Malachi Lesson Two 1:6-14 – Disobedience of the Priests
6 “A son honors his father, and a servant his master. But if I am a father, where is My honor? And if I am a master, where is your fear of Me? says Yahweh of Hosts to you priests, who despise My name.” Yet you ask: “How have we despised Your name?” 7 “By presenting defiled food on My altar.” You ask: “How have we defiled You?” When you say: “The Lord’s table is contemptible.” 8 “When you present a blind animal for sacrifice, is it not wrong? And when you present a lame or sick animal, is it not wrong? Bring it to your governor! Would he be pleased with you or show you favor?” asks the Lord of Hosts. 9 “And now ask for God’s favor. Will He be gracious to us? Since this has come from your hands, will He show any of you favor?” asks the Lord of Hosts. 10 “I wish one of you would shut the temple doors, so you would no longer kindle a useless fire on My altar! I am not pleased with you,” says the Lord of Hosts, “and I will accept no offering from your hands.
11 “For My name will be great among the nations, from the rising of the sun to its setting. Incense and pure offerings will be presented in My name in every place because My name will be great among the nations,” says Yahweh of Hosts.
12 But you are profaning it when you say: “The Lord’s table is defiled, and its product, its food, is contemptible.” 13 You also say: “Look, what a nuisance!” “And you scorn it,” e says the Lord of Hosts. “You bring stolen, g lame, or sick animals. You bring this as an offering! Am I to accept that from your hands?” asks the Lord.
14 “The deceiver is cursed who has an acceptable male in his flock and makes a vow but sacrifices a defective animal to the Lord. For I am a great King,” says Yahweh of Hosts, “and My name will be feared among the nations.
In this passage, Yahweh is addressing the priests and their disobedient and disrespectful behavior towards Him. The address will continue into the next lesson, which begins with chapter two. The reason Yahweh doesn’t specifically address the priests until the beginning of chapter two is that this paragraph applies not only to the priests but to all of Israel and the book as a whole. This passage and the first part of chapter two form a contrast between Yahweh’s love and Israel’s failure to honor Him in response. Displaying love towards God is exhibited by obedience from the heart. In this passage, the first explicit revelation of the problem the prophet was addressing; the failure of Judah, lead by the priests, honor and fear Yahweh.
- Nehemiah 9:16-17 – But our ancestors acted arrogantly; they became stiff-necked and did not listen to Your commands. They refused to listen and did not remember Your wonders You performed among them. They became stiff-necked and appointed a leader to return to their slavery in Egypt. But You are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in faithful love, and You did not abandon them.
- Nehemiah 9:26, 29 – But they were disobedient and rebelled against You. They flung Your law behind their backs and killed Your prophets who warned them in order to turn them back to You. They committed terrible blasphemies…You warned them to turn back to Your law, but they acted arrogantly and would not obey Your commands. They sinned against Your ordinances, which a person will live by if he does them. They stubbornly resisted, stiffened their necks, and would not obey.
A second theme appears in verses 11-14, pagan nations who have been hostile to Yahweh will someday submit and give Him the honor and fear that He deserves and desires.
As we go through this passage, there are four personal failures of the priests identified.
- They were offering defiled sacrifices on God’s altar.
- They were harming the people by accepting defiled sacrifices.
- They showed contempt for the office of the priest.
- They were defying God.
The prophet’s point here is that even if Judah was blind to God’s love, they should have viewed God as their father and Lord and given the honor expected of that relationship.
- Exodus 20:12 – Honor your father and your mother so that you may have a long life in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.
- Deuteronomy 5:16 – Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God has commanded you, so that you may live long and so that you may prosper in the land the LORD your God is giving you.
- Isaiah 66:19 – I will establish a sign among them, and I will send survivors from them to the nations – to Tarshish, Put, Lud (who are archers), Tubal, Javan, and the islands far away – who have not heard of My fame or seen My glory. And they will proclaim My glory among the nations.
