Imagine going to a restaurant with your spouse, fiancé, or boyfriend/girlfriend. As they sit across from you, you order a delicious entree of your favorite food. You carefully select each part of the meal, making sure it has a mixture of all of the things you really like. Ready with fork and knife in hand, you sit in anticipation as your savory dinner is set before you.
As you shovel forkfuls of the delectable meal into your mouth (still looking sophisticated while you do so of course), your date watches you from across the table. Your stomach eventually fills up, and your pace slows. You could probably force yourself to eat more, but at this point you’re satisfied.
You were so captivated by your meal that you sort of forgot about your company. Of course you didn’t actually completely forget about them, and you knew they were sitting there the whole time; but you really didn’t pay much attention to them either.
Coming to your senses, you look at the leftovers on your plate. You proceed to slide the luke-warm piece of meat, half-eaten vegetables, and raggedy potato skin (or whatever you like to eat) across the table to your date. With a big smile you say, “Here you go! I saved some for you!”, mentally patting yourself on the back while you tell yourself, “At least I remembered! I was just soooo preoccupied by my food, but I’m sure they understand and it’s all good!”
Unless we’re intentionally trying to insult the person sitting across from us or trying to distance ourselves from them, then that scenario is never “all good”. That narrative probably sounded completely ridiculous… of course being the polite and thoughtful people we all are, we would NEVER do that to someone, especially someone we supposedly care about.
So why do most of us treat God that way every day?
As I read through the book of Malachi this morning, there were so many great nuggets of truth that the Lord hit me with, but I’ll just focus on one today. The author rebukes the Jews that had been allowed to return from exile and rebuild the temple, as their faith in God decreased and their sin increased. One of their sins was their attempt to give defiled and polluted offerings to God as part of their worship.
But you say, ‘How have we despised your name?’ By offering polluted food upon my altar. But you say, ‘How have we polluted you?’ By saying that the Lord’s table may be despised. When you offer blind animals in sacrifice, is that not evil? And when you offer those that are lame or sick, is that not evil? Present that to your governor; will he accept you or show you favor? says the Lord of hosts. And now entreat the favor of God, that he may be gracious to us. With such a gift from your hand, will he show favor to any of you? says the Lord of hosts. Malachi 1:7-9
But you say, ‘What a weariness this is,’ and you snort at it, says the Lord of hosts. You bring what has been taken by violence or is lame or sick, and this you bring as your offering! Shall I accept that from your hand? says the Lord. Cursed be the cheat who has a male in his flock, and vows it, and yet sacrifices to the Lord what is blemished. For I am a great King, says the Lord of hosts, and my name will be feared among the nations. Malachi 1:12-14
This dialogue is sadly such a classic representation of watered-down Christianity today, which I’ve fallen into at times in the past myself. I’ll attempt to break down the verses to today’s terms, from what I interpreted God to be saying to me.
But you say, ‘How have we despised your name?’ By offering polluted food upon my altar. But you say, ‘How have we polluted you?’
But we say, “God, I know You’re holy, perfect and righteous and deserve only my best, but seriously, how have I shown any actual contempt towards You? You know how much You mean to me… don’t you?”
By saying that the Lord’s table may be despised. When you offer blind animals in sacrifice, is that not evil? And when you offer those that are lame or sick, is that not evil?
God replies, “Are you kidding me right now? You’re basically telling me that your leftovers are GOOD ENOUGH for Me as your offering on My table. When you offer me an indistinguishable fraction of your day in reading My Word or in prayer, is that not hateful and offensive? When you can’t at least tithe back to me from what is already Mine and I GAVE to you for kingdom work, is that not corrupt and insulting?”
Present that to your governor; will he accept you or show you favor? says the Lord of hosts. And now entreat the favor of God, that he may be gracious to us. With such a gift from your hand, will he show favor to any of you? says the Lord of hosts.
