God IS here

MALACHI -Sixth in a series

Malachi 1:8 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.

In the previous post we asked whether the meal offerings (Mal 1:7) were unacceptable to God because the people could have prepared them more carefully or used better ingredients.

Their meal offerings betrayed a lackadaisical attitude toward the priest who was their mediator with the Lord. And when the priest shared a handful of the bread as a burnt offering on the altar, it was not a sweet savor to the Lord. It stunk.

In verse 8 we see a similar dilemma. The animals brought by the people for sacrifices, to substitute for their sinful acts, whether of omission or commission, whether done in ignorance or wittingly, did not meet God's standards. This was much worse than lackadaisical or passionless; it was an affront to God and an abuse of the priest's office.

As with the meal offerings, the sin or trespass offering was according to the person's circumstances. If he had a herd, a bull would be offered; if a flock, then a sheep (or other— (Lev 5:6)); if neither, then turtledoves or pigeons according to the type of offering. Yet they were to bring an animal without a blemish. (Num 29:13; Deut 15:21) These duties were performed by the Jews for centuries to preserve a faithful witness so that we could become members of God's family, and for their service, we should always show respect and gratefulness to them (except to those of whom Christ says, "which say they are Jews, and are not" (Rev 2:9; 3:9)).

"In each instance the animal was a domestic, a creature that was tame and fed on vegetation… Only the docile creature could represent the pure and holy One who gave his life a ransom for many. The animals had to be free from blemish as they prefigured the One who was free from sin." (ibid, p. 17--see previous post)

The blemished animal "spoiled the type," a phrase we often hear regarding Old Testament objects that represented Christ, such as the rock in the wilderness that gushed water when Moses struck it, but in the manner he did so, the type was spoiled, and Moses then was not permitted to enter the promised land (Num 20:11-12). It was a serious matter to spoil the type.

The offering of blind, lame and sick animals was somewhat on the level of a bribe, where a person seeks to gain pardon through a payoff far less than the crime merits, betraying an attitude of privilege and involving the mediator in the underhanded transaction. However, Malachi 1:14 makes clear that the people who brought these to sacrifice, did so to deceive the priests: But cursed be the deceiver, which hath in his flock a male, and voweth, and sacrificeth unto the Lord a corrupt thing.

The priests, whether truly deceived or only glossing over the deception, were as much at fault as the perfidious people. They should have rejected these offerings. Anyone who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, sins. (James 4:17) Offering them made them complicit in the sin. They were leading the people astray from God's law in their acceptance of the blemished animals.

The visibility factor

Malachi argued that these priests would not offer sick animals to their governor (Mal 1:8), who would not take them off their hands anyway.

Governors are people we can see; people who might harm us. God is invisible. Perhaps we do not perceive any threat.

Though we see God in nature and we see his works in many ways, we cannot see him. We must have faith that he really is there-- here-- and that he reveals his character, plans, law and path to salvation in his Word.

Did the priests and people have faith? Do we?

God IS here… be not faithless, but believing (Jhn 20:27).

Give of your best to the One who intercedes for you

MALACHI -Fifth in a series

Malachi 1:7 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.

This is not a cryptic verse, yet, from reading the comments of many theologians, it is a baffling one.

Several commentaries pointed out that the bread offering was set on a table and not an altar, and that the reference to an altar would suggest that the word bread here refers to the animal sacrifice. You can read for yourself the various comments of many expositors on StudyLight.org. Calvin states: "I have no doubt but that God means by bread here every kind of offering, and we know that the shew-bread was not offered on the altar; but there was a table by itself appointed for this purpose near the altar." Wesley says: "Bread - Either the meal offerings, or rather in a more large sense, all sacrifices and oblations…"

The Word of God is a rich feast, and those who delve into it enjoy many hours of banqueting. Then, too, it is a masterfully cut diamond with so many facets and inner lights that we become enamored of its complex beauty. Or, we may become overawed.

