Sermon Manuscript . . .
Getting Worship Right
My name is Shawn Farrell and I am the college pastor at FBC. It is a privilege to open the Word with you this morning. Please open your Bibles to the book of Malachi 1.
Eric Liddell was born in 1902, to a Scottish missionary couple in China. When he was 5, his parents sent him to a boarding school in London. When he came of age, he attended Oxford College and became a highly decorated sprinter, running the 100-yard dash in 9.7 seconds, a British record that would stand for more than two decades. He became known as the flying Scot.
In 1924, he made the Olympic team and set out to compete in Paris. Even in 1924, the 100- was the most celebrated event in the Olympics, and Liddell was favored to win. But he wasn’t a normal sprinter, as his form was pitiable and even difficult to watch.
One newspaper described him as, “probably the ugliest runner who ever won an Olympic championship. When he arrived at Paris in 1924, his huge sprawling stride, his head thrown back and his arms clawing the air, moved the Americans and other sophisticated experts to laughter.” One of his rivals responded to the critics by saying, “People may shout their heads off about his appalling style. Well, let them. He gets there.”
On Sunday morning, July 6, 1924, the stadium in Paris was packed as they watched the preliminary heats for the 100-. But Eric Liddell wasn’t warming up. He wasn’t on the track. He wasn’t suited up. He wasn’t even in the stadium. He was just down the street . . . in church . . . preaching. You see, Eric Liddell was a devout Christian and his personal convictions did not allow him to run on Sunday, and so he willingly forfeited his spot in the 100-. This was not a surprise.
The schedule for the 100- was published long before the Olympics and Liddell had opted out, deciding to run the 400- instead. Liddell was the world’s best short distance sprinter, but he was not world class in the 400-, in fact his times were marginal. Yet he still managed to qualify in the Olympic trials.
The 400- is a very different race–it is known as “the dreaded long sprint that nobody wants to run.” Unlike the 100-, there is a sustained maximum effort that goes beyond the energy reserves of a short distance sprinter. In Liddell’s day, runners would sprint around the first bend and then coast down the back straight away, reserving energy for the push to the finish line.
Liddell’s strategy was a bit different. When asked about it, he said, “I run the first 200- as hard as I can. Then for the second 200-, with God’s help, I run harder.” When the finals came, this strategy was put to the test, as Liddell drew the outside lane. The 400- is one full lap around the track and each man must stay in his lane. Because of the turns in the track, the starting positions are staggered–the person in the outside lane has a disadvantage, as he starts in front of the other runners and is unable to see his competitors. Add to this that the man in lane 7, an American, had broken the world record earlier that day in the semis.
For the entire hour before the finals, Scottish bagpipers standing outside the stadium laid on their pipes, filling the air with the sounds of Scotland to support Liddell. And as he was walking to the starting blocks, one of his teammates handed him a note with 1 Samuel 2:30 on it, “Those who honor me I will honor.”
The race started and Liddell jumped out to an early lead, running an all-out sprint. At the halfway point, he was 3 yards in front of the nearest competitor. The American in lane 7 later recalled, “I couldn’t believe a man could set such a pace and finish, but Liddell pushed himself like a man possessed. He didn’t weaken.” The other runners strained every muscle to try to overtake him, but to no avail. With head thrown back and chin thrust out in his usual style, he broke the tape, finishing well ahead of the rest of the field and breaking the world record. This race has been labeled as one of the 50 greatest moments in track and field history and is captured in the 1981 Hollywood movie, Chariots of Fire.
Liddell returned to Britain as a hero. But it wouldn’t be long before this 22-year-old would announce his retirement from track and his plans to become a missionary. “I believe God made me for a purpose—for China.” He returned to the small village in which his father served and continued the missionary work there. When asked if he regretted leaving the fame and glory of athletics behind, he responded, “It’s natural for a chap to think over all that sometimes, but I’m glad I’m at the work I’m engaged in now. A fellow’s life counts far more at this than the other.”
He faithfully served the Lord in China for more than 20 years, even when he was taken into a Japanese concentration camp during WWII. Just five months before liberation, he died of an inoperable brain tumor. His last recorded words–“It’s complete surrender.” He was a man of singular passion who offered his life as a living sacrifice to God.
