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When have we shown contempt for your name? (I)

Sermon passage: (Malachi 1:6-14) Spoken on: May 24, 2010
More sermons from this speaker 更多该讲员的讲道: Pastor Wilson Tan
For more of this sermon series 更多关于此讲道系列: Malachi

Tags: Malachi, 玛拉基书

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About Pastor Wilson Tan: Pastor Tan served as a youth executive at the Presbyterian Synod, and as a pastor in Jubilee Church. He continues to serve as a cell leader in zone ministry and a teacher in children ministry.
Bible passage (ESV) of the sermon can be found at the bottom of the page.

Sermon on Malachi 1:6-14

From Pastor Hock Seng’s exposition on Mal. 1.1-5 last week, we learn that Israel had questioned God’s love, by asking, “How have you loved us?” God responds by declaring that He had loved Jacob but hated Esau. Today from vv. 6-14, we discover that the tables were turned, and God questions Israel’s love instead, “Have you really loved me?” If you had loved me, why have you shown contempt for my name? Why do you defile me? To which, Israel had no response. In the book City of God, St. Augustine wrote, “We see then that the two cities were created by two kinds of love: the earthly city was created by self-love reaching the point of contempt for God, the Heavenly City by the love of God carried as far as contempt of self.” What kind of love do we have? Do we have contempt for self or contempt for God?

1. Failure of the Priests
Last week, in vv. 1-5, God responds to the entire nation of Israel. Today, God focuses his grievances on one specific group of Israelites, the priests. The Lord Almighty said, “It is you, O priests, who show contempt for my name” (v.6). It is unclear if Malachi was addressing priests who were descendants of the Aaronite priesthood or the Levitical priests. That is not the issue, what’s important is that these priests did not fulfill their priestly duties. It was not a case of ignorance, but a failure in the performance of their ritual duties as required of them in Deuteronomy and Leviticus (Lev. 1.3; 22:17-25; Deut. 15:19-23).

17 The Lord said to Moses, 18 “Speak to Aaron and his sons and to all the Israelites and say to them: ‘If any of you—either an Israelite or an alien living in Israel—presents a gift for a burnt offering to the Lord, either to fulfill a vow or as a freewill offering, 19 you must present a male without defect from the cattle, sheep or goats in order that it may be accepted on your behalf. 20 Do not bring anything with a defect, because it will not be accepted on your behalf. 21 When anyone brings from the herd or flock a fellowship offeringa to the Lord to fulfill a special vow or as a freewill offering, it must be without defect or blemish to be acceptable. 22 Do not offer to the Lord the blind, the injured or the maimed, or anything with warts or festering or running sores. Do not place any of these on the altar as an offering made to the Lord by fire. 23 You may, however, present as a freewill offering an oxb or a sheep that is deformed or stunted, but it will not be accepted in fulfillment of a vow. 24 You must not offer to the Lord an animal whose testicles are bruised, crushed, torn or cut. You must not do this in your own land, 25 and you must not accept such animals from the hand of a foreigner and offer them as the food of your God. They will not be accepted on your behalf, because they are deformed and have defects.’ ” (Lev. 22:17-25)

The priests whom were called by God to serve in His temple, representing the people by bringing their offerings up to God, the ones who have been set apart to do God’s holy work, have now failed at the very work they were called to do. They have used injured, crippled or diseased animals and offered them as sacrifices to God. “Try offering them to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you?” says the Lord Almighty” (v. 8). A rhetorical question, with only one clear answer: Of course, not! Try giving your girlfriend or wife artificial flowers on Valentine ’s Day!

Their misdemeanors have been exposed by God through the prophet Malachi. The severity of their offence is liken to a doctor who malpractices and caused his patient to instead lose his life, or a teacher who corrupts young minds, or a judge who accepts bribes, or a shepherd who leads astray his sheep. It was against the very nature of their calling as priests. Not only was their integrity questioned, their relationship with God is now also in jeopardy. The honorable and respectful relationship between a father and his son is now lost. The relationship between a master and his servant, is now of disrespect. It is unthinkable. But what was once unthinkable has now happened.

Modern Context
With the recent onslaught of reports in the news about Catholic priests who had sexually abused those children under their care, and this week, a conservative evangelical Christian congressman (Rep. Mark Souder) who advocated abstinence but yet kept a secret extra-marital affair with his part-time staff, suddenly, today’s passage does not seem too far away. Back in 2006, some of us may remember Ted Haggard from the movie Jesus Camp. He was a well-known American evangelical preacher, who had preached against homosexuality, but was caught in a sex scandal involving a male prostitute and masseur, Mike Jones. Pastor Ted was the founder and former pastor of the New Life Church in Colorado Springs, one of America’s largest evangelical churches, and was also once the leader of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE). He was a preacher who did not practice what he preached.

