By J.R. Miller
Malachi 1:6-11; 3:8-12
The prophet reproves the people for their lack of loyalty and faithfulness to Jehovah. He had treated them as a father--but they had not given Him a father's love and honor. "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."
Everywhere dishonor to parents is branded as a grievous sin. One who treats a parent unkindly or with neglect--may have many virtues and do many things well--but the one sin dims and blots all. One of the papers tells of a young woman at an old man's coffin. She kissed him and wept over him. She told the people how good he was. He was old and poor--and she was young and rich. She had ten rooms--but no room for her father. Yet he made room for her, when he had only two. He was not educated. She was, and at his expense. He had fed and clothed and sent her to college--until she grew refined and popular and married a rich man. Now she kissed him and cried by his coffin and buried him handsomely. But everybody said that this did not make up for her lack of kindness, in the years of his old age.
God is our Father. This revelation was made in all its fullness by Jesus Christ. We all love to say that He is our Father, and to talk of His wonderful goodness. Yes--but that is not all the honor we ought to give to such a Father. We ought to hallow His name, to advance His kingdom, and do His will. Does not God many times say to us, "If I am a father--where is My honor?"
The people presumed to contend with God, claiming that they had been true to Him. "But you ask--How have we shown contempt for Your name?" Then we have Jehovah's answer, "You have despised My name by offering defiled sacrifices on My altar!" Still they deny to God that they have in any way dishonored His name or His service. "Then you ask--How have we defiled the sacrifices?" The answer is, "In that you say: The table of Jehovah is contemptible."
We may as well look at our own conduct--while we are hearing God's charges against His ancient children. That is true Bible reading--which allows the words to search our own heart and life. We should never offer to God--that which we would not use ourselves. Are not too many of our self--denials, only the giving up of things which we do not care for? Do we not too often keep the best for ourselves--and then let God have what we do not wish?
The priests had been offering on the altar of Jehovah, sacrifices which were not worthy of His holy name. "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 be pleased? says the LORD Almighty."
The Jewish law required that every sacrifice offered unto God--must be without blemish. No lame, blind, or diseased animal would be accepted. It was an insult to God to bring to His altar anything that was maimed, blemished, or worthless. Yet the people had been taking the best of everything for themselves, and then bringing the refuse--the blind and lame animals--as offerings to God. "Suppose you treat your governor thus," asked the Lord, "what would he think? Would he be pleased?"
Well, how is it again with ourselves? The object in putting these verses in the Bible--was not to get us to condemn the people who lived twenty-three hundred years ago! It was to make us think whether we are doing this base thing ourselves! Do we give God the best of all we have--our best love, our best gifts, our best service? Or do we take the best of all for ourselves--and then give God the blind and the lame? How many people in the church when the collection plate is being passed, pick out the smallest bit of money--to put in the plate! We give our strength to our own work or leisure, and then have only our weariness to bring to God. We save our best things for ourselves, and then have only worthless things to offer our wondrous King! What kind of service are we giving to our glorious Lord?
The Lord's answer to the arrogant defense of the priests is startling. "Oh, that one of you would shut the temple doors, so that these worthless sacrifices could not be offered! I am not at all pleased with you--and I will not accept your offerings! says the LORD Almighty."
People sometimes ask, with a sneer: "Is there anyone to hear you when you pray? Is there anyone to accept the worship you bring?" The Lord says plainly here that there was no one to accept what these ancient worshipers brought. It is said frequently in the Bible, referring to offerings, that God smelled a sweet savor. That is, sincere worship is like fragrance to God. But God assures these ancient worshipers that He has no pleasure in them and will not receive the offerings they bring. This is because they bring Him such unfit and unworthy sacrifices.
What do WE bring to God--when we go through the forms of prayer, when we sing the sacred words of our hymn, when we make our offerings, when we have our "consecration meetings," when we sit down at the Lord's table? If there is only words, words, words in all our acts of worship--no heart, no love, no real presenting of ourselves to God, no laying of our best on the altar--God has no pleasure in us and will not accept our offerings at our hand. "God is a Spirit--and they that worship Him must worship in spirit and truth."
In the third chapter, the prophet prophesies the coming of the Messenger of the covenant and the beginning of His sifting work. The people were suffering from divine judgments. The reason for these, was that they had not been faithful to God. They are asked to return, and they ask, "'How are we to return?" The Lord then charged them with having robbed Him. "How have we robbed You?" and the answer is, "In tithes and offerings."
It seems incredible that anyone should rob God. It is terrible enough that one man should ever rob another man; and how can anyone rob God? Yet the Lord said these ancient people of His had been robbing Him. How? They had not broken into heaven and stolen the gold, silver, and precious stones from the walls and streets. They had robbed God by keeping back from Him the gifts they ought to have brought to Him. They had not paid their tithes, they had not brought the required offering. Not paying what we owe is robbery.
Do we never rob God? Of course, we do not break open church offering boxes and steal money that has been given to God. But do we never fail to give to God what belongs to Him? Think of all the promises we make to God in our hymns and prayers. Do we keep them all? We promise to obey Christ and serve Him always, cheerfully, promptly, lovingly. De we do it? We promise to love our fellow-men and to be kind, patient, and helpful to all. Then we go among men with jealousy, envy, bitter feelings, keeping back the love and the ministry of love!
Perhaps we are robbing God even in the matter of money. Are we paying all we owe to God? Someone tells of a man who, speaking of the freeness of the gospel, said he had been a Christian for twenty years--and it had not cost him a penny! There are too many people whose religion does not cost them half enough! They rob God, keeping out of His treasury what is His--and spending it on themselves.
Robbing God brings a curse. An eagle stole a piece of lamb off the temple altar and flew with it to her nest on the crag. But a coal clung to the meat and set fire to the nest and consumed it. So a curse clings to everything stolen from God or withheld from Him, and brings its penalty!