Introduction

Do you respect God?? The word ?respect? means to feel or show deferential regard for or to esteem.? It is to avoid violation of or interference with (Ex: respect the speed limit).? Do we regard God in high esteem?? Do we avoid violating God?s way?? I think that every human being would have to answer no to both of these questions some more or less than others.

God demands our respect.? God?s name should be feared in the sense that He should be regarded with high esteem and He should be revered above all else.? God said that only He should be worshipped for example and yet we worship so many other things.? God should be respected and He deserves our respect and honor.

When life gets tough and we look around us and see all of the evil, pain, and suffering in the world then we can easily begin to wonder if God really cares and in some cases begin to doubt that God even exists.? Perhaps Darwin was right.? Perhaps there is no God.? However, just in case there is a God then I think I?ll go to church (and go through the motions).? These are the sentiments of many who have lost hope and faith or are in the beginning stages of such.

It doesn?t have to be this way.? I recall watching a television show about the Tsunamis that hit parts of the world in December of 2004.? I recall a little boy being interviewed.? He lost his mother and his father in the rushing waters that engulfed his town.? However, he said that he prays that one day he would see them in the afterlife.? I was taken back by this because one would think that someone would grieve by first placing some blame on God with questions such as, ?Why didn?t you spare my parents.?? However, this little boy didn?t see God that way.? He still respected his God.

We will find that the Jews during the time of the Persian captivity were similarly affected and how their respect for God faded.? We are going to look at the respect and honor due to God and hopefully, we will learn to really respect God in our lives.? Please read Malachi 1:6-14.

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Background of the Book of Malachi

The author of this book is credited to Malachi (which means ?my messenger?).? The book of Malachi is the last book of the Minor Prophets in the Jewish Bible.

The returned Jewish exiles finished the temple in 516 BC spurred by the prophetic activity of Haggai and Zechariah.? In 458 the coming of Ezra the priest and several thousand more Jews strengthened the community.? King Artaxerxes of Persia encouraged Ezra to develop the temple worship (Ezra 7:17) and to make sure the Law of Moses was being obeyed (Ezra 7:25-26).

Thirteen years later (445) the same Persian king permitted Nehemiah to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the walls (Nehemiah 6:15).? Nehemiah advocated policies to help the poor (Nehemiah 5:2-13), and he convinced the people to stay away from mixed marriages, to keep the Sabbath (Nehemiah 10:30-31), and to bring their tithes and offerings faithfully (Nehemiah 10:37-39).

During Nehemiah?s absence after returning to the king in 433 BC the Jews fell into sin once again.? Later, Nehemiah came back to Jerusalem and discovered that the tithes were being ignored, the Sabbath not being observed, the people had intermarried with foreigners, and the priests had become corrupt (Nehemiah 13:7-31).

The Jews were generally discouraged because:

  1. Their land remained but a small province in the backwaters of the Persian empire
  2. The glorious future announced by the prophets had not (yet) been realized
  3. ?Their God had not (yet) come to his temple with majesty and power to exalt his kingdom in the sight of the nations.

The people began to doubt God?s covenant love and no longer trusted in his justice.? They, therefore, began to lose hope in their God.? Their worship degenerated into forms and they no longer took the law seriously.? Their revelation of the reality of God seems to have been lost.

Malachi rebuked the people and the priests for neglecting the worship of God and failing to live according to God?s will.? If the priests were unfaithful, how could they lead the people?? They had become stumbling blocks instead of spiritual leaders.? If the people were divorcing their wives and marrying pagan women, how could they lead their children?? Their relationship to God had become inconsequential.

In general, the city of Jerusalem and the second Temple had been built, but initial enthusiasm had worn off. Following a period of revival under Nehemiah (Nehemiah. 10:28-39), the people and priests had backslid and become mechanical in their observance of the law. Though lax in their worship (1:7) and delinquent in their tithing (3:8), they could not understand why God was dissatisfied with them.

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Going Through the Motions: Not From the Heart

Malachi 1:6-8 (NKJV) — {6} ?A son honors his father, And a servant his master. 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?? {7} ?You offer defiled food on My altar, But say, ?In what way have we defiled You?? By saying, ?The table of the Lord is contemptible.? {8} And when you offer the blind as a sacrifice, Is it not evil? And when you offer the lame and sick, Is it not evil? Offer it then to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you favorably?? Says the Lord of hosts.

The priests were going through the motions in regards to worshipping God.? They were not sincere in offering the required sacrifices to God.? They truly showed contempt for God by their actions.? Consider what the above scripture says.

A son honors his father and a servant his master ?? This is typical behavior of humans.? The son honors his father and a servant will honor his master.? Similarly, an employee will honor his employer and an athlete his coach.? We honor those in authority over us.?? However, the Jews did not show this typical respect and honor for God.? They showed contempt for God.

If then I am the Father, Where is my honor? ? God is the father and master and yet he was not respected as one would respect a father or master here on earth.? Of course, those who are not Christians do not respect God, but even those who call themselves Christians show contempt for God in their lifestyles and various activities.

Think about it for a moment.? If we really respected and revered God then how could we possibly sin?? For example a child?s father may say that he cannot go outside because he is on punishment.? The child may think of ways to sneak outside against his father?s words.? The child is willing to risk getting into more trouble only because he thinks that he could get away with it, i.e., he thinks he won?t get caught.? However, we know that God is omnipresent, which means that His presence is everywhere and there is no place where He cannot see.? Therefore, we cannot sneak and do anything without God knowing it.? How can we then go against God?s word knowing that He sees us?? We can because we do not respect God and who He really is.

