False worship comes in two main forms. The first and easiest to identify is the worship of false gods. The second is the worship of the one true God in a manner that He does not approve of. The second, which is subtle, is difficult to identify at times. What is worse is when the strongest proponents of worshipping the Lord in ways that He does not approve of are the guardians of worship themselves.
Malachi rips through the religiosity of the day and reveals that God is not interested in vain repetitions or external symbols of love, but He is interested in a people who live their lives in accordance with His Word. Although each rebuke of the prophet is disputed by the people with a “how?” or a “what?”, God responds to each of their disputes with tender love, calling them to repentance.
- How have You loved us (1:2)? God responds by reminding them that He has chosen Jacob over Esau, and He has protected and blessed them.
- How have we despised Your name (1:6)? God responds by using the analogy that a son should honour his father and a servant should respect his master.
- How have we wearied You (2:17)? God hears every word we speak and knows every thought we think. God is not pleased with their words and thoughts.
- How shall we return (3:7)? The people have turned away from God’s decrees and God is calling them to return to Him.
- How have we robbed You (3:8)? God tells the people that they have robbed Him by not bringing their entire tithes and offerings to Him.
- What have we spoken against You (3:13)? God tells the people that they have spoken arrogantly against Him and complained about Him. God’s justice is defamed.
Behind these questions lie the sins of the people; mixed marriages with pagans, unjust financial practices, withholding of tithes from God’s house, and general spiritual apathy. We cannot please God with our outward formality of our religious activities. God is not pleased with our honouring Him by just attending church on Sundays, being involved in various ministries, and reading His Word but also by living our lives in accordance with His Word.