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A Whole-Hearted Worship

Growing in Grace / Doug Agnew
The Truth Network Radio
December 6, 2021 1:00 am

A Whole-Hearted Worship

Growing in Grace / Doug Agnew

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December 6, 2021 1:00 am

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Peter Rosenberger
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Chuck Swindoll
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Pastor Phillip Miller

This is from Malachi chapter 1, verses 6 through chapter 2, verse 9.

This is the second disputation. Hear the reading of God's Word. It may be a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path. A son honors his father and a servant his master. If then I am a father, where is my honor?

If I am a master, where is my fear? Says the Lord of hosts, To you, O priests, who despise my name. You say, Have we despised thy name by offering polluted food upon your altar? And you say, How have we polluted it by thinking that the Lord's table may be despised? When you offer blind animals and sacrifice, is that not evil? When you offer those that are lame and sick, is that not evil?

Present that to your governor. Will he be pleased with you or show you favor? Says the Lord of hosts. 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. Oh, that there were one among you who would shut the doors that you might not kindle fire upon my altar in vain. I have no pleasure in you, says the Lord of hosts.

I will not accept an offering from your hand for from the freezing of the sun to its setting. My name is great among the nations and in every place incense is offered to my name and a pure offering. For my name is great among the nations, says the Lord of hosts. But you profane it when you say that the Lord's table is polluted and the food for it may be despised.

What a weariness this is. You say and you sniff at me, says the Lord of hosts. You bring what was taken by violence or as lame or as sick and you bring this as your offering.

Shall I accept this from your hand? Says the Lord. Cursed be the cheat who has a male in his flock and vows it and yet sacrifices to the Lord what is blemished. For I am a great king, says the Lord of hosts, and my name is to be feared among the nations. Oh, now, oh, priest, this is this command is for you. If you will not listen, if you will not lay it to heart to give glory to my name, says the Lord of hosts, then I will send the curse upon you and I will curse your blessings. Indeed, I have already cursed them because you do not lay it to heart. Behold, I will rebuke your offspring and spread dung upon your faces, the dung of your offerings.

You will be taken away with it. You shall know that I have sent this command to you and that my covenant with Levi may hold, says the Lord of hosts. My covenant with him was a covenant of life and peace, and I gave it to him that he might fear and he feared me. The law of truth was in his mouth and no wrong was found on his lips.

He walked with me in peace and uprightness. He turned to many from iniquity, for the lips of a priest should guard knowledge, and men should seek instruction from his mouth, for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts. But you have turned aside from the way. You have caused many to stumble by the law. You have corrupted the covenant of Levi, says the Lord of hosts. And so I make you despised and abased before all the people.

And as much as you have not kept my ways, but have shown favoritism in regard to the law. Let us pray. Glorious Heavenly Father, we thank you that you have been faithful to give us your word, your living word, Jesus, our Lord, that he has come, that we might know the truth, the way and the life. Lord Jesus, we pray that you would be lifted up, that you might draw them in unto yourself even now. May my words be likened to the Levites who were to proclaim from their mouths your peace and your righteousness. Father, that no wrong would be found upon my lips. I pray that you would guard knowledge and that men would seek instruction from your word as a result.

May I be just a messenger. May I not fear, may I not tremble, but may I be faithful. Come, Holy Spirit, and work in each one of our hearts that we would be receptive to your word and to the movement of your spirit, convicting us not only of our sin, but showing us how we might respond to your greatness in our worship, in our day-to-day lives as living sacrifices. We pray this in Jesus' precious name. Amen.

Amen. It's been four months. Two months ago, I got COVID. Four months ago, I had a long sermon, so I broke it down into three sections, and then I got COVID, and now here I am again. And I told Doug that I'm about to bust.

I've been preparing this for four months, and I just hope that it comes out smoothly. And he prayed for me to be articulate. But there's just so much here. As you look at our text even, from chapter 1, 6 to 2, 9, this is huge.