In regard to this verse, the more commentaries I read, the more confused I became. I finally looked in my ROL (regular old library) and found a paperback, Thus Shalt Thou Serve, first published in 1955 by Christian Literature Crusade. I have not been able to find much background information about the author, a British pastor, C.W. Slemming.

This is a study of the Offerings and Feasts of Israel that enables clarification regarding the bread offered upon the altar— which was polluted by the priests in the day of Malachi's prophecy.

The bread offering was called, in the King James Version, the meat offering. The reason for using the word meat was that, in the days when King James ruled England, a person would not be asked out to a meal. He would be invited to "meat." (Thus Shalt Thou Serve, p 27) Slemming terms it a "meal" offering to better define it.

The Hebrew word for meal offering denotes "the gift of an inferior to a superior." Thus, the gift must be worthy of the one to whom it is given. The preparation of a meal offering is described in Leviticus. (Lev 2:1-2). It was never to be prepared with leaven (Lev 2:4, 11) nor with honey (Lev 2:11) "The fermenting properties of leaven reduce the whole of the meal into a condition of corruption." (ibid, p. 31) (see 1 Cor 5:6-7; Mat 16:11-12) Honey, in excess, can sour the stomach, which could affect the priests' enjoyment of it. Both ingredients typify heart attitudes to avoid: pride and self indulgence.

The bread (meal offering) given by the people to the priests was seasoned with salt and further prepared (Lev 2:15) before a portion of it was burned on the altar (Lev 2:2, 8, 9,12) as a sweet savor unto the Lord.

How had it been polluted by the priests addressed by Malachi? Was it not prepared properly? Or, did it not reflect the best the offerer had to give?

The meal offering was a voluntary offering. Those who prepared it according to law gave it to the priest to show him appreciation and honor. As already noted, it was a gift from an inferior to a superior. It could be made from uncooked flour, unleavened cakes or from roasted grain; baked in a pan or cooked in a frying pan. Thus allowances were made for the person's circumstances. (ibid, p. 29) If the person had not respected the priest by using his best ingredients, then it ought to be rejected, for the priest was his mediator to God. And it was the job of the priest to uphold standards and respect for his office.

Verse 7 states that the Lord accuses the priests of polluting God himself. They had made the table where this bread was set "contemptible" to God. Yet they protested, "Wherein have we polluted thee?"

It was not immediately clear to the priests what they were doing wrong. Perhaps they would spend much time discussing this prophecy and praying to discern what their particular sin was. Something was amiss, or much worse: The God of their fathers, the Creator and Lord of all was offended by their service in His House. How could they remedy the crisis?

We today should question whether our worship practices are an offense to God. Do we pollute Him by anything we offer? Or, is it even important to worship inside a building? If it is, how should we dress? Does it matter?

These are not questions we can quickly answer or even understand. Our response will reveal our secret thoughts as well as our level of understanding of what God wants. As Slemming notes, "Ignorance is not easily established; much of the ignorance we seek to claim is willful. We could have found the facts but we did not bother." (ibid, p. 43)

O priests, that despise my name

MALACHI -Fourth in a series

Malachi 1:6 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?

Has the Lord ever said a threatening word to you personally, through his Word? Every Christian would say, Yes! The Bible has power to discern our thoughts and motivations and to exhort and guide us. And if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. (1 Cor 11:31)

In Malachi 1:6 there is potential guidance for us, since WE are the priests today. (1 Pe 2:9; Rev 1:6)

What does it mean to despise the name of God?

In answering this question, it is good to have a resource to consult such as the Westminster Larger Catechism (WLC). It teaches that breaking the third commandment comprises a great number and variety of sins. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord in vain (Ex 20:7) is an analogous concept to despising His name.

WLC Question 112 asks: What is required in the third commandment? The answer is:

The third commandment requires, That the name of God, his titles, attributes, ordinances, the Word, sacraments, prayer, oaths, vows, lots, his works, and whatsoever else there is whereby he makes himself known, be holily and reverently used in thought, meditation, word, and writing; by an holy profession, and answerable conversation, to the glory of God, and the good of ourselves, and others. [ref]

Then, the answer to Question 113 elaborates on this explanation, relating various Scripture passages to the numerous ways in which we may show lack of reverence for God's name, in effect despising it, though at times unwittingly.

