Friday, Nov 17th

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Malachi 1

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Malachi is the last of the Minor Prophets books in the Old Testament, but is not so placed in Jewish scriptures. The name, Malachi, is thought to mean ‘my messenger’ or ‘messenger of the Lord’ or ‘my angel’. It may also mean ‘by the hand of His messenger’. The name is not necessarily a personal noun, and so possibly refers to an anonymous writer. However, some say Ezra was the author, but even this is disputed. Others say the name is a personal noun. Suffice to say we do not really know.

The Book contains six sections that show how lax the priests had become, and how God loathes what they did. Jews no longer accept that reference to mixed marriages is genuinely from God… but modern Jews do not believe their own God anyway!

The Book was written after the Babylonian exile, when Judea was ruled by Persia and the Temple had been rebuilt, despite a very low incidence of belief. It is this allusion to Persia, by using a Persian title for ‘governor’, that suggests the date of writing.

Though the last book in our Old Testament, Jewish teachers believe the book was written before the books of Nehemiah and Ezra. We should always take Jewish belief systems with a pinch of salt… indeed, the Book of Malachi is partly about the laxity of priests, so it proves the point. The closest we can get to its date is roughly no earlier than the first half of the fifth century BC. Reference to the rebuilt Temple tells us the book was later than 515 BC. Really, it is a pointless exercise to examine this further.

Whoever the writer was, he was commanded by God to speak against the priests in Jerusalem. This is because though the people had recently been freed from exile, they were once again showing signs of religious ambivalence. The priests were offering sacrifices of a very poor standard, which showed contempt for God, especially by offering animals that were crippled, blind or otherwise blemished.

In this Book the prophet highlights the problem of divorce, as both a religious and a social malady, and the contents contain seven rhetorical questions. The Jews were also doubting God’s justice, when, all along, it was the people who brought God’s anger upon their own heads, by not being holy. They neglected the law on tithing, too, because they thought there was no real purpose in obeying and serving God. At the end of the Book the prophet promises that Elijah would again return before the ‘Day of the Lord’.

The arguments in Malachi are those brought against the people by God Himself. Today, nearly two and a half thousand years later, we are in a similar position, disputing God and His will, being lax and generally disobeying His word. God told the people that if they brought Him the full tithe, He would pour out His abundant blessings upon them. Is this not what God promises us, if we only fully trust and obey? Malachi is quoted a number of times in the New Testament. Most believe the prophecies in the book were fulfilled at the time of Christ. Unfortunately, the book of Malachi features strongly in the cultic Book of Mormon.

For us, the Book of Malachi is a warning not to sink into a state of apathy and laxity concerning the Lord. Many of us do, and when this happens we must not just admonish each other – we must urge ourselves to rise up and be holy. None of us should condemn the Jews at that period for their laxity: the same condition is found throughout the churches today! Read, learn, and put things right! That is the lesson.

Verses 1

  1. The burden of the word of the LORD to Israel by Malachi.

When I first began to properly study the Old Testament 40 years ago, the word ‘burden’ had a deep impact on me and it has stayed with me ever since. ‘Burden’, massa’, means what it says: it is a load carried by the message given in the word of God. But, it is not a burden that crushes.

Like the ‘light burden’ of Christ, this burden is given to uplift the people, though they had been so mean with their religion and with God. It is also a reminder, that God’s word is not empty, but always has a definite purpose, one sent by God. It carries His imprint and command, plus His promises.

The “burden of the word of the Lord” was that they should listen intently to what He was telling them through the prophet. Not just because He was angry with them, but because He was giving them the opportunity to listen and change. The burden is a labour, not a superficial thing – hence a ‘burden’, as one carried by someone.

Such a burden is a gift from God, brought to people by His word. Never think any word of God in scripture is devoid of meaning or message! Even as you read these paragraphs, remember that they point you towards God’s word, which must never be ignored or treated with lightness. Ignore me – but not the message-giver!

The first time I experienced this ‘burden’, I had been through six months of interviews and organization, to take over a mission group. Everything went well and I then moved to the east of England with my family. But, within an hour or so, I began to have an immensely powerful feeling of darkness. It was so sudden it took me by surprise. I had the impression that I had to move back to my old town again because my family would need me. I knew no more than that and could not explain it.

