Leftover or Living Sacrifices?
Malachi 3:7-”Return to Me.” This concept is the theme of the entire book of Malachi. God is asking us to make Him the center in every area of our lives. If we have wandered in any area, God is asking us to return to Him. God is always calling us. He is always calling us closer. He is always calling us to man up and to woman up. He is always calling us to show up and to stay connected to our connection with Him. Is there any area of our lives that would indicate that we need to return to the Lord?
We saw in chapter one last week that God’s people asked God, “How have you loved us?” They were accusing God of not being loving because they had forsaken a biblical definition of God’s love. They put God on trial. This week, the tables are turned. As we move on in chapter one, we see God asking the nation of Israel how they have loved and respected Him. God was no longer their first love, and their actions proved it. They were living apart from conviction, apart from righteousness, apart from respect for the Lord. What we respect, what we give honor to shows where our hearts are.
Malachi 1:6-14 6 “A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If I am a father, where is the honor due me? If I am a master, where is the respect due me?” says the LORD Almighty. “It is you, O priests, who show contempt for my name. “But you ask, ‘How have we shown contempt for your name?’ 7 “You place defiled food on my altar. “But you ask, ‘How have we defiled you?’ “By saying that the LORD’s table is contemptible. 8 When you bring blind animals for sacrifice, is that not wrong? When you sacrifice crippled or diseased animals, is that not wrong? Try offering them to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you?” says the LORD Almighty. 9 “Now implore God to be gracious to us. With such offerings from your hands, will he accept you?”–says the LORD Almighty. 10 “Oh, that one of you would shut the temple doors, so that you would not light useless fires on my altar! I am not pleased with you,” says the LORD Almighty, “and I will accept no offering from your hands. 11 My name WILL be great among the nations, from the rising to the setting of the sun. In every place incense and pure offerings will be brought to my name, because my name will be great among the nations,” says the LORD Almighty. 12 “But you profane it by saying of the Lord’s table, ‘It is defiled,’ and of its food, ‘It is contemptible.’ 13 And you say, ‘What a burden!’ and you sniff at it contemptuously,” says the LORD Almighty. “When you bring injured, crippled or diseased animals and offer them as sacrifices, should I accept them from your hands?” says the LORD. 14 “Cursed is the cheat who has an acceptable male in his flock and vows to give it, but then sacrifices a blemished animal to the Lord. For I am a great king,” says the LORD Almighty, “and my name is to be feared among the nations.
God makes some pretty big accusations here. What He has against Israel is pretty serious. It begins with those in leadership. You know that when the priests are messed up, the people will be messed up. When the spiritual leadership of a people neglects what is important, the people will follow. We can conclude that what is being leveled against the priests is also being leveled against the people, and it broke the heart of God.
God doesn’t need our worship. He will still be magnified and exalted above everything with or without our praise. God doesn’t need our service. He will still accomplish His sovereign plans with or without our cooperation or service to Him. But our awesome God desires us. He desires our love. He wants our hearts. And God knows He has our hearts when He has our worship and our service. He could tell the people weren’t really serving Him as a loving response to having received His love. He could see their hearts weren’t in it. They were just going through the motions. They were just doing the bare minimum. They were just punching a spiritual time clock, so to speak, to say they had done their duty. And that’s the problem. It wasn’t a duty. It was never meant to be a duty. It was and is a privilege to be able to receive AND return the love of God.
You can see the slippery slope of haphazard worship and what I’ll call “So-what” living in verses 6-8. The priests didn’t honor the Lord. They didn’t respect the Lord. They showed contempt for the name of the Lord. They gave God polluted offerings. They kept the best for themselves and gave God the scraps, the leftovers. Verse 13 tells us that the people saw worshiping God and living for Him as a burden to bear rather than as a blessing to be able to give back. God was calling them to repent in their hearts that they might return to allowing Him to be honored above all else, that their relationship with Him could be restored to a first-love situation.
Scripture teaches us that our God is a jealous God when it comes to the love of His people and love for His people. The first of the 10 Commandments is that we would have nothing above God in our lives. When God is first, honor and respect for Him should flow from that place. Here’s the big idea for this morning:
When it doesn’t matter if God gets the first or the best, we have ceased to be living in a state of honoring the Lord.