And there are just so many rabbit trails that we could run down. I just pray that the Lord would bless the ministry of his word and that you would be able to take home with you not only God's greatness, but how we should respond to it. That's the point of our last sermon, because that's what wholehearted worship is supposed to be, the appropriate response to the revelation of God.

Wholehearted worship is how we respond to his revelation to us as he opens our eyes and softens our heart, fills us with his spirit, and shows us the work of Christ in his right hand, shows us the rainbow behind his throne and the glassy waters at his feet, and we see the elders casting their crowns before him and the four living creatures, and we see this image of God, and we're reminded of his greatness. That's how we should live our lives every day. It's hard to do because we're hard-pressed from all sides, as we're going to see from the priests and the people at that time.

Even here in the 21st century, we were hard-pressed. But that doesn't matter because God has given us his spirit that we would not, well, that we would persevere, that we would not fall away, and he's given us his spirit in the church to encourage one another that we might worship him with whole hearts, that we would bow down and worship him. A couple weeks ago, I was going home from church. I live on the other side of 29 that way, and I was up at 29. I was at the front of the line there, and there was the left turning lane that goes to the Parkway House.

Some of you like to eat there. And as I was waiting for the light to turn, the turning light came on, and cars were going through, and I heard this loud exhaust. And I turned to my side, and I looked, and there went this really fine Corvette. It was black.

It had, like, Carolina blue lines on it. And as it went past, I looked at its license plate, and it said, bow down. It's like, oh, my goodness. That's impressive. But then there was a second Corvette, black with matching trim, and it had a license plate on it, and it said, and sign, worship. Has anybody seen these two Corvettes running around town together?

They're impressive. Bow down and worship. I thought to myself, oh, my goodness. Cards are great, but my God is king. Am I misinterpreting this? Is it about the cards that I'm supposed to bow down and worship? Is it the living God? You know, the health and wealth gospel, I've seen people with license plates on the back of their cards that say, gift to God, as if, you know, because they are doing everything right, or they're giving, you know, God has given them this card, this nice Jaguar, this Mercedes, and it's the gift of God, you know. They're in right relationship with the Lord. Am I misunderstanding this?

I had to ask myself that question. Our sermon tonight exposes this question that we have, or this response that we have, this half-hearted worship of the priests and of the people that it might inspire us to wholehearted worship of our great God and our king. Great cards don't inspire worship. The revelation of himself does. If you want to look at your text right quick, let me take a minute and break it up because it's such a huge text.

It might be a little bit easier if I do compartmentalize it for you to understand it. In the first sermon, I spoke about how the book of Malachi is broken down in disputations, arguments, so to speak, and they're representative of God's complaint with his people. Well, there's four parts to this disputation.

There's an assertion, there's an objection, there's a response, and there's an implication. So, for what it's worth, the assertion is in verse 1, 6. It's God speaking, and he says to them, or he's letting them know, Where is my honor and my fear, says the Lord of hosts, to you, O priests, who despise my name? And then Malachi speaking for Israel by the Lord, the objection is two series of questions. It sounds kind of like the parable of the sheep and the goats, you know, the people who weren't visiting the people and weren't giving. It's that kind of question, How have we despised thy name by offering polluted food upon my altar?

And you say, How have we polluted it? By thinking that the Lord's table may be despised. So that's their objection to his assertion. They're asking, How? When?

When did we not visit you in prison? That kind of response. The response is verses 1 through 8 all the way down to the end of chapter 1, verse 14. The Lord our God, the Lord of hosts, is telling them what he thinks about their faulty worship. The implication begins in chapter 2, verse 1 all the way through 2, 9. This is when we see the curse. God's response to their faulty worship was to curse them. Those who were the priests who were giving the Aaronic blessing, as people would come up during the three Passover feasts, and they were continually giving out the Aaronic blessing to the people, the benediction, so to speak, to the people, now God is turning their blessings into curses. And there at the very end makes the point, verses 2 and 8. But you have turned aside from the way. You have caused many to stumble by the law. You have corrupted the covenant of Levi, says the Lord of hosts, and so I will make you despised and abased for all the people inasmuch as you have not kept my ways, but have shown favoritism in regard to the law.