The feeling, which I had never had before, was overwhelming, and after two days I moved back again, even though it was highly embarrassing to tell the person who was running the mission. It transpired that a very serious set of circumstances hit my general family soon afterwards, and the ‘burden’ became clearer.

Every man called to preach or teach must have a sense of the “burden of the word of the Lord”, every time he speaks. Indeed, he should have this sense before he speaks. Most preachers speak out of duty. Many rush through preparatory notes so as to meet the demand put upon them by their local church. Many actually ask local churches if they can preach to them in the future. And many try to fill their diaries with speaking engagements. No discernment. No waiting upon the Lord for His chosen engagements. No burden – just a duty, or a personal satisfaction.

These men are not called by God to preach or teach. They have a speaking ability but no gift nor calling to speak. Hence their messages are sterile, though based solidly on scripture. None of it is a burden. They do not sense it because they are not called. The man called to speak feels the burden within himself and fears the Lord because of it. Such a man will not seek speaking engagements – they must come to him, as decided by God. He will only speak what the Spirit gives him to speak, of whatever duration.

Every time he speaks the message will have God’s purpose behind it and it will have an effect every time. Needless to say this is the burden of the word of God, not of inner desire or intellectual study; the message comes from what God says. How many preachers and teachers comply with all these requirements? Very few, for only a small number are called to do so.

Verses 2 - 5

  1. I have loved you, saith the LORD. Yet ye say, Wherein hast thou loved us? Was not Esau Jacob's brother? saith the LORD: yet I loved Jacob,

  2. And I hated Esau, and laid his mountains and his heritage waste for the dragons of the wilderness.

  3. Whereas Edom saith, We are impoverished, but we will return and build the desolate places; thus saith the LORD of hosts, They shall build, but I will throw down; and they shall call them, The border of wickedness, and, The people against whom the LORD hath indignation for ever.

  4. And your eyes shall see, and ye shall say, The LORD will be magnified from the border of Israel.

It is one of those odd psychological and spiritual quirks, that a son or daughter, though given every advantage in life, plenty of love and, sadly, too many freedoms, can sometimes ‘turn bad’. They begin to have dark thoughts about their parents and family, start to do what is not right, give the parents nightmares with their awful behaviour… and then, to cap it all, they openly blame their parents, accusing them of lack of love and care! They shout out in defiance, “What have you ever done for me?” as they rampage through their lives leaving a trail of mess, misery and debris.

Of course, it is all in their heads. The parents have been loving and careful. But, the young mind has been warped by any number of false thoughts and reasoning, planted by Satan, causing the much-loved youngster to go off the rails and be utterly disgusting to their parents.

These children have no sense of godly reverence for the mother and father who brought them up. Instead, they do whatever they wish, only stopping when they wish to do so, and not because it is inherently wrong and sinful. Such a child will refuse to see any fault in her/himself, and always blames others for their own errors and sins.

The Lord may, or may not, allow the child to grow older. That is why the command to repent is always an imperative, always NOW. To die in such grave dishonour is a judgment of God against an arrogant sinner, no matter what age he or she is.

The parents try everything, but never succeed. This is because the fault is within the child, not in them. The child has followed its own path of destruction and sin, totally disregarding God’s stern command to honour its mother and father. There is no option in this. It is a command, punishable by God in many ways, including, if there is no repentance, exclusion from His mercy. Scripture says that if a child does not treat his parents with respect and honour, and submit to their authority, then God does not want anything the child wishes to offer to Him. 

And this is what we are seeing in the Hebrews at the time of the Malachi message. Though God had obviously done so much for the people, they regularly turned against Him, by worshipping idols, being immoral, and doing many things they knew were against God’s laws. Then, they had the gall to demand to know what God had done for them, warranting their worship!

The word “word” in verse one is dabar. It refers to everything said by God. Absolutely everything. We cannot pick and choose what we wish to listen to, or obey. The Hebrews had their holy books, and the law given by God. They knew exactly what they had to do, or not do. Yet, like disobedient children, they did what they preferred instead. Then, they blamed God by questioning what he had done for them! This is how wicked people try to turn attention from their own sins onto someone else.

