In the Hebrew culture, as it has been in every culture, sons gave their fathers proper respect. Even now, this familial custom is inbred, woven into our humanity. When ignored, the unsettling occasions when a wayward son curses his father or spits on his parents’ grave upset our sense of order. Things are not as they should be, and every instinct tells us something is amiss.
Through the prophet Malachi, God appealed to this internal sense of propriety in an ironic attempt to pull His people toward repentance. God, the Great Father, asked His children: “A son honors his father … If I am a father, where is the honor due me?” (Malachi 1:6).
In this portion of the oracle, the first Hebrew word translated “honor” literally means “weighty” or “heavy.” God is highlighting the common practice of a son giving his father his proper weight, acknowledging his rightful place of authority. More than a call to mere obedience, this designation reflects centuries of Hebrew heritage in which their ancestors, sages and warriors of old were given seats of honor at the feasts, and when a wise one spoke, all hushed to hear. There was a weightiness about them.
Malachi’s message applies an interesting play on words. The second time Malachi uses the word “honor,” he uses a different but similar-sounding word from the first, drawing a distinction between the proper honor sons give fathers and the stark lack of honor given to God. In essence, God asks poignantly, “Where is my weight?”
And God’s fury unfurls; He hurls accusations. The people had done the one thing God will not allow. They had dismissed God. At times, God will allow us to wrestle with Him like Jacob or grow angry with Him like David. There are even times when He will allow us to measure the cost and walk away. But the one thing we must never do, the one thing He will never allow, is for us to simply use Him, toying with His name.
Moses’ tablets had outlined specific practices for temple worship and sacrifice. The people were to bring their best animals, a symbol of their passionate love for Yahweh. Yet these sacrifices had turned into mockery as the people brought their lame and sickly animals, the ones they couldn’t use and no one else wanted. Akin to a husband snatching wilted flowers out of the dumpster for his wife on Valentine’s Day, they wanted to get by with the minimum, a sure sign of hearts grown icy. Still wanting to keep up the rituals of faith, they did their task, patted themselves on the back for worship-well-done, and then went on about their business, unbothered by God.
And God said, “Where is my weight?”
Then He said much more: Remove your profane and defiled sacrifices, blow out the sacrificial fires, close the temple doors. I am a Great King. My name will be made Great among the nations.
And God asks us today, “Where is my weight?”
Where is God’s weight when our worship is dreary and we are unmoved by sacred moments? Where is God’s weight when we use God for a momentary high, a quick-fix, void of intimacy, void of us, and then move along to our true lovers?
God’s message is not to spiritual seekers, wrestling with their faith. His message is not to Christ-followers, weary or struggling with sin, but still struggling. His message is for those of us who trifle with God, attempt to manipulate Him with our games, who think we have Him figured out and caged up, those of us who have grown quite comfortable dismissing Him.
His vicious love will erupt. His name will be great. The world will feel His weight.
Dig Deeper: Malachi 1
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