Let’s also address the concept of “fear” towards God to ensure that we correctly understand what a “fearful attitude” towards God means. No single English word conveys every aspect of the word “fear” in this phrase. The meaning includes worshipful submission, reverential awe, and obedient respect to the covenant-keeping God of Israel. Proper fear of Yahweh can also be understood as “wisdom.” This would result in covenant loyalty and restraint from sin.
- Psalm 111:10 – The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow His instructions have good insight. His praise endures forever.
- Proverbs 1:7 – The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and discipline.
However, the priests were displaying an attitude that lacked honor, fear, and love. Instead, they “despised” God as insignificant or worthless, not taking God seriously.
By presenting a defiled sacrifice, the altar was also defiled. The priests showed how they “despised” God by offering sacrifices that defiled the sanctuary’s holiness that was their responsibility to maintain, as presented in Numbers 18:1-7. The table was also symbolic of hospitality and the relationship between those who shared the table. By having a lax and irreverent attitude towards the table, the priests exhibited their contempt towards God.
The priests were responsible for determining whether a sacrifice meet the requirements as stated in the Law.
- Leviticus 22:19-20 – Must offer an unblemished male from the cattle, sheep, or goats in order for you to be accepted. You are not to present anything that has a defect, because it will not be accepted.
- Deuteronomy 15:21 – But if there is a defect in the animal, if it is lame or blind or has any serious defect, you must not sacrifice it to the LORD your God.
The worship that the priests were allowing was false worship filled with lies and unrighteousness, profaning God’s name. If such gifts/sacrifices wouldn’t be acceptable to earthly kings/rulers, why would we think they’ll be acceptable to an infinitely holy God?
Why should we expect God to be gracious to us or answer our prayers when we act in such a disrespectful and irreverent manner towards God? We are kidding ourselves if we think we will find favor with God by acting in this way.
Here we find the first directive in the book, “shut the temple doors.” However, this is not what God really wants. Instead, what He desires is contained in this passage; fear and honor displayed by proper sacrifices coming from pure hearts. It is amazing but not surprising that after the punishment of the exile and their restoration to Israel, they quickly fell back into practices of empty worship.
- Proverbs 15:8 – The sacrifice of the wicked is detestable to the LORD, but the prayer of the upright is His delight.
- Isaiah 1:13 – Stop bringing useless offerings. Your incense is detestable to Me. New Moon and Sabbaths, and the calling of solemn assemblies – I cannot stand iniquity with a festival.
God doesn’t need our offerings or service. Instead, they serve as a way for us to testify to His greatness and magnify His name. God is pleased when He receives sincere praise and worship. In addition, worship benefits us by nourishing our relationship with God and enabling us to interact and encourage each other in our faith. However, being “religious” without genuine love and gratitude towards God is both useless and repulsive to Him as it degrades His character.
Here the prophet is contrasting how the priests of God’s temple were treating Him, with contempt, with how the pagan nations would one day treat Him. This points to a future time when God’s name will be great among the nations (pagans), and they will offer pleasing sacrifices to Him. Thus, the prophecy contained in this book can be understood as being fulfilled in the present age (New Covenant/New Testament church).
- Hebrews 13:15-16 – Therefore, through Him let us continually offer up to God a sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of our lips that confess His name. Don’t neglect to do what is good and to share, for God is pleased with such sacrifices.
- 1 Peter 2:4-5 – Coming to Him, a living stone – rejected by men but chosen and valuable to God – you yourselves, as living stones, are being built into a spiritual house for a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
It also includes complete fulfillment when Jesus returns.
To accuse someone of profaning the name of God is a very strong and serious charge. To profane something is to desanctify it, to treat it as unholy, insignificant, or worthless. A person’s name is what makes them unique, different from everyone else. To profane Yahweh’s name is the ultimate humiliation. Profane could also project the idea of bringing dishonor or disgrace to someone by associating their name with something shameful.
