Honouring the Name
I wasn’t going to post anything on this book, not because there wasn’t anything to be said but because there is so much to be said. Blogs are supposed to be short, or so the experts say. However, I am compelled, pricked all day to say something about this wonderful book.
The first thing that impresses me about Malachi is the emphasis on the reputation, the Name of God. This aspect of the book is fresh in my mind because this week’s study on The Lord’s Prayer, which I teach on Wednesday evenings at my church, was all about the phrase: “hallowed be your name.”
Through the prophet the Lord charges His people, specifically the priests, with defaming His Name by presenting to Him unworthy sacrifices. Not only did the people bring their second best to God, they brought the worst! (Malachi 1:6-9). Their negligence was such a poor testimony to their pagan neighbours that God went so far as to pronounce this condemnation: “Oh, that one of you would shut the temple doors, so that you would not light useless fires on my altar! I am not pleased with you, says the Lord Almighty, and I will accept no offering from your hands. My name will be great among the nations, from the rising to the setting of the sun. In every place incense and pure offering will be brought to my name, because my name will be great among the nations, says the Lord Almighty” (1:10, 11, NIV).
If you aren’t going to do it right, don’t do it at all. Padlock the doors of the church.
The next complaint highlights the attitude behind the poor offerings. It appears that the holy things of God were not just neglected but held in contempt (1:12, 13). They brought their worst because they really didn't consider God to be worth anything better.
The name, or reputation of God, comes up again in Malachi 2. His priests do not honour Him and so God will not honour them. Malachi writes: “I will send a curse upon you, and I will curse your blessings. Yes, I have already cursed them, because you have not set your heart to honor me” (2:2, NIV). Think of the implications to that statement. The Lord’s issue with the priests is further explained in verses 8 and 9 (NIV). “But you have turned from the way and by your teaching have caused many to stumble; you have violated the covenant…you have not followed my ways…”
The people have been unfaithful to their God, like a man breaking faith with his wife (2:10-16). They practice the black arts, cheat and lie. They defraud and oppress the weak and practice injustice (3:5). They rob God by not returning to Him a tithe of what He has so generously given them (3:8-10). They decide to abandon God because they are not gaining with God what they see their pagan neighbours gaining without God (3:14, 15).
These are God’s people, the walking, talking testimony to the world of Who He is. Rather than honouring Him, their words and actions are bringing shame to His Name, ruining His reputation, making Him a mockery among the very people who are supposed to be in awe of Him. God’s Name, His reputation, are important to Him.
I love the song, Refiner’s Fire. But when I read the reference to it here in Malachi, I don’t think the refiner’s fire of the Scripture is going to be anywhere near as pleasant as the song leads us to believe. “But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the Lord will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness…” (3:2, 3, NIV). Somehow I think that fire might hurt a whole lot.
My mother used to make lye soap. That stuff was a killer on stains. But it was also a killer on the skin—especially when she was handling the lye during the soap making process. We’re not talking a Dove Beauty Bar with one quarter moisturizing cream. This is “rub-the-skin-raw” soap.
God values His Name. He doesn’t take lightly the damage done to it. Perhaps that is one very good reason why one of the major commands of the Bible is: “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name” (Exodus 20:7, NIV).
If there ever was a “beware” book, Malachi is it. Some may dismiss the Old Testament as irrelevant during the age of grace. The truth is, it’s not just about obeying a set of rules. Rather, it’s all about honouring the Name of Almighty God. And that is relevant in every age.