Read Malachi 1
Focus on verse 10
I remember while growing up on the farm, there would on rare occasions be times when a field that had been planted would be deemed a write off. The most common cause of such a situation was severe drought causing insufficient germination. In such circumstances the crop insurance adjuster would be called in to confirm that the field was a loss, after which, in extreme cases the crop would be plowed back into the soil.
There are times in life when a project or situation is systemically dysfunctional to the point where the most efficient solution is to write it off and start over. The exiles in Jerusalem seem to have almost reached such a point by the time God sent the prophet Malachi to try one last time to encourage them to address the systemic issues.
Oh that there were one among you who would shut the doors, that you might not kindle fire on my altar in vain! I have no pleasure in you, says the Lord of hosts, and I will not accept an offering from your hand. (v. 10)
The situation seemed to be a case of complacency. The temple had been rebuilt though it fell short of its previous splendor. The people apparently were getting disillusioned with waiting for the Messiah to appear. The priests were offering blemished and inappropriate offerings on the altar, and it was obvious that though they were going through the motions of the temple rituals, their hearts were not in it. The message of God through Malachi is “It would be better if you just shut the doors of the temple all together than to continue with this charade.”
As I contemplate the message of Malachi, it actually seems quite fitting for the condition of many of America’s churches. While there are still some people within many of these churches who are sincere, it would seem that the majority of people attending western evangelical churches are simply going through the motions without understanding why or in some cases what they are doing.
Could it be that this systemic complacency within the church is the root cause of the corruption we are seeing in the marketplace and the political arena? I wonder if perhaps things would change if the church would genuinely repent and return to honest worship and obedience to God? Why would we expect politicians or Wall Street executives to be honest when pastors and church leaders are allowed to continue in leadership despite displays of greed, corruption and scandal?
It would seem that we have a systemic moral problem that has infected nearly every level of our culture, which is surprisingly similar to what Malachi preaches against in this last book of the Old Testament. What will it take for our nation to recover? Is it possible to repent and return, or have we passed that tipping point? Would God have a similar message for some of our churches? “Oh that one of you would just shut the doors so that you stop meeting together in vain”.