“If you bring a blind animal to sacrifice, isn’t that evil? If you bring a lame or sick one, isn’t that evil? Would you bring it to your governor? Would he be pleased with it or accept you? says the Lord of heavenly forces.” Malachi 1:8 CEB
Have you ever been excited about receiving a gift? Many years ago, a person in the church I was serving asked if my family would like a used big screen television. The person who was asking had purchased a new big screen television for their home and was looking to give away their older one. I responded quickly that we would take it. A friend, who had a pickup truck, and I went over to the person’s home to pick up the television. I had not seen the TV at the time I said yes. When we arrived, the person took me to the garage and there is was. It was a 15-year-old unit that was huge. It was in its own cabinet where two thirds of the unit was the screen and the bottom third was the speaker and controls. I will admit it was not what I was expecting. I was expecting an older TV, but one that was an older version of a flat screen. Instead, we graciously accepted this monstrous TV into our home. I want to be clear—we loved that TV for many years after receiving it. Even though it was 15 years old it was in pristine shape and worked as well as the day it rolled off the assembly line at the factory. My girls were much younger, and they loved watching their Disney movies, kids shows, and playing their games on that TV. It was awesome. However, it was not what I thought it was going to be.
I have wondered something over the years. What if that person, who donated their old TV to our family, had purchased a brand new TV for our family (which I believe that they had more than enough resources to do so)? Would my reaction have been different? Oh, I absolutely guarantee it would have been different! I would have been speechless and quite possibly in tears. At that time, we could not afford any new TV, let alone one like the new one this person had purchased for his home. By the way, the TV that was given to our family was a 54-inch, rear-projection tv. The one that the person had purchased for their own home was an 80-inch plasma TV. In other words, the person had bought the best for their home and given what they no longer wanted to our home. Again, we were incredibly grateful and enjoyed many years of use from that TV. I have simply wondered over the years the difference it would make to offer someone else your best instead of giving yourself the best.
This is the main point of the first chapter of Malachi. The people, and the priests, were not offering their best to God. It was not as if they didn’t know any better. Both the people and the priests had been given very specific directions on how to bring offerings to the Lord [see Leviticus]. Despite these instructions, however, the priests were allowing the people to bring substandard offerings. This is what prompts God to send Malachi to deliver the following message, “If you bring a blind animal to sacrifice, isn’t that evil? If you bring a lame or sick one, isn’t that evil? Would you bring it to your governor? Would he be pleased with it or accept you? Says the Lord of heavenly forces.” In other words, you have decided on your own to bring less than what I have commanded—which is evil because it is the opposite of what I require. Even though the people have the means to give their best, they are giving substandard offerings. This is an insult to God and shows that God is not very important to them.
We do not bring animal offerings to the Lord anymore. We are not asked to do so. We are asked to give our life as an offering to God. “All who want to come after me must say no to themselves, take up their cross, and follow me. All who want to save their lives will lose them. But all who lose their lives because of me will find them.” [Matthew 16:24-25] This is what makes following Jesus an upside down, counter cultural experience. Jesus calls us to do the exact opposite of our earthly instincts. Two thousand years later we are no different. We have bought into the concept of keeping the best for ourselves and giving the rest, or unwanted, away. We look at giving things we no longer want or need as charity. God desires for us to give the best of what someone else needs to them. God desires for us to give the best of that with which we have been blessed to God. It is by doing this that we honor and value God as the most important thing in our life.
Will you commit to giving God your best? Let’s give God our best in all that we do today and always.
This weekend at all four worship services we begin a new message series Malachi: The Messenger. Malachi was God’s messenger to people and priests who had lost their way. Malachi’s specific role was to help the people of God repent and return to the covenant God has made with them. As we now know, this was in preparation of the coming of the Messiah and the New Covenant. This weekend we will discuss how we are called to bring our best. I hope you will join us this weekend and every weekend. The best is yet to come for St. Andrew’s as we are on mission together. I can’t wait to see you in church!