Q 113: What are the sins forbidden in the third commandment?
We normally view the below points in paragraph form, but the list format makes it easy to view the associated Scriptures. (The rollover popup may not load quickly if you hover over the Scripture references in rapid succession.)

A. The sins forbidden in the third commandment are,

  • the not using of God’s name as is required; [Malachi 2:2]
  • and the abuse of it in an ignorant, [Acts 17:23]
  • vain, [Proverbs 30:9]
  • irreverent, profane, [Malachi 1:6-7, 12; 3:14]
  • superstitious [1 Samuel 4:3-5; Jeremiah 7:4, 9-10, 14, 31; Colossians 2:20-22]
  • or wicked mentioning or otherwise using his titles, attributes, [2 Kings 18:30, 35; Exodus 5:2; Psalm 139:20]
  • ordinances, [Psalm 50:16-17]
  • or works, [Isaiah 5:12]
  • by blasphemy, [2 Kings 19:22; Leviticus 24:11]
  • perjury; [Zechariah 5:4; 8:17]
  • all sinful cursings, [1 Samuel 17:43; 2 Samuel 16:5]
  • oaths, [Jeremiah 5:7; 23:10]
  • vows, [Deuteronomy 23:18; Acts 23:12, 14]
  • and lots; [Esther 3:7; 9:24]
  • violating of our oaths and vows, if lawful; [Psalm 24:4; Ezekiel 17:16, 18-19]
  • and fulfilling them, if of things unlawful; [Mark 6:26; 1 Samuel 25:22, 32-34]
  • murmuring and quarreling at, [Romans 9:14, 19-20]
  • curious prying into, [Deuteronomy 29:29]
  • and misapplying of God’s decrees [Romans 3:5, 7; 6:1]
  • and providences; [Ecclesiastes 8:11; Ecclesiastes 9:3; Psalm 39]
  • misinterpreting, [Matthew 5:21-22]
  • misapplying, [Ezekiel 13:22]
  • or any way perverting the Word, or any part of it; [2 Peter 3:16; Matthew 22:24-31; 25:28-30]
  • to profane jests, [Isaiah 22:13; Jeremiah 23:34, 36, 38]
  • curious or unprofitable questions, vain janglings, or the maintaining of false doctrines; [1 Timothy 1:4, 6-7; 6:4-5, 20; 2 Timothy 2:14]
  • abusing it, the creatures, or anything contained under the name of God, to charms, [Deuteronomy 18:10-14; Acts 19:13]
  • or sinful lusts and practices; [2 Timothy 4:3-4; Romans 13:13-14; 1 Kings 21:9-10; Jude 4]
  • the maligning, [Acts 13:45; 1 John 3:12]
  • scorning, [Psalm 1:1; 2 Peter 3:3]
  • reviling, [1 Peter 4:4]
  • or any wise opposing of God’s truth, grace, and ways; [Acts 13:45-46, 50; 4:18; 19:9 et al]
  • making profession of religion in hypocrisy, or for sinister ends; [2 Timothy 3:5; Matthew 23:14 et al]
  • being ashamed of it, [Mark 8:38]
  • or a shame to it, by unconformable, [Psalm 73:14-15]
  • unwise, [1 Corinthians 6:5-6; Ephesians 5:15-17]
  • unfruitful, [Isaiah 5:4; 2 Peter 1:8-9]
  • and offensive walking, [Romans 2:23-24]
  • or backsliding from it. [Galatians 3:1, 3; Hebrews 6:6]

No doubt each of us will find ways in which we have not honored the name of God.

In the next post we will study the specific ways that the priests to whom Malachi spoke directly were not honoring God's name. As the leaders, the blame fell upon them more than on the people. This is true for Christians as well. We are the leaders who must set a good example.

For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? (1 Pe 4:17)

Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. -Mat 5:14

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