The Expository Files

 

 

 

Is it time to close the doors?

Mal. 1:10-14

 

          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.  For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name will be great among the nations, and in every place incense will be offered to my name, and a pure offering. For my name will be great among the nations, says the Lord of hosts. But you profane it when you say that the Lord’s table is polluted, and its fruit, that is, its food may be despised. But you say, ‘What a weariness this is,’ and you snort at it, says the Lord of hosts. You bring what has been taken by violence or is lame or sick, and this you bring as your offering! Shall I accept that from your hand? says the Lord. 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. (Mal. 1:10-14, ESV)

 

The time frame is post-exile Israel; after the nation of Israel came out of the seventy year exile in Babylon, by God’s grace. They are allowed to return to Jerusalem. But everything is not well. And God used men like Nehemiah, Ezra, Haggai and Zechariah, to speak to the people about their irreverence. They were in trouble and Malachi gave the reasons.

 

The priests should have been leading the way, leading the people back to God. But they were guilty themselves of indifference and irreverence. Collective worship was in a state of decay, individuals were not being edified and families were falling apart. Thus, Malachi had the burden of calling the people to account for their sins.

 

Here’s how bad it was – as expressed in verse 10 – If I may paraphrase: If you are not going to do it right, you might as well shut the doors.

 

Now that sounds harsh. But I ask you to look at verse 10 (ESV):  “Oh, that there were one among you, who would shut the doors, that you might not kindle fire on my altar in vain.” I’m taking no great liberty in the paraphrase: If you are not doing to do it right, you might as well shut the doors.

 

God – through the laws of Moses – had given the Jewish nation explicit instructions about worship, about sacrifice, about bringing their best to the temple – with hearts of love for God. They were not doing that. It was ritual without sincerity; it was a mockery and God would not accept it. So, it was literally this bad – “Oh, that there were one among you who would shut the doors…”

 

Further in verse 10: “I have no pleasure in you, says the Lord of hosts, and I will not accept an offering from your hand.” The whole object of life, for those Jews and for us today – is to please God; to glorify His name. Here is a clear indication – they were not pleasing God; He said, “I have no pleasure in you.”

 

Followed by this additional clarity: “I will not accept an offering from your hand.” I would underline these words: “I will not accept.” We must learn today, that God doesn’t just accept anything and everything.

 

And, mark that phrase, “in vain,” or as it appears in the NIV: “useless.” That which is “vain” has no value; you might as well not do it; it is “useless.” Jesus said – in Matt. 15 – in vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrine, the commandments of men.

 

This kind of vanity in worship to God, constitutes that which He will not accept. Remember what they were doing – God required the best, and they were bringing to the temple, the worst!

 

Verse 11: “For from the rising of the sun to its setting, my name will be great among the nations, and in every place incense will be offered to my name, and a pure offering. For my name will be great among the nations, says the Lord of hosts.”

 

This takes us to something basic, that is foundational to all of this – mark this phrase; God says, “My name will be great among the nations.” I believe this has a prophetic edge to it. The big picture is  –  God had a plan, to send the Messiah; and He would do it!

 

He would not be hindered by the rebellion of the nation. His name will be great among the nations! This is God’s declaration that, not only is He displeased – not only does He not accept the vain worship…

 

His name will be great among the nations – and eventual fulfillment of that happened, when Christ came! In Christ, nations outside the Jewish line – can recognize and know that God is great.

 

In the next verse, God says they had profaned His name: “But you profane it when you say that the Lord’s table is polluted, and its fruit,

that is, its food, may be despised.”

 

To profane the Lord’s name is to be indifferent to who He is – and to not take what He has said seriously. They were polluting the Lord’s table, despising what the Lord had asked them to do.

 

I tell you – these words in this text show the serious condition the people were in:

 

In vain.

No pleasure.

Profane.

Despised.

 

God had expressed very clearly how they were to worship – what they were to bring to the altar and the temple. God asked for the best – but they brought the worst.

 

But you say, ‘What a weariness this is,’ and you snort at it, says the Lord of hosts. You bring what has been taken by violence or is lame or sick, and this you bring as your offering! Shall I accept that from your hand? says the Lord. 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.

 

When worshipping God is weariness, “and you snort at it,” you can have no expectation that God is pleased. The priests were bringing the lame and sick animals as an offering. God said through Malachi: “Shall I accept that from your hand?” And the answer, of course, NO.

 

There were cheaters, deceivers – who made vows and promises they didn’t keep – bringing to the Lord what was blemished. God said, I will not have it.I am a great King, says the Lord; and “my name will be feared among the nations.”

 

It is time to close the doors…

 

…when our worship is vain.

…when we present what is not acceptable to the Lord.

….when the greatness of God’s name is not foremost.

…when we say the Lord’s table is polluted.

…when worship is a weariness to us.

…when we bring inferior hearts and gifts.

…when we do not keep our vows.

 

Homer Hailey: “This lesson should be indelibly stamped upon worshipers of today, who perfunctorily offer a meaningless religious service to God.”     

 

David Pawson: “The question, ‘Why be faithful to God?’ soon became ‘Why be faithful to your wife’?”

 

By Warren Berkley
From Expository Files 20.12; December 2013

 

 

 

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