Malachi 1-2 and Revelation 21
I think we all have flirted with the “best by” dates on food products. Some of us have done it out of necessity, others maybe more out of laziness, but there is no doubt that some are more sensitive to these subjective guidelines . I personally give it a sniff and stir test. Looking for foul odors or curious textures before giving it a taste. The level of craving or hunger often determines how much flexibility I will give. At work, I still haven’t lived down a tub full of moldy hummus I ate because I didn’t want to waste it. I should have just kept my mouth shut (well open really, I was eating), but alas, here I am telling another audience. Surely, the carrots, celery, and apple I was enjoying with the hummus offset any of the negative consequences. I am willing to eat leftovers, perform sniff tests, down some soft grapes, because when I do this, I give my family an opportunity to buy healthy fresh foods, and treat them to a pleasing sit-down meal from time to time. This Outback Dinner was brought to you by the goat cheese that sat on the bottom of the meat drawer for weeks and the awful cauliflower-something dish that no one else would eat. Nevertheless, it would seem a bit more detestable if I only treated myself alone and made my family eat the stuff growing hair in the back of the fridge.
When you offer blind animals for sacrifice, is that not wrong? When you sacrifice lame or diseased animals, is that not wrong? Try offering them to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you?” says the Lord Almighty. – Malachi 1:8
Now to frame these choices into a different context. Is this the way we are treating our relationship with God? Are we giving him the leftovers, the surplus of our pantry, or the rejects of our storehouse? Is there an allotted time that you are giving God each day for prayer? Or do you pray when you have time. Or if you get up early. Or when you’re in the car alone. Are you only tithing what you have left after you pay your bills? And that is only if there is anything left. Or maybe not this month because things are tight. Are you filling the church with single-ply toilet paper when you have triple-ply at your house? Or bringing your recipe-gone-wrong to the potluck? Or going to church only when it’s convenient to your and your kids schedule? Or donating things because you didn’t like the style anyways? If you answered yes to any of these, what you are giving God is going to require a sniff and stir test; your offering may be lame. Your discipleship is growing mold and diseased. When we are talking about God, we give him the firstfruits. The unblemished. Simply the best we have (which still is the equivalent to nothing) but it is fragrant to God and His desires. He acknowledges the sacrifice when we bring it with a merciful heart. He sees the effort we are making to have a relationship with Him. Our offering is not animals or crops, it is our time, our effort, or energy, our money, and our stuff.
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.” Romans 12:1
He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? – Romans 8:32
God didn’t skimp on salvation. He didn’t provide someone who was expendable. He didn’t choose someone who was already terminally ill. He didn’t choose a criminal. He picked the firstfruits, or as Colossians 1 says the firstborn of all creation, meaning before it all, God had already set aside the sacrifice of His son for our sins. He picked the best. The only man unblemished by the disease of sin. This is our example of what sacrifice should look like. Even though we don’t live in the age of sacrifice, giving first, going without, but most importantly showcasing with our very best effort our desire for God is still a beautiful way to show our love for Him and our request to receive the magnificence of his mercies. He doesn’t require our sacrifice, but he desires our worship.
“I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.”
On a final note, the best of God’s plan is yet to come. The richness in store for us is beyond anything we would do without now. Again and again, as you read the blueprints of the Kingdom in Revelation 21, you will be blown away by the preparations God has made. The God outside of time has taken all of His time to make something beyond all fathom, wealth, and existence. Wow! Consequently, when your sacrifice is from the healthiest choice, you are going to miss some fun. You will have to wake up early or stay up late. You will have to do without some luxuries, or even believed necessities. There is still a greater inherent blessing from knowing, serving, and honoring God in the reheated stuff that this life is made of in a corrupt, sinful world. But God…Oh, how God! He is pouring His very best into what is to come.