Malachi had reminded his listeners that they had forgotten that the Lord had loved them in special ways. Now he moves on to show that they had failed to worship God in an appropriate way. The order of his topics highlights the obvious: it is impossible to worship God if we question his love and fail to take note of the evidences of his love.
This failure was especially evidenced by the priests (vv. 6-11), which is why Malachi speaks of them first, but he also refers to the people in general (vv. 12-14). What was happening was that the priests and people were giving to God the worst animals rather than the best animals as sacrifices. Not only did they not offer the best, they were bored with the activity (v. 13). It is not difficult to see that there is a connection between the two: we will be bored with worship if we are not giving our best. The giving must precede the enjoyment.
Malachi informs us that their worship was flippant. They had forgotten who their God was and who they were. The Lord reminds them in verse 6 as to who he is: he is their Father and Master, which means that they belonged to his family and were his servants. Just as a father expects his children to respect him, so the Lord expected Israel to respect him. And just as a master expects his servants to obey him, so the Lord expected Israel to obey his commandments regarding worship. It is impossible to obey God if there is no respect for God. Obedience comes out of reverence and fear.
Malachi further says that their worship was familiar. We are used to the saying, ‘Familiarity breeds contempt.’ They had become used to what they were doing, it had descended into a matter of routine. They knew they should worship God, but it was merely an external activity.
Malachi also says that their worship was selfish. They offered what cost them little, and even the priests would not open a door without expecting money as a reward. Their estimation of worship was what they got out of it, not what they put into it.
Sadly their worship was a failure. In all their activities, they did not meet with God. He refused to accept their worship, and refused to bestow upon them any spiritual blessings from their worship. This failure is seen in Malachi’s ironic suggestion in verse 9: ‘And now entreat the favour of God, that he may be gracious to us. With such a gift from your hand, will he show favour to any of you? says the LORD of hosts.’ When they entreat the favour of God through such inappropriate worship, he will not pay any attention to them.
Tomorrow we will look at aspects of true worship.