Lord's Day Evening Meditations January 4, 2004

Malachi 1

The Sorrows of a Wounded Heart

We'll continue with a few more thoughts on how this Scripture reveals to us the heart of our God. "The Sorrows of a Wounded Heart" is a good title for this chapter, for in it we see the Lord's love expressing its sorrow at some of the treatment He was receiving from those who were so dear to Him. The very fact that He spoke to them was proof that He loved them. If He hadn't cared He would just have let them go; but no, He loved them too much for that. And the fact that He speaks to us is proof of His love to us likewise. The chapter as well as the book begins with the words, "I have loved you, saith the Lord." In the song of Moses we read, "Yea, He loved the people." Deut. 33:3. He had a people then and He has a people now. He made known His love to His people of old, in a limited way, and He has made known His love to His people today in fullest measure.

In Jeremiah 2:2 He says, "I remember thee, the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals, when thou wentest after Me in the wilderness." Yes, He remembered how they once had loved Him, but now, what had gone wrong? "What iniquity have your fathers found in Me, that they are gone far from Me?" Jer. 2:5. It is as if He said, "You used to love me; what have I done wrong?" Well, He hadn't done anything wrong; it was just that their hearts had grown cold and careless. Love is a two-way street, so a one-sided love affair is a very painful thing. See how His heart felt their coldness, as if He said with deep sorrow, "You don't love Me any more." You probably know men who have had nervous breakdowns, or even have committed suicide, when the wife whom they loved, and who had once loved them, turned cold and left them. The message to us is loud and clear: His love looks for a response of love from our hearts. Is He receiving that joy and pleasure from us, or are we giving Him sorrow, like the people in Malachi's day?

The next thing that caused sorrow was that they despised His name. The honor that was due to Him as a father, and the fear due to Him as a master were lacking. Now, we have seen how the Lord's name is very important to Him. The name stands for the person, and so when they despised His name, it was really despising Him. How that hurts a heart that loves! Do we value and respect the name of Jesus?

As we love Him, we will uphold it as the only name for salvation, "For there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved." Acts 4:12. It is the only name to gather to as believers. The Lord's people gather under many different names, but the Holy Spirit gathers to one name alone - the name of Jesus: "For where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them." Matt. 18:20. It is the "name which is above every name," and to which every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess that He is Lord. Phil. 2:9 - 11. It is the name of "He that is holy, He that is true" (Rev. 3:7), and it is the name of He Who is love, for "God is love." So, to honor that name is to uphold in a practical way the holiness, the truth, and the love of the Person of the Lord Jesus.

Going on now to verses 7 & 8 we find something else that the Lord felt very keenly - the types of sacrifices they were offering to Him: the blind, the lame, and the sick. The law specified that any animal with a blemish was not acceptable; "It shall be perfect to be accepted; there shall be no blemish therein." Lev. 22:17 - 22. But when a Jew in Malachi's time would go out to his flock to select a sacrifice, he picked out the worst he had, a sick or lame animal (he would probably lose it anyway), and bring that to offer to the Lord. He wouldn't even have offered that to the governor, for the governor wouldn't have accepted it, but it was good enough for the Lord! Again, what an insult to a loving heart, especially the Divine heart that alone loves so perfectly!

You can sense His sorrow in verse 13 where He says, "Ye brought that which was torn, and the lame, and the sick; thus ye brought an offering." They had no sense of the honor that they rightly owed to Him, nor of the claims that He justly had on them. And what does He claim? "My son, give Me thine heart." If He has the love of our hearts, then we will also desire to give Him what He deserves - our best: best of our time, best of our efforts, best of everything. We cannot look down on these Jews, for have we not often done the same thing, after keeping the best for ourselves, we have given Him some left-over time, some scraps of energy, some things of no value to us and so we gave them to the Lord?

We must keep in mind also, that a reason why the sacrifices had to be perfect was that they represented Christ in all His perfection. So an imperfect sacrifice speaks of wrong thoughts of His person, a faulty appreciation of all His perfect holiness, beauty, and love.

Another complaint the Lord had, addressed to the priests, was, "Who is there even among you that would shut the doors for nought? neither do ye kindle fire on Mine altar for nought." v. 10. In other words, they wouldn't do anything for Him unless they got paid for it. They wouldn't do it for His sake; there had to be money involved. Where was their love for Him? Christendom is very guilty of this same thing. Service for the Lord is carried out only for a salary. Preachers spend time begging for money. The true motive for serving the Lord is lost in these cases. The Lord said to the family of priests in Numbers 18:7, "I have given your priest's office unto you as a service of gift." To be a priest of the Lord in the time of law was an exclusive privilege! They only could place something on God's altar, and enter into the holy place. They were highly favored; but, having lost the sense of the privilege they had to serve in the Lord's presence, they now were doing it only if they got some pay for it.

Every truly saved person today is a priest of God. As such we are highly privileged to serve Him in His presence as well as many other ways. Do we consider it a privilege to do something for Him? Does love motivate us to serve Him because He is so worthy? Or do we do things for Him because we expect to get something out of it for ourselves?

Lastly, along with this selfish attitude was one of complaint: "Behold, what a weariness is it!" v. 13. They were still carrying on with a certain amount of service, but it had become a tiresome burden. All joy they once had in serving the Lord was gone, and now they were complaining about it, as though to say, "We're tired of this!" How very easy it is for us to fall into the same attitude. When His love no longer fills our hearts, we carry on with the same routine, such as attending these meetings, but we feel burdened by it. We think that it would be so much nicer to stay home on a cold night, forgetting the pleasure it gives Him to see us desiring His word, and the encouragement it gives others to see us present.

In review, we have seen how the Lord's heart expressed its sorrow at seeing how His beloved people:

1) had lost the sense of His love for them,

2) were no longer maintaining the honor of His name,

3) were bringing Him as sacrifices, only what was useless to themselves,

4) would do nothing for Him willingly, only for pay,

5) were tired of doing what would please Him.

It is as though we hear the Lord sadly say, "They don't love me any more!"

Having seen these sorrows of a wounded heart, what about ourselves? Does His love burn in our hearts in such a way that we desire to give Him pleasure, rather than sorrow? Then these Scriptures tell us that if we do just the opposite of what the remnant was doing here, then the Lord will be able to say of us, just the opposite of what He said to them, "I have pleasure in you." v. 10. S.L.