That's the result. We'll talk about that. I have three questions that I'm going to ask that will kind of help break this down very simply.

Something that you can take home with you. I'm going to talk about God the Great King. Because when you think of God the Great King, as he reveals himself in the book of Malachi, and considering their circumstances, when we, with our eyes open, when you think of Revelation chapter 4, when we think the images of God that he gave to Isaiah in chapter 6, that he would touch his lips, and he says, Here, send me.

This response to the revelation of God is what inspired Ezekiel to be faithful to the word of God, and not to be saying like all the false prophets, where there was no peace. So point number one is going to be about God the Great King. Then we're going to look at the second point, or second question, which is going to be, what about the sin of the priests?

And then the third will be, what is the end result? So my first question is, if God is the Great King, why don't they give him wholehearted worship? If you look at our text, it says it right there, in the assertion in chapter 1 verse 6, it says, If I am a father, where is my honor? If I am a master, where is my fear? That's what's missing.

That's the answer. Why don't they give him wholehearted worship? Because they don't fear him, and they don't honor him. Life circumstances, for those people who, after the return from exile, this is 100 years after, if you want to think of the setting of the text, and the circumstances surrounding Israel, so to speak, whose return from Babylonian captivity, the circumstances were pressing hard against them in many ways. There was no king. This week I was reading in the book of 2 Kings, and around chapter 17 or so, it says that Hoshea was the last king of Israel. And when you put that together, with the attacks of the Assyrians coming in and taking them captive, and then filling the land up with all these different people, and then Judah being taken into captivity, that's the end of the kings of the northern kingdom and the southern kingdom. They go out and they go into Assyrian or Babylonian captivity under some other king, some other empire, and then they return.

But they don't return as they left because they have no king over them. Now they are under the providential rule of a local Persian empire. Judah was an insignificant backwater, as Dr. Doug Stewart calls it, a backwater.

It's essentially a 15 by 20 mile area with 150,000 people. It's a back corner of some huge empire that spreads all over the Middle East. What is Judah and Israel to the empire? These people were without, so to speak, the comfort of God. If you look at our text here in chapter 1 verse 8, it says here, when you offer blind animals and sacrifice, is that not evil?

And then he goes down, present that to your governor. That's what gives us the hint. These are the people that they are trying to please, the political governor, the king of the empire. Israel is also experiencing a spiritual destitution. It turns out after their return, there was a lack of miraculous evidence of God's presence. At this point in the book of Malachi, the second temple had already been built, but something was missing. In the Holy of Holies, in the second temple, there was no visible manifestation of the glory of God. There was no ark. There was no footstool, as we understand the purpose of the ark, the footstool of God who reigns above and places his foot on the earth there at the ark, who meets with us, who condescends there in the Holy of Holies. There was no ark. There was no bud of Aaron's staff. There was no two copies of the covenant. Without the presence of God, with an empty temple, the people return, it's been 100 years, so to speak, since their return, maybe their attitude is like, well, if God isn't visibly present, then what's the difference?

There's no one to see what we do here. They felt excused. Their worship had become a joyless drudgery.

It was lukewarm. It had become a job, a repetition of just going through the motions, so to speak. They went through the motions without the requisite emotions. They were a hopeless, loveless, and faithless leadership in their worship. Not only were they experiencing spiritual destitution, but as well they were experiencing physical destitution after the Babylonian captivity.

It was kind of like the south after Sherman's raising a path to the ocean. There was a harsh reality of an economic privation. There was crop failures. There was prolonged drought and pestilence. That had even affected their animals. It's like if you're limiting your animals and you're trying to make ends meet, then you have to ask your question.

