Give God Your Best, Not the Rest – Malachi 1:6-14

“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” (Malachi 1:8-9, ESV).

What’s the problem with offering lame or sick animals as a sacrifice? After all, they’re killed and eaten anyway. Deuteronomy 15:21 declared that blemished animals can’t be used for sacrifice to God: “But if it has any blemish, if it is lame or blind or has any serious blemish whatever, you shall not sacrifice it to the Lord your God.”

Malachi’s ministry was to the repatriated Jews whose families had returned to Judea from Babylonian captivity. In Malachi’s time the people seemed to be indifferent to God. So much so, that they weren’t totally obedient to the law of God.

They offered sacrifices, sure. But they offered inappropriate and improper sacrifices. They offered sacrifices to God that wouldn’t even find favor with the governing authorities! So, why would they offer something to God that wouldn’t even be acceptable to men?

God’s people are not so much different today. We do the same thing. We hold out the best for ourselves and give God our leftovers.

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An Inconvenient Truth: Part 2 – Deuteronomy 17:1

“You shall not sacrifice to the Lord your God an ox or a sheep in which is a blemish, any defect whatever, for that is an abomination to the Lord your God” (Deuteronomy 17:1, ESV).

God instructed the Israelites to use the highest quality animals in their herds as sacrifices. If God didn’t designate any standards for the livestock, the Israelites would likely use the ones with blemishes or defects for sacrifices!

They would use the ones of lowest quality–the ones most convenient and practicable for them to use.

But God wanted the best livestock for sacrifices to Him, the ones that required a sacrifice on the part of the sacrificer.

Because the fidelity of the sacrifice indicates the fidelity of the sacrificer.

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An Inconvenient Truth: Part 1 – Deuteronomy 17:1

“You shall not sacrifice to the Lord your God an ox or a sheep in which is a blemish, any defect whatever, for that is an abomination to the Lord your God” (Deuteronomy 17:1, ESV).

This verse may at first seem like an Old Testament commandment that has little relevance for Christians today. I would submit, however, that it is a commandment of God that has much relevance for God’s people of all generations.

Let’s start by asking why God would require the Israelites to sacrifice only oxen or sheep without any physical defects when they made a sacrifice to God. What difference did it make to God since the animal was going to be killed and cooked or burned up anyway?

While there are several theological principles you could derive from this Old Testament commandment, here’s the one I want to address:

The fidelity of the sacrifice indicates the fidelity of the sacrificer.

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A Tribute to Dietrich – Psalm 119

“Joyful are people of integrity, who follow the instructions of the Lord. Joyful are those who obey his laws and search for him with all their hearts. They do not compromise with evil, and they walk only in his paths” (Psalm 119:1-3, NLT).

I recently read the biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas. Bonhoeffer was a German pastor, theologian, anti-Nazi dissident, and the key founding member of the Confessing Church in Germany during the rise of Hitler and the Third Reich in Germany prior to and during World War II.  Bonhoeffer, who wrote the Christian classic, The Cost of Discipleship, was imprisoned and eventually executed by the Nazis at the age of thirty-nine for his Christian faith and participation in a conspiracy to assassinate Hitler.

The detailed biography was an interesting and inspirational read but left me with some disturbing theological questions concerning the tension between good and evil in this present world. Although Metaxas probably didn’t intend to agitate his readers when writing the biography, the story of Bonhoeffer’s brief life and tragic death certainly raised some concerns about God’s justice for me!

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Holy Cooking Pots – Zechariah 14:20-21

cooking_pot“On that day even the harness bells of the horses will be inscribed with these words: Holy to the Lord. And the cooking pots in the Temple of the Lord will be as sacred as the basins used beside the altar. In fact, every cooking pot in Jerusalem and Judah will be holy to the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. All who come to worship will be free to use any of these pots to boil their sacrifices” (Zechariah 14:20-21, NLT).

The last chapter of the book of Zechariah closes with visions of both the salvation and judgment that occurs at the coming of God’s universal Kingdom–“the day of the Lord.”

These last verses of the chapter and the book describe the pervasiveness of God’s holiness in His Kingdom. So much so that even the inscription on the harness bells of horses and the cooking pots in the Temple will be holy.

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Say…What? – John 13:3-4

footwashing“Jesus knew that the Father had given him authority over everything and that he had come from God and would return to God. So he got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist,and poured water into a basin. Then he began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel he had around him.”  (John 13:3-4, NLT).

John says that Jesus came from God and had all authority over everything and then He washed His disciples’ feet!

Say, what?

The God of the universe became a human being and then washed the feet of the human beings He created?

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Highly Qualified – Hebrews 9:11-14

the-sacrifice-on-the-cross“So Christ has now become the High Priest over all the good things that have come… With his own blood—not the blood of goats and calves—he entered the Most Holy Place once for all time and secured our redemption forever…For by the power of the eternal Spirit, Christ offered himself to God as a perfect sacrifice for our sins. That is why he is the one who mediates a new covenant between God and people, so that all who are called can receive the eternal inheritance God has promised them.” (Hebrews 9:11-14, NLT).

In the ancient Jewish religious order God’s presence was represented as residing in the Most Holy Place in the temple behind two sets of curtains. Only a high priest could enter into this Most Holy Place once a year and then never without a blood sacrifice, which he offered to make atonement for his sin and the sins of the people (see 9:6-7).

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