God was asking His people to return to honoring Him above all else. What is He saying to each of us? Our love for God isn’t pure if we love other people or things more than we love Him. Isn’t a pure and devoted love the only appropriate response to the extravagant love God has for us? God isn’t interested in sacrifices. He is interested in our hearts, and our lives reveal where our hearts are.
Romans 12:1 1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship.
The question I think God wants us to each answer this morning is this: Are we living sacrifices or are we offering leftovers to the Lord?
In order to be living sacrifices, I think we may need to consider this idea of returning to the Lord in a few ways:
1. We need to return our time, our talent, our treasure, to Him.
Before we talk about these three individually, let’s just remind ourselves whose time and whose talent and whose treasure we really have to offer. We talk about these things as if we are responsible for having them, as if we own them. That isn’t Scriptural. If you are a Christian, a more accurate reflection would be that we need God’s guidance to help us know how to use God’s time, God’s talent and God’s treasure. God has given us everything we have in order to honor and glorify Him. If it doesn’t start and end with Him in our hearts, then we are guilty of doing the same thing Israel was doing. We are guilty of offering lame and leftover sacrifices rather than being the Living Sacrifices that God deserves. Let’s talk first about God’s time and treasure, and I will mention God’s talent in point three.
I know we aren’t all morning people, but I believe we could all honor God at the start of each day. In order to return to making sure we are Living Sacrifices, I encourage you to:
Give God the first part of your day. It’s a heart-aligning thing.
From the “get-go” find a few minutes in the morning to acknowledge your love for God. Read some Scripture or talk to Him as you are getting ready in the morning. Allow Him to be the first Person you speak with each day, so that you remind yourself of the relationship in your life which is the most important. It will sort of align your heart and orient your heart to the fact that you are a citizen of heaven and not of this world, that you are living to please God and not to please yourself or anyone around you.
Give God the first day of your week. It’s a heart-refining thing.
Think of Sunday and not Monday as the first day of your week, and make it a priority to be here each week. Being in this atmosphere on a regular and ongoing basis puts you in an atmosphere where God is moving, where God is speaking, and where you are being invited to respond to God. I doubt most of us work or go to school in a setting where someone is sharing God’s Word with us and is challenging us to be changed by it and to respond to it.
Our hearts need refined and that comes as we intentionally put ourselves in a place where we are challenged and are being held accountable to do things God’s way. Our staff takes your spiritual health very seriously. We are spending time in prayer and in planning each week to ask God what we all need to hear and experience. The people who lead you in prayer when you come to the altar aren’t looking out for your best interest, but for God’s best interest for your life. We all need the Word. We all need prayer. We all need to make adjustments in our daily lives. Every one of us in this room needs a church family. We need relationships with other believers. It is good for us to be together, and when we miss a few weeks or months, there is a disconnect that becomes noticeable in the way we live. Our lives start to reveal a shift in our priorities. Decisions and activities are no longer starting and ending with God. It isn’t what we intended, maybe, but it happens when we quit being intentional about giving God this day as a day of worship. We need to honor God with our time.
How can we honor God with our treasure?
Give God the first from your income. It’s a heart-defining thing.
What am I talking about? I’m talking about tithing. I’m talking about giving God the first 10% of our income. Nothing works on our hearts more than trusting God with our finances because it is perhaps only one of two or three areas of our lives where we actually have to “do” something in order to prove or testify to our trust and devotion to God. We actually have to release that money in order to demonstrate that we trust God to provide us with more.
II Corinthians 9:7 tells us that God loves a cheerful giver. The people of Malachi’s day weren’t giving cheerfully. It was a burden to them. They were just doing what they thought they had to in order to get by. There was no joy. There was no love. There was no honor.
Matthew 6:21 tells us how we use our treasure reflects what is in our hearts. Scripture teaches that the first 10% of our money goes to God which I actually think is another reflection of the generous love of God. He says, “Keep 90% to live on and enjoy life with, and just give me the first 10%.” Now, some of you may disagree with me that tithing is a mandated spiritual principle because you believe it is part of an Old Testament way of relating to God and that it doesn’t carry over to our New Testament understanding of giving. We can agree to disagree. No hard feelings or judgment. But if you look at the messages about giving in the New Testament, be prepared to embrace a lifestyle of increased trust with God, because the generosity described in the New Testament easily exceeds the 10% rule. Just sayin’.
