"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?' "You place defiled food on my altar. But you ask, `How have we defiled you?' "By saying that the LORD's table is contemptible. 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. "Now implore God to be gracious to us. With such offerings from your hands, will he accept you?" -- says the LORD Almighty. "Oh, that one of you would shut the temple doors, so that you would not light useless fires on my altar! I am not pleased with you," says the LORD Almighty, "and I will accept no offering from your hands. My name will be great among the nations, from the rising to the setting of the sun. In every place incense and pure offerings will be brought to my name, because my name will be great among the nations," says the LORD Almighty. "But you profane it by saying of the Lord's table, `It is defiled,' and of its food, `It is contemptible.' And you say, `What a burden!' and you sniff at it contemptuously," 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. "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,” [Malachi 1:6-14]
“As you come to him, the living Stone -- rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him -- you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ,” [1 Peter 2:4-5]
Holiness is hard for us to understand. How is it that one sin (even what we might call a “little one”) has the ability to condemn us for all eternity? Have you ever caught yourself asking, “Is what Adam and Eve did really that bad?” We have a hard time understanding what sin really is. To God, our sin is an intentional or unintentional decision to deny what is good and seek an alternative. To reject God is to accept the consequences of not having God, life, and all that is good –which is the very nature of God. Anything that is opposed to God’s nature can’t exist in God’s Perfection and goodness. We just don’t get it. We are stubborn and love to create excuses or even entire philosophies to skirt the issue of our own sin. This is why God gave the Old Covenant Law to the world and established a priesthood. God gave the Law to teach us a clear difference between right and wrong, holy and unholy. But He also created the priesthood to establish a way or a bridge between God’s holiness and our sinfulness, between God’s perfection and our imperfection. When God established Aaron, Moses’ older brother, as the first High Priest under the Law, He set some very specific rules. One of those rules was that Aaron’s ceremonial attire (which he wore once a year when he entered the inner room where God’s Presence resided), specifically the crown (or turban) was to have a gold plate on the front of it reading, “Holy to the LORD.” The head, and specifically the forehead, is very symbolic of authority and intent. Aaron was to be holy for God’s sake and all that Aaron offered to God on behalf of others was to be holy as well. By having those words inscribed over his forehead, Aaron was outwardly proclaiming, “I belong to God and all that you offer to God through me must be worthy of God, perfect, holy and pure.”
When giving something to the Creator of the Universe, one would probably want to be sure that the gift is worthy. This is where we draw a blank sometimes. We fumble with the idea of giving a gift to someone who “has everything.” If a great leader or politician were to show up at our home or if we were invited to the White House, what would we bring? But if we’re talking about the Almighty who made all things and is perfectly and completely without sin or blemish, then what do we do! God set some very specific rules for the Israelites concerning gifts that they brought. And the value of a gift, though very important, was secondary to the intent of the gift and the sacrifice that was made. We can recall the widow who gave “all that she had to live on” and Jesus makes the observation that she gave more than all the rich people who had thrown in large sums of money before her because, “They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything -- all she had to live on,” [Mark 12:41-44]. This woman, whoever she was, loved God so much that she gave Him (not the organization, the priests or any individual servants at the temple) ALL THAT SHE HAD. She gave a perfect gift. In a very real and personal way, any gift given to God needs to be perfect. God sees the intent of the giver, which is what really captures God’s attention. God longs for people that He can call “friend” like Abraham, and people after His own heart, like David.
To draw near to God and offer Him anything, we need to really understand His nature and what He expects. And, to even think about doing that, we need to understand how to be holy ourselves. And this is all the more crucial as the world around us, once Christian, now seems rather lethargic and disinterested with holiness and obsessed with wicked, selfish interests. But those who truly love God will always stand out, a cut above the rest. And we know what God expects of us; this is why God sent the Law AND a fulfillment of the Law. He sent the Law to teach us of our condition: We are separated from God because of sin -but He also sent His One and Only Son to fulfill His own expectations, to show us mercy and supernaturally empower us with the ability to be holy and draw near to Him. God has done a great deal to show us just how far He is willing to go to bring us near to Him. And if we desire holiness (a pure heart and a clean mind) and hate sin (which drives us from God), then God will fill us with the joy of His Presence and will draw unbelievers to Himself. But it’s tragic to see Christians shrugging their shoulders. It’s sad to see Christians justifying sin and pretending to be Christian. But maturity is not an option for Christians. In Malachi’s day, God called His people to turn away from their hypocrisy. He told them to quit trying to bring substandard gifts to Him. He would rather close His temple than have his people, who are supposed to love Him with all their hearts, bring substandard gifts. And why would God be so upset? - because the Israelites were ignoring their relationship with God and were ruining their testimony of the Living God to the rest of the nations of the earth. Now there’s something to pause and think about: How we serve God and the gifts that we bring Him have a direct correlation to our witness to unbelievers. No wonder the Church is losing steam in the world. But we can’t trick God. He knows our hearts and the intent of all that we do. And if “Jesus paid it All,” why do our hearts seek to pay the least? I think we have become victims of our own consumerism. I think our quest for the “bigger, better deal” has left us spiritually bankrupt. We can’t give God the least and expect the best! We either want to know Him as our Friend, or we disregard Him as just another acquaintance. If we want to call Him “Friend” and if we want Him to call us “friend,” then we had better learn what He expects from a friend. Because now the priesthood of Aaron has been replaced by a better, everlasting priesthood. And the gifts that we offer on God’s behalf now had certainly better be of a higher quality than those that were offered under the Old Covenant. Our current High Priest is greater than Aaron and worthy of greater honor –so shouldn’t we, His royal priesthood, have even greater enthusiasm than Aaron and his priests did for the One we serve? We need to continuously remind ourselves that our performance as His priests will either draw people to Him or push them further from Him. Let’s REALLY LOVE HIM, and by our service, sacrifices and attitude proclaim His Name more loudly and more clearly. We know the heart and intent of God for us because He gave all that He had to save us. It is now our privilege and passion to give all that we are, all that we have, to die to everything vain, to gain everything real. Offer worthy sacrifices, holy to the LORD, because He loves us a cut above the rest.
Love in Jesus,