Worthless Sacrifices

The LORD of Heaven’s Armies says to the priests: “A son honors his father, and a servant respects his master. If I am your father and master, where are the honor and respect I deserve? You have shown contempt for my name!

“But you ask, ‘How have we ever shown contempt for your name?’

“You have shown contempt by offering defiled sacrifices on my altar.

“Then you ask, ‘How have we defiled the sacrifices?’

“You defile them by saying the altar of the LORD deserves no respect. When you give blind animals as sacrifices, isn’t that wrong? And isn’t it wrong to offer animals that are crippled and diseased? Try giving gifts like that to your governor, and see how pleased he is!” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.

“Go ahead, beg God to be merciful to you! But when you bring that kind of offering, why should he show you any favor at all?” asks the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.

“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 1:6-11)

God wanted the Temple shut down. He was tired of offerings that were meaningless because they were thoughtless: a mere empty ritualism that grew not out of any genuine devotion to God, but out of superstition. The Israelites performed the rituals because they thought that in so doing they could get God to perform, as if God were a vending machine awaiting the right number of quarters before he would pop out the bag of chips. For that reason, God wanted the Israelites to stop sacrificing to him.

The prophet said that God’s name was honored by people of other nations and that they worshipped him. While some have suggested that this is referring to those Jewish people already in exile in Babylon and Assyria, the more likely understanding is that this is a prophesy of what was going to happen: the gentiles, those who were not Jewish, would see the light and become worshippers of God. Then the Temple would be destroyed, ending the sacrificial system once and for all. The Temple was destroyed by the Romans during the summer of 70 AD, and the gospel message has been taken around the globe. As Jesus said, his true worshippers worship not at a temple, but in spirit and truth.

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About R.P. Nettelhorst

I'm married with three daughters. I live in southern California and I'm a deacon at Quartz Hill Community Church. I spent a couple of summers while I was in college working on a kibbutz in Israel. In 2004, I was a volunteer with the Ansari X-Prize at the winning launches of SpaceShipOne. Member of Society of Biblical Literature, American Academy of Religion, and The Authors Guild
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