God took the initiative by asking a rhetorical question of the Hebrews: ‘I have loved you, yet you say ‘how have you loved us’?’ Like the disobedient child in the above example, the Hebrews tried to turn attention from themselves by questioning what God had done for them.

This is a form of blasphemy, for it brings the Lord into disrepute. It is also a grave accusation, that God had done nothing for them in the past. They did not accept that their present position was due entirely to their refusal to worship God as He ought to be worshipped. So, they blamed God for their state.

How many Christians (so-called) blame God for their position today? How many ask what God has done for them, that they should give up worldly pleasures to honour Him? Such a query is evil, because it casts aside everything the Lord has done for us, beginning with salvation.

God said, “I have loved” you – ‘ahab, which includes the idea of desiring them with His heart. He ‘breathes’ after them; that is, inclines Himself towards them. There is the meaning of loving someone as if loving one’s own soul, taking delight in them.

Yet, said God, “you say”… ‘amar, which includes the notion of arrogance and boasting, ‘in which way have you loved us?’ Frankly, God could have simply wiped them off the face of the earth for such evil. But, He showed divine mercy, undeserved.

Today, few Christians follow Christ as they ought (including me), yet we expect God to show favour and to give us everything. And when He does give us everything we do not recognize it to be from God, and think we have done it ourselves. So, we impertinently ask what God has ever done for us! The fact that He allows us to live is sufficient!

It is common to think that if we are in poor circumstances, God has left us alone. It might cross our minds at times, but if such circumstances lead to our spiritual and personal demise, it is not because of the circumstances. The cause is within ourselves. God may allow, or even send, circumstances that try us to our limits.

Suffering comes into this category. The reason is not to destroy us (unless we have deliberately chosen wickedness) but to test us, to urge us to get closer to God, to leave our sins, to grow spiritually, and not to rely on our human resources.

What is our natural temptation when faced with arduous occurrences? What do we do when we think we are facing financial, personal, physical doom? Yes, we turn inwards and do everything humanly possible to get out of it. There lies the problem. What we ought to do is turn to God in humility and say “I cannot do it – please take over”. However, as humans, we are very impatient and think we need to give God a hand, by trying this avenue, then that, until we exhaust ourselves! We do not do what we ought to do by thanking God for everything He has done for us in the past… and then just wait.

We are not very good at waiting in the face of what we perceive to be pending disaster, are we? That is why we scrabble around desperately, looking for ways out of our situation. Really, this is a sign of lack of faith and trust. We must begin, every time, with God, not with our circumstances. When we do that, and just wait for His ‘still small voice’, He will come, and we will hear. But how can we, when we continually struggle and try to do God’s job for Him?

There is a direct correlation here: the less we do of our own mind, the greater is His activity. When we hand over everything to God and just wait prayerfully, He will give us what we need. When we struggle and try everything ourselves, we push Him away and therefore have no apparent answers… when, all along, His answers were waiting patiently, requiring our silence.

The Hebrews thought they had not heard from God for a long while. They turned back to their own ways and, with humans, those ways are always degenerative and lead to sin! Start with God each time and God will act for us, in obviously divine ways. He will act at the right time, not necessarily in our time.

The Hebrews, just like us, were impatient and just went ahead, doing whatever they wished. They ‘cut corners’ spiritually, and adopted sinful ways of living; their priests also ‘cut corners’ and instead of pure worship and service, they brought in sub-standards, reducing God’s requirements to their own sinful desires. Yet, this was just 100 years after they returned from Babylon, either at the time Nehemiah ruled, or just after. So they knew the demands of God.

How often do we hear Christians cry out for a divinely-ordered world? If only God ruled, they say, how delightful would be our existence! That is perfectly true. But, do you think we would take the opportunity to live more righteously? Maybe, for a short while. Then, when we were comfortable with God’s presence, we would start to decline again, because we would take everything for granted.

That is how we are. As Christians, though we have everything at our fingertips, we are often sub-standard in our worship and lives. We forget easily Who God is and what He demands, and replace them with things of our own choosing. It is the avoidance of this that brings us God’s blessings.

Too many Christians are deceptive, to themselves and to others. They pretend everything is alright, but harbour doubts in their minds and hearts. They claim God can do everything, and yet deny Him access to their minds and hearts to prove it! They praise God outwardly, and inwardly say to themselves that there is no God.

