Insulting God with crippled sacrifices
God loves Israel1This is a message the LORD gave to Malachi to deliver to Israel.
2The LORD says this:
I have loved you for a long time. But you don’t believe it. You say, “Prove it. Show us how you’ve loved us?” Well, it’s clear enough that I loved your ancestor, Jacob. But remember his brother, Esau? 3I didn’t choose to bless Esau that way. Instead, I gave him a wasteland of ruins to live in. And he had desert jackals to pass on to his children as an inheritance. 4People in Edom might think they can rebuild their cities. If they rebuild them, I’ll tear them back down. Eventually, they’ll get a reputation as an evil nation that got on the wrong side the LORD.
5You’re going to live to see it. Then you’ll say, “The LORD isn’t just the God of Israel. Wherever God goes, his great power goes with him.” 6The LORD of everyone says:
A son honors his father. A slave respects his master. I’m your father and your master. So, where’s the respect? Where’s the honor? Even you priests act like I disgust you.
You might ask for examples of how you insult me. I’ll give you a few. 7The sacrificial offerings you bring are discards. And that stinks.
You’ll ask, “What’s wrong with the sacrifices you bring me?” Well, let’s start with your refusal to treat the altar as sacred.
Israel kills blind animals for God’s altar8People, you bring me blind animals. That’s your sacrifice, your gift to me. Blind animals. And crippled critters. Diseased, as well. Come on now, you don’t see that as wrong? Try giving animals like that to your governor. Would he be happy with you? Would he say, “Thank you very much for all these sick animals, I gratefully accept them?” That’s the question the LORD of everyone wants you to think about.
9Go ahead, folks, and ask God to show you some kindness. What kindness would you deserve for the broken animals you bring? The LORD of everyone wants to know.
10The LORD of everyone says, “I wish someone would lock priests out of the Temple. Lock the doors. That would stop them from lighting fires on my altar to burn their useless sacrifices. I’m not happy with you people. And, I won’t accept any of your damaged goods on my altar. 11People will honor me all over the world, from the sunrise to the sunset. People from nations far away will bring me sacred and respectful offerings. And they’ll bring fragrant incense to burn at the Temple.
Israel burns garbage on God’s altar12You people, on the other hand, throw garbage on my sacred table, the altar. You pollute it with your defective sacrifices. 13And you dishonor me when you say to yourself these sacrifices are good enough for the table of God. When you bring me diseased animals, should I reward you by accepting them? That’s what the LORD wants to know.
14If you cheat me, there’s going to be trouble in your life. If you have a healthy male in your flock and you promise it to me but bring an unhealthy animal instead, you’re in big trouble. The LORD of everyone says this about himself: I am a powerful king. People all over the world will respect me.
The word for “message” in the Hebrew language of the Old Testament, which is the Jewish Bible, has been translated also as “oracle” or “prophecy.” It also means “burden,” or a responsibility that someone has—work they need to do. In this case, the work is to deliver a message few would want to hear.
“Malachi” might not have been the prophet’s name. That word means “messenger.” So, the opening sentence could just as easily have meant that God’s message would come from God’s messenger—human or perhaps celestial.
Jacob, Abraham’s grandson, became the father of the dozen men whose families grew into what became the 12 tribes of Israel.
Esau settled in the rocky hills of Edom, in what is now the country of Jordan. Also known in ancient time as Seir, the most defensive cities included the rock city of Petra, which the people chiseled into cliffs on mountains overlooking the valley south of the Dead Sea. The devastation that the writer describes could refer to what Babylonian invaders from Iraq did to Edom in the 500s BC. They wiped out the nation. Some survivors moved west into what is now southern Israel, pushed out of their homeland by more attacks from a coalition of desert tribes, including a group called Nabataeans.
Many people in ancient times seemed to believe that the gods gave people what they deserved. People who made their god angry, the LORD included, got trouble. Good people on the right side of God or other perceived gods got rewards, blessings, and sunshine in the hayfields.
Many translate the Lord’s name and title as the LORD Almighty, LORD of Hosts, LORD of Heaven, or LORD of All. The Hebrew word can refer to an army or a crowd of people or celestial beings.
Laws Moses gave the Jewish people included rules about what kind of animals they could and couldn’t sacrifice to God. “Make sure the animal you bring has nothing wrong with it. You can bring cattle, sheep, or goats. But if you want me to accept the offering, make sure there’s nothing wrong with it. If it is defective, I will reject it…Don’t bother bringing any sacrificial animals that are: blind, crippled, injured, or suffering from warts, rash, open sores, or scabs. I will reject them” (Leviticus 22:19-20, 22).
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