Be a good witness

MALACHI -Seventh in a series

Malachi 1:9-12 And now, I pray you, beseech God that he will be gracious unto us: this hath been by your means: will he regard your persons? saith the LORD of hosts. (vs 9)
Who is there even among you that would shut the doors for nought? neither do ye kindle fire on mine altar for nought. I have no pleasure in you, saith the LORD of hosts, neither will I accept an offering at your hand. (vs10)
For from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same my name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in every place incense shall be offered unto my name, and a pure offering: for my name shall be great among the heathen, saith the LORD of hosts. (vs 11)
But ye have profaned it, in that ye say, The table of the LORD is polluted; and the fruit thereof, even his meat, is contemptible. (vs 12)

In the previous posts we noted that the priests under Malachi's scrutiny offered impure sacrifices and oblations. The animals were blind, sick and lame and the meal offerings were substandard.

Why would men offer blemished creatures to atone for their sins? Why the disrespectful bread? In today's verses we gain more insight, namely, the priests were disappointing leaders.

Malachi points out to the priests that God will not hear their prayers on behalf of the people because he would not "regard your persons." (vs 9) These were leaders who would not even shut the door of the house of God unless they were paid to do so. (vs 10) Much less would they kindle a fire on God's altar without payment. They only did their assigned duties for a paycheck, not because it was in their hearts to serve God. Then, when they performed their priestly functions, it was with unacceptable offerings.

The people must have known what their priests were as men, so they did not honor them by bringing good animals, which were to atone for their sins as well as to provide food for the priests. One perfunctory deed deserves another—a vicious cycle.

The larger context casts some light on this situation. While the Jews were in captivity there was no temple worship. During that time,

the Jews consolidated around their sacred writings, and the Torah took the place of the temple as a sacred center… One of the Talmuds, a compendium of Jewish legal thought, was written in Babylon in the fifth century. (ref)
Elders supervised the Jewish communities… This was possibly also the period when synagogues were first established, for the Jews observed the Sabbath and religious holidays, practiced circumcision, and substituted prayers for former ritual sacrifices in the Temple. (ref)

But having returned to their land and rebuilt the temple, they were to worship in the old ways which may have seemed less interesting, more expensive, and a lot more trouble.

In either case, whether the priests and people had not adjusted to the old ways or whether they were simply sinners in their treatment of each other and their Temple worship, the result was that God's name was profaned.

Only pure offerings could please him in his Temple for my name shall be great among the heathen (vs 11) You may wonder, how could the Gentiles have known whether or not the Jews were fulfilling God's worship requirements? At this time, they were in control of Jerusalem, so they could see the Jews as they went to worship.

Though Cyrus, King of Persia, had promoted their return to their homeland and the reconstruction of their Temple (2Ch 36:23; Ezra 1:1-8; Isa 44:28), he did not go so far as to cede the land back to them. Thus, God wanted his own to be good witnesses to their overlords, and perhaps this did not occur to the Jews. Malachi forces their attention to these unbelievers to whom they are called to be faithful witnesses.

The bloody sacrifice

Why would healthy domestic animals brought as offerings to God's House be a good witness to the heathen? (vs 11)

These pointed to the lamb slain from the foundation of the world (Rev 13:8) and would cause the Gentiles to stop and wonder.

Once inside the temple, the ‘meat’ oblations (see fifth post) testified of the bread of life (Jhn 6:35, 48), for living bread would come down from heaven to bring salvation to his own.

In the 21st century AD, our practices are different yet we like the Jews of the fifth century BC must be wholehearted in worship, knowing and proclaiming that the blood atones for our sins— for us, the blood of Jesus. The celebration of communion that cannot be shared with outsiders will cause them to wonder about our God.