It is easy to step away from these stories and say that these people are not us. We are different. We are alright. We are living in the light; they are the ones living in darkness. They are not part of the body of Christ. It is easy to distance ourselves away from rotten apples, and live as if we are flawless. Just like some would say that God was only speaking against the priests, the rest of Israel is fine. But v. 14, reminds us that the offering of blemished sacrifices is not only done by the priests, but it could have been anyone. 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.” I mention these blemished people earlier, not for you to judge them or to cast them away, but because I believe that we may not be all that different from them.

The truth is, anyone of us, can be a cheat, a hypocrite, a liar to God. [pause] The list goes on. Pastors who do not practice what they preach. Worship Leaders who steal the limelight from God. Musicians who perform rather than lead the congregation into worship. Parents who lead double lives. We are a different person at work, at home and at church. Youths who take their faith for granted. Have we cheated God? Have we also offered blemished sacrifices to God? Do we really love God above all else?

2. Unblemished Sacrifices as Worship
What exactly is today’s passage about? Simply put, it is about worship. What is true worship? For Israel, worship is about giving God an unblemished sacrifice through their priestly rituals. We have to understand the context of worship first from Israel’s perspective and then bring that to our understanding of worship for us today. The form may have changed, but the function and meaning of worship remains unchanged.

The priests may have offered blemished sacrifices to God during the time of Malachi, but are we equally guilty of the same “crime”? Paul urges us in Rom. 12:1, that “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.” Another word for “spiritual” is “reasonable” or “acceptable”. What kind of worship is considered acceptable to God?

Of course, the only true unblemished sacrifice is Christ. The Unblemished One took on the sins of this world upon the cross, so that for those we who are in Christ, we can worship in spirit and in truth. We are to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God. We are to set apart our life for God. Only this would be considered pleasing and acceptable to God. Matt Redman calls it the Heart of Worship. Here is the story behind the song.[3]

The Heart of Worship
The song dates back to the late 1990s, born from a period of apathy within Matt’s home church, Soul Survivor, in Watford, England. Despite the country’s overall contribution to the current worship revival, Redman’s congregation was struggling to find meaning in its musical outpouring at the time.

“There was a dynamic missing, so the pastor did a pretty brave thing,” he recalls. “He decided to get rid of the sound system and band for a season, and we gathered together with just our voices. His point was that we’d lost our way in worship, and the way to get back to the heart would be to strip everything away.”

Reminding his church family to be producers in worship, not just consumers, the pastor, Mike Pilavachi, asked, “When you come through the doors on a Sunday, what are you bringing as your offering to God?”

Matt says the question initially led to some embarrassing silence, but eventually people broke into a cappella songs and heartfelt prayers, encountering God in a fresh way.

“Before long, we reintroduced the musicians and sound system, as we’d gained a new perspective that worship is all about Jesus, and He commands a response in the depths of our souls no matter what the circumstance and setting. ‘The Heart of Worship’ simply describes what occurred.”

When the music fades, all is stripped away, and I simply come / Longing just to bring something that’s of worth that will bless your heart… / I’m coming back to the heart of worship, and it’s all about You, Jesus

Worship is about God
What is the condition of our heart of worship today? Has it been molded and shaped by God? Is our heart-beat in sync with very the heart-beat of God? There may be many forms of worship, but there can only be one criterion, and that is to offer ourselves as a living sacrifice by uncovering the heart of worship for God every single day. It does not matter if the worship is slow and meditative, or fast and high-tempo. It does not matter if we are singing hymns, or contemporary songs, in a language we understand or in Latin or German. How do we imagine our worship to be like when we gather together in heaven with people of all nations, of every culture and every language? What right do we have to suggest that we should only sing English and Chinese songs? I have personally been touched many times by music and songs in languages which I do not understand. We all have our preferences to what we like in music, but our preferences are not important when we consider that we are all in a symphony orchestra, playing to an audience of One. Music is the only language in this world which transcends all culture, in every time, and space. When we sing, be it hymns or contemporary songs; let us remember that we sing together in unity with those who came before us, and with those who will come after us. Worship is about God, not about us.

