“But when you present the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? And when you present the lame and sick, is it not evil? Why not offer it to your governor? Would he be pleased with you? Or would he receive you kindly?” says the LORD of hosts. “But now will you not entreat God’s favor, that He may be gracious to us? With such an offering on your part, will He receive any of you kindly?” says the LORD of hosts. “Oh that there were one among you who would shut the gates, that you might not uselessly kindle fire on My altar! I am not pleased with you,” says the LORD of hosts, “nor will I accept an offering from you. “For from the rising of the sun even to its setting, My name will be great among the nations, and in every place incense is going to be offered to My name, and a grain offering that is pure; for My name will be great among the nations,” says the LORD of hosts. (Malachi 1:8-11 NASB)
I recently worked my way through the Minor Prophets as part of my morning reading of Scripture. I’m amazed at the depth of revelation concerning worshiping God to be found amidst the condemnations and encouragements to the Israelites. During Malachi’s time the people continued to offer sacrifices to God in their attempt to fulfill the Mosaic law. This was how they showed their devotion, their repentance, their desire to know God better. But it was flawed. Not the process. Not the law. The people were flawed. Their offerings were flawed. Their concept of God was severely flawed. They felt God wasn’t really paying attention!
The Israelite’s implementation of unworthy sacrifice was based on the thought that God either didn’t pay attention or didn’t care. But yet, the people wanted to implore God for assistance and blessing while offering blind sacrifices. They were offering animals which were not perfect but lame. The offerings they brought before God they wouldn’t dare present to the local officials, or friends. If they were the recipients of such low-grade gifts they wouldn’t be inclined to reciprocate with assistance or a polite response. And, neither would God.
We can look back at the prophetic writing, read these words of condemnation, and shake our head in agreement and disgust. They just didn’t understand. They didn’t get the concept that a perfect offering, the best of the flock, the first of everything was appropriate for God. Even that is less than God deserves. It’s easy to be sanctimonious and spiritual when we’re using hindsight. It’s also easy to think we do better before God, especially when we think God really isn’t paying close attention.
Consider Sunday morning. Am I meddling? Possibly. Do we, notice I’m including myself, offer the best to God in our worship? How about in our thoughts? Or how about in our relationships to one another? Then we must ask ourselves, “How is our offering in the financial realm?” All of these are good questions to ask as we enter God’s house for a service of worship and praise. We have choices to make as we join others for worship.
We could just mouth the words and pretend we’re singing because it isn’t our “type” of music. We could, not sing at all, but stand tight lipped and at attention, hoping others will see our disgust. We can sing our choruses, over and over, until we feel happy and at peace with ourselves, in spite of present personal events, broken relationships and anger that God didn’t provide all we wanted the past week. We can make ourselves look good to those around us as we sway with the music, raise our hands, smile at anything and everyone, and keep our plastic smile hardened on our face. If we keep those around us at a distance, maybe God will keep his distance and our feeble stage play will receive applause and acceptance.
Our broken offerings often look good on the outside while the inside reveals all the cracks and blemishes hidden by the external paint. Our real attitudes are often masked by a carefully crafted facial expression guaranteed to appear like a peaceful, obedient, loving Christian. We are no better with our offerings than the Israelites in the days of Malachi.
We need to sing, with all our abilities, or at least, if our abilities are limited, think on the words and bring them before God’s throne in speech and prayer. We can put ourselves in a better position to truthfully, fully, without blemish or lameness, worship God if we seek to treat others better than ourselves.
Contrary to popular myths, wallets don’t feel pain when we open them to give back to God a portion of what he gave us. We can’t blame an inanimate pouch for our reticence to hand over our money to God. When we relate well with one another, trying to set things right, actually forgiving versus sweeping things under the rug, we can concentrate on God, seek his face and give ourselves fully to him in worship and praise.
Our offerings need not be blemished. Our hearts need not be lame. It isn’t easy. It takes effort and time. It takes openness to work with others and listen to faults while recognizing our own faults. God’s name will be praised around the world, with our without us. I, for one, plan to work on being part of that praise to God.