More than half of Jesus’ parables talk about money. Why? Because every time Jesus taught, He was teaching about the alignment of our hearts. God is well-aware that when our hearts are right on the inside, outside behaviors reflect that we have been changed by the generous love and grace of God.
In Matthew 23:23, Jesus talks to the Pharisees, condemning them for tithing to the penny but neglecting the more important issues of justice, mercy and faith. He then goes on to tell them that they should in fact tithe, but that they shouldn’t neglect the more important things. Jesus recognized the importance of keeping the tithe and (I believe) we should, too.
Paul told us in 1 Corinthians 16:2 2 On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made.
This giving of money was a regular, weekly thing in Paul’s day. It was a personal thing, as each person was instructed to intentionally, plan to give. Giving was absolutely a form a discipleship as these new Christians were learning how to live in light of the Resurrection.
When you look at it, tithing is really a test for us. If I’m willing to do it, what could that indicate about my heart? If I’m not willing to do it, what could that indicate about my heart?
If you do a Bible study on the number 10, you will see a pattern with it: it often represents a form of testing. Robert Morris says it like this:
“How many times did God test Pharaoh’s heart? The answer is 10. How many commandments are there? How many times did God test Israel while they were wandering in the wilderness? And how many times did God test Jacob’s heart (by allowing his wages to be changed) when he was working for Laban? Or how many days was Daniel tested in (Daniel 1)? In each case, the answer is, of course, 10. In Matthew 25, 10 virgins had their preparedness tested. Ten days of testing are mentioned in Rev 2:10. The number 10 is associated with testing throughout the Bible. And the tithe represents the ultimate ‘heart test’ for the believer.”(https://christianpf.com/tithing-in-the-new-testament/)
Yes, we live under grace and not under the law, but here is my thought: God established that giving 10% of our resources was a way to show Him honor. Why wouldn’t we want to use His own idea to help us honor Him? Does anyone have a better way to honor God than to tithe? If we are looking for reasons not to give, and are even trying to use Bible verses to release us from giving, we have a heart issue that needs addressed.
Tithing is for our benefit. When we give 10% or more of our income instead of keeping that money for ourselves, it shows that our heart isn’t tied to our money and that we love God more than our money. Tithing nurtures our relationship with God. It helps us learn to trust God more and more. It helps us allow God and not money to be at the center of our lives. It helps us be reminded to be good stewards of the 90% we are supposed to be managing in a way that also honors God. Yes, the tithe honors God, but we are supposed to honor God with the remaining 90% as well. We need to return to honoring God with our time and our treasure.
2. We need to return to a respect and honor for His name.
God alleged in verse 6 that the priests were showing contempt for God’s name. He said in verse 12 that they profaned His name. In verse 11 and in verse 14, God reminded them that His name was to be feared, revered, and honored in all the earth. How they were going about their priestly duties was a mockery to God’s name.
God began by reminding them in verse 6 that He was their Father. He wasn’t and isn’t just any father. He is a Perfect Father. He has given us everything we need for life and godliness. We are His children because of what He has done, not because of anything we have done.
The priests weren’t merely neglecting their duty, but worse, they were performing their duty with no reverence for God as Father. When we say, “Our Father, who art in Heaven,” we need to understand Who we are praying to. We are praying to a God who has gone “all-in” for us.
What about another name used here in chapter one? The phrase, “The Lord Almighty” is used all through this passage. Other translations use the phrase, “The Lord of Hosts.” We aren’t talking about “Joe Shmoe” here, are we? We are talking about the God of the Universe, the God who has infinite authority. We are talking about the God who commands angel armies, the God who works out His Sovereign purpose in the world whether people cooperate or not. We are talking about the God who is above satan and the demons of Hell. We are talking about the God who commands the sun and moon to take their positions. We are talking about the God who fuels the stars and gives human beings breath. And the priests were worshipping Him with leftover sacrifices as if they were tossing a dog a bone. It was a disgrace to His name.
You see, how we do what we do, shows that we honor the name of the Lord or reveals that we don’t care. God was so offended that in verse 10 He told them He would rather see the temple doors close and the worship cease than to see the profaning of His name as it was taking place. God wasn’t going to come apart and be harmed because worship would stop. He didn’t need their worship, He wanted their hearts, and if He didn’t have their hearts, He didn’t want them to continue to offend and profane His holy name. If they were going to continue to worship, they were going to have to return to God in their hearts because He wasn’t going to have His name maligned.
