It was a rainy Sunday afternoon and a little brother and sister were playing “Noah and the Ark.”
An old shoe box was their ark. The bathtub was their flood. And all their plastic, toy animals were safe in the ark.
After the flood was over, they decided to offer a sacrifice to God.
Noah (the little boy) said to Mrs. Noah (his sister), “Take one of your animals as a sacrifice.”
“No,” she replied. “Let’s use one of your animals.”
When they couldn’t agree Mrs. Noah said, “Wait a minute.” She ran to the garage and returned with a toy lamb. It was dirty. Its head smashed. Its tail was missing. “Here,” let’s give this as a sacrifice. We’ll never want it again.”
Noah agreed and they sacrificed the broken lamb they didn’t want and gave it to God.
Sadly, this story actually happens in real life. It happened long ago in Israel according to our Malachi passage.
The setting is Israel’s return from captivity. Nehemiah, cup bearer to King. Artaxerxes, had led in rebuilding the wall. Ezra, the Scribe, restored the law. And Zerubbabel, the Governor, encouraged the rebuilding of the Temple.
After decades of captivity as punishment for their sinful idolatry, God had given His people a second chance. However, the people soon fell into a state of spiritual decay.
The prophet Malachi calls upon them to wake up from their slumber with a unique style of address that Homer Hailey calls “the didactic-dialectic method of speaking.” A charge is made against them. Their fanciful objection is raised. Then God, through Malachi replies and refutes their weak protests. (Take a minute to read chapter one to observe this style)
The three basic charges against Israel hit home with too many of us today.
They were ungrateful for God’s blessings as seen in their ineffectual feelings for the Lord. He affirmed His love for them. Care for them. Blessings for them. But they didn’t see it. Or feel it. “In what way have you loved us?” they flippantly retort.
A casual perusal of Old Testament history records how God protected and provided for His people from the Egyptian exodus, to their wilderness wandering, and through the period of the Judges and Kings. Even in captivity God often came to the rescue of His people.
Today, God has blessed us abundantly. The material and physical blessings of our age are unlike anything experienced by our ancestors. Even with higher costs, and spiraling inflation, look around. See how much we all have.
Of course, most importantly are the spiritual blessings in Christ. Forgiveness of sins. Fellowship with the Father. A church Family. The privilege of prayer. And hope of a heavenly home.
Be grateful to God.
Like the little children in the story, Israel dishonored and disrespected God Instead of an unblemished lamb, their sacrifices came from the weakest of their flocks. The sick. The blind. The crippled. They gave God what they didn’t want.
Could we be guilty of giving God the leftovers? Is worship, discipleship, and fellowship a priority? Or do we just give God a few minutes here and there when we have time.
It’s possible to attend worship services, but never worship. To sing songs uttered by the lips but whose melody is absent from the heart. To mumble through a canned, rote, ritualistic prayer. To throw a few left over dollars into the collection plate without purpose or planning. To pinch off a piece of bread and drink grape juice, but never commune with God. To hear a sermon that goes in one ear and out the other.
If God sent a Malachi to your church today, what would he say? To your congregation? To your preacher? To your pastors? To you?
Are we offering heart-felt, spirit filled, reverent worship to the Almighty?
Maybe worse of all, they really didn’t care. They looked at their worship and relationship to God as a “weariness.” “‘You sneer at it,’ says the Lord of Hosts.”
It’s difficult to affect a person with an attitude of indifference. Because they are indifferent to the charge. An apathetic, lukewarm, lackadaisical, spirit is the sorry state of too many churches and so-called Christians.
The answer to indifference is to wake up. Pay attention. Examine yourself. Your heart. Your life. And seek spiritual renewal and revival.
Thankfully, we serve a loving, merciful, gracious God. If you see yourself in the cross-hairs of Malachi’s rebuke, you can find forgiveness and begin again. Choose today to give God your very best.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman