For I Am A Great King
In the fifth century B.C. Malachi rebuked the returned remnant of Judah for various sins including divorce, failure to pay their tithes, complaining of God’s injustice, et al, but I want us to pay special attention to the prophet’s denunciation of their “sacrifices.”
“‘You offer defiled food on My altar….you offer the blind as a sacrifice….you offer the lame and sick….you say, “The table of the LORD is defiled; And its fruit, its food, is contemptible.” You also say, “Oh, what a weariness!” And you sneer at it,’ says the LORD of hosts. ‘And you bring the stolen, the lame, and the sick….’” Malachi 1:6-14
What an ugly picture. The people were presenting to God that which was unwanted or, in some cases, not even rightfully theirs because they had actually stolen the animal they were using in their sacrifice. Their sacrificial offerings involved little or no sacrifice on their part; instead, they simply fulfilled what they saw as a ritualistic demand for a lamb, ram, bull, etc.
The Lord’s Response to Their Corrupted Offerings
1) He asked the people and the priests why He was not even being treated as well as one would treat an earthly father or master (1:6).
2) He challenged them to present these same things to their governor (1:8), knowing the people would have too much fear of the governor to bring such pitiful offerings to him.
3) The Lord expressed a desire that someone would have the courage or decency to close the doors to the temple so that the pointless fires would no longer be kindled on the altar (1:10).
4) He declared that as One whose name would be great among the nations He would not accept such offerings (1:10, 11).
5) The Lord announced that these blemished offerings would bring a curse on those who offered them (1:14).
6) And then He closed this section with the great statement of explanation: “‘For I am a great King, says the LORD of hosts, ‘And My name is to be feared among the nations’”(1:14).
Fast forward almost 2,500 years and how different are some today? While I would not argue that each and every element of so-called contemporary worship is wrong in and of itself, would anyone argue with sincerity that it is the recognition that the Lord is a great King and one whose name is to feared that has prompted the desire to make worship assemblies more casual, more comfortable, more compatible with our own appetites and desires? I am not suggesting that our goal should be to make worship uncomfortable or inconvenient for the sake of inconvenience, nor do I have an interest in establishing the official dress code for worship, but has man’s comfort not become the number one goal of many? Has the concept not become, let’s give God, figuratively speaking, the blind, lame, and sick when it comes to our time, our money, our entire approach to worship?
Even those who have not bought into the contemporary worship concept and still recognize the need to serve the great King with reverence and awe are not exempt from these concerns. Would we present our employers or perhaps our school principals with the type excuses we use for missing the worship assemblies? Would we expect to keep our jobs if our work were done with no more enthusiasm than that with which we worship God? If we are honest with ourselves, would we admit to sometimes thinking, “Oh, what a weariness” while trudging through another hour of worship?
We may be disgusted by the blatant blasphemy of many today and we may shake our heads in wonder at the casual approach of contemporary worship, but it behooves us all to regularly stop and look inward as we consider the greatness of the one we worship. The Lord of hosts is a great King and deserving of our deepest reverence and most dedicated service. May Malachi’s words spoken more than two millennia ago have a contemporary meaning as we seek to “serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. For our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:28, 29).
(All quotations from New King James Version, Thomas Nelson Publishing Company)