Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Disrespecting God

Malachi 1:1-14

"The burden of the word of the LORD to Israel by Malachi. 

I have loved you, saith the LORD. 

Yet ye say, Wherein hast thou loved us? 

Was not Esau Jacob's brother? saith the LORD: yet I loved Jacob, And I hated Esau, and laid his mountains and his heritage waste for the dragons of the wilderness.

Whereas Edom saith, We are impoverished, but we will return and build the desolate places; thus saith the LORD of hosts, They shall build, but I will throw down; and they shall call them, The border of wickedness, and, The people against whom the LORD hath indignation for ever. 

And your eyes shall see, and ye shall say, The LORD will be magnified from the border of Israel.” (Malachi 1:1-5)

After the death of Artaxerxes, the Greeks had steadily taken an ever larger role in controlling the old Persian Empire.  Just about eighty years later, if the historians are correct and Darius II was co-regent with Artaxerxes, or one hundred years if not, Alexander the Great had seized total control of the political system.  Fifty years later, Antiochus had seized control of the religious system as well, replacing the descendants of Levi with men of his own choosing.  Many of the Jews had openly rejected Judaism, even undoing their circumcision in order to be accepted by the Greeks.

When more traditional Jews protested Menelaus’ appointment as high priest by Antiochus, he treated it as an act of treason, outlawing the practice of Judaism, and defiling the temple by offering pigs on the altar contrary to the Levitical law.  Many Jews were killed while others fled west to Egypt or north to the Macedonia to escape from the Selucid Empire.

As they had done so many times before, the Jews blamed God for their trouble, questioning whether he loved them.  God reminded them of the difference in his treatment of Jacob who he loved and Esau, who he hated.   Because their land straddled the old silk road which reached from Morroco to China, almost every conquering army passed through their land on their way to attack other countries, taking what they wanted along he way.  The Edomite people had been enslaved by every group around them including the Jews.

God had blessed the Jews, giving them freedom and wealth the Edomites had never experienced, yet the Jews were griping about God’s lack of love and giving up hope while the Edomites had not given up hope, even though they were fighting God himself and could not possibly win.  If the Jews could stop complaining long enough to look, they would see God’s power displayed in what was happening to the countries around them.

“A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master: if then I be a father, where is mine honour? and if I be a master, where is my fear? saith the LORD of hosts unto you, O priests, that despise my name. 

And ye say, Wherein have we despised thy name? 

Ye offer polluted bread upon mine altar; and ye say, Wherein have we polluted thee? In that ye say, The table of the LORD is contemptible.

 And if ye offer the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? and if ye offer the lame and sick, is it not evil? offer it now unto thy governor; will he be pleased with thee, or accept thy person? saith the LORD of hosts.” (Malachi 1:6-8)

A child will respect his parents enough to do what they want, and an employee will respect his employer, but Israel had refused to show similar respect toward God.  They were deliberately trying to hide any relationship with God by undoing their circumcision and adopting the Hellenistic Greek customs, language, and religion.

They no longer considered God worthy of the best, offering instead those sick animals that no one else would buy.  If they offered the same things to the governor of the land, it would be seen as an insult and cause them trouble, yet they thought God ought to be thrilled to get it.  It is like having a waiter serve you really well so you give him a penny for a tip.  He probably won’t try as hard to please you the next time.

“And now, I pray you, beseech God that he will be gracious unto us: this hath been by your means: will he regard your persons? saith the LORD of hosts.  Who is there even among you that would shut the doors for nought? neither do ye kindle fire on mine altar for nought.” (Malachi  1:9-10a)

After showing such disrespect toward Gdo, what right do they have to demand he give them the respect they feel they deserve.  None of them would even close the door of light a fire on God’s altar unless they expected a reward for doing it.  Why should God do what they want, knowing they don’t appreciate it enough to make it worth his while?

I have no pleasure in you, saith the LORD of hosts, neither will I accept an offering at your hand.  For from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same my name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in every place incense shall be offered unto my name, and a pure offering: for my name shall be great among the heathen, saith the LORD of hosts.” (Malachi 1:10b-11)

God no longer found pleasure in doing things for Israel because they were so unappreciative.  The Gentile people would be appreciative of his efforts and show him respect for what he was doing.

“But ye have profaned it, in that ye say, The table of the LORD is polluted; and the fruit thereof, even his meat, is contemptible.  Ye said also, Behold, what a weariness is it! and ye have snuffed at it, saith the LORD of hosts; and ye brought that which was torn, and the lame, and the sick; thus ye brought an offering: should I accept this of your hand? saith the LORD.” (Malachi 1:12-13)

Rather than appreciating what God did for them, the Jews were complaining about how much of a nuisance it was to have to give him the offerings and that they didn’t see why he had been so strict in his requirements when no body would get sick from sacrificing a sick animal instead of a healthy one.  They were a lot like Christians today who complain about being expected to live up to such a high moral standard or having to go to church all the time, and decide it doesn’t really matter.

“But cursed be the deceiver, which hath in his flock a male, and voweth, and sacrificeth unto the Lord a corrupt thing: for I am a great King, saith the LORD of hosts, and my name is dreadful among the heathen.” (Malachi 1:14)

A person who something good to offer God but chooses to give him the worst has no respect toward God and doesn’t appreciate what he does.  Most people would be upset by someone spitting in their face and might retaliate.  God is similarly upset by such actions, and curses those who disrespect him in such a fashion.

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