Sunday, December 29, 2013

Malachi 1: Rekindling our Passion for God

Malachi 1:6-9 “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. And now entreat the favor of God, that he may be gracious to us. With such a gift from your hand, will he show favor to any of you? says the Lord of hosts.

We have come to the last book of the Old Testament when the wall of Jerusalem and the temple had been rebuilt and sacrifices were again being offered at the temple. However, even though the outward observances of religion were restored, the priests' hearts were not there. Their worship was half-hearted and they did not honor and fear God as Father and Master: "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" (1:6). If God is our Father and Jesus is our Master (Lord), then the right attitude towards God is to honor and fear Him. Not to honor and fear God is to despise Him.

The priests were doing the right religious offerings and invocations--how could Malachi say they were despising God? Malachi makes it clear that our attitude towards God is defined by our actions: "By offering polluted food upon my altar... when you offer blind animals.. lame or sick" (1:7-8). We despise God's name when we do not give Him our best in our worship and service to Him, when our worship and service are half-hearted instead of whole-hearted.

The reason for the loss of honor and fear of God is not found in the things we do on the weekends, but on the weekdays: "But you say, ‘What a weariness this is,’ and you snort at it, says the Lord of hosts. You bring what has been taken by violence or is lame or sick, and this you bring as your offering! Shall I accept that from your hand? says the Lord. Cursed be the cheat who has a male in his flock, and vows it, and yet sacrifices to the Lord what is blemished" (1:13-14). The spiritual root for half-hearted weekend worship is not found in what we do at our weekend services but what we do on our weekday dealings with others, especially how we treat others who are in a less-privileged position than ourselves.
  • Matthew 25:34-40 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’
The loss of passion for the Lord for New Testament believers is closely linked to our loss of passion for the lost--people who are poor, sick, and incarcerated. Our attitude towards the lost is exactly our attitude towards the Lord. When we focus our ministry on the lost--people who are "harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd" (Mt 9:36)--we will regain our passion for the Lord, for we become aligned with Him in His ministry to them. In Luke 4:18, Jesus explains that the reason for the anointing of the Spirit is to minister to the lost: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." When we are aligned with Jesus in His ministry to the lost, we will experience the anointing of the Spirit which will empower us to offer worship to God that is "in spirit and in truth" (John 4:24).

So, it's not what we do within the four walls of the church that will rekindle our passion for God, but what we do outside the walls among those who are in need of  Gospel of the Kingdom. If a church is not organized around this Kingdom principle of seeking and saving the lost, it will sooner or later lose its passion for the Lord too. And the weekend worship services to the Lord will become a drag.

Father, pour into our hearts a compassion for the lost so that we may recover our passion for You. Amen.

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