If you want to have and grow a healthy herd, surely it's just common sense that you're going to keep the best, and maybe because there's no one really looking, you're going to give your second best, something that'll do. That's their lack of fear. Why didn't they give him wholehearted worship? Because they had lost fear, the reality of his presence. Even though he might not have been manifesting himself in the temple, does that mean that God is not there?

No, he still reigns above. He had a purpose in all this, but they had fallen short. They had forgotten who he was and what he had done. When we're hard-pressed, we need to remember who God is and what he's done for us. We need to rehearse in our minds the storyline. Remember how he has saved us.

Maybe you have a dramatic experience. Maybe it's been a gradual experience, but you need to remember the miracles that God has done in your life and remind yourself that he's here, and he's with you, and he's not going to leave you. Turning your Bibles with me to Psalm 77. I'm going to read this.

I know it's going to take a minute to do it, but it's worthwhile. I'm going to read from Psalm 105 as well, so bear with me. But this has to do with remembering the Lord that we would remember how awesome and great he is rather than forgetting him, becoming complacent. Psalm 77, and I'll read through verse 15. I cried out to God for help. I cried out to God to hear me.

When I was in distress, I sought the Lord. At night, I stretched out untiring hands, and my soul refused to be comforted. I remembered you, O God, and I groaned. I mused, and my spirit grew faint. You kept my eyes from closing. I was too troubled to speak.

I thought about the former days, the years of long ago. I remembered that my songs in the night, my heart mused, and my spirit inquired, Will the Lord reject forever? Will he never show his favor again? Has his unfailing love vanished forever? Has his promise failed for all time? Has God forgotten to be merciful?

Has he in anger withheld his compassion? Then I thought, To this I will appeal, the years of the right hand of the Most High. I will remember the deeds of the Lord. Yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. I will meditate on all your works and consider all your mighty deeds. Your ways, O God, are holy. What God is so great is our God. You are the God who performs miracles.

You display your power among the peoples with your mighty arm. You redeem your people, the descendants of Jacob and Joseph. And remember, from the first disputation, chapter 1, verses 1 through 5, we talked about Jacob and Esau here.

So it's poignant that here he mentions Jacob. Now turn with me over to Psalm 105. Likewise, this is just powerful.

It's so applicable to our text. Psalm 105, and I'm going to read verses 1 through 10. This is great stuff.

Great stuff. Give thanks to the Lord. Call on his name. Make known among the nations what he has done.

Sing to him. Sing praise to him. Tell of all of his wonderful acts. Glory in his name. Let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice. Look to the Lord and his strength.

Seek his face always. Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles and the judgments he pronounced. O descendants of Abraham. O sons of Jacob, his chosen ones. He is the Lord, our God. His judgments are in all the earth. He remembers his covenant. That's why he is the great king and the great God in our text.

Because he is faithful. The word he commanded for a thousand generations. The covenant he made with Abraham. The oath he swore to Isaac. He confirmed it through the covenant. The covenant he made with Abraham. The oath he swore to Isaac.

He confirmed it to Jacob as a decree, to Israel as an everlasting covenant. Praise God. Praise God. He has not forgotten us. He has not abandoned us. He will never leave us nor forsake us. He reigns over all. And when you think about it, the king of the universe, the creator of the universe abides with us now.

That's tremendous. And we have eyes to see. And our hearts are melted. And we love God because he first loved us.

But they had forgotten who he was. Time, distance, lack of presence of the God, sin. I mean, if you really want to look back and see what caused them to sin, go back to 2 Kings chapter 17, where it says, if you really want to look back and see what caused them to sin, go back to 2 Kings chapter 17. And there's a long laundry list of the sins and their idolatry and the things that they did. And it goes on and on and on, beginning, I believe, at verse 7.

It's just a long list. Malachi doesn't want us to forget who God is. You know how we know that? Because first of all, 11 times in our text, this is for my sermons whenever I'm doing a text.