Though the Hebrews cast doubt on what God had done, God did not reject them. His aim was to bring them up short, so that they would return to what is holy and true. First, He had to bring them low and rebuke them.

He reminds them that of two brothers, Jacob and Esau, He chose Jacob for His own. Not just that, but He ‘loved’ Jacob and ‘hated’ Esau. This is a very clear testament to election and predestination. Throughout their history, God favoured the Hebrews, even when they did wrong.

Many Christians baulk at the idea of God rejecting people and sending them to hell, without giving them an opportunity to choose. This is because they reject the theology of predestination and election. Even if they say they accept it, they nevertheless reject the idea of God sending people to hell, condemning them. So, they accept the concept of ‘love’ in this text – but reject the concept of ‘hate’.

Yet, it is God Who says it! The word ‘hate’, sane’, means exactly what it says. It means God literally hated Esau, as He hates any enemy of His. Unlike us, God does not become entangled in emotions. People are either His, or they are not.

God hated His enemy, Esau, and so did not bless him as He did Jacob. Instead, he ‘laid waste’ (through wars) to his mountains (land) and his ‘heritage’ as a member of the chosen family of God. The mountains and cities of Judah held no special riches for Esau, because he was outside of God’s privileges. Even if he had become rich (which he appears to have done), he still did not have the blessings given to God’s chosen ones. Neither poverty nor riches prove God’s presence in one’s life.

For Esau, there was nothing to prize. His lands were the province of jackals and wild beasts, and had very little worth. What the unsaved think is worthy and to be prized, is as dross before God, for their hearts and minds constantly remind them they have nothing to depend on, and no ultimate goal.

When you see the unsaved, the more strident and abusive they are, the more they are aware of their awful state before God. The unsaved who do ill towards believers do so because, like Satan, they know their time is short. So, they abuse and destroy in an effort to conceal the fear in their hearts. The poorest and most despised Christian is a king by comparison!

The Lord continues his statement to the Hebrews. ‘The descendants of Esau said, we have been shattered, but we will try again to rebuild our desolate cities and lands.’ The Lord replies: ‘They might rebuild, but I will then destroy the place that will become known as “the border of wickedness”.’ In this way, God shows total contempt for His enemies. He adds another name for the sons of Esau: “The people against whom the Lord has indignation for ever.”

An enemy of God is not necessarily he who openly rejects God and does terrible things to others. He can be the mild-mannered man down the street. He is an enemy because his heart is against God. Thus, every atheist is God’s enemy. Every violent man is His enemy. All who do evil are His enemies. They are godless. The ‘niceness’ of a person is not the issue. Whether quickly or slowly, or never in this lifetime, God will punish His enemies. Often, He will wreak vengeance in this lifetime, in many ways, but the final outcome is eternal misery in hell for all who scorn or reject God.

God says He will tear-down what His enemies try to rebuild. If we know someone is an enemy of God, we may pray for their downfall. Christians who think we must always pray for the good of God’s enemies, are both naïve and untaught. There is an argument, though, for praying for both – the repentance of enemies, or their downfall if they refuse. God Himself says He disregards His enemies (typified by the Edomites) “for ever” and so we know they will never be accepted or given help by God. Dare we seek to uphold such people when God declares them beyond His love and help? Think carefully about these statements.  

God says these enemies are called the “border of wickedness”. That is, a place or people bound on all sides by darkness and evil against God. By contrast, God is “magnified from the border of Israel.” This tells us that His people are special and when they are faithful they pronounce the Lord to be Almighty by their holiness.

What do we pronounce by our lives? Are we reflecting the greatness of God? Or, are we trying to build a filthy house on top of a garbage heap? When we praise God and live to Him, people can see Who we belong to. Nowadays, holy living mainly brings scoffing and hatred, but we should not complain, for Christ endured far more on our behalf.

I take it upon myself to say that a majority of people in our local churches today are of the Edomites, but they claim to be of Jacob. They try to rebuild God in their own image, in their desolate lives, pretending to be faithful. God sees them and knows their true condition, which will be finally revealed to them on Judgment Day. They ignore the Gospel and build their own comfortable lives as they wish. They will not escape that solemn final day. Do not support them, or comfort them, for we have no part in their misery unless we sympathise with sin.

