.
Verse 8 - “What you’re offering Me - honoring Me with - try offering that to the Persian Governor - see if he accepts it.”
Come April 15th - try paying your taxes in confederate dollars and see what the IRS says.
Who is the Persian governor compared to God - the great King - the Lord of lords. And yet even the Persian governor would reject the kind of unholy pollution you’re offering Me. He’s not going to show any sort of favor towards you.
Verse 9: And now entreat the favor of God, that he may be gracious to us. With such a gift from your hand, will he show favor to any of you? says the Lord of hosts.
Meaning, now - after you put all this worthless - unholy - polluted garbage on my altar - you come and ask Me to listen to your prayers? To be gracious to you?
Verse 10: Oh that there were one among you who would shut the doors, that you might not kindle fire on my altar in vain! I have no pleasure in you, says the Lord of hosts, and I will not accept an offering from your hand.
“Someone please turn out the Temple lights - lock the door on your way out - leave Me alone. You’re wasting My time with all of this. You’re delusional if you think I’m pleased with this and I’m going to accept it.”
Verse 11: For from the rising of the sun to its setting - meaning world wide - My name will be great among the nations, and in every place incense will be offered to My name, and a pure offering - meaning God honoring worship coming out of a pure heart - totally given over to God - For My name will be great among the nations, says the Lord of hosts.
God’s talking about us. Those from far-off nations and down through the ages of history. Who God is - what God wills to do - those that worship God - isn’t limited to the cliché heartless expectations of those throwing pollution up on His altar in Jerusalem.
God is still God regardless of our attitude and actions. If God’s people - living in Jerusalem don’t get that - God will still be honored - He will still be revered for Who He is.
Verse 14: Cursed be the cheat who has a male in his flock, and vows it, and yet sacrifices to the Lord what is blemished. For I am a great King, says the Lord of hosts, and My name will be feared among the nations.
Remember Ananias and Sapphira? The whole we sold the property for this amount. Wink. Wink. God will never notice. It’s only God - major oops. Lying to God is a good way to get dead.
God knows when we’re cheating at worship - at honoring Him. When we’re holding back. God is very serious when it comes to our hearts and what it means to honor Him.
The bottom line of God’s answer: You all are saying one thing and doing something totally different. You know it. I know. I see your actions. I know your hearts. Your offering is totally unacceptable because there’s no honoring or reverence for Me. Your actions and attitude prove that you do not understand Me and the significance of the offering.
Processing all that...
The sacrificial system of the Old Testament with brutal honesty exposes the hopeless depth of our sin and the magnitude of God’s grace.
Meaning that the endless sacrifice of animals and heaving this and waving that isn’t designed by God to lull us to sleep with some empty exercise in religious self-effort that saves us from our sin and gets us right before God. That system of sacrifice is there to wake us up to the eternal precariousness of our situation. Our unholy total depravity and hopeless separation from God Who is totally holy.
Born in the image of Adam - each of us is born into sin. And we sin. And our sin condemns us. There is nothing within us or anything that we can do to change that or make us right before God.
Hebrews 9:22 tells us: “Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sin.”
Blood represents life. Just try living without it.
Blood represents life. My life. Your life. Our sin problem requires the shedding of blood - death. Meaning that God in His holiness and righteousness and wisdom has determined that sin’s just penalty is death. And in death - each of us for our own sin - each of us faces eternity apart from God in forever punishment and unending torment for our sin.
Without the shedding of blood there is no paying of the penalty for our sin. Someone has to die for our sin. Us. Individually - me. You.
The sacrificial system of the Old Testament not only points out the precariousness of our position before God - but it gives us hope that through the shedding of blood - the sacrifice of life given in the way which God requires - the penalty for our sin can be paid by someone other than us. Which is really good news because each of us as sinners - our sacrifice - our death - falls hopelessly short of what’s required.
The Apostle Paul writes to Timothy: “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, Who gave Himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.” (1 Timothy 2:5,6)
God is God. Old Testament. New Testament. The same holy - without sin - God.
