By John Greco
Scripture Reading: Malachi 1:6-14, Psalm 87:1-7, Ezekiel 36:16-23
Today’s devotional is one that came in fits and starts. A lot of time was spent staring at a blank document, that infernal blinking cursor mocking me as it flashed in time at the top of the page. I read and reread our passage from Malachi, praying over it and trying to think of a unique or memorable way to connect the disobedience of the priests in post-exilic Judah to our own lives today. But every parallel I could think of seemed to fall apart before my fingers could finish typing.
The priests in Malachi’s day were offering blind and lame animals to the Lord and treating His altar with contempt, even referring to the sacrificial system as a nuisance (Malachi 1:13). A direct comparison won’t do. We don’t bring livestock with us to church. We are not required to offer up the blood of an animal for purification. Christ’s blood has already paid the price for our sin.
And it would be a stretch to compare the worship of the Old Testament sacrificial system to our modern worship services on Sunday morning, as if the lesson we should take from the Lord’s rebuke of the priests here in Malachi should be something like “Always wear your Sunday best, sing with gusto, and remember to sit up straight during the sermon.”
In reality, this passage is not less applicable to us because we are so far removed from its context, but ought to instead hit us powerfully in the chest. You see, in Christ, God has made us priests, and our priesthood far surpasses the Levitical priesthood of Aaron and his descendants. Scripture calls us a “royal priesthood” (1 Peter 2:9)—we are sons and daughters of the King called to serve in His presence.
Speaking of presence, you may have noticed there is no longer a temple in Jerusalem where God’s presence resides. Instead, God’s presence abides within every believer. We are His temple (1 Corinthians 3:16), and our priestly duties remain with us wherever we go in this world.
Just as our priesthood and our temple-bodies are superior, so too are the sacrifices we are commanded to offer. Animals—even spotless, perfect, unblemished ones—will no longer do. Christ’s death on the cross has made them obsolete anyway. Instead, our sacrifices consist of our whole lives. Each one of us is to be “a living sacrifice” as an ongoing act of worship (Romans 12:1).
It would never do to take God’s rebuke of the priests in Malachi and simply apply it directly to ourselves. But there is a deep truth we need to hold onto, a glimpse into the spiritual reality we have been called into. God’s complaint was not really about blind animals. It was about the hearts of His priests. They took their sacred privileges and made them common by maintaining a posture of disrespect and dishonor toward God (Malachi 1:6). As a result, they were failing in the most sacred responsibility as God’s image-bearers: to magnify the name of the Lord. We have that same responsibility, and since our priestly role has been expanded and amplified (Revelation 5:10), we ought to read this passage as a warning.
God promises, “My name will be great among the nations, from the rising of the sun to its setting” (Malachi 1:11). It is for this reason we have been created, and for this reason we have been called. So in everything we do, day in and day out, give the Lord the honor due His name. We live in His presence continually, so let’s live like it, wholeheartedly devoted to Him.
Written by John Greco