Give of your best to the One who intercedes for you

MALACHI -Fifth in a series

Malachi 1:7 Ye offer polluted bread upon mine altar; and ye say, Wherein have we polluted thee? In that ye say, The table of the LORD is contemptible.

This is not a cryptic verse, yet, from reading the comments of many theologians, it is a baffling one.

Several commentaries pointed out that the bread offering was set on a table and not an altar, and that the reference to an altar would suggest that the word bread here refers to the animal sacrifice. You can read for yourself the various comments of many expositors on StudyLight.org. Calvin states: "I have no doubt but that God means by bread here every kind of offering, and we know that the shew-bread was not offered on the altar; but there was a table by itself appointed for this purpose near the altar." Wesley says: "Bread - Either the meal offerings, or rather in a more large sense, all sacrifices and oblations…"

The Word of God is a rich feast, and those who delve into it enjoy many hours of banqueting. Then, too, it is a masterfully cut diamond with so many facets and inner lights that we become enamored of its complex beauty. Or, we may become overawed.

In regard to this verse, the more commentaries I read, the more confused I became. I finally looked in my ROL (regular old library) and found a paperback, Thus Shalt Thou Serve, first published in 1955 by Christian Literature Crusade. I have not been able to find much background information about the author, a British pastor, C.W. Slemming.

This is a study of the Offerings and Feasts of Israel that enables clarification regarding the bread offered upon the altar— which was polluted by the priests in the day of Malachi's prophecy.

The bread offering was called, in the King James Version, the meat offering. The reason for using the word meat was that, in the days when King James ruled England, a person would not be asked out to a meal. He would be invited to "meat." (Thus Shalt Thou Serve, p 27) Slemming terms it a "meal" offering to better define it.

The Hebrew word for meal offering denotes "the gift of an inferior to a superior." Thus, the gift must be worthy of the one to whom it is given. The preparation of a meal offering is described in Leviticus. (Lev 2:1-2). It was never to be prepared with leaven (Lev 2:4, 11) nor with honey (Lev 2:11) "The fermenting properties of leaven reduce the whole of the meal into a condition of corruption." (ibid, p. 31) (see 1 Cor 5:6-7; Mat 16:11-12) Honey, in excess, can sour the stomach, which could affect the priests' enjoyment of it. Both ingredients typify heart attitudes to avoid: pride and self indulgence.

The bread (meal offering) given by the people to the priests was seasoned with salt and further prepared (Lev 2:15) before a portion of it was burned on the altar (Lev 2:2, 8, 9,12) as a sweet savor unto the Lord.

How had it been polluted by the priests addressed by Malachi? Was it not prepared properly? Or, did it not reflect the best the offerer had to give?

The meal offering was a voluntary offering. Those who prepared it according to law gave it to the priest to show him appreciation and honor. As already noted, it was a gift from an inferior to a superior. It could be made from uncooked flour, unleavened cakes or from roasted grain; baked in a pan or cooked in a frying pan. Thus allowances were made for the person's circumstances. (ibid, p. 29) If the person had not respected the priest by using his best ingredients, then it ought to be rejected, for the priest was his mediator to God. And it was the job of the priest to uphold standards and respect for his office.

Verse 7 states that the Lord accuses the priests of polluting God himself. They had made the table where this bread was set "contemptible" to God. Yet they protested, "Wherein have we polluted thee?"

It was not immediately clear to the priests what they were doing wrong. Perhaps they would spend much time discussing this prophecy and praying to discern what their particular sin was. Something was amiss, or much worse: The God of their fathers, the Creator and Lord of all was offended by their service in His House. How could they remedy the crisis?

We today should question whether our worship practices are an offense to God. Do we pollute Him by anything we offer? Or, is it even important to worship inside a building? If it is, how should we dress? Does it matter?

These are not questions we can quickly answer or even understand. Our response will reveal our secret thoughts as well as our level of understanding of what God wants. As Slemming notes, "Ignorance is not easily established; much of the ignorance we seek to claim is willful. We could have found the facts but we did not bother." (ibid, p. 43)

O priests, that despise my name

MALACHI -Fourth in a series

Malachi 1:6 A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master: if then I be a father, where is mine honour? and if I be a master, where is my fear? saith the LORD of hosts unto you, O priests, that despise my name. And ye say, Wherein have we despised thy name?

Has the Lord ever said a threatening word to you personally, through his Word? Every Christian would say, Yes! The Bible has power to discern our thoughts and motivations and to exhort and guide us. And if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. (1 Cor 11:31)

In Malachi 1:6 there is potential guidance for us, since WE are the priests today. (1 Pe 2:9; Rev 1:6)

What does it mean to despise the name of God?

In answering this question, it is good to have a resource to consult such as the Westminster Larger Catechism (WLC). It teaches that breaking the third commandment comprises a great number and variety of sins. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord in vain (Ex 20:7) is an analogous concept to despising His name.

WLC Question 112 asks: What is required in the third commandment? The answer is:

The third commandment requires, That the name of God, his titles, attributes, ordinances, the Word, sacraments, prayer, oaths, vows, lots, his works, and whatsoever else there is whereby he makes himself known, be holily and reverently used in thought, meditation, word, and writing; by an holy profession, and answerable conversation, to the glory of God, and the good of ourselves, and others. [ref]

Then, the answer to Question 113 elaborates on this explanation, relating various Scripture passages to the numerous ways in which we may show lack of reverence for God's name, in effect despising it, though at times unwittingly.

Q 113: What are the sins forbidden in the third commandment?
We normally view the below points in paragraph form, but the list format makes it easy to view the associated Scriptures. (The rollover popup may not load quickly if you hover over the Scripture references in rapid succession.)