This doesn't mean, it's hard to tell here, there's lots of color. But I have color-coded here, says the Lord of hosts. That's Yahweh Sabaoth. I want you to see the counterfeit, how the religions of the nations surrounding God's people are providing counterfeits to usurp and take away God's worship. They're creating a counterfeit by calling themselves the Great King. It says this, Treaty of Re-Mashesha Ami Amanah, the Great King, the King of the land, the valiant, with Hattisilius, the Great King of the Hati land, his brother for establishing peace, good brotherhood, worthy of the Great Kingship between them forever. But you hear that Great King. This is in the ancient Near Eastern text here, relating their king in comparison to our God, who is the true Great King.

Here's another one. This is between Mercillus and Dupitesa. It says, these are the words of son Mercillus, the Great King, King of the Hati land, the valiant, the favorite of the storm god. Think of Baal. The son of Suppilupiumus, the Great King, the King of the Hati land, the valiant.

And it goes on and on. There's so many treaties from the ancient Near Eastern period surrounding this time in the nations that surround Israel that God told his people, do not be like them. And what were they doing? When you read in 2 Kings, that's what they were doing. They were intermarrying. They were having sexual immorality. They were worshiping their gods. They were doing everything that they weren't supposed to do, and they sacrificed their children, and they worshiped their gods, the Baal of Peor. It's like, golly, don't they get it?

It's kind of like those corvettes. Their god or their king is not the Great King. How can you come to this point and forget the Lord our God? That's what Satan was hoping when Jesus, when he was tempted in the desert there. That's what he was hoping after Jesus had gone through that period of time out there at the very end when he was at the end of his physical capability and he was being sustained essentially there. 40 days without food and water, Satan appeared to Jesus and said, I will give you all this power.

I'll give you all this. If you will, bow down and worship me. Jesus himself said that in that day, speaking of the last days from the time of his ministry as well, 1 John refers to that, that many will come in my name claiming to be the Christ. Back in that day with Israel when there was no king representing God's reign, they were tempted to forget God, to look to the local governments as their god, to cry out to those kings as their kings, their great kings. They had to bow down and worship. What did Daniel do?

Daniel didn't do it and they threw him in the fire or his friends in the fire and threw him in the lion's den. That's how it is with, I'm gonna go political here right quick. That's how it is with communism and socialism.

When the people are in distress, communism and socialism wants you to look to the government for rescue, for a handout. That's why the communist governments hate Christianity because no matter what suffering and trials come the way of believers, of Christians, they never submit to the government because you can't change their hearts. They've been born again.

They worship and love the true and living God and no matter what they do, they can't steal that faith from their heart. The Lord is our God. He's the only true and living God and we love him because he first loved us. We like to bow down, to gather together as his people to worship him, the great king. This evening at the end, we're gonna sing the doxology again.

I wanna point something out to you that I think is important for us. When you sing the doxology, we typically go through, look, praise God from whom all blessings flow. The doxology doesn't go back to the early church, it's recent. I don't know if any of y'all knew that or not.

I'm sure y'all did. But it's not necessarily an old document from the early church. The doxology calls us, encourages us to praise God, praise him all you creatures below, but then it commands all ye heavenly hosts, praise his name.

What does it say? Praise him above ye heavenly hosts, not praise him above the heavenly host, praise him above the heavenly host, no. Praise him, you heavenly hosts.

That's what we're doing. We gather together to give God his doxology, his praise. When you look at the book of Romans, chapters one through 11, and you see God's, the manifestation of his election and his salvation to his people, to the very end, you have this doxology that transitions into chapter 12. It's a great praise to all that God has done that we couldn't do for ourselves that we don't even deserve. God deserves the honor and the praise. Just like around the throne, which I mentioned earlier in Revelation chapter four there, the 24 elders, the four living creatures, the angelic hosts were all crying out, holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty. And they say, you are worthy, O Lord our God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things and by your will they were created and have their being. Can we ever get tired of giving God praise? Maybe if our bodies are exhausted, but in our hearts, he fills us up to praise him even more. We can't get enough because as we're, an illustration of the vessel, as we're poured out, he fills us up even more.

