Have you ever wondered why worship is such a big deal in the Bible? If you attended a Victory service last Sunday, that would be the question that should bug you this week. Our sermon on Malachi tackled the confrontation between God and Judah regarding offerings and sacrifices.
In a span of two chapters, God lambasted the shameless hypocrisy of the priests. He accused them of offering defective animals not even fit to be given to their governor. In the frenzy of the stinging rebuke, two ideas stand out to me: the Lord would rather have the temple closed so no more insulting sacrifices could be made (Malachi 1:10); and the Lord threatened to spread animal dung (could also mean innards and intestines) on the faces of the offending priests (Malachi 2:3). This is utter humiliation. In our not so distant past, public shaming was throwing rotten tomatoes at someone’s face. Rotten tomatoes, not animal dung. God was being serious.
What’s the Deal with Worship?
Anyone not familiar with the significance of Old Testament animal sacrifices would read these verses and walk away scratching their heads thinking, “Why is God so riled up with worship issues? Can’t he just chill and be grateful that anyone worshiped him at all?”
Leviticus 11:44-45 gives us an answer in a nutshell. His people should be holy as he is holy. God was teaching his people how to live in his presence. The temple sacrifices were procedures on how to approach a holy God and how to live near him. If their worship is right, they will prosper in the land. If their worship is fake and corrupted, the holiness of God would flare up against the sinfulness of the people. It would result in a judgment like the Babylonian exile. Worship, then, is Judah’s antidote to expulsion and scattering.
Worship as Spiritual Preservative
In other words, the command to worship was not because God needed it to feed his ego. God wanted them to worship because worship is a spiritual preservative that keeps them from spiralling down to corruption. While it is true that worship is primarily for the glory of God, it is also true that it actually benefits man in so many ways.
Unfortunately, Judah never learned her lesson. Her priests mocked God by offering contemptible sacrifices. They didn’t realize that by not worshiping God, they were chipping away the very protection God set around them. The people thought they were saving money with their low-cost offerings. They had no idea that they were actually inviting destruction. God’s anger was not because he lost an opportunity to glorify himself. It was that these people were too clueless and too hard-headed they didn’t know they were literally asking for trouble.
How Jesus Perfected Our Worship
The last book of the Bible reports Judah’s failure to worship God properly. The entire Old Testament canon closes with this unsolved problem. Something must be done. As New Testament people, we already know that the answer culminates at the cross of Jesus, the one whom John referred to as the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29). Jesus died on the cross as the perfect, unstained, unblemished sacrifice to pay for our sins. Jesus came to fix our worship problem.