Are We Just Going Through the Motions?

Malachi 1:1-14   

            A prophecy: The word of the Lord to Israel through Malachi.

“I have loved you,” says the Lord. “But you ask, ‘How have you loved us?’

“Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?” declares the Lord. “Yet I have loved Jacob, but Esau I have hated, and I have turned his hill country into a wasteland and left his inheritance to the desert jackals.”

Edom may say, “Though we have been crushed, we will rebuild the ruins.”

But this is what the Lord Almighty says: “They may build, but I will demolish. They will be called the Wicked Land, a people always under the wrath of the Lord. You will see it with your own eyes and say, ‘Great is the Lord—even beyond the borders of Israel!’

“A son honors his father, and a slave his master. If I am a father, where is the honor due me? If I am a master, where is the respect due me?” says the Lord Almighty.

“It is you priests who show contempt for my name.

“But you ask, ‘How have we shown contempt for your name?’

“By offering defiled food on my altar.

“But you ask, ‘How have we defiled you?’

“By saying that the Lord’s table is contemptible. When you offer blind animals for sacrifice, is that not wrong? When you sacrifice lame or diseased animals, is that not wrong? Try offering them to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you?” says the Lord Almighty.

“Now plead with God to be gracious to us. With such offerings from your hands, will he accept you?”—says the Lord Almighty.

10 “Oh, that one of you would shut the temple doors, so that you would not light useless fires on my altar! I am not pleased with you,” says the Lord Almighty, “and I will accept no offering from your hands. 11 My name will be great among the nations, from where the sun rises to where it sets. In every place incense and pure offerings will be brought to me, because my name will be great among the nations,” says the Lord Almighty.

12 “But you profane it by saying, ‘The Lord’s table is defiled,’ and, ‘Its food is contemptible.’ 13 And you say, ‘What a burden!’ and you sniff at it contemptuously,” says the Lord Almighty.

“When you bring injured, lame or diseased animals and offer them as sacrifices, should I accept them from your hands?” says the Lord. 14 “Cursed is the cheat who has an acceptable male in his flock and vows to give it, but then sacrifices a blemished animal to the Lord. For I am a great king,” says the Lord Almighty, “and my name is to be feared among the nations.