He lived and died to see God’s name lifted high. He understood that life is about more than the here and now–more than what we can see. There is something more. And we understand that too. Deep in our hearts, we know that there is more than the humdrum of daily life. Scripture makes this clear. In Ecclesiastes 3:11 it says that, “God has set eternity into our hearts.”
And Romans 1 tells us that God has made Himself known to every person through what He has made. All we have to do is go outside on a starry night to recognize that we are just a small cog in the wheels of this universe. We know there is someone greater than us. And since the beginning, man has tried to figure out how to know God–how to please Him. Cain offered sacrifices of his harvest, Aaron made a golden calf, Nadab and Abihu offered strange fire, the Canaanites put their children in the fire, the prophets of Baal cut themselves, and the people of Athens even made an altar to the unknown god.
Throughout every age and every culture, man has made his best attempt to appease God and this only confirms what is in the very heart of man. AW Tozer wisely said, “Man was made to worship God.”
Worship can be defined in many different ways. Webster calls it the “feeling of reverence and adoration for a deity.” That gets part of it. John MacArthur says, “True worship is a response of adoration and praise prompted by truth that God has revealed.” John Piper says it is “treasuring God above all things.” These are good definitions. For the sake of simplicity this morning, we are going to use Eric Liddell’s definition. Worship is “complete surrender.” More than singing a song or showing up to a worship service–it is to give ourselves completely to Him and to relentlessly pursue knowing Him.
Paul said, “I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Philippians 3:8). In Exodus 33:13, on Mt Sinai Moses prayed, “If I have found favor in Your sight, let me know Your ways that I may know You.” In Psalm 27:4 David said, “One thing I have asked from the Lord, that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord and to meditate in His temple.” This is worship–a life that prizes God above all else. And to live with this type of devotion is the highpoint of every human being.
But when we look at our lives, we do not always worship rightly. Sometimes we get distracted. We get busy. We drift. Our passion wanes. Our hearts grow cold and our worship becomes careless. In Isaiah 29:13 God says, “They honor me with their lips but their hearts are far from Me.” And in Matthew 15:9 Jesus adding to this said, “They worship Me in vain.”
It is possible then to worship God in a way that causes Him to close His ears, turn His back, and to even reject the offerings we are making. This is exactly what was happening in the time of Malachi. The people of Israel were still coming to God, still offering sacrifices, but God rejected their worship. In fact, in Malachi 1:10 it says, ” ‘Oh that there were one among you who would shut the gates, that you might not uselessly kindle fire on My altar! I am not pleased with you,’ says the Lord of hosts, ‘nor will I accept an offering from you.’ “
They had drifted so far, grown so cold, were so comfortable, that God hoped someone would come and shut the temple doors, put out the fire, and put an end to sacrifices. God indicts the people of Israel for being lethargic, uninterested, even lazy in their worship. Our theme as we work through Malachi is crushing spiritual apathy. It was pervasive in the time of Malachi–and sadly, it is pervasive in our time as well. It is pervasive here at FBC. We too get lethargic, uninterested, even lazy in our worship.
Many in this room have the symptoms of spiritual apathy this morning. No longer are you living in complete surrender. Instead, you are cruising, comfortable, consumed with lesser things. But it is so important that we get worship right. In fact, that is our theme this morning, as we look at Malachi 1:6 to 14–getting worship right.