God continues, “Hey try this. Go to your boss or professor right now and present them with a partially completed project that is obvious you didn’t put any effort or care into. Oh, and put bows on it for effect. Will he/she say that’s acceptable and reward you for that? You turn in a joke of an effort to them, and then you ask Me that I would magically make them accept it graciously. With that type of poor showing, why in the world would they commend you for that?”
But you say, ‘What a weariness this is,’ and you snort at it, says the Lord of hosts. You bring what has been taken by violence or is lame or sick, and this you bring as your offering! Shall I accept that from your hand? says the Lord.
But we respond, “What a burden this is. It’s just too hard God. I’m just too busy and tired. I have a job, school, spouse, kids, activities, ministries, a social life, and personal drama I gotta tend to. Do you really expect me to cut out time from an already insanely jam-packed day to give back to You? Do you really expect me to give from a bank account that’s already empty at the end of each month?”
God replies, “Like I said, you bring me the leftovers of your time, talent, treasure, energy, mind, heart, and body, and bring that as your offering to me. So let Me get this straight one more time just to be sure I’m hearing you right… you’re telling Me to take it or leave it because that’s all you got?”
Cursed be the cheat who has a male in his flock, and vows it, and yet sacrifices to the Lord what is blemished. For I am a great King, says the Lord of hosts, and my name will be feared among the nations.
God continues, “You’re not going to like this, but I don’t want your leftovers. If that’s all you’re going to give me, then don’t give it to Me at all. Cursed be the one who I’ve given a life full of blessings, with more than enough to offer back to me in return, yet only gives me thoughtless, lackadaisical leftovers as their sacrifice. You give Me this as a ‘sacrifice of praise’, and then You ask Me to bless you afterwards. You ask Me to help you with this, to heal that, to get you through this, to give you that. Those who truly love Me wouldn’t find this acceptable if they’re honest with themselves. For I am the Lord your God, I created you and gave you everything you have, including the very breath in your lungs. Oh, and if you’ve forgotten, I gave you the sacrifice of MY OWN SON as well. My Name is and will be exalted across all creation for all time. If you truly accept Me as your King, then just like the rest of heaven and earth, you will recognize Who I Am and respond to that through how you live. Don’t say you want to or say you’ll give Me something better ‘some day’. Your words are empty, but your heart tells Me all.”
Obviously I took some personal liberties on tone and sarcasm when reflecting God’s response, but in the end, when you read the text carefully and understand the context, this is at least a taste of what He is saying to both the Jews at the time, and to us.
God’s Word is very plain and straight forward when it comes to what He asks of us. Later on in the book of Malachi, the author tells the people that the Lord is definitely coming, but He will come “like a refiner’s fire” to judge His people. And those who honor the Lord will be set apart when He does.
Let’s go back to my scenario above. Your date sits there watching you eat the choicest part of the meal first, and then you give them the nasty leftovers afterwards expecting them to happily take it as a showing of your love and respect for them. We would never do that right (well I hope most of us wouldn’t)? Because it just doesn’t make sense and is both disrespectful and heartless. So why do we do that to God when we wouldn’t do that to others? He definitely gives us more. He definitely loves us more. And He definitely deserves more.
Let today be the day when we turn to God and ask for His forgiveness, and then make the changes we need to in our lives to do better. Just as with the people in Jerusalem at the time, through repentance and reformation, God would not withhold His blessings from them. And likewise as Malachi warned, we must be prepared for the day that the Lord will return!
“Lord, thank You that even though I struggle with giving everything I have back to You, You still love me. Forgive me for neglecting You. Forgive me for putting temporary things above and before You. Forgive me for failing to realize who You truly are in my life, how much You’ve done for me, and how much You deserve from me. Forgive me for offering You leftovers as my sacrifice of praise and worship, and change my heart that I would only give You my best, moving this day forward and forever. In Jesus’ name, Amen!”
[From November 12, 2015]