In the previous section, the Israelites had brought their complaint to God, “how have you loved us?” Now, God comes to the Israelites with his complaint against them – “where is my honor? Where is my reverence?” His complaint is focused on the priests and their profaning of worship.
1:6 What is Weighty
The object of Malachi’s prophecy is the priesthood of Israel. They know that they have are commanded to honor their father (the 5th commandment). The word for honor here is the same word that is translated as “glory” elsewhere. It means something weighty, glorious. But instead, they have despised God’s name and treated it as trivial. This would actually be a violation of the 3rd commandment – taking the Lord’s name in vain. They have confused what should be weighty and what should be light.
1:7-10 and 1:12-14 Insincere Worship
They ask, “How have we despised you?” And the Lord’s answer is that they have attempted to cheat God in their worship. In Deut. 15:21, God requires that sacrificial animals needed to be without defect. But the priests have carefully chosen the worst of their livestock to act as their sacrifice to God (v. 8-9 and v. 12-14). Thus they saved their best for themselves and gave their worst to God.
It is so easy to start thinking that our worship of God is a series of boxes to tick. Liturgy can be a great blessing in teaching you how to worship. But it can also become a great stumbling block when you start to think of your Christian service as merely certain chores to perform with minimal effort. This is worship that God doesn’t receive (v. 10 and v. 13). In v. 9, God reverses the priestly benediction that he gave to Moses (Num. 5:24-26).
2:1-9 The Covenant With Levi
Remember that after the Passover, God claimed the firstborn son of every Israelite family (Ex. 13:2). But then he exchanged the firstborn of Israel for the tribe of the Levites (Num. 3) and the tribe of the Levites became the priests who guarded the sanctuary, this is the “covenant with Levi” (2:4 and 2:8). The Levites were chosen because of their zeal during the golden calf incident (Ex. 32:27-29). So the Levites had the duty of guarding the holiness of the sacrificial system. Therefore, for the Levites to be the ones despising it was particularly offensive. With this rebuke God shames them (2:3-4).
1:5, 11, 14 Great Among the Nations
And yet, in all of this, God is not removing his promise, but enforcing it (2:4). And the prophet begins to point out something much larger. If Israel won’t magnify the name of the Lord, then God will cause a pure offering to be offered up by all nations. Israel’s rejection of the worship of God, will turn into the whole world turning to him.