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Offering Rejects

Malachi told the priests that they despised God through their sacrifices.? They were offering things to God that were defiled.? They were offering blind, maimed, or otherwise unacceptable sacrifices to God.? They were, in essence, giving God their rejects.? God makes a valid point by asking if their governors would accept such sacrifices.? We give God leftovers and hold mere humans in much higher esteem.? I dare say that some hold their favorite movie stars or athletes in higher esteem than they do God.

Matthew 6:33 (NKJV) — {33} But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.

Do we really hold God in enough high esteem to seek His kingdom first?? The word first here refers to priority or importance.? In other words, God and His kingdom should be the number one priority in our lives.? Is it?? We put so many other things over and above seeking the Lord God.? The fact of the matter is that He is simply not important enough to us.? We don?t respect Him the way we should.

I think of religious people even from other religions.? Some people dedicate their lives to God.? Some people are thought to be ?holier than thou, ? but in effect, they may simply hold God in much higher esteem than we do and their activities show it.? How often do we talk to God?? How often do we spend time in communion with Him?? How true is our daily pilgrimage to the church service on Sunday?? Now consider how diligent you are to watch your favorite television show.? How loyal are you to your favorite activity in comparison to the Lord?? Do you see what I mean?

The Jews were sacrificing crippled and diseased animals to the Lord.? That doesn?t even sound right, does it?? The reason it doesn?t sound right is made clear by the Lord?s word.? He said that it is wrong (See verse 8).

Deuteronomy 15:21 (NKJV) — {21} But if there is a defect in it, if it is lame or blind or has any serious defect, you shall not sacrifice it to the Lord your God.

How could mere humans show so much contempt for God who created the universe and who holds our very lives and existence in His hands?? Sin has truly clouded the minds of men to such an extent that we should think we could disregard the almighty God the way that we do.

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Dare To Call on God

Malachi 1:9 (NKJV) — {9} ?But now entreat God?s favor, That He may be gracious to us. While this is being done by your hands, Will He accept you favorably?? Says the Lord of hosts.

Now here is the interesting part.? We disrespect God as a normal course of life and yet we expect Him to come to our rescue when we call on Him.? We don?t consider God much at all in our daily activities and routine and yet we expect Him to come to our aid when we are in trouble.? We are so fortunate that God does not reward (punish) us according to our iniquities (See Psalm 103:10).

We don?t think of God except for times of trouble or when we want something.? We don?t give God the time that we give other things in our lives.? We don?t spend time in fellowship with God.? We surely don?t make the effort to live according to his way as we should.? This is not to say that we are determined to go against God?s will.? I think that Jesus showed us the principle best in Matthew 13:22.

Matthew 13:22 (NKJV) — {22} Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful.

The things that bombard us in life cause us to lose focus on the very thing that would help us cope with those things.? The job, children, bills, hobbies, habits, etc. all get in the way and demand our respect for them more than God.? These things are so much a part of the world that we operate in, namely the physical world.? God is Spirit and so He will not be to us as material things are and yet He is just as real and more.? God is eternal and these things are only for a short while.

We simply get so busy doing our thing that we forget about the thing we should do.? We should respect God in word and action.? We should truly love God and that love should show in what we do.? We do certain things when we respect other people.? We should do the same with regard to God if indeed we respect Him.

Malachi 1:10-11 (NKJV) — {10} ?Who is there even among you who would shut the doors, So that you would not kindle fire on My altar in vain? I have no pleasure in you,? Says the Lord of hosts, ?Nor will I accept an offering from your hands. {11} For from the rising of the sun, even to its going down, My name shall be great among the Gentiles; In every place incense shall be offered to My name, And a pure offering; For My name shall be great among the nations,? Says the Lord of hosts.

In our day this might read, ?Who has enough nerve to close the church so that you wouldn?t come to worship me in vain??? The Jews were wasting their time in their worship activities.? It would have been just as effective to not offer the sacrifices.? Their sacrifices were not accepted by God so there was really no need for the priests to offer them.

God said that His name (He) would be great among the Gentiles.? This is important because the gentile?s perspective of God will surely be influenced by what they see those who call themselves God people do in regards to worship, praise, and reverence of God.? Why should they come to respect God if we don?t show respect for God?? Therefore our respect and disrespect is a ministry (or anti-ministry) to those who are not part of God?s family.

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Turn To God

Let?s turn and remember the Lord in our daily lives.? Let?s remember to respect Him in word and deed.? Let?s revere the Lord and remember that all that exists is because of Him.? Sometimes life may get hard and we may wonder if God really cares about us and that may lead to contempt for God.? We have to remember that all in the world is vanity.? That means that all that we have on this earth is meaningless when compared to the life we have with God for all eternity.

Let?s turn to God and worship, praise, fear, respect, and honor him.? Spend time with Him and remember His word.? Solomon said it this way.

Ecclesiastes 12:13 (NKJV) — {13} Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, For this is man?s all.

It all comes down to simply fearing (revering) God and doing what He says.? Nothing else is as important as our relationship with God.? Nothing is, therefore, more important than God and His word.? We should, therefore, respect God because of who He is.

Things may go awry in our lives and we may not understand why there is so much pain and suffering in the world.? However, we should hold on to our faith in God and respect Him because He is worthy of our love and respect.? We should not allow events that happen on earth to drive a wedge between ourselves and God almighty.

Respect God in word and deed.? Make it a habit to respect God by the things that you do and not just by the things that you say.? Make your homage to church each Sunday meaningful and not just a religious obligation.? Start by praying to God and establishing a real relationship with Him even though you cannot see or feel Him physically.? Develop a lasting relationship with God that would transcend any situation here on earth.? Draw closer to God and He will draw near to you.? Make God the priority in your life and remember to respect and honor Him.? Amen.

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God Demands Respect
By Pastor William R. Cunningham
for January 22, 2006

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