In verse 11, God told them two times that His name would be great among the nations. It is the name above all names. Do you know that one day, every living creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth will bow before the matchless name of Jesus and every tongue will declare that Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father? (Philippians 2:10-11) That is the weight of this name we are talking about, and if God will be worthy of all praise from all people one day, He is worthy of those who call Him Father today!
May God’s name never roll carelessly off of our lips. May our worship of His name always be given from a pure, passionate heart of honor and respect.
3. We need to return to service with joy.
This is where our talents come in. We have been gifted by God to serve Him. If we aren’t serving Him with our gifts, we are choosing a purpose for our lives other than the purpose for which we were created. Serving God whether inside the walls or outside of the walls of our church gathering is supposed to bring Him honor. It should be a joy to serve the Lord, and not a burden. In verse 13 of our text we read that the priests in the service of the Lord found it to be a burden to carry out their acts of service. A burden. They acted bored and burdened that they should have to be bothered with serving the Lord. Isn’t that sad? When God told them to close the Temple doors, He was basically saying, “Forget it. If you can’t serve me with joy, if serving me is a burden, I no longer have your heart anyway. Just forget it.”
If we are burdened by the thought of taking our turn in the nursery, or coming to help at a work day, or assisting with Family Fun Day, or witnessing to our co-worker, or visiting the sick, or the greeting of people, or of teaching our class or praying with people at the altar, or taking a meal to someone, or whatever God might be honored by–if that stuff is boring, if that stuff is a burden, if that stuff is a bother, we have a heart problem, and God is asking us to return our hearts to Him in order that we might return our gifts and talents to Him in His service with joy. We aren’t only in a salvation relationship with God, but we are in a service relationship with Him. He is our Master. We are His servants, and we learn so much and grow so much in His service, that to fail to serve God, for me, would be like a person who wears oxygen, who turns their oxygen down by 33 percent. I gain so much life and breath from the Word, and I gain so much life and breath from worship, but I gain just as much life and breath from serving Him.
As I’ve gone over these areas that needed attention in Malachi’s day, were there any that resonated with you? Do you need to return to God in some way? I’d like to close by having you hear this passage again from the Message translation. Would you mind closing your eyes as I read it?
Malachi 1:6-14 (MSG) 6 “Isn’t it true that a son honors his father and a worker his master? So if I’m your Father, where’s the honor? If I’m your Master, where’s the respect?” GOD-of-the-Angel-Armies is calling you on the carpet: “You priests despise me! “You say, ‘Not so! How do we despise you?’ “By your shoddy, sloppy, defiling worship. “You ask, ‘What do you mean, “defiling”? What’s defiling about it?’ 7 “When you say, ‘The altar of GOD is not important anymore; worship of GOD is no longer a priority,’ that’s defiling. 8 And when you offer worthless animals for sacrifices in worship, animals that you’re trying to get rid of—isn’t that defiling? Try a trick like that with your banker or your senator—how far do you think it will get you?” GOD-of-the-Angel-Armies asks you. 9 “Get on your knees and pray that I will be gracious to you. You priests have gotten everyone in trouble. With this kind of conduct, do you think I’ll pay attention to you?” GOD-of-the-Angel-Armies asks you. 10 “Why doesn’t one of you just shut the Temple doors and lock them? Then none of you can get in and play at religion with this silly, empty-headed worship. I am not pleased. The GOD-of-the-Angel-Armies is not pleased. And I don’t want any more of this so-called worship! 11 “I am honored all over the world. And there are people who know how to worship me all over the world, who honor me by bringing their best to me. They’re saying it everywhere: ‘God is greater, this GOD-of-the-Angel-Armies.’ 12 “All except you. Instead of honoring me, you profane me. You profane me when you say, ‘Worship is not important, and what we bring to worship is of no account,’ 13 and when you say, ‘I’m bored—this doesn’t do anything for me.’ You act so superior, sticking your noses in the air—act superior to me, GOD-of-the-Angel-Armies! And when you do offer something to me, it’s a hand-me-down, or broken, or useless. Do you think I’m going to accept it? This is GOD speaking to you! 14 “A curse on the person who makes a big show of doing something great for me—an expensive sacrifice, say—and then at the last minute brings in something puny and worthless! I’m a great king, GOD-of-the-Angel-Armies, honored far and wide, and I’ll not put up with it!