Israel's hearts were hard though. After the return, God wasn't manifested. But today, for the believers in the church, we've been given the Holy Spirit. We have the fellowship of the body. He's saved us, he's given us faith, he's given us his word to comfort us and to instruct us. He's given us encouragement by one another.

We are not alone. So once again, I'm still talking about point number one, which is really the main emphasis because once you establish God is the great king overall and he's present with us, the appropriate response is to worship, which contrasts what the priests were doing. Their unsatisfactory, half-hearted worship. What was the sin of the priests?

Turn with me to your text again if it's closed, look at it, 6B through 7. This is the objection. You say, how have we despised thy name? By offering polluted food upon my altar.

And you say, how have we polluted it? By thinking that the Lord's table may be despised. And then he goes on there through the rest of chapter 1 through verse 14, describing there, a little bit more specifically, how they have offered up the lame and the sick and blind animals to the Lord rather than the first and the best. Priest in Hebrew is Cohen.

That's the word for priest. That should make you, when I thought about that when I was reading it, it makes me think of the Cohen brothers. You all know who the Cohen brothers are?

Well, that's okay, it's probably good that you don't. But they're the ones who came up with the movie Fargo. They're the ones who came up with the movie Raising Arizona. They're the ones who came up with the movie No Country for Old Men. They're the ones who came up with the Big Lebowski or Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? These guys are famous, but they're Jewish and their name means priests.

But they're everything but. I guess Orthodox or Jewish Christians, they're everything but that. These people, the priests, their hearts were hard as I've mentioned and they've compromised their calling.

Look at chapter two, verse two. If you will not listen, if you will not lay it to heart to give glory to my name, this is a heart issue. Their hearts were hard. That's why they were compromising. They felt sorry for the people out there for all the circumstances that they were going to and all the deprivation that they were having to endure. So they compromised.

What had happened? Not only did they feel sorry for the people, sympathetic for them, but they had forgotten their ordination and their calling, which is very important for us here at this point. If you would like, I'm gonna give you a brief explanation or summary, but the text is Exodus chapter 32, the golden calf. And right after the golden calf, what had happened? Moses was long and coming down from the mountain, the people pressed Aaron to make them gods. So Aaron cast a golden calf and said, these are your gods who brought you up out of Egypt. Speaking of compromise, God saw it and told Moses to go down because they had made themselves a cast idol in the shape of a calf. They had bowed down to it and sacrificed to it. Doesn't that kind of turn your stomach?

It does me. After all that God had done, here up on the mountain with the fire and everything else, immediately they went back. They bowed down to it and sacrificed to proclaim, these are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt. They thought maybe to themselves, at least we can see this because Moses and, you know, we can't see him. We don't know what happened to him.

He's gone. Then in verse 25, it says this, Moses saw that all the people were running wild and that Aaron had let them get out of control. Sounds like the Baal worshipers with Elisha. And they had become, and Israel had become a laughingstock to their enemies because everybody's watching God's people from the outside, the pillar of fire and cloud. So he stood at the entrance to the camp and said, whoever is for the Lord, come to me. And all the Levites rallied to him. Then he said to them, this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says. Each man strap a sword to his side, go back and forth through the camp from one end to the other, killing his brother, his friend, and his neighbor. The Levites did as Moses commanded.

And that day, about 3,000 of the people died. Then Moses said, you have been set apart to the Lord today, for you are against your own sons and brother, and he has blessed you this day. That day, the Levites have been set apart, ordained, so to speak, by God to be his servants, to make sure that the worship of the Lord was performed correctly. They were willing, kind of like Luke chapter 14, verse 26, if anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother and his wife and his children, his brothers and sisters, even his own life, he cannot be my priest. But it's similar to that, be my disciple. The idea is that you need to be willing to lose all things to gain God. And these people, the Levites, recognized and remembered the true and living God, and they went out with swords and brought a judgment upon God's people.