A “mediator” represents both sides - brings both parties together to rectify what divides them. God and man. The work of Jesus on the cross is the work of the one and only qualified Mediator. Which must be done by the One holy God because - sinful us - we can’t and only He can.
Jesus is uniquely qualified to be our mediator - our sacrifice. Jesus is fully God - meaning perfect - unblemished - without sin - not pollution on God’s altar.
And since sin is a human problem - committed by a man - Adam - and us - the penalty for sin must be paid by a man. And Jesus being fully man - in His humanity Jesus is uniquely qualified to represent each one of us.
The purpose of Jesus’ incarnation - His birth in Bethlehem - is Christ’s work on the cross. What some have called a labor of blood.
Jesus is “the man Christ Jesus” Who by His work on the cross - Jesus “gave Himself as a ransom for all.” The penalty for our sin is paid by Jesus dying in our place on the cross. His blood shed for ours.
What the sacrificial system of the Old Testament points to - what God’s people in Malachi’s day had missed or lost sight of or failed to understand was what all that sacrifice was designed to help them understand. The indescribable all glorious one true God - their - our - Father and Master in all of His holiness and the depths and hopelessness of their sin. That blood is required - the sacrificed life of the condemned. And to understand the magnitude of God Who in His grace calls upon them to offer sacrifices - in from the heart faith - that He God will deal with what divides them.
When we grasp the seriousness of our sin we begin to grasp the necessity of the sacrifice. That grasping should transform us at the heart level.
Pastor C.J. Mahany shares how when people ask, “How are you doing?” His response is “Better than I deserve.”
Why? Because of his understanding the truth of who we are and where we deserve to be. We deserve God’s wrath. We deserve to be in Hell.
Try that for yourself. “I deserve Hell.”
Not a very comfortable thing to admit. Is it?
But instead we’re forgiven of sin and our many sins. Set free from what condemns us. We’re adopted children of God - heirs of the riches of heaven. Instead of Hell we’re destined for heaven. That is infinitely better than what we deserve.
In the Gospel of Luke - Luke records that Simon the Pharisee had invited Jesus to his house for dinner. We don’t know why Simon invited Jesus to dinner. We can imagine that it was a pretty intense setting - knowing how well the Pharisees and Jesus got along with each other.
Simon is in fact rude to Jesus with a kind of over-the-top rudeness that’s way obvious to the people who were there. When Jesus arrives Simon holds back on what should have been common basic social courtesy that any dinner guest would have expected - a kiss of greeting - washing Jesus’ feet - a drop of anointing oil. Jesus gets none of that and everyone knows it.
When they sit down - or lay down - reclining around the table on their dinner couches - an uninvited - unexpected guest arrives. A woman who is a known prostitute. Someone totally despised by the polite - we’re totally in tight with God - righteous Pharisee crowd. This prostitute comes in and does what is totally unthinkable.
As Jesus is reclining at table - on His reclining at table couch - leaning on one side - His feet stretched out in front of Him - this woman stands over Him and begins to weep.
Chit chat - small talk - table conversation is over. There’s a deafening silence. What is heard is her weeping.
As her weeping grows louder - more intense - she begins to use her tears to wash Jesus’ feet. She opens a jar of ointment that she’s brought with her and she begins to anoint Jesus’ feet. She begins to kiss Jesus’ feet. Wiping her tears and the ointment with her hair. What is an act of honoring Jesus - an act of heart level worship.
Can you picture it? No one moves. No one’s talking. No one’s eating. And this is maybe the strangest part of it - Jesus does nothing to stop her. He does nothing to suggest that what this sinful prostitute woman is doing is anything but what she should be doing.
What God’s people in Malachi’s day should have been doing. What people today - us - what we should be doing. What demonstrates the heart level faith of this woman.
It is pretty obvious from the account in Luke that this isn’t the first time this woman has encountered Jesus. She’s obviously heard His teaching and believed what He’s been teaching. She’s found in Jesus’ teaching hope for forgiveness of her sin and freedom and cleansing.