Let’s read the text together and then we will dive in. Malachi 1:6 to 14, ” ‘ “A son honors his father, and a servant his master. Then if I am a father, where is My honor? And if I am a master, where is My respect?” says the Lord of hosts to you, O priests who despise My name. But you say, “How have we despised Your name?” 7 You are presenting defiled food upon My altar. But you say, “How have we defiled You?” In that you say, “The table of the Lord is to be despised.” 8 But when you present the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? And when you present the lame and sick, is it not evil? Why not offer it to your governor? Would he be pleased with you? Or would he receive you kindly?’ says the Lord of hosts. 9 ‘But now will you not entreat God’s favor, that He may be gracious to us? With such an offering on your part, will He receive any of you kindly?’ says the Lord of hosts. 10 ‘Oh that there were one among you who would shut the gates, that you might not uselessly kindle fire on My altar! I am not pleased with you,’ says the Lord of hosts, ‘nor will I accept an offering from you. 11 For from the rising of the sun even to its setting, My name will be great among the nations, and in every place incense is going to be offered to My name, and a grain offering that is pure; for My name will be great among the nations,’ says the Lord of hosts. 12 ‘But you are profaning it, in that you say, “The table of the Lord is defiled, and as for its fruit, its food is to be despised.” 13 You also say, “My, how tiresome it is!” And you disdainfully sniff at it,’ says the Lord of hosts, ‘and you bring what was taken by robbery and what is lame or sick; so you bring the offering! Should I receive that from your hand?’ says the Lord. 14 ‘But cursed be the swindler who has a male in his flock and vows it, but sacrifices a blemished animal to the Lord, for I am a great King,’ says the Lord of hosts, ‘and My name is feared among the nations.’ ”
This is strong language, designed to cut into the hearts of an apathetic people. May the Lord use it in our lives. We will examine three mistakes or common pitfalls we fall into as it pertains to worship. Just as a heads-up–we will be jumping around the text this morning instead of walking from beginning to end, in an effort to examine the theme of worship. Let’s dive in. The first way to miss worship is when . . .
1. You have forgotten who God is
Knowing who God is, is the starting point of all worship. AW Pink wisely said, “An unknown God can neither be trusted, served, nor worshipped.” And so, if we are to get worship right, then we need to know who God is. We will break this into three thoughts.
First His name is great
In this passage, God refers to Himself with a handful of different titles, each revealing a different facet of His character, and all showing us that His name is great.
One He calls Himself both Father and Master
Look at verse 6. God says, ” ‘A son honors his father, and a servant his master. Then if I am a father, where is My honor? And if I am a master, where is My respect?’ says the Lord of hosts to you, O priests who despise My name.”
God reveals that He is a father and the primary response of a son to his father is honor. This is made clear in the giving of the Ten Commandments where God said, honor your earthly father and your earthly mother. If earthly children are to honor their earthly fathers, how much more are the children of God to honor their heavenly Father?
God reveals that He is the master and Israel His servant. A master has authority over his servants because they belong to him–they are his possession. God identifies as a master who deserves the respect of His servant, Israel. “Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master…so our eyes look to the Lord our God” (Psalm 123:2).
The point is very simple. Because He is father and master, in a position of authority who has cared for, protected, and provided for them, He deserves honor and respect. Said another way, He is worthy of worship. But in these verses, He receives no such honor. The situation was so bad that at the end of verse 6, He accuses the priests of showing outright disapproval and disgust for God–the text says despising His name. Instead of paying homage to God, they willfully disobey and openly disrespect Him.
Two He says He is Lord of Hosts Verses 6,8,9,10,11,13,14
Notice that God not only refers to Himself as father and master, but also as the Lord of hosts seven times in this section in verses 6, 8, 9, 10, 11, 13, and 14. This name for God is used almost three hundred times in the Old Testament. It could be translated “God of the armies” and speaks to His dominion over angels and His supremacy over the destinies of men.
Isaiah 6:1 says that He sits on His throne and is surrounded by seraphim who guard His holiness. First Kings 22:19 expands this picture by saying God is surrounded by countless angelic beings who stand to His left and right. Psalm 103:20 says that they are mighty in strength and obey the voice of His word. In short, God Himself is a divine warrior who commands all the host of Heaven. In the garden of Gethsemane, in an effort to protect Jesus, Peter pulled a sword and cut off an ear–and Jesus, telling him to sheath His sword, that He has countless angels who stand ready to do His bidding, revealing Himself as the Lord of Hosts. Finally, let’s look at God as the . . .
Three Great King Verse 14
At the end of verse 14 God says, “I am a great King and My name will be feared among the nations.” There have been many rulers of this world–Nebuchadnezzar, Alexander, Julius Caesar. Each for a time sat as sovereign ruler over the world. Each had unlimited power and influence. But all kings, monarchs, dictators, emperors, prime ministers, and presidents pale in comparison to the great King.
Psalm 47:2 says, “As the great King He is above all the earth.” Daniel 4:37 says, “He is the King of heaven.” Psalm 95:3 says, “He is a great King above all gods.” In 1 Timothy 6:15 He is declared to be the “King of kings and the Lord of lords.” And in Jeremiah 10:10 we learn that His reign as King is everlasting–there is no one greater. None can compare. And Malachi 1:14 closes by saying His name is feared among the nations.
