Going Through The Motions

Apathy or Piety | Lessons From Malachi | William J. Stewart

As you read through Malachi 1, it is not difficult to see that the people in Malachi’s day were simply going through the motions when it came to their service before God. They were ignorant of God’s love for them (Malachi 1:2-3). They did not respect the Lord as they ought (Malachi 1:6-8). They profaned and disdained serving the LORD (Malachi 1:12-14). And yet, there they were; still going to the temple, still making sacrifices, still involved in the service of God. But there was no benefit from it.

After returning from Babylon, the people of Judah had rebuilt the city, rebuilt the wall, rebuilt the Temple, and re-established worship at the Temple. Outwardly, everything looked to be on track. But inwardly, they developed a spirit of complacency. They did not have the kind of commitment that God demands of His people.

Where is My honor?
There was a heart issue among the priests of God (and by extension, among the people of God). The Law commanded, ‘Honor your father and your mother” (Exodus 20:12), but Jesus revealed the lack of honour for parents  present in His generation (Mark 7:9-13).

In fact, the Lord says they despised His name. The word hzb is defined as “despised, disdain, contemn, scorn, vile” (Strong’s). It is the exact opposite of esteeming someone. Like rebellious teenagers, they retort to the LORD, “In what way have we despised Your name?”  Their willful ignorance is astounding. It is as though they were accusing the Lord of being over-sensitive; of making a mountain out of a molehill. A son should not dishonour his father and a servant should not be irreverent towards his master; but God’s people were rebellious children and lip-service servants.

You offer defiled food
What was the evidence that they despised the LORD? Not only did they not give the LORD their best, but it seems they intentionally gave him their worst. It’s not even a matter of giving God the leftovers; they gave him the things one might throw away; things that might be deemed useless. They brought the blind, the lame, and the sick, even things that were stolen.

The LORD invited them to treat their governing officials with the same measure of contempt and see what the governor thought of it. Can you imagine bringing a gift of stinky trash to a high official in our government? That would be a suitable equivalent to what they were doing to the LORD.

See how gracious the LORD is:

   But now entreat God’s favor, that He may be gracious to us (1:9)

Though they treated Him with disdain, He invites them to change their way. If they would repent and serve Him as they ought, He would receive them. Sadly, it seems they were not willing, for in verse 10, the LORD was seeking for someone to shut the doors to the temple so their vain worship would cease.

An attitude & activity check
Are we what God wants us to be? Do we come before Him to serve from a sincere heart, giving a pure offering (v 11)? Or, do words like despised, defiled, contemptible, and profane describe our approach to God? When it comes to worship, do we think like the people of Malachi’s day, “Oh, what a weariness!” or are we excited for the opportunity to come before our God?

When it comes to worshipping the Lord, it is not enough to just show up. If all we are going to do is show up, we might as well stay at home. But understand, that’s not a good option either, since God expects us to assemble with fellow Christians for worship (Acts 2:42, 46; Hebrews 10:24-25; etc.). God does not want us going through the motions—He wants our heart to be 100% into serving and worshiping Him.

He is our heavenly Father. Let us honour Him accordingly. He is our divine Master. Let us revere Him accordingly. We need to give Him our absolute best so He might accept us favourably.

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