The Book of Malachi is full of warnings that seem harsh at first but are actually filled with loving-concern to pull God’s people back from the edge of danger.
Because although the people of Israel had come back from the exile eager to rededicate themselves to God, it wasn’t long before their fervor began to fade. They tired of waiting on God’s promises and fell into a kind of spiritual rut. They were doing the right religious things, but their hearts weren’t in it anymore.
Can you relate?
The Book of Malachi is shouting to us today: “Get back! There’s danger lurking right in front of you. You may not see it, but it’s there. Get back to safety, while you can.”
In this passage, we see Malachi calling the people of God back from the precipice of withholding themselves in worship. There are three elements that we find in this passage:
1) Cavalier Worship
At the beginning of the discourse, the Heavenly Father says, “Do you not owe me both honor and fear?”
Now the word for “honor” here carries the idea of weightiness, heaviness, and glory. It indicates that God deserves to be the heavyweight in our lives, the One who matters above all. And the word for “fear” here carries the idea, not of cowering, but of reverential awe and trembling adoration. God deserves our reverential awe, the One before whom we tremble.
The people of Israel neither honored nor feared God in worship as they should. They withheld their best worship from God, and their hearts were not in it.
We dishonor God when we withhold our first and best.
If you are concerned about your heart’s orientation to worship, ask this: is worship and delight or a drudgery?
2) Cursed Religion
Cavalier worship leads to cursed religion. That sounds like overly strong language, but it’s God’s language in this passage. Why?
God will receive the worship that is due His name.
All peoples everywhere shall worship before Him. People from every nation, tribe, people, language, and tongue shall sing out my praise. And the warning from Malachi to Israel is clear: if Israel doesn’t return to a heart of worship, God will to the Gentiles and the nations who will worship Him. 400 years after Malachi wrote these words, that’s exactly what happened.
In all the cavalier worship resulting in cursed religion, Israel had forgotten God’s compelling greatness. The potential consequences are enormous.
3) Compelling Greatness
Israel forgot who they were and who God is. And all through this passage, God is reminding them of His compelling greatness in five images: Father, Master, Ruler, Commander, and Great King.
All these images are designed to encourage Israel to: come back to the honor of the great name of the LORD.
Takeaway: How will I give God my first and best?
God gave us His first and best when He gave us Jesus. In view of that mercy, how can we not offer ourselves as living sacrifices?