Malachi 1:6-11 – Is God Getting the FAT Portions?

One day, two little kids, brothers, were playing “Noah’s Ark” in the bathtub, and they made an impromptu ark with a few animals. After the “flood” subsided (meaning bath time was over), and they were in their pajamas, they decided to also act out Noah’s sacrifice when he came off the ark. One of the boys said to his brother, “Let’s use one of your animals as the sacrifice.” His brother replied, “No, let’s use one of yours.” When they couldn’t agree, the first brother said, “Hey, I have an idea. Wait here!” He came back a minute or so later with a beaten-up old toy lamb from the attic. It was dusty, and the head was smashed, and the tail was missing. “Let’s use this,” he said, “Nobody wants it, anyway.”


It’s a cute story, right? But it’s also troubling when you consider that this is how far too many Christians and Messianic Jews handle their own offerings. Instead of giving to God what’s right, they give what’s left (as in, leftovers). This morning, let’s consider the words of the prophet Malachi, and allow ourselves to be challenged in how we steward the resources with which we’ve been entrusted.

This morning’s d’rasha will be in two parts. In the first part, we will be reading Malachi, chapter 1, verses 6-11. I invite you to turn there. But before we begin, let me give a very brief overview of the historical context of Malachi. Malachi wrote his book of prophecy roughly 430 BC, putting him about a century after the time of Zechariah and Haggai, and not long after the events recorded in Ezra and Nehemiah. Malachi’s oracle would be the last recorded words of prophecy for over 400 years, until John the Baptist appeared at the Jordan, preaching.

At the time of Malachi’s ministry, our people had been back in the land for about two generations; long enough, on the one hand, to have rebuilt the Temple and the lovely walls of Jerusalem, but long enough on the other, to have become perilously ‘comfortable’ and complacent about the things of God. In fact, we had become cynical and downright insolent; to the extent that, when Adonai says, “I love you,” Israel’s response is, “Really? How so?” as though demanding an accounting from Him. In what I regard to be an act of consummate humility, the Creator consents to give examples of how He has shown Israel so much favor.

But now He Himself has legitimate grievances to raise against His people. The book of Malachi is organized around seven indictments God brings against Israel, and their seven rebuttals in the form of questions. We will see two of them in this morning’s passage. The problem is that, though our people were going through the motions of religious observance, their hearts weren’t in it. They had either come to detest Adonai, or else simply no longer believed that He is, or that He knows all things. That’s the context of our passage this morning, Malachi 1:6-11. Let’s read.

“‘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.

Our religious leaders were very good at paying lip service. They called the Lord, Avinu (“our Father”) and Ribbono Shel Olam (“Master of the Universe”). But as the saying goes, talk is cheap. We are defined far more by our actions than by our words. Good sons honor their fathers, and faithful servants respect the authority of their masters. Adonai accuses the Cohaneem – the priests – of dishonoring the One they call ‘Father’ and disrespecting the One they call ‘Master’. The expression who despise My name means they had no regard at all for His glory or His reputation. As we will see in a moment, the evidence was in the pathetic offerings they made to Him. Unlike righteous Abel, whom Moses tells us, brought the firstlings of his flock and their fat portions, Israel’s priests were bringing lame, blind, blemished animals for sacrifice; animals that had little, if any, market value. Let’s read on.

But you say, ‘How have we despised Your name?’ You are presenting defiled food upon My altar. But you say, ‘How have we defiled you?’ In that you say, ‘The table of the Lord is to be despised.’ But when you present the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? And when you present the lame and sick, is it not evil? Why not offer it to your governor? Would he be pleased with you? Or would he receive you kindly?” says the Lord of hosts.

Beyond the disrespect it shows to God, to offer crippled, blemished or otherwise flawed animals was a blatant violation of the Torah. You’ll find this in numerous passages, such as Leviticus 22 and Deuteronomy 15. Despite the high honor of serving in the Temple, the priests had come to take their unique calling for granted. Far from being grateful for the privilege, they held contempt for the ministry.

That the priests seem unaware, and have to be told how they have despised God, would indicate that their consciences were not functioning properly. This slide into sin didn’t occur overnight, but gradually, as sin so often works through subtlety.