He is Father and Master, He is the Lord of Hosts, and He is the great King who is worthy of worship. And we must not forget–not only is His name great. We also see . . .
Second His love is amazing
Last week in verses 2 through 5, we saw the electing love of God. I don’t want to spend too much time here, because Nigel hit it out of the park and did a great job helping us to understand the sovereign love of God for the undeserving. Deuteronomy 7:7 says it very clearly–” ‘The Lord did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of the peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples, 8 but because the Lord loved you and kept the oath which He swore to your forefathers, the Lord brought you out by a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. 9 Know therefore that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God, who keeps His covenant and His lovingkindness to a thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep His commandments’ ” (Deuteronomy 7:7 to 9).
Here in Malachi, God once again declares His covenant love to an undeserving people. This is who He is and this is what He does. And it is important for us to frame our thinking about worship, based not only on who He is, but also as a response to what He has done for us. Now let me add one more thing.
Third His service is a privilege
God gave Israel the privilege of not only knowing Him, but also serving Him. Yes, He uniquely loved them as a people. Yes, He set them apart as His own. Seems like that is enough. But on top of that, He instructed them to build a temple, gave them a system of worship, and called them to give Him praise and to wave His banner high so that the rest of the world could see and know the one true God. This is an amazing privilege. And it was given uniquely to them.
We could say the same thing for us today. God has chosen us, has uniquely set His love on us and has given us the privilege of serving and worshipping Him. It wasn’t enough that He revealed Himself to us when we were His enemies. It wasn’t enough that He saved us by His grace apart from our works. It wasn’t enough that He changed our eternal destiny from death to life and that He made us co-heirs with Christ.
In addition to all of this, He uses us to accomplish His purposes in this generation. He has made us salt and light to a dark and dying world. He has called us to be His ambassadors to represent Him in a foreign land. According to Matt 11:29, He even considers us to be His fellow laborers. And Ephesians 2:10 reminds us that He has given us good works to accomplish on His behalf. We were not saved and then relegated to the corner. We are not on the sidelines, hoping someday to get in the game. No, He has given us a race to run and a battle to fight. We aren’t sitting around waiting for Heaven–He has given us talents and He expects us to use them for His glory. The Israelites had lost sight of this and sometimes so do we. And this happens when we forget that it is a privilege to serve the Great King.
Each January, a special session of Congress is called and all eyes are fixed on Washington, as both the Senate and the House of Representatives gather for the State of the Union address, given by the President of the United States–the most powerful man in the world. There are many people who have roles in this special evening, but none as celebrated as the doorkeeper of the House of Representatives. The doorkeeper’s task is as it sounds–he controls access into the House chamber. His position was set up by the Continental Congress in 1789 and was kept intact until 1995, when he was replaced by the Sergeant at Arms. It was his job to say these words, “Mister [or Madam] Speaker, the President of the United States.” A doorkeeper had the distinguished privilege of announcing the President to the watching world–what an honor.
I think this is a really good picture of our great privilege in Christ. We are not the wise or mighty or noble, but we have been given the privilege of announcing the great King Himself. You see, it is only as we remember who God is, contemplate what He has done, and revel in the privilege of service that we will be drawn to worship Him rightly. This is the first step to getting worship right. The next danger we must be aware of is if . . .
2. You are just going through the motions
If we are to get worship right, then it is not only enough to remember who God is, we must also guard against slipping into mindless, thoughtless worship. We see throughout this passage that Israel was comfortable, careless, even bored in their worship of God. If we look closely, we identify two different groups of people who are just going through the motions.
First The priests
Notice that this section is addressed to the priests of Israel. These men were set apart for their work of service to God. They did not have standard jobs and they did not own land. According to the law, they were to receive a portion of the animals that were sacrificed along with other supplies. Hebrews 10:11 speaks of the work of the priests. Every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices–and God had given very explicit instructions to them.
Leviticus 22:21 to 22, “When a man offers a sacrifice of peace offerings to the Lord to fulfill a special vow or for a freewill offering, of the herd or of the flock, it must be perfect to be accepted; there shall be no defect in it. 22 Those that are blind or fractured or maimed or having a running sore or eczema or scabs, you shall not offer to the Lord, nor make of them an offering by fire on the altar to the Lord.”