She’s already believed in Jesus. She’s repented and turned from her old life. In a gusty act of sacrifice she’s come to worship Him. Worship born out of love, adoration, thankfulness towards her Savior.
She’s not weeping because she “fears” condemnation. But out of honoring and reverencing her Savior. She weeps because - even knowing the depth of her sin - she weeps because her guilt is gone. These are tears of joy and gratitude and extreme devotion. (Luke 7:36-50) (1)
When we grasp the seriousness of our sin we begin to grasp the necessity of the sacrifice.
When we grasp the depth of our sin we begin to grasp the magnitude of God’s grace.
Thinking about what that can look like in the day-to-day real time of our lives. Two suggestions of what we can be focusing on as we head out of here.
Paul writes in Romans 12:1: “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.”
Paul’s “therefore” means because of everything I’ve been writing to you about for the last 11 chapters - about how God has chosen to act in love and grace and mercy towards us - what we are totally undeserving of - “therefore” because of what God has done for you - this is now how I’m appealing for you to live.
Paul appeals to the brethren and sistren by the mercies of God. The key word being “mercy.” Mercy is not getting what we deserve. God saving us instead of pouring out His wrath on us for our sin.
Paul ends chapter 11 with a doxology of praise to God: For from Him - God - and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.
The source, means, and destination of everything is... God. To God alone belongs all the glory. It all testifies of Him. Forever.
I appeal to you, brothers, because life is about God who has chosen us to know Him and to respond to Him by faith. Not because we deserve all that. But because God is merciful. Because God is merciful therefore this is how you are to live by faith. This is what living by faith looks like.
Suggestion #1 is to focus on God and all of what God by His mercy and grace has done for you. The magnitude of God’s grace.
There will be times when the memories of our sin catch up to us. When we hear the voices of those who have poisoned our hearts with lies and wounded us deeply. When the ongoing reality of our failures and weaknesses get way too real. When we’re tempted to wallow in self-condemnation and doubt and guilt and depression and even anger. When we can seize up in fear and hesitate thinking we’re worthless and incompetent and inadequate. Or maybe we’re tempted to overcompensate by some kind of outward performance or judgment of others.
Choose to keep focused on the reality of what God has done for you in Christ. Because of Christ’s work on the cross - repentant and trusting in Him as your Savior - you are forgiven and set free from condemnation - made spiritually alive towards God being renewed and restored by the Holy Spirit dwelling within you - you are an adopted son or daughter of God - an inheritor of God’s riches - destined not to Hell but eternity in Heaven with God.
Paul goes on: to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”
To “present” means the choice to show up.
Our bodies are the physical means through which everything else that we are - our heart - our mind - our soul - our bodies are the physical means through which everything we are is presented to God. That means a heart level choosing to step forward in faith and lay all of who we are on the altar of faith before God in worship.
Living meaning not dead. A sacrificed animal - sliced - diced - and Bar-B-Qued - it’s dead. Really really dead. It doesn’t get up again. But we live. And most of us are not zombies.
Paul’s talking about the choices we make as we go through our days - choices to honor God - to turn towards God in faith - to honor God - at work or school or changing diapers or doing dishes - driving - pulling weeds - having “discussions” with our children or spouses or parents - all the daily things that living bodies do.
Holy means sacred - dedicated - set apart only for God’s use. Like the Temple or what was used in the services of the Temple.
Suggestion #2 is to make the choice to see life as an opportunity to give ourselves totally to God - for His purposes - to use us to bring glory to Himself through us - whenever, wherever, and in whatever way He chooses. Total commitment. Present yourself to God.
Paul writes that kind of sacrifice is what’s “acceptable” to God. It’s the kind of worship that doesn’t pollute God’s altar. It meets God’s expectation of what heart level honoring and reverencing Him is all about. It’s God enabled. God led. God focused. Worship that’s all about… God. God who is merciful towards us.
What would that be like for you this week?
To live being reminded of Who God is and what God has done for you. To live knowing you are accepted by God.
1. C.J. Mahaney, “Living
the Cross Centered Life” (Sovereign Grace
Ministries, Multnomah, 2006), page 126ff.
Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.