“A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am a father, where is my honor? And if I am a master, where is my fear? says the LORD of hosts to you, O priests, who despise my name. But you say, ‘How have we despised your name?’ By offering polluted food upon my altar. But you say, ‘How have we polluted you?’ By saying that the LORD’s table may be despised. When you offer blind animals in sacrifice, is that not evil? And when you offer those that are lame or sick, is that not evil?”
Malachi brings a word from the Lord. The Lord is asking the priests why they do not honor him. They are bringing polluted, blind, and lame animals to the altar for sacrifice. By doing that, they are not honoring the Lord. Only a pure sacrifice will do. Only a spotless sacrifice will do. But why?
The Lord put forth the requirements for sacrifice in his law. Moses stood before the congregation and spoke the law of God to the people. The priests had even more rigorous stipulations, though, because of the uniqueness of their job. They were to be a mediator between the people and God – to offer sacrifice for the sins of the people. They had high standards. God planned it that way. He has high standards.
He’s told them what sacrifices are good and which are bad. They know the rules and yet they don’t obey. God doesn’t keep silent. He moves toward them to alert them of their sin. But why is this a big deal? Malachi is a mere 54 verses. 17 of those are spent talking to the priests. That’s over 30% of the book. It is apparently a big deal.
Sacrifices have always been a big deal. The Old Testament is littered with references of sacrifices to God. It’s that way for a reason. God isn’t just being picky when he confronts the priests. No, rather, what he is doing is honoring his son. God requires a spotless sacrificial lamb from the priests but he’s not asking for something that he’s not willing to provide. God himself is going to provide a sacrificial lamb. The sacrifice is a big deal because at the center history is a sacrifice. The sacrifice is a big deal because it’s all pointing to Jesus. The priests aren’t just profaning God the Father’s name, they are also profaning God the Son’s name. Jesus is the point of this passage. Jesus is the perfect sacrifice. And the shadows of this perfect sacrifice, while still shadows, must not be taken lightly. They are pointing to something far greater.
Today we don’t make animal sacrifices. We won’t have a word from the Lord coming to our pastors asking why they aren’t killing spotless lambs. There is no longer a need. Jesus has put an end to the sacrifices. How? Jesus, the perfect high priest has himself become the sacrifice. He is the spotless lamb. He is the sacrifice that all sacrifices pointed to. There is no more payment required. There is no greater sacrifice. So, what are we to do with this passage? How are we to apply it to our lives? Surely there is something that we can glean, some warning, some conviction, from this passage. There is indeed, but it’s not what anyone would have expected.
The author of Hebrews helps us apply Malachi’s rebuke. Hebrews 13:15 says, “Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.”
There is still a sacrifice for us to present but instead of blood, we bring praise. The blood has been shed. There is no more blood that can be presented to God in an acceptable manner. There is no more need. Christ shed his own blood and that blood though physically dry in the ground at Calvary is still fresh enough today to cleanse his children from all their sin. Though the cross no longer stands on that bloody hill outside Jerusalem, it stands still in the memory of God the Father and God the Son and its accomplishments are transferred to us by the power of God the Spirit. One bloody sacrifice of a spotless lamb for all time. Now, the game is changed.
So, what is a sacrifice of praise to God? It is simply this: praising God for the gift of salvation purchased through the blood of Jesus. Our sacrifice now is not the slaying of a lamb but rejoicing because The Lamb has been slain. Our great sin is not the lame animals we bring but the grumbling and questioning that we bring to God. It’s not our blind animals that we present at the altar that are the problem but our blind hearts that refuse to praise God for the redemption of the Lord over all our lives. We don’t have to fear slaying a polluted animal but we should fear a polluted spirit of praise.
Our sacrifice to God is now the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. So acknowledge the name of Jesus. He is the perfect Lamb. He is the perfect Sacrifice. What if I told you that you’re only job from now to the end of your life was to offer praise to God for saving you from eternal death? What if I told you that the only thing you’d ever have to pay God is the breath that it took to speak his name in praise? Of course, when following Christ we will inevitably have to make what seem like sacrifices in our lives, but is it really a sacrifice? Is it really a sacrifice to praise and follow the one, the only one, who can save you? At the heart of the gospel there is a cross with a spotless lamb, bloodied by sin, to get his children back. The sin has been paid for. That’s praiseworthy. He is worthy of our praise. He is worthy. Praise him. It is our only sacrifice.