3. What are you bringing as your offering to God?
The heart of worship is what God desires of us. Being a living sacrifice is uncovering the heart of worship for God. I am going to ask you the same question that Matt Redman’s pastor had asked, “When you come through the doors on a Sunday, what are you bringing as your offering to God?” A biblical scholar has noted that “Christian communities are not concerned with blemished animals. But what would Malachi say about the quality of music, physical surroundings, bread and wine, and art that are brought forward for use in worship today? Simply put, how can we improve our quality of worship in our church?

I do not want to understand worship from a long list of do’s and don’ts for Christians. But I do want to highlight some things which we ought to improve on. This may be uncomfortable for some of us. But please do not be offended by this for I seek only for us to become better worshippers together. Again, I am speaking this not from a judgmental perspective, but something for us all to work on together. We are all responsible for each other’s well-being. It is about time we address some of these issues in our church.

Firstly, worship is in God’s time. We have to learn to set our time apart for worship. This includes being punctual. I understand that those will young children may be difficult. I am saying, if we can, do come at least 15 mins before the start and quiet our hearts for worship. Refrain from chatting with each other before we begin. There is plenty of time after service for catching up. Stay in church for lunch instead of going out to buy. The church is a community of believers. Stay for fellowship.

Worship is not just the portion of time allocated when we sing praises and hymns. It includes also the time allocated for sermons, offering, and thanksgiving, benediction and even announcements. We should stay for announcements because we are part of this body of Christ. The church’s news is our news. I feel disturbed that some of us leave right after the sermons or just before the announcements. Unless it is for something urgent, we should stay on until the end of the entire worship service. From the time we prepare our hearts for the call of worship, to the silent closing prayer, it is all part of the modern Christian worship. It is both personal and corporate.

Secondly, worship includes listening to God’s Word. We need to honor God during sermons. I do understand that generally, sermons in our church may not be as moving or inspiring for some of us. Maybe, the message is too long, too dense; maybe the delivery is boring. I apologize that my sermons have rarely been targeted for youths specifically. There is certainly room for preachers to improve on crafting our sermons. But I do hope that we can learn to respect this time as listening to God’s Word. You are not just listening to the preachers’ voice, but hearing God’s voice, God’s message, speaking to you through the mouthpiece of the preacher.

For a few weeks now, I noticed that some of our youths and young adults are playing games on their handphones, and sometimes, on their parents’ handphones during sermons. Maybe, we need to hear suggestions from parents of how we can minister to our children better during service. But at the mean time, can we refrain from playing games on our handphones? If there is something which you do not agree with or have questions from the sermons, feel free to email or speak with us after the service. In the words of Jerry McGuire, “Help me... help you.”

In closing, I would like us write down these two reflection questions. Have we given our very best in worship? How have we offered our lives as a living and unblemished sacrifice to God every day? Bring them home and discuss them with your family, spouses or children. Discuss them at cell groups. Next week, Pastor Siow Hwee will continue on this theme and speak on the priesthood of all believers. Let us keep these thoughts in mind for the week. Let us pray.

[1]The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.) (Mal 1:6-14). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
a Or reasonable
[2]The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.) (Ro 12:1). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
a Traditionally peace offering
b The Hebrew word can include both male and female.
[3] [an extract from]

Malachi 1:6–14 (Listen)

“A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am a father, where is my honor? And if I am a master, where is my fear? says the LORD of hosts to you, O priests, who despise my name. But you say, ‘How have we despised your name?’ By offering polluted food upon my altar. But you say, ‘How have we polluted you?’ By saying that the LORD’s table may be despised. When you offer blind animals in sacrifice, is that not evil? And when you offer those that are lame or sick, is that not evil? Present that to your governor; will he accept you or show you favor? says the LORD of hosts. And now entreat the favor of God, that he may be gracious to us. With such a gift from your hand, will he show favor to any of you? says the LORD of hosts. 10 Oh that there were one among you who would shut the doors, that you might not kindle fire on my altar in vain! I have no pleasure in you, says the LORD of hosts, and I will not accept an offering from your hand. 11 For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name will be great among the nations, and in every place incense will be offered to my name, and a pure offering. For my name will be great among the nations, says the LORD of hosts. 12 But you profane it when you say that the Lord’s table is polluted, and its fruit, that is, its food may be despised. 13 But you say, ‘What a weariness this is,’ and you snort at it, says the LORD of hosts. You bring what has been taken by violence or is lame or sick, and this you bring as your offering! Shall I accept that from your hand? says the LORD. 14 Cursed be the cheat who has a male in his flock, and vows it, and yet sacrifices to the Lord what is blemished. For I am a great King, says the LORD of hosts, and my name will be feared among the nations.