“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.
“Don’t give me either poverty or wealth; give me just the food I need. Or I’ll be full and deny you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or I’ll be poor and steal and dishonor my God’s name” (Proverbs 30:8-9, NASB).
We live in a world that glorifies success. To be somebody you must be accomplished, you must be prosperous and successful. So, pursue wealth, acquire power, attain fame. Or better yet, have it all!
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10, ESV).
Jesus used the metaphor of a sheep pen or sheepfold and a shepherd to tell a beautiful story in John 10:1-18 of how God desires to care for and protect His people.
“He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.” (John 3:30, NLT).
These words are the response given by John the Baptist when questioned by his disciples why everybody was following Jesus instead of him.
John had a clear understanding of his mission: “I am not the Messiah. I am only here to prepare the way for him…Therefore, I am filled with joy at his success” (vs. 29-30).
There is a quality of life that Christians enjoy that results from being a believer and follower of Jesus. Jesus referred to it as abundant life: “I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance” (John 10:10, HCSB).
The Apostle Paul expounds on the spiritual blessings that God supplies His people in the opening chapter and verses of the book of Ephesians.
“‘Why do you ask My name,’ the Angel of the Lord asked him, ‘since it is wonderful’ … and he did a wonderful thing while Manoah and his wife were watching” (Judges 13:18-19, HCSB).
Manoah and his wife were unable to conceive and had no children. But Manoah and his wife (we’re never told her name) eventually became the parents of Samson through God’s intervention into their lives.
“You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day” (Deuteronomy 8:18, ESV).
This verse is one of my favorites. Moses is preaching to Israel and preparing them to enter the promised land.
He reminds them of all God has miraculously done in bringing them out of Egyptian slavery and during their wilderness wanderings over the last forty years.
“The name of Yahweh is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are protected. A rich man’s wealth is his fortified city; in his imagination it is like a high wall” (Proverbs 18:10-11, HCSB).
At first glance, you may read these consecutive verses as two individual proverbs, each having its own meaning. Upon a closer look you will see that these two proverbs are like two sides of the same coin:
two ways of life,
two choices for life!
“When you come into the land and plant any kind of tree for food, you are to consider the fruit forbidden. It will be forbidden to you for three years; it is not to be eaten. In the fourth year all its fruit must be consecrated as a praise offering to the Lord. But in the fifth year you may eat its fruit. In this way its yield will increase for you; I am Yahweh your God” (Leviticus 19:23-25, HCSB).
The prohibition from eating the fruit of a newly planted fruit tree may have had to do with the fact that the fruit of a young tree was not well formed and did not taste good in the early stages of its life.
Since the firstfruits belonged to God (see Numbers 18:12-17), the fruit of the fourth year was consecrated to God as a praise offering to indicate that the Israelites recognized that God was the One who gave them the good things the earth produced and blessed them with increased production.