“How I wish one of you would shut the Temple doors so that these worthless sacrifices could not be offered! I am not pleased with you,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “and I will not accept your offerings. But my name is honored by people of other nations from morning till night. All around the world they offer sweet incense and pure offerings in honor of my name. For my name is great among the nations,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.
Malachi 1:10-11 New Living Translation
Malachi is the last prophetic book of the Old Testament canon, written after the return from exile and the completion of the second Temple. From Malachi’s writing, it appears the Israelites still had learned nothing from their exile and were falling into the same patterns as before the exile. God specifically brings up the lack of reverence in their practice of offerings. They were bringing deformed animals as sacrifices and had a lackadaisical attitude toward their worship. In their attitude and actions, they were showing their disregard for Yahweh again.
God’s response to all this was to tell them that they might as well shut down the Temple if their heart was not in it. God knew that He had people who honored and revered Him in all nations. The Israelites nationality did not give them an automatic exclusive fellowship with God. The Kingdom God sought to build included people from outside Israel. If the rituals being performed in the Temple were not authentic, then the Temple no longer served its purpose. God’s name would be honored in other places and other times in history. Israel was at a point of decision about how much they wanted to be a part of that Kingdom. Would they give their hearts fully to God or continue with empty rituals?
Often in our journey of faith, we face a similar point of decision. Are we going to continue with empty rituals that show God no regard at all? Or are we going to pursue Him with our whole hearts, regardless of the circumstances we find ourselves in? If our worship is only done as a ritual of obligation and does not come from a heart that is fully vested in the ways of the Kingdom of God, it does not honor His name. We can build a magnificent building to house our acts of worship but it is our heart that God is looking for. If our heart is far from Him, our buildings are irrelevant to Him. He will find others whose hearts are fully committed to Him.
God, forgive us for the times we have worshiped you out of ritual and not out of a heart that is fully committed to you. Help us to keep the focus of our worship in the right place.