Daring to give our best away

Icebreakers

Use one of the following questions to open up discussion.  (If you have first-time guests, be sure to have people give their names as they answer the icebreaker question.)

  1. What did you think of the service on Sunday?  What did you agree with?  What did you disagree with?
  2. What is the most valuable thing you have?  Would you give that to God?

Our Study:  Daring to give our best away

“Sanctify to Me every firstborn, the first offspring of every womb among the sons of Israel, both of man and beast; it belongs to Me.”

Exodus 13:2

“He said, ‘Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.'”

Genesis 22:12

“He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?”

Romans 8:32

Objectives

Small group members and guests will:

  1. Know God’s legitimate and righteous claim on our lives
  2. Follow the example of Christ who for our sake He became poor, so that we through His poverty might become rich. (2 Cor 8:9)
  3. Offer God a sacrifice of praise (Heb 13:15)

Study Malachi 1:6-14

Who is Malachi? Almost nothing is known about Malachi outside of the book that bears his name.  Since his name means “my messenger” some have speculated that this is not a personal name but is only symbolic.  It appears that he prophesied sometime during the events of Ezra-Nehemiah when the law was reinstated and sacrifices took place at a rebuilt temple.

What is Malachi about? The book deals with past, present, and future:  God’s past love for Israel (Mal 1:1-6), the people’s current impiety (Mal 1:6-14; 2; 3:7-15) and the future detailing coming judgment (Mal 4:1-3), the forerunner of the Messiah (Mal 4:4-6), and the Messiah himself (Mal 3:1-6).  The book is aptly placed in the canon at the end of the Old Testament as it ends with the prophecy of the return of Elijah and only a few chapters later in Matthew in the New Testament does John the baptist come.

What is Malachi’s point in 1:6-14? That God is displeased with anything but our best.  This point is made with a serious of rhetorical questions and answers.

  • If a son honors a father and a servant honors his master, and if God is a father and master, He should be honored (v. 6) instead of shown contempt
  • How have we shown contempt? By offering unclean (“defiled”) sacrifices (v. 7)
  • How are they unclean? They are blind, crippled and diseased, animals that the local governor would not accept (v. 8)

At this point Malachi now asks the Israelites a final rhetorical question: will God accept you when you bring such defective offerings? (v. 9) We should plead for God’s mercy (v. 9) because the current sacrifices are worse than no sacrifices at all (v. 10) and run counter to promoting God’s fame and glory on the earth (v. 11).

Malachi summarizes his argument – the Israelites called giving to God ‘defiled’, ‘contemptible’ (v. 12) and considered performing the commanded sacrifices a burden (v. 13) God will not accept the second-rate sacrifices (v. 13) and pronounces a curse on anyone who does so intentionally (v. 14) because he is a “great king” and “his name is to be feared among the nations” (v. 14).

Application

Malachi ties not giving the best to God as robbing Him of glory which is the same language used of idolatry (Is 42:8).  Luther said that “whatever your heart clings to and relies upon” is your God;  Malachi is saying that whatever we honor and give our best to is our God.

God deserves our best. We are creature, He is creator.  God has a righteous and legitimate demand on our worship and we are obligated to return it to him. This is not a matter of feeling or emotion, it’s a matter of objective fact.

Worship might not always involve happiness or joy. We need to keep in mind that joy, while it often accompanies our worship, is secondary.  To make joy our focus in worship is to make worship human-centered rather than God-centered.  We must continue to worship God, even when we don’t feel like it.  Especially when we don’t feel like it – James urges us to consider the patience of Job (Jas 5:11) who worshiped God even when there was nothing left.  Jesus uses the parable of the sower in part to warn us that “fair-weather Christians” will not last long (Matt 13:1-23).

Our worship is valuable only because God makes it so. God does not need sacrifices because he is hungry (Ps. 50:8-13) but desires our heart.  There is no way to “bribe” God. Instead, imagine a young boy on his father’s birthday.  The father gives his son ten dollars to buy him a gift.  The maximum that the boy could give back to the father is ten dollars – no more than what the father has given.  And if the boy were just to turn around and give the ten dollars back to the father, the father would be a disappointed.  So the boy goes out to buy a tie and gives it to the father, and the father is delighted that his son has bought him a gift.  The father could have bought his own tie, but it’s not about the tie – it’s about the heart.

There is no worship without sacrifice.  The woman who gave only two small coins to the temple gave more than the rest because she gave out of her need – she sacrificed what very little she had to God (Luke 21:1-3).  In Old Testament times, when people were farmers and herders, to sacrifice their animals and grain was to sacrifice their livelihood.  While most of us no longer are in that position, we are called to sacrifice that which is important to us for Christ’s sake.  God deserves our best.  Our best includes but is not limited to money; it also includes are time, our rights, our comfort, and even our very lives.

God sent His son, His only son, whom He loved, into the world to die in our place.  Do we dare to not give our best?

Prayer

  1. Confess that we have not loved God with all of our minds, all of our hearts, all of our souls, and all of our strength.  Ask God to forgive us these failures.
  2. Thank God for sending His son to reconcile all things back to God
  3. Thank God that he has blessed us with such material wealth by being born in this time and place
  4. Ask God to show us ways in which we can worship him, both in private and through the church.
  5. Thank God that we have a healthy church that worships God and can plant new churches that do likewise.
  6. Ask God how we should support these endeavors.
  7. Close with Revelation 19:6-8

    Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting:
    “Hallelujah!
    For our Lord God Almighty reigns.
    Let us rejoice and be glad
    and give him glory!
    For the wedding of the Lamb has come,
    and his bride has made herself ready.
    Fine linen, bright and clean,
    was given her to wear.”

Further reading – Hebrews 13 is all about how to live in light of the sacrifice of Christ

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