- Ezekiel 36:20-23 – When they came to the nations where they went, they profaned My holy name, because it was said about them, “These are the people of Yahweh, yet they had to leave His land in exile.” Then I had concern for My holy name, which the house of Israel profaned among the nations where they went. “Therefore, say to the house of Israel: This is what the Lord GOD says: It is not for your sake that I will act, house of Israel, but for My holy name, which you profaned among the nations where you went. I will honor the holiness of My great name, which has been profaned among the nations – the name you profaned among them. The nations will know that I am Yahweh,” – the declaration of the Lord GOD – “when I demonstrate My holiness through you in their sight.”
God’s name is holy because He is holy, perfect in every way.
Here we have further evidence of the disrespect the priests were showing to God. The priests considered their duty to be “a nuisance.” The original Hebrew words could be translated as a “hardship” or a “burden.” Some translations use the phrase “you sniff at it in contempt.” The contempt mentioned here could apply to either the sacrifices on the altar or the name of God. Either one fits, and either one is a serious charge. The “worship” that priests were engaged in was an insincere religious activity that heaped insult upon God.
- Hosea 6:6 – For I desire loyalty and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.
- Micah 6:6-8 – What should I bring before the LORD when I come to bow before God on high? Should I come before Him with burnt offerings, with year-old calves? Would the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams or with ten thousand streams of oil? Should I give my firstborn for my transgression, the child of my body for my own sin? Mankind, He has told you what is good and what it is the LORD requires of you: to act justly, to love faithfulness, and to walk humbly with your God.
The failure of Israel to respond to the trials of their lives with wisdom and faith led to them losing their delight in God. Each of us must be careful that we don’t head down the same path and develop a cold heart towards God. A quote from Mallone is appropriate here, “A man must respond to the One who has given him everything. Not to do so is the highest form of ingratitude and self-sufficiency.” It is not an understatement to state that losing our gratitude towards God and delight in worshipping Him are warning signs of spiritual decay that could result in a shipwrecked life.
Verse 14 – split into two parts.
The accusation is now directed against those bringing the sacrifice and not the priests. Although the priests were the final decision point on whether the offering was acceptable or not (something they utterly failed at), the people should also have known that such an offering was unacceptable.
Those that brought the unacceptable sacrifices were “cursed” in God’s eyes. In the context of this passage and book, it means separation from God. It also means being expelled from a community relationship and from the security that was found in such a community. Being cursed by God meant to be “delivered over to misfortune.”
The priests and people of Judah showed more honor to their earthly leaders than they showed to God (verse 8). The focus of the second part of verse 14 points to future events. It points to the time of the Messiah. God will be feared (revered) in the future when all tribes and nations will be welcomed into the spiritual family of God.
As we reflect on this passage, we need to remember through our faith in Jesus, we have a “priestly identity,” and we are to bring spiritual sacrifices to Him.
- 1 Peter 2:5 – You yourselves, as living stones, are being built into a spiritual house for a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
- What are these “spiritual sacrifices?”
- Our bodies. Romans 12:1 Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship.
- Our offerings. Philippians 4:14-18 Still, you did well by sharing with me in my hardship. And you Philippians know that in the early days of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving except you alone. For even in Thessalonica you sent gifts for my need several times. Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the profit that is increasing to your account. But I have received everything in full, and I have an abundance. I am fully supplied, having received from Epaphroditus what you provided—a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God.
- Our praise. Hebrews 13:15 Therefore, through Him let us continually offer up to God a sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of our lips that confess His name.
- Our good works. Hebrews 13:16 Don’t neglect to do what is good and to share, for God is pleased with such sacrifices.
- Our evangelism. Romans 15:16 to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles, serving as a priest of God’s good news. My purpose is that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, •sanctified by the Holy Spirit.
Are we bringing God our best, or only what is convenient for us?
- Do we honor and obey God in the way Scripture calls us to as our heavenly Father?
- Do we bring our best in our spiritual sacrifices? Do we sacrifice in the ways presented above? Or do we think that second best, or worse, is good enough and keep the best for ourselves?
- Are we careful to make sure that the church we attend doesn’t preach a watered-down message, compromise Scripture, or ignore those who disobey Scripture? We need to pay attention to what our church teaches and, if the message doesn’t line up with Scripture, find a church that is faithful to God’s Word.