“A son honors his father and a servant his master. Then if I am a father, where is My honor? And if I am a master, where is My respect? says the LORD of hosts to you, O priests who despise my name. But you say, ‘How have we despised Your name?’” Malachi 1:6
Reverence is akin to “The fear of the Lord ” which Tim Keller likens to the feeling you get in the company of someone you greatly admire, perhaps even someone famous. In their presence you are respectful, careful about what you say, give deference to them and want to please them as you’re able. There is, in fact, a sense of awe. Reverence means honor or respect that is felt or shown to someone or something. If anyone deserves to be honored or respected it’s God. But, in Malachi’s day God was dishonored and disrespected by the very priests who were to exemplify reverence for the LORD. They defiled His name by offering blemished animals, divorced their wives and married foreign women who worshipped other gods, robbed the Lord by not tithing and believed God was unloving and unjust.
The priest’s apathetic hearts were in stark contrast to Levi’s, their reverent ancestor. Malachi 2 tells us that God made a covenant with Levi “of life and peace as an object of reverence.”
“My covenant with him [Levi] was one of life and peace, and I gave them to him as an object of reverence; so he revered Me and stood in awe of My name. True instruction was in his mouth and unrighteousness was not found on his lips; he walked with Me in peace and uprightness, and he turned many back from iniquity. For the lips of a priest should preserve knowledge, and men should seek instruction from his mouth; for he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts. But as for you, you have turned aside from the way; you have caused many to stumble by the instruction; you have corrupted the covenant of Levi,” says the LORD of hosts. Malachi 2:5-8
As New Testament believers we are also God’s messengers and priests (1 Peter 2:5-9). Nevertheless, like the priests of old, we have a tendency toward irreverence if we don’t take time to know God in a way that provokes esteem. A good illustration of this is and encounter my husband, Marty, and I had with a famous football player while on vacation at Disney World. Marty recognized the former Dallas Cowboy in the waiting area of Mickey’s PhilharMagic.
“That’s Daryl Johnston,” he whispered, referring to a tall man across the room.
“Who?” I asked, looking up only to see a dad with his family.
“The ‘Moose’, Daryl Johnston. The football player.”
“Oh. nice.” I said, unimpressed.
To me the man was just another dad in the crowd. Were we seeing the same person? Yes! However, the difference was Marty’s familiarity with Johnston. My husband was impressed with the athlete in our midst because he knew who Daryl Johnston was and what he had accomplished. He was impressive. I, on the other hand, knew nothing about the “Moose” therefore, seeing him did not provoke admiration. Similarly, to know God inspires reverence. When we read God’s word and spend time meditating on His attributes we begin to know God. Then, we are compelled to say, “That is the LORD!”
Unfortunately, the Israelites in Malachi’s time suffered from a case of severe apathy toward God. They judged God based on their limited knowledge instead of by His “stats” revealed in His Word. In other words, He was “just another dad.” But, Malachi’s wake up call to Israel is haunting. It indicts my own heart when God asks, “Where is My honor?” Am I apathetic and irreverent too? Does my behavior reflect unbelief? I may not be divorcing my spouse and worshiping idols but I certainly have not been bringing my first fruits to my LORD in regards to time. Oh, my LORD and my Redeemer! Thank you for your mercy and everlasting covenant of life and peace. May I never forsake the reading of your Word lest I defile Your Holy name!
“Then those who feared the Lord spoke with each other, and the Lord listened to what they said. In his presence, a scroll of remembrance was written to record the names of those who feared him and always thought about the honor of his name.” Malachi 3:16