November 9, 2014
Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church
… Even Though He Brings an Offering to the LORD Almighty
Sovereign God, we seek no glory but our own. Reveal to us all the mystery of Your will from before the foundations of the world. In the fullness of time, unite all things in heaven and on earth, in Jesus Christ Your Son. Amen.
A couple of weeks ago I went to a three-day prayer summit – 70 pastors and ministry leaders from churches all across the inland northwest met for the sole purpose of being together to lift our hearts to God and to listen for His voice back to us. On the 2nd night, we had the chairs arranged in a circle, and the leader looked straight at me and started making some kind gestures with his eyes, signals that I had no idea what they meant. So I looked back, quizzically, and nervously. Finally I started making hand signals, like “You talking to me?” But he just kept making the same weird googly eye signals. Finally as I started to stand up, his gaze refocused and he mouthed – “no, not you!” And I realized his wife was sitting in the row behind me.
Maybe you’ve been in a crowd and someone yelled, “Look out!” What do most people do? We either ignore the warning, or look around. “Look out” usually means “Duck!”
Moms can be good for giving warnings that lose their impact, too. How many of you have heard your mom say things like: “If you don’t stop crossing your eyes they’ll stay that way!”
I interrupted my sermon prep to check FaceBook and a friend posted the Taylor Swift song Shake It Off synced to an ’80s aerobic dance video, my friend said this: “I warn you, you cannot unsee this”, and then I watched it and cannot unsee it!
For the last month we have been listening to the Old Testament prophet Micah and heard him remind us that even though there are so many ways in which we fall short of meeting God’s standards, we can always count on His unconditional love. Micah kept reminding us of God’s worthiness of our worship.
We are now in the book of Malachi. This is the very last book in the Old Testament, and it was written, probably, around the time of Ezra and Nehemiah, also among the final books written in the Old Testament. We know almost nothing about Malachi, except that his name means “My messenger” or maybe “My angel”. Malachi continues the theme of God’s worthiness, but his emphasis is on our responsibility to worship Him well.
Hear the Word of God from Malachi 2:1-9…. —-
1 “And now, you priests, this warning is for you. 2 If you do not listen, and if you do not resolve to honor my name,” says the LORD Almighty, “I will send a curse on you, and I will curse your blessings. Yes, I have already cursed them, because you have not resolved to honor me.
3 “Because of you I will rebuke your descendants; I will smear on your faces the dung from your festival sacrifices, and you will be carried off with it. 4 And you will know that I have sent you this warning so that my covenant with Levi may continue,” says the LORD Almighty. 5 “My covenant was with him, a covenant of life and peace, and I gave them to him; this called for reverence and he revered me and stood in awe of my name. 6 True instruction was in his mouth and nothing false was found on his lips. He walked with me in peace and uprightness, and turned many from sin.
7 “For the lips of a priest ought to preserve knowledge, because he is the messenger of the LORD Almighty and people seek instruction from his mouth. 8 But you have turned from the way and by your teaching have caused many to stumble; you have violated the covenant with Levi,” says the LORD Almighty. 9 “So I have caused you to be despised and humiliated before all the people, because you have not followed my ways but have shown partiality in matters of the law.”
Did you hear the warning?! “If you don’t listen, and if you don’t resolve to honor my name, I will send a curse on you!”And then the warning turns ugly, “I will smear on your faces the dung from your festival sacrifices….” And who said this? The LORD Almighty!
Verse 1 does say, “OK you priests, this is for you!” So maybe we can all ignore the warning. After all, no one in this room is officially a priest! Maybe Kathy is, but not me! Right?
The term “priest” was not only used to identify a certain group of people in the Old Testament, but is also used to describe every believer in the New Testament. In the Old Testament, priests were descendants of Moses’ brother Aaron, who was from the tribe of Levi. They were called Levites and their job was to serve in the Tabernacle and later in the Temple.
But, amazingly, the Bible teaches that you and I are priests. We are set apart to be involved in wonderful worship and sacrificial service. I Peter 2:9 says, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” John put it this way in Revelation 1:6: “And has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father…”
So this warning in Malachi 2:1 is addressed to me, and to you!
Someone once said, to have a good sermon you need a good beginning and a good ending, and the two should be as close together as possible! We have seven points to make in today’s passage – but I’m gonna try to bring the beginning and the ending close together. So listen well, because this warning is important!
The criticism God was giving to the priests of Malachi’s day was that they did not honor His name. The first four of the big 10 were about honoring God’s name. The greatest commandment, to love the Lord with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength and all your mind, means to honor His name! The Lord’s Prayer starts off with “Hallowed be Thy name” – it’s a prayer to honor His name!