Now let’s walk through Malachi 1 to see how the priests were doing. God indicts them in verse 7, “you are presenting defiled [or polluted] food on My altar.” Verse 8, “you are offering the blind, the lame, and the sick for sacrifices.” Verse 12, “you are profaning My name.” You are the ones, verse 13, who say, “how tiresome it is.” You have grown weary and the text says, “you disdainfully sniff at it“–that is to say, offering sacrifices is too much work. And so you turn your noses up at it and you spurn it.
And God summarizes all of this at the end of verse 10. “I am not pleased with you, nor will I accept an offering from you.” That is a strong word. So what happened? How did they get there? There are two possibilities. 1) the priests were unconverted–simple enough, they don’t care because they don’t love God. Or 2) their love had grown cold.
Either way, they had failed and God offers no leniency. He does not say, “That’s okay.” He doesn’t allow for a mulligan here. He goes straight to the priests, to His men, His leaders–and He confronts them, holding them responsible for the spiritual state of the nation. Look at 2:8, ” ‘But as for you, you have turned aside from the way; you have caused many to stumble by the instruction; you have corrupted the covenant of Levi,’ says the Lord of hosts.”
These men had grown lazy, indifferent, and ultimately disobedient to God’s direct instruction. Instead of leading the people into the true worship of God, they led the people to a cold and distant religion. And if this teaches us one thing, it is that leadership matters. It mattered in Malachi’s time and it matters today.
This warning goes out to every full-time paid pastor–we have five of them here at FBC. It goes out to every elder and every deacon. To our lay leaders, our children’s pastor, jr high pastor, high school pastor, college pastor, single’s ministry pastor, to every community group leader, every small group leader, every man in the jail ministry, every person who stands to teach in children’s ministry, every student ministries leader, every discipler and every parent. In fact, anyone who fancies themselves a leader in any way. You are the litmus test of your ministry and of the spiritual health of the church. As you go, so go the people around you. If you look at the people in your ministry and think, “Man, these people are cold and apathetic, what’s wrong with them?” I will tell you what is wrong with them–you are. You are the leader. You are the influence. You are the one out in front. You are the high water mark, and as you go so goes your ministry.
Stop looking to others, blaming others, wondering why there is no fruit, no fire, no passion in your people. Let me be clear. If it isn’t in them, it isn’t in you. Fathers, if your home is lame, no one wants to go to church, no one seems to care about Christ–don’t make excuses or blame others. You are the root cause. As you go, so goes your family.
Ministry leader, if there is no fervency for prayer, if your people do not see the need to serve, if the ministry is lifeless, then come to the cross and repent of your own apathy and indifference. Stop trying to fix them and start by examining your own heart and be the man or woman that God has called you to be.
Friend, you cannot lead people where you have never been. Instead, you will lead people down the pathway that is most normal to you. And the message here, like the priests of Malachi, is that if your devotion to Christ is dull and apathetic, then you will lead your people down a dull and apathetic path. This is the burden of leadership. It is a high cost and a great responsibility. It is why James warned in 3:1, “Let not many of you become teachers, for as such we shall incur a stricter judgment.”
Al Mohler said, “The great aim of leadership is to lead followers continually into a deeper, more comprehensive love for what is most real, most true, most right, and most important.” We as leaders are called to lead people into the knowledge of Christ. We are to labor until Christ is formed in them. We are to call them to, “Follow me as I follow Christ.” May we not lose sight of this.
Second The people
The blame does not rest with the priests alone. The people are complicit in the failure to worship. It is true that the priests were offering animals that were blind, lame, and sick, but where are these animals coming from? Who is bringing those sacrifices to the priests? It is the people. Certainly, the priests should have said, “No.” They should have, verse 10, “shut the gates and put out the fire on the altar.” If this is all you will bring to the house of God, then there will be no sacrifices. Verse 8, “You wouldn’t offer these to your governor, why would you bring these to the Lord?”