Verses 6 - 9

  1. A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master: if then I be a father, where is mine honour? and if I be a master, where is my fear? saith the LORD of hosts unto you, O priests, that despise my name. And ye say, Wherein have we despised thy name?

  2. Ye offer polluted bread upon mine altar; and ye say, Wherein have we polluted thee? In that ye say, The table of the LORD is contemptible.

  3. And if ye offer the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? and if ye offer the lame and sick, is it not evil? offer it now unto thy governor; will he be pleased with thee, or accept thy person? saith the LORD of hosts.

  4. And now, I pray you, beseech God that he will be gracious unto us: this hath been by your means: will he regard your persons? saith the LORD of hosts.

God pushes His questions farther, for the Hebrews were stiff-necked and ungracious. He says that if a son reveres his earthly father and a servant reveres his master, where is the honour and reverence due to Himself? When God asks this question, it is rhetorical, for He does not need an answer – He already knows it.

In my ministry I usually know when a person’s claimed honour towards God is false, because of his demeanor, or words, or thinking. There is no holy consistency in his persona, but a lightness or superficiality. Am I being subjective in this? Or, am I trying to ‘second-guess’ people? No, I am utilizing the discernment given to me by the Holy Spirit, a gift every Christian is given but very few use… because of their own sinfulness. I am also a sinner, but recognize it. Do you recognize it in yourself?

If we claim to love God, it must be shown in the open. If we do not show it by holy and pure words, actions and thoughts, then we are liars. God is calling the Hebrews liars, for they claim to be His whilst doing the opposite in their lives. They do not give God the honour He both deserves and requires.

And for those ignorant Christians who say we should not be afraid of God, God says “If I (be) a master, where is (my) fear?” By ‘master’ God means Himself as God. By ‘fear’ He speaks of mowra’ – not just reverence for Him, but the terror of doing wrong against Him; He Who attracts awe and fear. Many today say they love the Lord, but they have no problem sinning and show no real remorse. If you love someone, do you deliberately do them wrong?

Christians who do not know this fear of God, cannot truly love Him, for both stand alongside each other. Those without fear will sin easily and frequently, for they do not care about consequences. You might argue that God was saying this to the priests… but, today, all Christians are priests! What applied to them in this warning also applies to us today.

The priests were going about their business as usual, but they were doing it sloppily and without care, bringing God’s name into disrepute. Charismatic churches do this superbly, with rock music, irreverent approaches to God, and very loose or heretical theology. They think they are doing right, when God sees them as Edomites. They are trying to cook a fine meal with putrid ingredients.

Many others do similar things, believing themselves to be pious. God sees it a different way; He says they despise His name… they make His Name worthless and contemptible. And, like the Edomites and priests, these superficial Christians dare to query God: ‘How have we despised you?’

Those who try to ‘update’ Christian values and teaching, or try to put a modern ‘spin’ on scripture, seem unaware that their actions and words are worthless, and appear genuinely upset at such a thought. Being upset, though, is not proof of innocence! What matters is not how we feel, but what God says. Modern Christians show how they despise God in so many ways. Let us all be careful lest we do the same thing.

The priests at that time were using sub-standard meat and goods. To eat or use them personally was one thing, but to offer them as sacrifices to a holy God was despicable. For example, they used polluted bread on the altar. The bread was spoiled or tainted in some way. The priests knew but used it anyway. In this way, said God, they made the altar and, by way of association, God Himself, contemptible or worthless.

In my ministry I receive countless complaints from heretics, who question my faith because I do not uphold their unbelief. Some say I am ‘hateful’ because I oppose homosexuality – and in this way they call God worthless, for it is He Who loathes homosexuality. Some say I am ‘evil’ because I say babies are not exempt from the requirement of salvation… but it is God they have contempt for; it is He Who tells us the way to salvation.

Others say I am heretical to preach election and predestination, even though it is God Who teaches us these things. In so many ways, people who call themselves ‘Christian’ show utter disdain for God. They dare to balance their own suppositions and whims with God’s eternal commands and demands! And so they daily hold God in contempt.