Is this directed at us? You better believe it is! Whenever we ignore God’s Word in order to do what we want to do, we dis-honor God’s name. Whenever we carelessly gossip about someone, we dis-honor God’s name. Whenever we complain about not getting our own way, we dis-honor God’s name. Whenever we abuse whatever power or authority we think is ours, we dis-honor God’s name.
Is it ever excusable? Probably not! Does God offer forgiveness? Yes He does. But He also, simply because He is God, He has the right to REBUKE us however He sees fit. In the generation before Malachi that rebuke took the form of the people of Judah being sent into exile to Babylon. If we feel exiled, we might need to look to see if REBUKE might be a deserved discipline.
The LORD also has the right to REJECT whomever He chooses to REJECT! Does that sound harsh? It does to me, too. But I’m growing in my trust that God is Almighty, all-knowing, all gracious, He is also all trust-worthy!
And, the LORD has the right even to REMOVE any who dis-honor His name. He promises that He will not lose His grip on any who are truly His, but part of being truly His includes the desire to honor His name!
Malachi encourages us to worship God meaningfully and well. Not just to avoid being rebuked, rejected, or removed, but simply to honor His name well.
Malachi 2 reminds us that we have the responsibility and the ability to RESPOND to God in obedience. God wants us to listen and to set our hearts for obedience. James 1:22 tells us that faith without works is dead, but listen to how The Message translates that verse: “Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you are a listener when you are anything but, letting the Word go in one ear and out the other. Act on what you hear!”
Our Moving Back into the Neighborhood Guiding Team is in the process of helping us listen. Are you listening to the Lord? Are we as a congregation listening to the Lord? The litmus test of true listening is in our living out what we know to be true. RESPOND to God in obedience!
Malachi 2 reminds us that we have the responsibility and the ability to REVERE God as awesome! In verse 4, God is longing for His covenant with Levi to continue. Levi was the third of Leah’s sons born to Jacob. His name literally means, “to adhere,” or “be joined to.” Leah was hoping that with his birth, her husband might be drawn closer to her: “Now at last my husband will become attached to me … so he was named Levi (Genesis 29:34)”.
This reveals a universal desire of wives everywhere. They want their husbands to be locked into them. Malachi uses that image more a little later.
What’s kind of interesting about this “longing of God” is that no where does the Bible mention something called a “Levitical Covenant”. In fact, Levi is often mentioned in negative terms. But Moses and Aaron were in the Tribe of the Levites, and Moses is well known for how he revered God, especially through the 40 years of Wilderness. Do you REVERE God as awesome? Even when life is hard? Let’s turn to our neighbors and just remind each other that “God is awesome”!
Malachi 2 reminds us that we have the responsibility and the ability to RESOLVE to lead ourselves! Look at verse 6: “True instruction was in his mouth and nothing false was found on his lips. He walked with me in peace and uprightness, and turned many from sin.”
We each own the duty of RESOLVING to lead ourselves in God’s Word – that might mean joining a Bible study group, it might mean morning devotions, it might mean memorizing Scripture passages. However it works for you, we are obliged to make sure that God’s Word penetrates our lives!
Don’t wait for the New Year to make a resolution. RESOLVE today to pay more attention to God’s Word in your lives. Imagine our impact on our families and friends, our community and neighborhoods, our city and state, if we RESOLVED together to lead ourselves into God’s Word!
Malachi 2 reminds us that we have the responsibility and the ability to REPRESENT God to others! One of the roles of the priest was to represent God and reveal His will to the people. We see this in the first part of verse 7: “For the lips of a priest ought to preserve knowledge ….” This really just means to live our faith out loud – to boldly live like we believe what we say we believe. To preserve knowledge means to guard against hiding our faith in a closet so that no one knows what we believe!
In a way, REPRESENTING God to others happens automatically when we obediently RESPOND to God’s Word with REVERENCE for God’s awesomeness causing us to RESOLVE to live even more deeply in His Word.
If we’re living our faith out loud, people will notice and they will seek instruction from us. If no one has asked you why your life is different, then maybe it really isn’t!
Did you hear the warning for you? … Even Though He Brings an Offering to the LORD Almighty, God can REBUKE, REJECT, even REMOVE us if we do not RESPOND in obedience, REVERE God’s awesomeness, RESOLVE to lead ourselves more deeply into His Word, and REPRESENT God to the world around us.
Like Mom said, If we “cross” our eyes – maybe they’ll stay that way! Thanks for the warning, Mom. Amen!
Psalms for All Seasons: A Complete Psalter for Worship; Calvin Institute of Christian Worship; Grand Rapids, MI; 2012; P. 496.
Smith, Ralph L.; Word Biblical Commentary 32; Word Books; Waco, TX; 1984; Pp. 317-325.