But this is what they were doing–families, couples, and individuals who knew the law just as well as the priests did were coming into the house of God with animals that were worthless. In verse 13 it even says, “You bring what was taken by robbery, lame, or sick.” That is to say, knowing that you can’t come empty-handed but not wanting to give too much, they would find the oldest animal that is diseased and near death–perfect. Or the one that had been attacked by wolves and now can barely walk. Or even better, sneak into the neighbor’s yard and steal one from the neighbor.
The people are guilty. They knew exactly what they were doing. Animals had value—for labor, for food, for sale. And instead of bringing their best, they were offloading the worst. Again, how do you get to this point where you are bringing such a poor sacrifice to God? Same as the priest, either you do not love God and are unconverted, or you are in a state of spiritual apathy and you just don’t care.
Have you grown comfortable in the presence of holiness? Are you indifferent? Has the fire which once burned so brightly in your devotion to Christ been reduced to just a flicker or gone out all together? Has your heart grown cold? Is your worship like the people of Israel, nothing more than leftovers–complacent, lazy offerings to the King of kings?
It’s so easy to drift, isn’t it? So easy to get apathetic. We are so busy. In fact, we brag about our busy lives, treating a full calendar as a badge of honor. And we are so distracted. In an age of digital connection, we are hit with an endless barrage of messages, news events, and social media platforms that keep us connected to everyone, everywhere. There is no silence. There is no solitude. Add to this the expectations of others—parents, teachers, coaches, bosses, spouses. It never ends.
There is so much going on and we are prone to wander and to drift. Lesser things become the priority. What was once a delight becomes a duty. Service becomes more dull and detached. What was once easy and even effortless has become difficult, hard work. And yet we know God is important and our relationship with Him is supposed to be preeminent. And so we drag ourselves out of bed to get to church. We force the kids to go to youth group. We put on a smile as we head to community group. We volunteer and do all the things that good Christians are supposed to do. To anyone watching, nothing has changed. We carry our Bibles, take notes on Sundays, and continue in all the outward expressions of the Christian life. But something is missing.
Like the people of Israel, we are bringing our leftovers to God. We are giving Him half-hearted, external worship. We acknowledge Him with the same outward actions, but our hearts are far from Him. This happens effortlessly and is almost imperceptible. And if we are not careful, our hearts grow hard and our worship cold. Does this describe you this morning? Is your worship apathetic? Are you bored with God?
Revelation 2 diagnoses the problem by saying you have lost your first love. Jesus’ remedy in Revelation 2:5 is, “Remember from where you have fallen, repent, and do the deeds you did at first.” Think back to times of close communion and nearness to God. Remember how awesome it was to be so close to Him. The joy . . . the passion . . . the hunger . . . the excitement–and look at how you have fallen and repent. Go back and do those same deeds.
For some, it has been a long drought. The cares of this world, the pressures of life, the patterns of sin have a strong hold on you. Jesus, speaking to His friend Martha in Luke 10 said, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; 42 but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part” (Luke 10:41 to 42).
Let me give you a couple of practical suggestions. How do you come to church? Do you arrive late, distracted, with eyes at half-mast? Too often, we come unprepared to meet with God and so instead, we just go through the motions. Can I challenge you to come to church prepared? That might mean going to bed earlier on Saturday night. It might mean getting up earlier. Spend time in prayer and in the Word preparing to meet with God. Be at church early. Come having confessed sin, ready to sing, and to be challenged by His Word.
What is your service like? We have so many amazing servants at this church–people who show up early and stay late to make this mobile church work, those who selflessly serve in our children’s ministry, and so many others. Has your service just become rote, external activity? Setting up 300 chairs, changing one more diaper, passing out one more bulletin. You show up because you are supposed to. It is your commitment. It is just what you do on Sundays–so easy to lose sight of your service as an act of worship.
Why not, as you set up chairs, spend time praying for those who will be sitting in those chairs, that God would use His word to change their hearts. It is so easy in children’s to fall back into a babysitting or daycare mindset. That is not what we do here. This is a spiritual act of worship where we love, care for, and teach children about our great God. As you hold those little babies, and put out snacks, walk them to the bathroom, and do crafts with them, pray that God would ultimately save them. Ask Him to make pastors and missionaries from those you oversee. And as you teach them, know that the truth you pass on is the very Word of God that has the power to change those little hearts.
