Imagine God sitting down with your conservative, conscientious church and describing it as one that:
- despises God
- is polluted
- is profane
- is unacceptable.
That’s the scenario that plays out in Malachi, a book we are studying with out teen group for a regional Bible quiz.
God tells them they’ve despise Him, polluted His alter, wearied the Lord with their words, left Him, robbed Him, spoken against Him (blasphemed).
The Israelites can’t figure out where they’ve gone wrong. They are literally clueless. They answer, “Wherein”–“How have we done this?”
God goes on to say that they’ve used terms of endearment for Him, saying “Father” but not honoring Him as such, and “Master” but not giving Him the respect due a Master. Basically just taking God for granted, like He’ll take anything from us, even our worthless, leftover sacrifices.
He mentions their “polluted” offerings, basically the cast offs that cost them nothing, given like they were the best they had.
To use modern terms, these people honestly thought going to church, serving in the church, and doing the “right things” would make up for the fact that their heart was far from God.
G. Campbell Morgan says,
“These people are not in open rebellion against God, nor do they deny His right to offerings, but they are laboring under the delusion that because they have brought offerings, they have been true to Him all along.
Theirs is not the language of a people throwing off a yoke and saying, “We will not be loyal,” but of a people established in the temple.
It is not the language of a people who say, “Let us cease to sacrifice and worship: and let us do as we please,” but it is the language of a people who say, “We are sacrificing and worshiping to please God,” and yet He says be the mouth of His servant, “Ye have wearied me: ye have robbed and spoken against me.”
…They have been most particular and strict in their outward observances, but their hearts have been far away from their ceremonials. They have been boasting themselves in their knowledge of the truth, responding to the knowledge mechanically, technically: but their hearts, their lives, their characters, the inwardness of their natures, have been a perpetual contradiction in the eye of Heaven, to the will of God…..and they look with astonishment and impertinence and say, “We don’t see this at all?”
I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit as we study together and think it’s relevant to Christendom in general today.
All I can think of is this verse,
“Having a form of godliness, they deny the power thereof.”
We see this in our own lives and in the church around us. It’s a display, masquerading as holy, but hollow and vacant in the heart.
We see this with people who’d never miss a service but who have a sour, contentious spirit.
Or those who take pride in dressing modestly, but have proud hearts, feuding and arguing with others, marring their “Christian” walk.
Or those who have Bible knowledge coming out the ears, but can’t seem to love that one brother.
Or those who teach “the truth” but don’t live it themselves.
God also said that He is “wearied with their words” because they claim that God loves everyone who does evil, and that He won’t judge sin. They portray Him as the big softie upstairs who just giggles at our rebellion. They said, “Our God is a God of love; there is no judgment.” We should be clear that God does and will judge sin. He is the one who names it and defines it. We can’t excuse what God forbids.
It’s easy to see the sin in others and miss our own. So let’s not be too hard on the old Isrealites. Let’s ask ourselves how we are like them in areas where we compromise. Let’s ask God’s Spirit to show us our impurities. Where does this all start?
“Ye departed out to the way.” Malachi 2:8–Instead of teaching the law and keeping it, we’ve gone our own way in these matters. We paid lip service, but lived any old way.
We know the right thing, but do the wrong without remorse and without repentance. We assume that God will accept our service while our heart is polluted. We imagine that God will be appeased by sacrifice or service, but without a devoted heart, it’s all worthless.
A form of godliness…but denying the power.
We may hold to the truth of scripture intellectually, even condemning false teachers and speaking out against false doctrine, but if our heart is astray, it’s all polluted, detestable, not accepted.
I think this serves as a warning to us today to really check our hearts. I was thankful for the grace of conviction during this study. Whom the Lord loves, He chastens.
First, do we actually love God, and is that love displayed in obedience for Him?
Second, do we come to the “table” with clean hands? Are your motives pure? Are you obedient? Are you hiding sin? Is your conscience clean? Are your desires pure?
Thirdly, do we serve in a sacrificial way or do we serve in ways that benefit us? Do we seek recognition? Do we get miffed when someone gets an opportunity we wanted? Do we manipulate to get preeminence? Do we put others first? Do we only serve when others will know or when it’s easy for us? Do we get agitated when we are treated as a “servant” rather than a “master”?
As Christian women, God is Master and everything that is done must be done to bring Him glory. We must heed Malachi’s warnings and check ourselves:
- let’s worship with pure heart, hands, and minds
- let’s free ourselves from greed in our service
- let’s honor God in our activity to the point where our service costs us something.
Some things to think about:
Is God enough? If you were stripped of all your outward shows of ministry and service, would God still say He knows you as a friend?
Do you carefully follow God’s word, or do you live and worship any old way you want?
Is your “ministry” free from ulterior motives?
Is your worship worship-ful, from the heart, or just part of your routine?
Does your outward dedication to God reflect your inward longing for Him? If not, this is hypocrisy.
Have you read Malachi lately? I challenge you to do so. And then ask, “What needs to change today?”