Every week during our weekly service, we open our gathering with what we call "corporate worship." Quite simply, corporate worship is worshiping God through song, which the church does together in unison.
It's a powerful display of the church's unity as we lift our voices in song to our Lord in heaven.
It is easy for this practice to become a routine since it takes place every single week. We understand that the consistency of this worship is a choice. We choose to open our services with worship because we believe that regardless of what is occurring outside of our four walls, God still deserves praise. We do not choose to worship God only when it "feels right." Instead, worship is a choice, and we will continue to choose to do it every time our church gathers together because of the faithfulness of God.
"Regardless of what is occurring outside of our four walls, God still deserves praise."
But with this routine of corporate worship, there comes a very real temptation for us as believers to go through the motions and await worship to conclude so we can sit back down for the message and the rest of service.
Therefore, any time we can find an opportunity to reflect on what real worship looks like, it is advantageous of us as believers to do so, and in the book of Malachi, we find a great example of God sending a message to the Israelites about what real worship truly looks like.
During the time of Malachi, the Israelites and God had a strange relationship. The people assumed that God's promises for prosperity were specifically for their generation (they were for future generations of the Israelites) and because of their misunderstanding, when those promises did not occur, they began to become very impatient.
This impatience led to a lot of disdain for God, and during the time of the Prophet Malachi, God wanted to send a message to the Israelites about their lack of commitment to Him.
This message deals with many of the disobedient practices the Israelites had found themselves doing, but the first was their lazy worship.
“A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am a father, where is my honor? And if I am a master, where is my fear? says the LORD of hosts to you, O priests, who despise my name. 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."
God begins His message by acknowledging the truth that when you recognize someone's authority in your life, it has an impact on the way you live. A father has authority over his son, and a son honors his father because of this authority. As for a master, the authority of a master demands the respect of their servant.
"When you recognize someone's authority in your life, it has an impact on the way you live."
But as you continue reading into the end of verse 6, it is clear that God does not feel that the Israelites have been honoring or respecting His authority in their lives, especially the priests, who are the ones that should be helping the people see God's authority. In fact, His anger towards the priests and their dishonoring practices leads God to go as far as to say that they despise God!
The Israelites despising God? Although this language might sound harsh, God continues in the rest of the previous verses offering the Israelites evidence to point to the ways they have indeed despised God with their actions. Specifically, God points to their lazy worship through the offering of polluted food on God's altar.
In the Old Testament, it is strictly forbidden in Leviticus 22:20 to offer anything that has a blemish on the altar of God, and yet we learn here in Malachi that the Israelites have been offering up sacrifices that are blind, lame, and sick. These choices by the people and the priests are considered evil by God, which is why He claims that they despise Him.
This alone is enough for God to be angry, but He continues with even more evidence of Israels disobedience in verse 8, where he says, "Present that to your governor; will he accept you or show you favor?"
There was an authority in the Israelites' lives, and it was not God. The governors and political leaders in their community were honored with the paying of taxes in full, and yet the people neglected the demands of God and instead offered cheap and polluted offerings to Him.
"There was an authority in the Israelites' lives, and it was not God."
Point blank, God is highlighting that the there was a heart issue for the Israelites. This heart issue is something that continues today in the hearts of millions of Christians who neglect pure worship to God but prioritize politics and other temporary pleasures this world has to offer.
The people were offering God less than everything but were quick to offer their political leaders everything they had and more. This struggle for who owns the heart--God or the world--is a problem that will never fade away. The question is, which side will you find yourself on?
"This struggle for who owns the heart--God or the world--is a problem that will never fade away. The question is, which side will you find yourself on?"
Are you offering God pure worship with a heart that is fully submitted to Him? Or have you been offering God polluted worship that has been tainted with worldly commitments? This is the central question that must be answered by all of us.
Paul commands us in Romans,
"I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect."
Pure worship comes from a body that has been offered to God as a living sacrifice. Polluted worship comes from a body that protest the refining power of full submission.