The outward actions are the same, but the inward heart is different. Every chair set-up, every communion tray passed, every person greeted, every child cared for–all of this is our offering. It is our act of worship, motivated by gratitude and love for the One who gave all for us. We cannot allow ourselves just to go through the motions. If we do, then we fail to get worship right. This moves us to the final caution.
3. You have lost sight of the big picture Verse 11
Not only do we forget who God is, and go through the motions, but we lose sight of the big picture. Look at verse 11. ” ‘For from the rising of the sun even to its setting, My name will be great among the nations, and in every place incense is going to be offered to My name, and a grain offering that is pure; for My name will be great among the nations,’ says the Lord of hosts.” At first reading, to a Jewish audience this doesn’t make much sense. Offerings in every place? Offered at all times? Among all the nations?
The law of God specifies one and only one location in which offerings can be made. Where? In the Temple in Jerusalem. And only on specific times and on certain days. And only by specific individuals, priests born into the tribe of Levi. And only in a certain ceremonial way. But verse 11 says the worship of God will be virtually unlimited. It will be offered from sun up till sundown. And it will happen in every place across every nation. Amongst those who are outside of Israel? The uncircumcised? The Gentile nations who had ravaged Israel, taken them into captivity, who are enemies of God? What is going on?
This is a promise. It has an eschatological ring to it. It is a prophetic word, pointing to a future reality. And I think the interpretation of this is twofold, both near and far. We get our first clue some 400 years after Malachi was written, when a baby was born in Bethlehem. At His birth, angels announced that He would save His people from their sins. Seeing Him in the Temple, the old man Simeon thanked God saying, “My eyes have seen Your salvation.”
Foreshadowed throughout the Old Testament, this second Adam would crush the serpent’s head and put an end to the sin which separated man from God. He walked the dusty roads of Palestine, offering sight to the blind and freedom to the captives. He banished disease, raised the dead, and exercised authority over the created order. As the Word made flesh, He spoke as no one had ever spoken. His name is Jesus Christ. He was a man and He was God.
One day while sitting by a well outside a small Samaritan village, a woman asked Him about worship. Is it acceptable to worship God outside of Jerusalem? John 4:20, “You people say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.” Her question is legitimate. As we have seen, Jerusalem was the only place God had prescribed for worship. But look at Jesus’ response in verse 21–He turns the whole thing on its head. “Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father“–because worship was never about a physical location. It was never about a building. Or the liturgical order. It has always been about the heart. Worship is about the offering of one’s self to God.
Jesus went on to say in verse 23, “An hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; [it is both heart and head].” That hour came when Jesus went to the cross. Ephesians 2:13 to 14 says, “But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off [speaking of Gentiles] have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall.” That is to say that when He died, Jesus extended salvation to all.
Salvation is no longer limited to the Jews. The Gentiles have been grafted in–so that, according to Colossians 3:11, “There is no distinction between Greek and Jew but Christ is all and in all.” It is no longer necessary to go to the Temple in Jerusalem to worship. Offerings can be made to God from every place. From every nation. From the rising to the setting sun. Worship is not about your location, it is about your heart. God, through Christ, has removed our sin and brought us to Christ. And so we worship God according to Romans 12:1. “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.”
But this is not all we see in Malachi–I think there is something more here. There is an even bigger picture than this, because we do not see this type of worship happening today. God is not feared and exalted in every nation and in all places. We still live in a world dominated by the evil one and under the power of sin. Malachi is looking forward to a future time, to a future kingdom in which God will reign. God will rule.
He will be worshipped by all people in all places at all times. And I can’t help but think of Revelation 7. “After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; 10 and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.’ 11 And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures; and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying, ‘Amen, blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever. Amen’ ” (Revelation 7:9 to 12).
This is the big picture. This is where it is all going. This is our final end–a time when we will be with Him and worship Him forever. But if we forget who God is, or we just go through the motions, or we lose sight of the big picture, then we will come short in our worship. We will not get worship right.
As we wrap this up, it is so easy for us to see out shortcomings. No one in this room gets worship right all the time. But we do not come to worship based on our own goodness or our own perfect record. We come as those who have been declared right by God because of the finished work of Christ on our behalf. We worship because of what He has done, not because of what we have done.
This morning we have seen three ways we can miss out on true worship. When we forget who God is, when we just go through the motions, and when we lose sight of the big picture. Let’s pray.