Let me go back here. So what was the sin of the priests? Their hearts were hard, and now they offered polluted food upon his altar. They despised God, the text says, when they offered blemished sacrifices, the blind, the lame, the sick animals as sacrifices. God was very clear in the book of Leviticus. If you want to, I was reading in the book of Leviticus, and it starts out in chapter 1, verse 3. Right there at the very beginning, you just can't escape it that from the very beginning and over 40 times in the book of Leviticus, there's reference to the offering up of unblemished sacrifices to the Lord. If the offering is a burnt offering from the herd, he is to offer a male without defect.

He must present it at the entrance to the tent of meeting. He is to lay his hands on the head of the burnt offering and it will be accepted on his behalf to make atonement for him. If you turn to Leviticus chapter 22, there's a long list of unacceptable sacrifices beginning in verse 17.

I'll just read a few of them. If any of you either an Israelite or an alien living in Israel presents a gift for a burnt offering to the Lord, either to fulfill a vow as a free will offering, you must present a male without defect from the cattle, sheep or goats in order that it may be acceptable on your behalf. Do not bring anything with a defect because it will not be accepted on your behalf. And it goes on, do not offer to the Lord the blind, the injured, or the maimed or any other thing with warts or festering or running sores. Do not place any of these on the altar as an offering made to the Lord by fire. So it's very clear that they weren't to be doing this and God had warned them and told them that there were going to be consequences for their actions should they do it. They went about performing their rituals, their cultic rituals of worship.

They went through the motions, but the emotion was not there. Their hearts, it's like Matthew chapter 15 verse 8. It says, these people honor me with their lips. This comes from Isaiah 29, 13. These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain.

Their teachings are but rules taught by men. Does this sound like us? Can we become complacent? We go through the ritual, we go through the motions.

We're doing it because we need to do it. Sometimes work becomes a drudgery, but we need to be remembering in our worship and what we do. And this is, once again, let me take a step back from this whole text and say this is applicable to us. Not just the leadership in the ministry. It's applicable to the lay people because we are the priesthood of believers. In fact, if you go back preceding the calling and ordination of the Levites, the people in Exodus, the families, the head of the family, was to go out for the family and kill a lamb and spread the bud over the doorposts, as we symbolically participate in communion, Passover. We are the priesthood of believers. It's applicable to us, not just the leadership of this building or of this community, this body of Christ. As well, they had forgotten the covenant of Levi.

I'm not going to go into much detail on this. But in Numbers 25, Shittim, the Israelite men, began to have sexual immorality with local Moabite women. It brought out the anger of the Lord, and the Lord commanded that the leaders of the community be put to death. And right when he was having this conversation with Moses, a man took a Moabite woman and went into the tent. And so what we have here in response to that is Phinehas takes a spear, and this kind of parallels the Levites there in the very beginning and going out and being faithful and killing the people with the sword.

Phinehas takes a spear and he runs it through that man and it goes through him and into the woman and kills them both. That's how God made this promise, this covenant of Levi, that is mentioned here in our text. I just don't want you to miss that because it's really important because there in that covenant, right below it, it talks about, in chapter 2, verse 5, about the responsibility, how they feared the Lord and how their mouth and their feet and their lips were anointed. And they were leaders in the community to encourage people to walk with the Lord, but now they're leading the people astray. The law of truth was supposed to be in their mouths. His lips were supposed, or their lips, were supposed to guard knowledge. They were supposed to be messengers of the Lord, the Lord of hosts.

They were supposed to walk in peace and uprightness, turning many from iniquity. They had made vows to offer the male, but after the blemished animal instead, they offered the blemished animal instead. Sounds pretty cheap, doesn't it? When you have it, you don't give it, you give something else. Makes me think of the white elephant Christmas parties. You know, you re-gift somebody. Y'all ever been to a white elephant party? You know, if somebody gave you something and you don't really like it, you hold on to it and you find it on a shelf or it's up in the attic and you go to this white elephant party and you exchange it with everybody and then you get the best wine.

