Today’s Reading: Nehemiah 12:27-13:6; Nehemiah 5:14-19; Nehemiah 13:7-31; Malachi 1-2:9 (New International Version)
Today after we tie up some loose ends in Nehemiah we come across Malachi’s stinging rebuke of the Priests in the recently rebuilt and dedicated temple.
As you recall the story is summarized like this: the people of Judah were exiled, sent to Babylon and have recently returned. When they returned they rebuilt and dedicated the temple and then rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem. But here just a short time later they have already begun to relax on the rules. They were not honoring the Sabbath and had defiled the temple.
It is important to remember that God is a Holy God and his temple was to be a Holy Place. It was not to be taken lightly.
It was time for Malachi to speak out.
Malachi 1:6 – 8, 13b – 14 (NIV)
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
“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 had always asked for the best, the purest, the whitest sacrifices. He is a Holy God and he want pure sacrifices. What he wanted even more than pure sacrifices was a pure heart. A perfectly white sheep given with wrong motives was worthless to God. But a sacrifice given with the purest motive and heart was worth everything. What God wants is obedience.
1 Samuel 15:22 (NIV)
22 But Samuel replied:
“Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices
as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD ?
To obey is better than sacrifice,
and to heed is better than the fat of rams.
Fortunately for us we no longer need to offer physical sacrifices at a literal temple. We no longer need to daily seek atonement and the forgiveness of our sins.
But you and I do have to obey and make daily sacrifices to Jesus Christ our Lord. Maybe we sacrifice our will in order to do something that God would have us to do. Maybe we sacrifice our time to do things that God would rather we do. Maybe we sacrifice money set aside so that others can be fed or so that our church can function.
Unfortunately, for you and I there is a big temptation to not give or ourselves as much as we really can. It is too easy to give more sacrifices to our boss at work than it is to our Father in Heaven. Too often it is too easy to aside the things of heaven to focus on the earthly things nearby. Too often we offer obedience and sacrifices that are unworthy of the temple of God. We place God second, or third or ninth or last in our lives.
Malachi wrote these word nearly 2500 years ago, to recently returned exiles. But they are words that can speak to us today. Maybe it is time for us to examine our blemished sacrifices.