  1. I have to be honest and say that within my lifetime, I haven’t heard many sermons from the book of Malachi. It only appears once in the lectionary — so the themes of Malachi are seldom addressed.
    1. Typically, the primary verse found in every stewardship sermon, or the moment in worship where scripture is read before tithes and offering, or the church’s latest capital campaign is “Will man rob God?” (Mal. 3:8). Interesting! I wonder what that means? Let’s see.
  2. The meaning of the word “Malachi” means “my messenger.” [i]
    1. The prophet’s address is directed to the Israelite community who were restored to their land from Babylonian captivity and Nehemiah rebuilt the Temple. About 500 BC
    1. Malachi’s message to the people is to challenge them about their sins, while encouraging them to pursue a life of holiness.
    1. Throughout the book Malachi was not shy when it came to addressing the sins of the people.
    1. As you will see as we go through this series for the next several weeks, apathy is addressed by the Book of Malachi and is very relevant to our country today
  3. It almost places in Malachi, the scene appears as if takes place in a courtroom, where the Israelites are being charged, followed by evidence to support the charges. This is a confrontational address employed by Malachi. During the next several weeks we will read and see the charges of apathy that Malachi levels against the Israelites.
  4. The message to us from Malachi is that despite the Israelites denial and unawareness of their sin, God is still there to love His people and will exercise grace to those who turn back to Him.
  5. The master theme of this book can be stated as the unfailing love of Yahweh for the His chosen people, Israel.
    1. This love was constant and continual, denoting that Yahweh had the same love for His people in the past, the present, and the future that was to come.
  6. Malachi is the last prophetic voice that the Jews would hear, considering that 400 years of silence from heaven was on the brink of exploding to the present. The prophecy of John the Baptist is about to emerge onto the scene.
  7. A simply stated summary of the message of Malachi, is Thankfulness and gratitude for God’s continual love is necessary to reviving spiritual life and the assurance of a divinely blessed future. 
  8. Pause!
  9. Have you ever felt like you are just going through the motions? Doing church work, helping people, and even attending worship— You would be saying to yourself “all of this does not energize me anymore.”
  10. Let’s look at Chapter 1:
  11. The Jews living in Jerusalem were just going through the motions in their worship when Malachi arrived on the scene. Malachi, the man, is shrouded in mystery. He may be described as a vigorous, clear-cut personality who strongly opposed anyone who treated the Temple and the things of God with indifference.
    1. Carelessness in worship offended him.
    1. He wanted to restore the genuine worship of God based on a person’s true relationship with Him.
    1. He was a fearless reformer who spoke without hesitation or embarrassment.
  12. Malachi begins by telling them that God loves them with a tender, affectionate, and unconditional love. Similar to what we read the past few weeks in Ephesians – God’s message to us in firm and solid.
    1. In return to God’s message, our only reasonable response is to worship him with devotion and sacrifice. Anything less would be hypocritical.
    1. Unfortunately, their worship had become insincere, going through the motions.
  13. God spoke through Malachi to these apathetic and complacent people, calling them back to serious worship in chapter one. God told them, and us, what he wants in worship. God expects in our worship – all of us.
  14. In Verse 6, which is printed in your bulletin, we read “A son honors his father, and a slave his master. If I am a father, where is the honor due me? If I am a master, where is the respect due me?” says the Lord Almighty.
  15. God says here: I’m a father. I’m a master. I expect honor. I expect reverence. Don’t treat Me with contempt.
    1. Far more significant than the gifts on the altar is the heart of the worshipper.
    1. God wants to find a heartfelt attitude of honor and respect toward Him, an attitude that recognizes who He is and how gracious He has been.
  16. Years ago, Henry Ward Beecher, was one of the most famous preachers in America. People from all over the nation came to worship at his church.
    1. One Sunday he was absent, and a visiting preacher substituted for him.
    1. When the visiting minister came to the pulpit the people realized that Henry was gone. Some of the people started for the doors.
    1. The minister said, “May I have your attention. All those who came this morning to worship Henry Ward Beecher may now withdraw from the church. All who came to worship God may stay.”
  17. People may come to a worship service for many superficial reasons: to hear a certain preacher, to watch their children perform, to visit with their friends, to fulfill an obligation, to enhance their business opportunities, to see what everyone else is wearing.
    1. But only one reason is acceptable – to give honor and praise to God.
    1. Worship is not an attempt to entertain worshippers or to stir their emotions.
    1. Worship is not an attempt to manipulate worshippers’ minds and hearts.
    1. Worship is not an attempt to indoctrinate persons.
    1. Worship is, first of all, an attempt to focus our attention on God, to honor Him.
  1. Continuing in verse 6 and 7:
  2. God made His allegation to the priests, the professional worshippers.
    1. They should have known better.
    1. They were responsible for the people’s obedience. Now the priests reply with a question. “Yet you ask: ‘How have we despised Your name?’ ‘By presenting defiled food on My altar.’ You ask: ‘How have we defiled You?’ When you say: ‘The LORD’s table is contemptible.’ ‘When you present a blind animal for sacrifice, is it not wrong? And when you present a lame or sick animal, is it not wrong? Bring it to your governor! Would he be pleased with you or show you favor?’ asks the LORD of Hosts” (Mal. 3:6-8).
    1. The priests were accepting not just the second-best from the people, but worse than that. They were bringing God sick sheep and gross goats. They were offering worthless animals.
  3. Old Testament law required people to offer God sacrifices from their flocks and herds. If they had an animal that was no good for breeding and wasn’t going to fetch much of a price at the butcher shop, they would give it to the Lord. God says: I don’t want those tainted sacrifices.
  4. We no longer offer God animal sacrifices, because Christ became our sacrifice. He has borne the penalty of our sin, like the animal sacrifices in Old Testament times bore the penalty of those people’s sin.
    1. God, however, is quick to tell us that in response to what his Son has done for us the only reasonable response is to give back to God our best.
  5. God says to us: You can do better than that. You say: Better than what? Better than blemished sacrifices, better than leftovers.
  6. The Bible presents three standards for sacrifices:
    1. First, Give the best
  7. Shoes to Botswana – tell the story – new shoes that had to be worn
    1. Second Give to God first
  8. Story of donations to the men at Christ House; They gave leftovers.
  9. C. Give what costs you
  10. Giving should be sacrificial.
    1. David wanted to offer a sacrifice to God. He wanted to buy a man’s threshing floor to build an altar to the Lord. The man offered to give oxen for the offering and wood for the fire.
    1. Instead of looking for a shortcut, David said, “No, I insist on buying it from you for a price, for I will not offer to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing” (2 Samuel 24:24).
  11. What does it mean to give less than the best?
    1. What does it look like to give to God last?
    1. What does it mean to make gifts that cost us nothing?
  12. It’s when I spend an hour in an evening reading or watching the latest news and then in the five minutes before I fall asleep I read God’s Word. That’s offering God the leftovers.
  13. It’s when we bring to our careers our best energy, our best talent, our best motivation, but when it comes to serving the body of Christ, we either sit on the sidelines or look for something that requires the least amount of energy.
  14. It’s when we spend a lot of money on ourselves for a summer vacation or things, but when it comes to giving God an offering, we look at the budget and say, “What’s left over here?”
  15. We make no apologies here when we challenge all of us to bring our best. I stand before you and say God deserves minimally the first ten percent of your income. That’s what Scripture teaches.
    1. I make no apologies when I say get involved in ministry and service here.
    1. Roll up your sleeves. Use the talents and gifts God’s given you.
    1. Serving God is not a spectator sport —- we have to be fully involved in the game!
    1. Find a place to serve. Worship God enthusiastically.
  16. Malachi is addressing the apathy that had grown up in Jerusalem. The Jews did their duty, nothing more. Their worship became ritualistic, humdrum, mechanical, and familiar.
  17. Would that describe our worship today?
    1. Do you come to church and say: “How long is this going to last?
    1. Do we have to sing so much?
    1. Why is the preaching so long?”
    1. Do you come to worship and make a mental list of what you’re going to accomplish when you get home?
  18. There is a story about a big Gothic cathedral in Vancouver, British Columbia. This cathedral has colorful stained-glass windows that were donated after the Second World War in honor of the men and women who gave their lives. The windows illustrate pictures of soldiers. One day he overheard a little boy asking his mother, “Mommy, who are those people?” pointing to the stained-glass windows. And she said, “Those are the people who died in the service.” And he said, “Mommy, would that be the Sunday morning or the Sunday evening service?”
  19. I don’t want you dying in our service. But it is up to you what kind of worship you bring. You could be tired, feeling low, overwhelmed with anxiety. It may seem like you’re being asked to give too much in worship. But it’s not about you. It’s about God. Worship is about giving God our hearts.
  20. Worship is not the focus of the Christian life. That focus is on day-to-day obedience to God. But worship is the force that helps make the day-by-day life of obedience possible.
  21. Worship is not for God’s benefit; it is for ours. If you leave church with your faith stronger, your hope brighter, your love deeper, your sympathies broadened, your heart purer, and with your will more resolute to do the will of God, then you have truly worshipped.
  22. Thanks be to God!

[i] From a blog by the Southwest Baptist Theological Seminary.