AGCC Sun. a.m. 11/25/2001
#2 (The "7 Questions of the Backslider" Series -- Malachi)
"WHAT'S WRONG WITH MY SERVICE?"
TEXT: Malachi 1:6-2:9
INTRO: Living for God can become a ritual rather than a relationship! When it is a ritual it is evidenced by a lack of genuine joy and poor quality sacrifices. When it is truly a relationship we take great joy in sacrificing because sacrificing for those we love is a natural thing.
Israel's second question to God had to do with their sacrifices and service before God … it seemed that God wasn't pleased with either their sacrifices or service and their question basically was, "What's wrong with our service?"
They were giving sacrifices to the Lord, they were attending worship services at the Temple … so what was wrong? It wasn't just THAT they gave, it was WHAT they gave … sick diseased animals for sacrifices and ritualistic attendance at the Temple without a genuine joy or thanksgiving in their heart toward God!
They had lost their focus on the purpose of worship and the commitment of the covenant … image was all that counted, not substance!
ILLUS:A small rural Church in Sweden years ago had an unexpected event take place. The King of Sweden showed up unannounced in their worship service one Sunday morning. The Pastor, seeing the presence of the King in the congregation and overwhelmned with the presence of royalty put aside his prepared text for that day and talked about the virtues of the King of Sweden. Following the service the King greeted the Pastor at the door, thanked him, and told him that he would be receiving a gift from the King. The Pastor was thrilled with this news. He thought it was evidence that the King like what he had said. A few weeks passed and a large box arrived at the Church. The Pastor opened it anxiously. Inside was a full size statue of Jesus hanging on a cross, attached was a note with the following on it; "hang this image of Jesus on the pillar opposite the pulpit so you will always be reminded of your proper subject when preaching!" -- Unknown
They had lost their focus, and their question revealed how far their heart had strayed from real worship! The 2nd question a backslider asks God is "What's wrong with my service?"
PROP. SENT: God expects the best from us because He always gives His best to us, we cannot know real joy in our relationship with God if we are offering up sick sacrifices, worship will only become ritual if we do this.
I. DISHONORING GOD'S CHARACTER 1:6-14
A. Ritual 1:6-10
1. As a vital relationship with God slipped into just a weekly commitment to keep at the temple the joy quickly disappeared from worship.
a. Instead of looking forward to getting to the temple for worship they were looking forward to getting out of temple for home! (ever sound familiar?)
b. The ritualistic attendance had produced a very disgruntled kind of giving for sacrifice … instead of giving their best they gave their worst sacrifices and leftovers!
2. They had soon forgotten the special place they held in God's heart, and without joy in who they were they held no honor for God in their hearts!
a. They were reluctant worshippers!
b. They were reluctant givers!
3. In their new prosperity they resented what God wanted from them, He wanted their very best and not their leftovers … this is the irony of prosperity, we tend to give better when we have less than when we have more!
4. They had lost focus on God and got lost in self and the rituals of worship!
ILLUS:When Pope John the 23rd had his first audience as Pope he found among his first visitors his own mother! She had been a woman who had lived in poverty all her life. Upon entering the Vatican, she had marveled at hte elaborate decor of the buildings, including the one her son the Pope now sat in. Once her group was inside and had approached her son the Pope she noticed how they all knelt to kiss his ring. When her turn came, she knelt also, acknowledging his spiritual authority in her life. THEN, after kissing his ring she looked at her son and held out her own hand and said, "Now, Son, you kiss my ring, for if it were not for this ring you would not be wearing that ring." A mother's heart desired to create perspective to a son who might lose sight of the proper honor! -- Unknown
5. They had taken much pride in calling themselves "God's sons" yet did not honor God as a proper father!
a. God said, "If I am a father, where is the honor due me? If I am a master, where is the respect due me?" 1:6
b. They were good at declaring it, but not good at showing it!
6. Oh yes, they still went through the motions, came to temple, brought a sacrifice, said the prayers, did the songs, etc. but their hearts were far from God.
a. This was evident by the joyless attendance
b. This was evident by the sickly sacrifices
c. This was evident by the lousy attitude
7. AND YET … they dare ask God, "What's wrong with our service?"
8. God asks them to consider giving the SAME quality sacrifices to their own governor and see how he likes it! 1:8 "Try offering them to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you?" says the LORD Almighty."
9. The problem wasn't a lack of service, it was the quality of service!
B. Resistance! 1:11-14
1. Their resistance to honor God would not prevent God from being honored in the world … God will still be honored by the nations in good time!
a. Their resistance to worship God properly would be THEIR loss.
b. They resisted the true nature of their giving perhaps by justifying that they were at least giving something!
2. They resisted giving God their best … but they did care about their image, so they did give, but they gave their garbage!
a. It wasn't that God wouldn't accept a poor sacrifice … if indeed it came from someone who was genuinely poor, but this was not the case, they were wealthy and had been blessed, but they held the best for themselves while giving God the worst of what they had.
b. God clearly identifies the problem in His comment here, "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."
c. Notice God calls such a person a "cheat" who can give better sacrifices but chooses not to thought pretending to do so.
