Message from Malachi

A Prophetic Warning to the Church

When the Creation Argues with the Creator

“If then I am the Father, where is My honor?
And if I am a Master, where is My reverence?”
Malachi 1:6

As I was studying in Malachi this week I was struck with the realization that much of what we do on Sunday, much of what I do on Sunday, despises the Name of the Lord.  Now, I know that may sound harsh, but hang with me a minute and let’s unpack a few of these verses together.

The prophecy of Malachi is built around two pillar statements of God.  The first: “I have loved you” (Mal. 1:2) and the second: “I do not change” (Mal. 3:6).  God begins by affirming His love for Israel, the descendants of Jacob, and He does so by declaring His choice or election of them as His own possession.  He tells them, “Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?  Yet Jacob I have loved; but Esau I have hated” (Mal. 1:2-3).  He reaffirms, time and time again, that His love for His children is unconditional and will not change.

But what about the love of His children for God?  What was the response of Israel to God’s love?  What did they feel?  How did they show their love and gratitude for His grace?  And let’s make this personal:  What about us?  How do we show God how much we love and appreciate Him for what He has done for us?

If you will look closely, I think you will see the words spoken to the priests of Israel in Malachi’s day could also be spoken to the church today— to you and me.

Let’s look at the heart of God when faced with ungratefulness in His children.

The Sin of Ingratitude

God begins by quoting an ancient proverb: “A son honors his father, and a servant his master” (Mal. 1:6) — which is true.  Son’s generally honor their fathers and servants, or employees, generally honor their masters, or employers.  So what’s the deal?  I’m sure we can all agree on this statement.

But God begins to move quickly towards building His accusation against the ungrateful objects of His love:  “If (or, since) then I am the Father (and He is), where is My honor?  And if I am a Master (which He is), where is My reverence?” says the Lord of hosts (Mal. 1:6).  In other words, since a son honors his father and a servant his master, and since I am the Father and Master, no… since I am God the Father, where is the honor due Me that any ordinary father or master would receive from you?  Why am I being treated with less respect and honor than you treat each other?  What’s your reason for your contempt of Me?

The word for honor in this verse means “glory and majesty” and the word for reverence means “fear, terror or the sense of awe that brings respect.”  So God is asking Israel, specifically His priests, why they are not giving Him the glory and majesty due His name and why they refuse to respect Him for Who He is.  Again, it’s the insanity of the created despising the Creator.

God then brings into clear focus those who are leading the charge against His glory, those, as in the day of Jesus, who cry out in the courtyard, “Give us Barabbas!” (John 18:40).  And it’s, of all people, His priests.

If then I am the Father, where is My honor?  And if I am a Master, where is My reverence? says the Lord of hosts, to you priests who despise My name (Mal. 1:6).

No, Not the Priests

How can this be?  How can those chosen by God to lead His people into worship and to bring the Word of God to them be the ones that despise His name?  The word despise, as used here, means “to hold in contempt, to disdain, to disrespect.”  How can this be?

Now, I don’t know about you, but if the Lord told me I was despising His Name and had little reverence or honor towards Him, and that He has no pleasure or delight in me (Mal. 1:10), I think I would immediately fall on my face and beg His forgiveness.  Wouldn’t you?  I’d be frightened, actually horrified, to think that God thought I viewed Him with contempt or that I disdained or hated His very Name.  How could I feel that way about the One Who chose me “from the foundation of the world” to be His own? (Eph. 1:4).

That’s how I would respond.  But that’s not how the priests in Malachi’s day responded.  They defiantly held on to their innocence and self-righteousness and demanded God give them some examples, some evidence, to prove what He was saying about them was true.  They refused to admit their guilt but chose instead to argue and debate with God about the validity of His accusation.  Really?  That’s nothing more than the creation shaking their puny fist in the face of God and demanding from the Creator…again?  They were, in effect, calling God a liar.

And this is where I want to take a paragraph or so and show how these words fit the church today, fit you and I.  When God chastises us or brings a charge against us for a blind spot in our character, or when He reveals what we thought were hidden sins that He lays open, public, for all to see— what is the proper response to God?  How are we to respond to His hand of correction in our lives?

You know the answer:  it’s with sorrow and confession and repentance— and the begging of God for forgiveness.  It’s not with self-justification or with accusing God of not having thick enough skin or for getting His feelings hurt too easily.  We don’t make light of our sin by accusing the One who revealed our sin to us.  It doesn’t work that way.

But that’s exactly what we often do in the church.  We are far less concerned about what God wants and thinks than we are about what we want.  It’s all about our desires, our demands, our preferences, our lusts, and our wants.  We want the sermon to be something that will make us feel good about ourselves, we want to hear music that we like on the radio, we want to meet in a comfortable building, sit in plush chairs, and keep the AC no higher than 72 degrees.  After all, it’s all about us in the lukewarm age of Laodicea.

We want to be affirmed as an individual, we want to be honored for just giving our time and coming each Sunday, and we don’t want to feel guilty or challenged to do more.  The fact that we’re here, well, that should be enough.

And when God confronts us with the hypocrisy of our devotion to Him, we respond much like the priests in Malachi’s day.  We argue, we debate, we scream, we pout, we vote, and we get a new pastor— one that will tell us what we want to hear (2 Tim. 4:3-4).

Sound familiar?  I thought so.

Several years ago Todd Agnew summed up the thinking of the modern church in a song he wrote called, My Jesus.  Listen to the song and follow along with the lyrics, and pray that you and I will no longer despise the Lord’s name as His priests did in the time of Malachi.

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My Jesus

Which Jesus do you follow?
Which Jesus do you serve?
If Ephesians says to imitate Christ
Why do you look so much like the world?

‘Cause my Jesus bled and died
He spent His time with thieves and liars
He loved the poor and accosted the arrogant
So which one do you want to be?

Blessed are the poor in spirit
Or do we pray to be blessed with the wealth of this land?
Blessed are they that hunger and thirst for righteousness
Or do we ache for another taste of this world of shifting sand?

‘Cause my Jesus bled and died for my sins
He spent His time with thieves and sluts and liars
He loved the poor and accosted the rich
So which one do you want to be?

And who is this that you follow
This picture of the American dream
If Jesus was here would you walk right by on the other side
Or fall down and worship at His holy feet? Holy

Pretty blue eyes and curly brown hair and a clear complexion
Is how you see Him as He dies for Your sins
But the Word says He was battered and scarred
Or did you miss that part?
Sometimes I doubt we’d recognize Him

‘Cause my Jesus bled and died
He spent His time with thieves and the least of these
He loved the poor and accosted the comfortable
So which one do you want to be?

‘Cause my Jesus would never be accepted in my church
The blood and dirt on His feet might stain the carpet
But He reaches for the hurting and despises the proud
And I think He’d prefer Beale St. to the stained glass crowd
And I know that He can hear me if I cry out loud

I wanna be like my Jesus
I wanna be like my Jesus
I wanna be like my Jesus
I wanna be like my Jesus

Not a poster child for American prosperity, but like my Jesus
You see I’m tired of living for success and popularity
I wanna be like my Jesus, but I’m not sure what that means
To be like You Jesus

‘Cause You said to live like You, to love like You
But then You died for me
Can I be like You, Jesus?
I wanna be like You, Jesus
I wanna be like my Jesus