God said to the priests, “A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am the Father, where is My honor?” (Mal. 1:6a). It is normal for a son to honor his father and a servant to honor his master. Even a dog obeys its master, and a donkey knows its master. But God’s people do not know Him (cf. Isa. 1:3). How well do you know the Lord? You could answer now: “I know the Bible … “The Lord is my shepherd” …”, but do you really know Him? If you do not know Him as your Father, you will not know how to worship Him. God asks, “Where is My honor?” Do you honor God as your Father? Don’t answer “yes” too quickly, because the next question is, “How do you honor God as your Father?” When the Father says to you, “Don’t do that,” you reply, “Why not? I like it.” When you honor God, you show Him respect and humble yourself before Him. How often do you kneel before Him with a sincere heart full of humility and lower yourself? This does not mean that we have to kneel down every time we pray, but it is written, “…every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue confess to God…” (Rom. 14:11). How often do you bow your knees to give glory to our Father? He is not just our Father but God! And our Father is the Creator, the Almighty God, who made everything, who also made us, saved us, and gave us His life and everything we need! Such a great God is He! But how much honor do we show him?
How do you come to the meeting? Are you barefoot, or do you come to the Zoom gathering in your pajamas and just turn off your camera? Is that reverence for God? Does it make a difference if you come to the Lord’s Table in person or participate through Zoom? No matter what gathering we come to, out of reverence for God we should always come as if we were appearing before God and before the saints. By doing so, we honor God. I am not just sitting in front of the camera, but I am having fellowship with the saints before the living God! If the forty-fifth president of the United States invited us to the White House, we would probably put on our best suit and possibly buy a new tie. For sure, we would not appear in our comfortable slippers and holey T-shirt in front of the honored guests in attendance. How much less can we appear like this before God, for He is the great King! We want to give Him honor, not only in our speech, but also in our practical expression.
In the Philippines, a pastor who often jokes, bragged to his congregation that if you are not a millionaire by the time you are 40 and have taken your wife around the world, you have failed as a Christian. Everyone laughed, but how do you think God felt about it? This is not an honor, but a disgrace to God our Father. Often in churches we honor people more than we honor God. In the end, the “preacher” replaces Christ, and no one cares what the Lord says – but only what that person says. “…If then I am the Father, where is My honor? And if I am a Master, where is My reverence? Says the LORD of hosts to you priests who despise My name. Yet you say, ‘In what way have we despised Your name?'” (Mal. 1:6). They gave no glory to God, nor did they fear His name. That is why God rebuked them vehemently.
The Lord went on to say, “…you offer defiled bread on my altar” (cf. Mal. 1:7a). When siblings come to your home, you prepare a delicious meal, not the old cake from a month ago and cold coffee, because you love your siblings. If the president announced himself for a visit to your house, you would think every day about all the things you need to do to prepare for his visit and maybe even buy a new set of gold-rimmed dishes. You wouldn’t put old dishes with dents and cracks and leftovers from last night’s roast chicken on the table, but you would take your time to cook the best food!
What is the nature of the offerings we bring before God as priests? Is it a last minute preparation on Saturday night, when we only find something leftover, leftovers, for the Father? By doing so, we show that we have no heart for Him. For God, this means, “You despise Me. You show Me no reverence. I am a great God, a great King, the One who is, who was, and who is to come, the Almighty, the Lord of hosts! I am the Creator of heaven and earth – all is Mine!” Let us not bring Him just anything, but let us prepare the very best for Him with care!
Your best may not be so large, maybe just a turtledove, but that is enough! If it is the best you have and you have prepared it with love, God will treasure it. You do not despise the name of the Lord when you bring a true, good, spiritual turtledove. Remember the widow who put her last two coins into the temple treasury? That doesn’t seem like much to us. If you have a million dollars in your pocket and you only put in $1000, that $1000 isn’t much either. But this widow gave God everything, everything she had, and the Lord treasured it greatly (cf. Mk. 12:42-44). It is not about bringing God something great, but about giving Him my very best. Your best may be different from someone else’s, but you bring the best you have. Learn to prepare for it. Do not just pull something out of your hat, like a magician – when you treat God like that, you despise His name.
God said, “You offer defiled food on My altar, but you ask, in what way have we defiled You?” (cf. Mal. 1:7). We are not even aware of the defilement because we have already become accustomed to it. Unfortunately, we are lazy and do not take time to experience Christ. And when we’ve experienced Him only a little bit, we think, “I’m going to bring this to God now.” There would be many other and better ways to experience Christ, but we don’t care that much. We think, “the main thing is that I have something to bring to God”. But this is not acceptable to God at all.
There are many ways for us Christians to serve God, but for many, you do not have to be holy to do so. For example, you can go far away on mission to preach the gospel. All you need is the gospel and your mouth to proclaim the good news to the people. This does not require you to be holy. Many great preachers even went to prison for cheating, stealing, and doing other unrighteous things. Paul reported that some preached the gospel out of envy and strife and competed with him in order to grieve him. But his heart was so wide and loving that he even rejoiced as long as they preached Christ (cf. Phil. 1:15-18). You may be able to sing beautiful songs to God. All you need is a good voice and a songbook – that doesn’t require holiness either. So we can do many things for God without being holy. But in our priestly service, it is impossible to not be holy, otherwise we defile the sanctuary of God. God will say, “This is not acceptable, I am sorry.”
Without our sanctification, the priestly ministry cannot possibly be carried out. God expects priests to be holy and do everything according to His will. Remember Nadab and Abihu, the two sons of Aaron, who burned incense in the holy place (cf. Deut. 10:1-3). They did not serve according to God’s instruction, so fire came down from God and consumed them. Today, we are not immediately consumed by fire, but we die spiritually. Aaron was not even allowed to mourn for his two older sons because, first, God did not give them permission to burn incense, and second, they used strange fire. If we want to serve God as priests, we must not do so according to our own ideas. When David tried to bring the Ark of the Covenant into the City of David, he did not do it according to God – instead of having the priests carry the Ark, he used a new chariot drawn by oxen. When the cattle suddenly slipped, Ussa held the ark with his hand so that it would not fall. Therefore God struck him there, and he died on the spot (cf. 2 Sam 6:1-7). Through this example, God impressed on us that everything that has to do with the service of the priesthood must be holy.
In Ezekiel 44 we read what the requirements are for the priests. Before they enter the sanctuary for their service, they must put on the holy garments. Holiness is the mandatory prerequisite for the priesthood. For many other things, you don’t have to be holy – which doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be holy. Of course, it is best to be holy all the time, but the requirements are not as strict as for the priesthood. That is why Peter writes that we are being built up into a spiritual house and a holy and royal priesthood (cf. 1 Pet. 2:5, 9). So it is very important to pay attention to holiness!