Love’s Sacrifice (Malachi 1: 6-14)
Pastor Josh VanLeeuwen Podcast 1-15-17
Maybe you’ve seen the bumper sticker that reads, “Jesus is coming. Look busy!” It’s a snarky retort to the “Jesus is coming back!” bumper sticker that’s intended to be an encouraging reminder for believers but is often viewed by nonbelievers as a threat. Nobody wants to be caught short when the Master comes back to reclaim his earthly throne. How many of us have ever been slacking off a bit at work until the boss comes near, and then we snap to and act as if we’ve been working hard all day? The snarky bumper sticker’s sentiment stings a little, doesn’t it, because it reminds us that when it comes to our faith, perhaps at least some of the time we’re slackers, just going through the motions.
The same was true of the people in the book of Malachi. Their worship was lukewarm. The animals they brought for sacrifice were blind, lame, or otherwise blemished. The people groused and complained about attending worship. Worship was boring compared to the other things they could have been doing with their time, they whined. After all, they’d been up late the night before, or they were tired from the work week, or they had baseball and soccer games or other commitments on Sunday mornings.
Oh, wait. That might be us.
If you’re a parent and you’ve given your child a task, and the child whines about it, procrastinates, and finally puts in a halfhearted effort, you’ve probably thought (or said), “Never mind. Forget it. If you can’t do it right, I’d rather you not do it at all.” That’s what God is saying here. If you can’t bring me your best animals for sacrifice, if you can’t work up some enthusiasm for worship, if you can’t acknowledge who I am and give me the respect I’m due, then I’d rather not have anything from you. Forget about your token sacrifices, your contemptuous worship. My name is great! I am the Lord Almighty!
Remember, this is God who’s talking. The God who created the world and everything in it. The God who led, protected, and defended his people. The God who delivered his people from slavery. The God who withheld nothing from us, offering up himself in the person of Jesus as a sacrifice for our sins so that we could be restored to a relationship with him. This is the God who deserves our best. Our all. We are free from the death penalty because of his sacrifice. He is the one true God, whose name is to be honored, praised, and feared. And he is not far away on some throne in heaven, watching us through binoculars. He is Emmanuel, God with us, every minute of every day. We owe God our best effort, our most enthusiastic worship, our most grateful service. We owe him our all, our very selves. Any other sacrifice is just a token, an insult. For a love that did not hesitate to sacrifice itself, we owe everything that we have and everything that we are.