3. It was hypocrisy to expect God to continue blessing them with His best when they refused to give their best!
ILLUS:The empire of the Franks had an unusual commitment to Christ, sometimes whole armies were baptized as Christians because of their leader's conversion to Christianity. However, they were at war, and because of this so much was at stake that they didn't want to be too much of a Christian army. So, a solution was found, when baptizing the Franks ... as stated, sometimes a whole army at once, the warriors would go down into the water with only their right hands held high above the waters so that it was the only part of their body not baptized. This way, they could soothe their conscience in war by brutally killing the enemy because their hand had not been baptized! While we don't do this today with swords, some people hold high their pocketbooks so they don't get baptized so they don't have commit their finances to the Lord! -- Unknown
4. This can be the attitude of worshippers today too, we want God's best but don't give God our best.
a. In fact, we sometimes refuse to give anything for God because we are bitter that God hasn't blessed us better!
b. It is not just ancient Israel that struggled with attitude in service, this is a long standing problem with God's people.
5. If we have the ability to give to God good sacrifices and we instead give Him poor ones we will not find joy in our relationship with God.
a. We genuinely reflect the kind of joy we have in our relationship with God by the kind of sacrifices we make to Him.
b. This is why "God loves a cheerful giver" … because He knows they have joy in their giving.
II. DISHONORING GOD'S COVENANT 2:1-9
A. Rebuke! 2:1-6
1. God now directs His displeasure towards the ones who failed to correct God's people, the priests!
a. The spiritual leaders should have addressed the problem, but they didn't!
b. They were too worried about their own popularity rather than God's honor.
c. They were afraid to confront the people about their giving, instead they chose to just sit back and complain about the portions they got from sickly sacrifices.
(1. Remember, the portion given to the priest came from the sacrifices!
(2. So, they got diseased animals to eat from … no wonder God states their reaction in 1:13 "'What a burden!' and you sniff at it contemptuously,"
(3. They were full of resentment over what they got, but not enough to confront the people about their giving!
2. God is angry with the priests, the spiritual leaders because they had held back in fear from confronting the poor quality sacrifices given by the people, fear that the people would not like them or give them anything at all if they called them on the quality of sacrifices given.
a. They didn't like what they got, but didn't want to lose everything.
b. They were more concerned about their own welfare than God's!
c. They were cowards in preaching the truth!
3. This will mirror the last days when leaders will be afraid to speak the truth and so will teach what "itching ears" want to hear!
4. It is imperative that we preach the truth … we get the kind of Church we preach for!
a. If not challenged, God's people will wander from the truth.
b. This is an old problem!
5. Sometimes a leader must stand up and be counted for God's sake, not his or her own!
ILLUS:Charles Spurgeon, the great English preacher, was once invited by a wealthy man to come and preach in their country Church. He was invited by this wealthy man to help their Church membership raise funds to pay off a debt. The man told Spurgeon he was free to use his own country house, his town house, or his seaside house when he came, whichever he wanted to stay in. Spurgeon wrote the wealthy man back this reply, "Sell one of the places and pay the debt yourself!" ... and thus Spurgeon refused to come! -- Unknown
6. God's covenant included giving His best when they gave their best … because the priests had accepted less than the best they were now experiencing less than God's best … and they just continued to accept this poor commitment.
a. The covenant with Levi had been one of commitment to the truth, to standing up for God and speaking the truth.
b. God had blessed Levi because he had turned his brothers from sin, God had a covenant of peace with Levi and his descendants because they had not been afraid to speak up for God.
c. But now this generation of Levites had forsaken this commitment, and instead of turning the worshipper from their sins the priests simply accepted the poor quality of the people's sacrifices thus allowing them to sin!
7. The role of the priest is not to be popular with man, but with God … and thus he or she must stand in the gap at times and speak the truth in love.
a. No wonder God rebuked the priests of Malachi's day … they had failed to do this.
b. The results were evident in the life of the nation, people worshipped God out of obligation instead of their heart.
B. Rejection 2:7-9
1. God said that their failure to speak the truth had "violated" the covenant with Levi.
a. The term used here "violated" means in Hebrew "to corrupt morally."
b. They had great influence, unfortunately their influence brought about moral corruption through compromise.
c. Their critical role had been compromised, this had brought corruption.
2. Ironically, they had failed to correct the people in hopes that the people would "like them" and instead they had discovered just the opposite, they were "despised" by the people!
a. You don't become popular by telling people what they want to hear, you tell them the truth.
b. Such a watered down gospel won't make a preacher MORE acceptable to the world, it will only show a preacher that he or she is a waste of talent if all we have to say is what the world already says!
3. We cannot pretend to be important by pretending to speak the truth, we will only look like fools!
ILLUS: A newly promoted army Colonel had just moved into his new impressive office. As he sat behind his new big desk a private knocked at his door. "Just a minute" the colonel said, "I'm on the phone." He picked up the phone and said loudly enough for the private outside to hear, "Yes Sir, General, I'll call the President this afternoon. No Sir, I won't forget." Then he hung up the phone and told the private to enter. "What can I help you with private?" he said as the private entered. "Well Sir, I've come to hook up your phone!" -- Unknown
4. What really counts in life is that God is pleased with us, the rest comes from respect that others have in knowing we are disciplined enough to follow God's ways instead of the world.
5. What would God have to say about your sacrifices?
a. Do you give Him the best … or the leftovers and diseased stuff?
b. Do you find real joy in worship, or is it just ritual to you?
c. Do you find yourself wanting to do less and less for God?
CONCLUSION: A relationship to God that has minimal sacrifice will have minimal joy! The fewer the investments, the less the dividends! It is a simple but profound truth that the vitality of our faith is only as good as the value of our sacrifices! Israel gave the worst sacrifices but wanted God's best -- instead all they had was an empty heart. How fulfilling is your walk with God, what do you give?