As I have said many times before, most preachers should not preach, and most teachers should remain silent. This is because they have never been appointed to office by the Lord, and teach as they see fit. Many convey the truth of scripture – but they are not called, nor gifted for office. These are dark-suited men whose zeal overcomes their spiritual calling (which they do not have). They are the epitome of righteousness, but only in the eyes of themselves and their peers.

Give me a roughly-clad John the Baptist any day! Give me a man who finds words hard to speak. Give me someone humble enough to see his own errors and lowliness. So many men occupy pulpits, and so many heap contempt upon the Lord by being there. They offer what is worthless or second-rate, and so show contempt for God, without realising it. Their preaching is bland and without power because of it, and the unsaved only hear pious words and see double-faced people within the churches.

The priests offered blind and blemished animals for sacrifices. God says “(Is it) not evil?” Of course it was! The animal was supposed to be a symbol of Christ’s sinless character. If they offered blemished animals, the priests were ignoring the significance of this, and were being unfaithful and sinful, portraying the coming Messiah as tainted and sinful. Today, many, many preachers and teachers who hold false office (even amongst the ‘best’) teach what God does not say. They twist scripture to mean something else. And so they present a false Christ.

And, says God, what if these priests tried to offer the same blemished meats to the governor, what would he say to them? Would he be pleased? Would he any longer accept them before his face? Would you offer a tarnished gift to the British Queen, something you had found in a trash-can? Does that not convey to her your true feelings and regard for her person? Does it not tell her you hold her name in contempt? Then, why try to offer second-rate things to God, the One Who can destroy and send a man to hell? What stupidity is that?

There are many who call themselves ‘Christian’, and yet do what they like, harming themselves and others. They are sinful in habit and life, and believe they are ‘safe’ before God because they are saved. They forget that if God killed Uzzah ‘simply’ for touching the Ark, He would have no problem bringing the life of an erring Christian to a sudden end. No matter what excuses such a Christian has, he or she will not get away with it. This is because the sins he or she commits are not against himself or against family and friends: they are directly against God. Careless Christians – beware.

God then says: ‘I urge you to plead with God that He will treat you with mercy. Will God listen?’ He tells the priests that their judgment comes by their own hands. It is they who drew God’s anger. Those who mistreat God or His things must be told and warned. Some may be mystified by my calls upon them to write and complain to authorities and people, when they sin or profane God’s name, or do things that ruin Christian witness. But, it is our solemn duty to do so, every time.

If we remain silent in the face of evil, not only does it proliferate, but it also shows just how false is our claim to godliness! How can we claim God to be our Saviour and Sustainer, when we cannot be bothered to warn those who blaspheme Him? Would you not immediately shout out against someone who curses your wife in public? Would you not even jump at the person and maybe even try to hit out physically? Would you not protect her good name, if someone attempted to falsely accuse her of indiscretion, out of malice?

Then why stay silent when the Lord is blasphemed or maligned in public? Or when authorities try to remove His name from the country? Or when cults openly disgrace themselves by denying Christ? Or when sexually perverted beings flout their evils before all people?  

The silence of Christians is fearful. What would they do in future, if the law demanded the life of believers? Would they not be the first to point their finger at you? If their attitude towards God is desultory, they would not think twice about handing you over to the enemy.

One example of the way enemies do this, took place at the time I was preparing this study: A local member of parliament invited a poet to give a ‘performance’ at the Welsh National Assembly. The MP told me he was a ‘Christian’. The so-called ‘poet’, whose work is rated as very poor, specializes in ranting against Christ and Christianity, using profane language and vivid, filthy sexual imagery involving Christ. I asked the MP how he, as a ‘Christian’, could invite a profane man who hated God, to speak.

He told me he was protecting freedom of speech! I pointed out that no Christian can do such a thing – the man was free to speak in any number of venues where foul language and sexual filth were enjoyed, so there was no issue of ‘freedom of speech’. And, there is a huge difference between allowing people to speak, and actually inviting them to do so! He then said he would never tolerate a ‘theocracy’, which told me what the MP was really like… he is no Christian, but a God-hater.

I said there was no chance of a theocracy in the UK and he was acting like a young schoolboy who had just learned a new swear-word. And so the conversation continued for a short while. The MP proved himself to be an enemy of God. This is just one way enemies can show themselves. And unless he repents, God will not “regard his person”.

