Agonizomai: Malachi 1:9-10 - The Necessity of Faith

Monday, July 27, 2009

Malachi 1:9-10 - The Necessity of Faith

Malachi 1:9-10 - The Necessity of Faith

Malachi 1:9-10 And now entreat the favor of God, that he may be gracious to us. With such a gift from your hand, will he show favor to any of you? says the LORD of hosts. 10 Oh that there were one among you who would shut the doors, that you might not kindle fire on my altar in vain! I have no pleasure in you, says the LORD of hosts, and I will not accept an offering from your hand.

"And now I entreat the favour of God"...or..."And now you entreat the favour of God." Ask for grace and mercy. I say grace and mercy because God will not hear their supplications made from an improper motive in a way contrary to that which God has prescribed. The leaders have encouraged the people in hypocrisy. Note that it was their doing (AV, RSV) - probably because they were charged with the responsibility for doing things right and for ensuring that the people stuck to doing things God’s way - not any old way that suited them. The greater knowledge rested with the leaders and therefore, the greater responsibility.

It was a simple command in principle; sacrifices to God had to be spotless in every way. No second rate goods - only the very best. Now we already know that, to God, obedience was better than sacrifice. {1Sa 15:22} Sacrifice was commanded, but had to be that sacrifice that God desired and it was the obedience (of faith in God) that itself appropriated the spotless sacrifice that was pleasing on behalf of the offerer.

This is a very clear picture of the principle of worship and service to God under both Covenants. Christ is of no avail to anyone, perfect though His sacrifice is, if He is not appropriated in the obedience of faith. That is to say, a faith that truly appropriates Christ also obeys Him. Obedience and faith are inseparable and mean virtually the same thing. A person cannot be obedient apart from faith and cannot be faithful apart from obedience.

God would rather have nothing offered - He would rather forego the sacrifice and the worship altogether than have such things offered to Him without faith and, ergo, obedience. This is why, in this instance, God says that He prefers that somebody would shut the doors of the temple altogether and cease offering anything at all rather than to have His worship profaned.

I suppose it is possible to see this as a mercy. God would rather they didn’t add condemnation upon condemnation to themselves by continuing to offer wrong sacrifices to Him. If they would heed it would be a mercy. But that is a bit of a stretch, making man the focus for all this. No, the sacrifice and the worship are not about man but about God. He desires to be worshiped in spirit and in truth. He desires to be worshiped in purity and sincerity of heart.

Now this next bit is very important - so listen up! Remember that it was not the sacrifice alone but the obedience of heart that brought it that pleased God. The sacrifice had to be pure but even then it had to be mixed with faith. A less than pure sacrifice was unacceptable. A pure sacrifice offered without faith was unacceptable. Only a pure sacrifice appropriated through faith was pleasing to God, for without faith it is impossible to please Him. {Heb 11:6}

You might say that the profane sacrifice, and not the pure, is the subject of this text - and you would be right. But the implication is that even if they stopped their current practices and started offering pure sacrifices per se from this point on, God would not be inclined to hear them. "I will not accept any offering from your hand." Their hearts are wrong. There is no faith and the fruit of that is that there is no reverence for God and it shows in a lack of obedience to His revealed will. Something more is needed and that is repentance and a pleading for grace and mercy.

Now if we take this to the New Covenant we see that the perfect sacrifice has come. There is no spot or blemish. But that sacrifice can still be appropriated wrongly by professors of Christ. There must be faith and that faith will be seen in reverence which will result in obedience. There is no possibility of divorcing these things from each other. If there is no reverence for God there is no true faith and there can be no obedience that is pleasing to Him. In fact, if none of these things is truly present then the spotless sacrifice is of absolutely no avail to them whatsoever.

And we can go even further than this. Jesus has died once for sin. His sacrifice is sufficient for a whole world. He is the infinite, holy, pure eternal Lamb of God. Yet not all are forgiven. How can this be? The answer is found in the fact that even the sufficient sacrifice the Lamb of God must be mixed with faith. And no man can have faith unless God gives it to Him. And all those to whom He gives saving faith will be saved. {John 6:44 Eph 1:3-6} The heart of the natural man is at enmity with God, is spiritually dead and cannot give rise to anything pleasing to Him. But God gives to His people a new heart, a heart of flesh, replacing their heart of stone, a heart that cries after Him, "Abba, Father".

Christ Himself must be appropriated in accordance with what God has decreed. The sacrifice was certainly given up to the Father in perfect obedience and is absolutely spotless. Not only this, but He died under the wrath of His Father so that the sins of all true believers would be forgiven. Propitiation. Vicarious atonement. Substitution. Forensic justification (and more). But it is only received through faith - a faith that reveres and obeys God because it is the gift of God.

Note the word "received." Justification is received through faith and not earned. And this is why God is preaching to Israel through Malachi - because faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God (or "the preaching of Christ" - RSV). The power is through the word - in one sense is in the Word - power to convict and to bring to repentance. But even this is not the whole story. The Word must fall on fertile ground and that ground is made fertile by the Spirit of God preparing the heart of the hearer. And this is why God’s favour must be entreated. This is why grace is needed and should be sought and supplicated from God.

I do hope it is clearly seen. It’s we who repent and believe, but it is God who brings this about in us from start to finish. And this is why all things redound to His glory including even our faith and obedience. Thereby we are free to remove the focus from ourselves, and trusting God to do and to have done all, we can look into His face, simply following. In the end we shall ask, "When did we do such and such?" We shall not be aware and we shall certainly not be lining up with a heart that is chafing at the bit to take credit and to claim trophies. Those that do have missed then point that it is all about Jesus, and many will be in for a big surprise that will leave them weeping and wailing and gnashing their teeth in the outer darkness.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

A most excellent teaching. Oh, the mystery of the gospel, which has been made known to us whom God has granted faith to believe! His mercy makes m weep. No wonder the elders cast their crowns at His feet- to be continually in His presence, seeing the revealed Glory... To know him even as we are known... Thank you for these podcasts- they help keep my mind on Jesus, not on me.

11:04 am  
Blogger agonizomai said...


I glad you find encouragement in this. I hope my other reader does, too.

It always amazes me how people see a nicely wallpapered bathroom where I am mindful of the bits pieced together with scissors, hidden behind the toilet tank.

But then the glory of the gospel is in how God (through Christ) uses broken and soiled vessels to display eternal and thrilling truth.



11:30 am  

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