That's how it all works. It also reminds me of George Costanza. Y'all know who George Costanza is? He wanted to give Elaine a really cheap gift, and so he found this white cashmere sweater, but it had a red spot on it, but he was cheap.

George Costanza is very cheap. And so he gave it to her and everybody knows, like, what's that? What's that? It's a red spot. And then it was a poor reflection upon George, not the gift that he gave this cashmere sweater, but it had a red spot on it.

That's cheap. Offering something up that's not perfect, that's not the best. That's what God wants from us.

He wants our best when we worship him, when we live for him. It's easy to forget sometimes, though, when stress and tribulation and financial and political troubles come our way. We come to worship, but do you feel that your heart is far away?

Do you feel like there's a disconnect sometimes? You're going through the motions, but you don't feel it. I'm sure the Levitical priesthood felt that as well. They're going through the motions, but it wasn't until the very end. While God was there, the pillar of cloud, everything was alive.

It was electric, literally. Everybody was excited about all this bloodletting and sacrifices and everything was going on because they were worshiping the true and living God who was with them. But with his absence, the feeling started to wane. We shouldn't rely upon our feelings. God calls us to be obedient. That's why we have a regulative form of worship where we do what the Bible says. Sometimes you're not going to feel it.

Hopefully you will. You get prepared for worship. But the intention is that we do what God's Word says because just like God spoke to Adam in the very beginning and told him what he was to do and what he was not to do, likewise he gives us instructions how to worship him.

What was the end result? God cursed him. It says it right there. Then I will send a curse upon you and I will curse your blessings. These people who are giving out their Aaronic blessing and benediction to all the people when they would offer up these sacrifices at Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles. When they would come, the wealthy people from the diaspora and offer up sacrifices for their sins because they were financially able to do that. They received a benediction. Go in peace.

The Lord bless you. For us it's a reminder that God placed his curse upon Jesus to save his people from their sins. God cursed them but because God is the great king and he's faithful to his promises from the very beginning that he made and he's going to see it through to the very end, he placed his curse upon Jesus. In fact, that's why Jesus came.

He condescended. He came down to this earth which we celebrate here at Christmas to save his people from their sins. Galatians chapter 3 is a great verse to put at the bottom of your cards and your messages this season. Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is risen.

Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree. In the book of Hebrews, the author says that he sent his son Jesus to this earth as the son of man to be a faithful high priest. We are the priesthood and he is the priest. He fulfills the type, the sign that all the priesthood pointed to, that all the sacrifices pointed to. He is our faithful high priest. He was made like us in every way in order that he might make atonement for the sins of those who would trust in him. He became the sacrifice for our sins. Jesus, the lamb of God, to satisfy God's wrath to purchase our redemption. Praise God.

Because we can't do it ourselves and we know it. When we look at our lives in the silence and the moments of our night or when we're sad or when we're feeling guilty or convicted of our sin, we know we need a savior. Praise God. We know that he loves us. Praise God.

He was faithful. Praise the Lord. Therefore, recognizing God is the great king, the Lord of hosts, who is faithful and true, today, like the author of Hebrews says, today if you hear his voice, do not harden your voice like they did out in the desert, but bow down and confess your sins to the living God. Repent of your sins and offer yourselves up as a living sacrifice, a pleasing aroma, as Paul says, and that's right there in Leviticus 1, verse 3, a pleasing aroma to the Lord. May our worship, our lives as living sacrifices, be a reflection of God's greatness.

Let us pray. Truly, you are God Almighty, the great king. Truly, you deserve our worship and praise. Truly, you are faithful to your covenant promises even though we have been unfaithful.

Truly, you have put a deposit in our heart, a guarantee not only of your love and your faithfulness, but hope of a coming day. This Christmas, Lord, help us to look to Jesus, not only what he did 2,000 years ago, but his coming again. Lord Jesus, may you be our hope. May your work be our song, and may your praise be forever on our lips. In the precious name of Jesus, we pray. Amen.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-07-13 16:47:27 / 2023-07-13 17:05:53 / 18

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