Verses 10 - 12

  1. Who is there even among you that would shut the doors for nought? neither do ye kindle fire on mine altar for nought. I have no pleasure in you, saith the LORD of hosts, neither will I accept an offering at your hand.

  2. For from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same my name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in every place incense shall be offered unto my name, and a pure offering: for my name shall be great among the heathen, saith the LORD of hosts.

  3. But ye have profaned it, in that ye say, The table of the LORD is polluted; and the fruit thereof, even his meat, is contemptible.

Verse 10 is not easy to interpret, but it appears to say ‘Who will close the doors to the Temple for me? You priests do nothing of worth and carry out bad practices. So, the Temple may as well be shut down! I loathe what you do and I want no more of your sacrifices!’

The closing-down of religious activities might seem an odd thing for people to do, especially Christians. But, if what is done in God’s name is worthless, that is what should be done. I remember a conversation I had with a man who, back in the 1960’s, once said to me: “It is never a ‘good time’ to be saved – you must be saved now!” That was well-said and preceded my own salvation by an hour or two.

The conversation I had with him later, however, sometime in the 1980’s, prompted me to sadness. We were discussing the awful state of our nation’s churches, and the fact that many men were in pulpits though they had never been called to office. I said that such men should be removed from their office, because it was never theirs to begin with. I was astonished to hear this man say “But, if we did that, there would be almost no-one left to preach!”

Amazed, I pointed out that if they were not called to preach, they were worthless anyway and what they preached was of no value. He could not see my point and was quite disgusted. He wanted ‘anyone’ in the pulpit rather than none! Yet, what I said was true. God is saying a similar thing in this first chapter of Malachi. Today, most men in pulpits should not be there. They are not just uncalled – their work is useless and has no value to the congregations, who, therefore, never grow spiritually.

Much of our present dilemma can be placed at the feet of uncalled men who say nothing of value, and those who elect them to be there, being lax and devoid of true doctrine. I would rather see one man alone, called by God, preaching to an entire country, than a million men, uncalled, whose presence makes no difference to men’s lives or to the holy name of God! As He says of these men: “I have no pleasure in you”.

This statement is also an encouragement to genuine, called, men of God to remain holy and true to God’s word. We can all lapse at times and do what we should not do, or not do what we should do (ask Paul!). That is a fact of spiritual life on this earth. But, God’s Spirit moves us to repent and start again in truth. In such dark days as ours, let us all be true to God and ourselves, so that God will take pleasure (delight) in us.

Verse 11 is made famous by the reading given at war memorial gatherings: “For from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same my name (shall be) great among the Gentiles.” The latter part of this magnificent statement is not included. It means that God’s name will be remembered amongst the unsaved continually.

It does not mean the unsaved will always look well upon the Lord. It just means they will have reason to remember Him. Today, this remembrance is usually hostile, as a growing number of people prefer what is filthy, sullen, violent and foul, to what is holy, pure and good. Even so, God’s name is remembered!

Do not think that continuous hatred shown towards God is necessarily a sign of sheer actual hatred. Often, people who shout against God do so out of inner fear and loss of confidence in their own minds and hearts. Rather than face their false reasoning and feeling of hopelessness, they lash out at those who are saved, and against their God, shouting loudly. It temporarily makes them feel more secure.

But, in the low-times of sleep and darkness, their hearts are very afraid of what they pretend to believe in – their own selves and atheism. It is why they kill themselves, or take heavy drugs, or smoke and drink a lot, or are violent towards believers, or curse them. Really, they are just covering-up, because they know they are wrong.

Someone I knew intimately was once a pastor. Then, he discovered that his wife had been unfaithful; they divorced, and he was never the same again. He left his pastorate. Very soon he was on a downward slide, as he tried to hide his despair and depression with alcohol. He was wronged, but responded by becoming a wrong-doer.

For about two years I went to find him each evening, to try and stop him entering into alcoholic stupors. Each night I searched the local public houses until I found him, and spent time to encourage him to go home. If he refused, I waited until closing time. I then took him home and made sure he went to bed after eating. Then, I would repeat this each evening.

