‘A son honors his father, and a servant his master. Then if I am a Father, where is My honor? And if I am a Master, where is My respect?’ says the Lord of hosts to you, O priests who despise My name. But you say, ‘How have we despised Thy name?’ You are presenting defiled food upon My altar. But you say, ‘How have we defiled Thee?’ In that you say, ‘The table of the Lord is to be despised.’ But when you present the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? And when you present the lame and sick, is it not evil? Why not offer it to your governor? Would he be pleased with you? Or would he receive he receive you kindly?’ says the Lord of hosts”” (Mal. 1:6-8).
The Jews of Malachi’s day had a problem. They refused to take seriously their service to God, and that allowed them to slack off in their sacrifices. Rather than present the unblemished sacrifices God called for (Lev. 1:3,10; 3:1; 4:3, etc.), they had begun to offer animals which were diseased and blind and lame. It is obvious why this occurred: having lessened their commitment to God in their minds, it became easy to lighten the burden of the sacrifice. In other words, if this animal was to be killed anyway, why not offer an animal which was dying? God would get His ““sacrifice,”” and the Jew would not be burdened with giving up an animal which was good for food, or even worse, breeding stock.
God was displeased with the sacrifices. He had asked for their best, and that is what He expected, and His example of presenting these sacrifices to their governor made the point that if an earthly leader would not be happy with such, how much more unhappy should God be?
What does all this have to do with the Christian today, who offers no animal sacrifices? Only that God still demands our best in our worship to Him, and we must ask ourselves if that is what we are offering. I think there are four prominent areas where we can make clear assessment of our worship to God and determine whether or not we are offering our best.
Attitude. When we appear in the house of God, do we manifest the proper attitude, or do we simply ““go through the motions”” as we check off each item of worship? A proper attitude toward worship will probably begin the night before in our decision on whether or not we will plan to get a ““good night’s rest”” or plan to stay up late. Our mental state is affected by how tired we are, and when we come to worship unable to focus because we are too tired, our entire worship attitude is decreased. In addition, most of the time, we know what we will be studying in Bible class, so our attitude can be reflected in how prepared we are to discuss the lesson. Again, God’s analogy works: if we were going to have an audience with the President, wouldn’t we be prepared, rested and ready to talk to him? How much more our opportunity to have an audience with our God? An improper attitude is, in fact, what caused the Jews to offer such miserable sacrifices in Malachi’s day. Our attitudes are reflected by our focus in the worship to God.
Dress. This is perhaps another reflection of attitude, but today’s more casual approach to dress is becoming more and more manifest in worship services. It is clear that the Bible offers no dress code for coming to God’s house, but again, should we not offer our best? I cannot (nor would I) give instructions that all the men be in suits and ties and all the women in dresses, but whatever we wear should reflect an attitude of respect for our God (for reference, note the instructions on what Aaron was to wear when he entered the holy place, Lev. 16:3-4). Certainly, we can see the wisdom in drawing some lines (if only in our individual minds) about what we are willing to wear to worship God.
Participation. Another way that we offer God our best is in our participation in the worship. We have already discussed ““going through the motions,”” but what are we doing during the worship. Our minds should be focused on the word of God during Bible class and during the sermon (for a good example, see the Israelites who returned from Babylonian captivity when Ezra read the law, Neh. 8). Further, we are told that our singing is to be from the heart (Eph. 5:19), so that our needed focus is readily seen in this aspect of worship. Finally, our prayers need to reflect our dependence upon God and our faith that He will grant us what we truly need (Jas. 1:5-8). Giving our best in service to God demands our active participation in the worship of Him.
Daily Living. In truth, proper worship to God must be preceded by a desire to live for Him daily in the world. Paul said, ““I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship”” (Rom. 12:1). What did Paul mean by ““living and holy sacrifice””? He goes on in this chapter to discuss the need to live differently than the rest of the world (v. 2), which shows us the importance of holiness in our daily lives (see also 1 Pet. 1:13-16). He discusses the need to live in unity with our brethren (vv. 3-8). He then presents a wonderful list of characteristics which make up the everyday Christian: love, diligence, fervency, perseverance, prayerfulness, caring, not vengefully minded, able to overcome evil with good (vv. 9-21). This ““living and holy sacrifice”” is what makes Christians different from the rest of the world, and it is the kind of life God demands of us if we are to be ““acceptable”” to Him.
The sacrifices of the Jews were important, but they were mere shadows of the sacrifices He expects of us, and in truth, ““heart service”” was what He has always expected (Ps. 51:16-17). Let us strive to give Him our best.