A. The sins forbidden in the third commandment are,

  • the not using of God’s name as is required; [Malachi 2:2]
  • and the abuse of it in an ignorant, [Acts 17:23]
  • vain, [Proverbs 30:9]
  • irreverent, profane, [Malachi 1:6-7, 12; 3:14]
  • superstitious [1 Samuel 4:3-5; Jeremiah 7:4, 9-10, 14, 31; Colossians 2:20-22]
  • or wicked mentioning or otherwise using his titles, attributes, [2 Kings 18:30, 35; Exodus 5:2; Psalm 139:20]
  • ordinances, [Psalm 50:16-17]
  • or works, [Isaiah 5:12]
  • by blasphemy, [2 Kings 19:22; Leviticus 24:11]
  • perjury; [Zechariah 5:4; 8:17]
  • all sinful cursings, [1 Samuel 17:43; 2 Samuel 16:5]
  • oaths, [Jeremiah 5:7; 23:10]
  • vows, [Deuteronomy 23:18; Acts 23:12, 14]
  • and lots; [Esther 3:7; 9:24]
  • violating of our oaths and vows, if lawful; [Psalm 24:4; Ezekiel 17:16, 18-19]
  • and fulfilling them, if of things unlawful; [Mark 6:26; 1 Samuel 25:22, 32-34]
  • murmuring and quarreling at, [Romans 9:14, 19-20]
  • curious prying into, [Deuteronomy 29:29]
  • and misapplying of God’s decrees [Romans 3:5, 7; 6:1]
  • and providences; [Ecclesiastes 8:11; Ecclesiastes 9:3; Psalm 39]
  • misinterpreting, [Matthew 5:21-22]
  • misapplying, [Ezekiel 13:22]
  • or any way perverting the Word, or any part of it; [2 Peter 3:16; Matthew 22:24-31; 25:28-30]
  • to profane jests, [Isaiah 22:13; Jeremiah 23:34, 36, 38]
  • curious or unprofitable questions, vain janglings, or the maintaining of false doctrines; [1 Timothy 1:4, 6-7; 6:4-5, 20; 2 Timothy 2:14]
  • abusing it, the creatures, or anything contained under the name of God, to charms, [Deuteronomy 18:10-14; Acts 19:13]
  • or sinful lusts and practices; [2 Timothy 4:3-4; Romans 13:13-14; 1 Kings 21:9-10; Jude 4]
  • the maligning, [Acts 13:45; 1 John 3:12]
  • scorning, [Psalm 1:1; 2 Peter 3:3]
  • reviling, [1 Peter 4:4]
  • or any wise opposing of God’s truth, grace, and ways; [Acts 13:45-46, 50; 4:18; 19:9 et al]
  • making profession of religion in hypocrisy, or for sinister ends; [2 Timothy 3:5; Matthew 23:14 et al]
  • being ashamed of it, [Mark 8:38]
  • or a shame to it, by unconformable, [Psalm 73:14-15]
  • unwise, [1 Corinthians 6:5-6; Ephesians 5:15-17]
  • unfruitful, [Isaiah 5:4; 2 Peter 1:8-9]
  • and offensive walking, [Romans 2:23-24]
  • or backsliding from it. [Galatians 3:1, 3; Hebrews 6:6]

No doubt each of us will find ways in which we have not honored the name of God.

In the next post we will study the specific ways that the priests to whom Malachi spoke directly were not honoring God's name. As the leaders, the blame fell upon them more than on the people. This is true for Christians as well. We are the leaders who must set a good example.

For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? (1 Pe 4:17)

The postexilic posture

MALACHI -Third in a series

In the previous post we looked at the beautiful ways of love elaborated in 1 Corinthians 13, and noted that love is at root a decision. I may love you in a simple or emotional way for a time, but eventually I must choose to love you despite yourself and my self. To this, we now add that true love disciplines; it is tough love.

For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives. It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? … all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. (Heb 12:6-11)

The exile was a severe discipline:

  • WHAT A forced deportation of Jews living in Judah and Jerusalem to a foreign land, Chaldea.
  • WHY Ordained by the Lord to show his rejection of their evil behavior and heathen worship practices.
  • WHERE They were exiled in Babylon, the ancient site on the Euphrates where the Lord had confused the language so that tribes would scatter and populate the earth.
  • WHO Nebuchadnezzar, the king of the Chaldeans, only deported the prominent citizens of Judah: professionals, priests, craftsmen, and the wealthy. The simple folk were allowed to stay.
  • WHEN Various groups were deported over a period of time. The exile was prophesied to last for 70 years and ran between 605 and 536 B.C., though the last group did not return until about 432 with Nehemiah.

The probable dates of Malachi's ministry were 440-430 BC, and some suggest he was Ezra, whose surname could have been Malachi. Malachi means My Messenger, and is considered to be generic, not a personal name, in the same vein as Luke's Theophilus. (Luk 1:3; Acts 1:1)

For the Israelites, there were two times of exile. The first, of the northern kingdom, was a "diaspora" resulting in a disappearance, but during the second— of the southern kingdom— the deported Jews formed their own community in Babylon and retained their religion, practices, and philosophies. (ref) Yet their worship ceremonies in Babylon would not have enjoyed the same feeling or perception of God's presence since it was identified with their Temple and Jerusalem.

The latter returnees showed eagerness and diligence in reestablishing Jerusalem and temple worship, as we read in Ezra and Nehemiah, but Malachi addresses descendants who seem disenfranchised. Their ceremonial observances had become rote, mechanical in nature. They no longer honored the Lord in their offerings and worship, but rather, insulted him.

It is hard to maintain a sincere, lively faith. Again, Malachi speaks to us today.

Upon their return to Israel, the Jews never again practiced idolatry, yet they were in need of renewal in heart and vision, as we will see in the next post.

Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. -Mat 5:14

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