He never did get out of ‘drinking to forget’. One day, about 2 pm, as I walked down a road, he was staggering up it, with a fellow-drinker. I did not say a word, but he just looked at me and went to punch me, saying “Don’t look at me like that!” Why did he do that, after two years of saving him from the worst of his drinking?

He did it because he knew I was disappointed, and because he felt guilty. He knew he was wrong and was sinning and my very presence stabbed him in his conscience. Taking a punch at me was a sure sign he knew his guilt. And that is why most attacks on Christians are made by people who pretend to be atheistic, or vile, or sexually perverse. It is their way of hiding from God, from their own inadequacies, and from their deep feelings of guilt and loss. They KNOW they are wrong.

Their attacks and foul rants have no bearing on God or the truth. Both remain intact no matter what foul sinners get up to! They may try to silence God and Christians, but do not seem to have learned the stories of martyrs! That is, the greater the pressure and attacks on true Christians, the more they will be firm and stand up for the Lord! Like incense wafting over the people, God’s Name will endure no matter what!

The worse pretend-Christians become, the more intense will be the genuine faith of the few who stand alone, whose faith will be pure. Only their worship will be true. No matter what the heathen get up to, God will prevail! Let us remember this when we see attacks from all sides today. Yes, they will do great damage, but it is then up to us to stand firm, pray, and oppose the enemies of God. Of all activities, prayer and personal faithfulness are paramount.

What of the priests, those who should know better but who desecrate the sacrifices and worship of God? They pollute the altar of God, and what they do and offer is vile, to be treated with contempt by the Lord. Today, many who call themselves ‘preachers’, ‘pastors’, ‘vicars’, ‘bishops’, ‘priests’ and ‘popes’ offer nothing but evil to God. What they do is desecrated and pours contempt upon the Lord. So, the Lord turns His back on them and refuses what they do. The same occurs with men in the reformed tradition, if they are unfaithful, uncalled, or simply sinful. Their work will come to nothing. God will not bless them.

Verses 13 & 14

  1. Ye said also, Behold, what a weariness is it! and ye have snuffed at it, saith the LORD of hosts; and ye brought that which was torn, and the lame, and the sick; thus ye brought an offering: should I accept this of your hand? saith the LORD.

  2. But cursed be the deceiver, which hath in his flock a male, and voweth, and sacrificeth unto the LORD a corrupt thing: for I am a great King, saith the LORD of hosts, and my name is dreadful among the heathen.

Not only do these false priests desecrate God’s table, but they find service to God weary! When under continuous attacks, one can certainly become weary of the circumstances. But, like Paul, we would rather become physically and mentally weary than turn our backs on God and the things He calls upon us to think, say and do!

The false prophets, though, are weary not of these outward things – they are tired of trying to adhere to God’s commands, because they are false and live in unbelief. They therefore find service to God a hardship, and they ‘snuff’ at it: they give up and try to avoid doing what they ought. Most pastors and teachers I have known are of this type. They show it by avoiding telling the truth, or by keeping quiet about doctrine. They prefer this to losing their stipend, or their status with peers, or the vaunted ‘love’ of their congregations towards them! 

In doing so, instead of returning what is holy and pure to the Lord, they offer tatty trash dressed as good food. But, says God, “should I accept this of your hand?” Again, God is not expecting or requiring an answer to this rhetorical question. The answer is already known to Him: He will never accept our shoddy, reluctant offerings.

God then warns the people, especially the pastors (see the earlier chapters of Revelation, too). He curses the deceiver! They are ‘anathema’ to Him. He does so because they dare to offer Him what is sub-standard, rather than what is His due – total obedience and holiness.

To offer what is crude and sub-standard is like offering trash to a great king, for God is a great king. Indeed, he is the greatest of kings. He is the King of kings! Above all others. Above His own creation. Above reproach. Above all paltry human thought and their continual sins.

Even the heathen are afraid of Him! Yet His own care nothing and act as dead men. Do not take the filth against God given by sinful men as proof of their ignorance. They KNOW they need salvation and KNOW what they say and do is filth. They are terrified of God being true, and so they do all they can to make it ‘go away’. They cannot succeed, and that is why they increase their attacks. So, God’s name creates utter fear amongst the heathen… and amongst those spiritually malformed Christians who dare to be sub-standard.

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Published on www.christiandoctrine.com

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