But since they protest their innocence, saying, “How have we despised Your name?” Adonai spells it out for them. They’re presenting blind, crippled, and sick animals as offerings to Him.

And here we have a rather pointed use of sarcasm on God’s part. “Why don’t you try offering those blind, crippled, or blemished animals as a gift to your governor, and see how he responds?” If one of the ways we esteem a person can be measured by how much or how little of our money we are willing to spend on a gift for them, then clearly Israel’s religious leaders in Malachi’s day had very little esteem for the Most High God.

I think it’s worth remembering that there is a stricter judgment awaiting those who hold spiritual office, and those who are teachers of the Word. To be honest, there have been times when I neglected to give the first and very best of my energies and time to preparing sermons or studies. There is humor shared among pastors about how their sermons were completed in the wee hours before the Sunday service. And while I’d like to think that my sermons and Bible studies aren’t blemished or flawed, but are biblically sound and thoughtfully prepared, it doesn’t mean I’ve always given, as it were, the FAT portions of my time and energy to the Lord.

But we need to recognize that the truth of this passage applies to all of us. We are, after all, described in Scripture (Exodus 19:6 and Revelation 1:6) as, ‘a kingdom of priests.’ Does the Lord have first priority in your allocation of time and energy? We’ll talk more about that later. Let’s continue in our passage.

“But now will you not entreat God’s favor, that He may be gracious to us? With such an offering on your part, will He receive any of you kindly?” says the Lord of hosts. Oh, that there were one among you who would shut the gates, that you might not uselessly kindle fire on My altar! I am not pleased with you,” says the Lord of hosts, “nor will I accept an offering from you.”

How could Israel’s religious leaders expect God to show favor to the nation when they present such worthless offerings? Adonai even says that He wishes someone there would have enough honesty or courage to just shut the Temple doors already and put a stop to the charade. He tells the people outright that He isn’t pleased with them, and that their offerings, like that of Cain, will not be accepted. Unlike his righteous brother Abel, who brought the firstlings and the fat portions, Cain didn’t consider an offering to God to be high on his list of priorities. Instead of the first and best of the harvest, Moses wrote, he brought “some fruit”. And now in Malachi’s generation, Israel was likewise spiritually complacent – lukewarm.

If they won’t honor Adonai as the Father and the Master that He is, He wants them to rest assured, He will be glorified. Let’s conclude the passage.

For from the rising of the sun even to its setting, My name will be great among the nations, and in every place incense is going to be offered to My name, and a grain offering that is pure; for My name will be great among the nations,” says the Lord of hosts.

This word of prophecy was realized through the coming of Messiah Yeshua, the seed of the woman, the descendant of Abraham and David – the Redeemer of mankind. Through Yeshua, Jesus the promised Messiah, men, women and children from every nation have come to know and honor the God of Israel… arguably with greater zeal and love than the people of Israel themselves. Truly, as Rabbi Paul wrote, salvation has come to the Gentiles (the nations) to make Israel jealous…

And with that, let’s proceed to part two of our d’rasha; namely, how do we apply these truths to our lives today?

Let me refer back to the title: Is God Getting the FAT Portions? I’m using FAT as an acronym this morning. The F stands for ‘finances’, the A stands for ‘abilities’, and the T stands for ‘time’.

Let’s talk about the F: Finances.

Pastors tend to avoid preaching on giving, because they’re afraid people will get upset and leave the church. And there are some people who bristle at the very mention of money in the church. But neglecting to teach on giving out of fear of disapproval is the wrong approach. Equally unfortunate is the other extreme – pastors or evangelists who preach about tithing incessantly, and heavy-handedly, (and incorrectly, I might add) – from an entirely selfish motivation.

Here at Shema, I’m glad to say, we haven’t had to say a whole lot about what people ought to give financially. For one thing, we are known for expositional teaching through books of the Bible, rather than preaching on assorted subjects. We sometimes hone in on a theme (for example, recently the theme of greater devotion and service to God), but by-and-large, we teach through the books of Scripture.

Secondly, when it comes to money, usually people’s minds are already made up. Those who give, do so from a cheerful and grateful heart, and don’t need to be persuaded. Those who don’t want to give, who consider it a low priority, usually have a rehearsed litany of rationales, and may even quote Scripture to prove their point. I really don’t expect this morning’s d’rasha to change the mind of anyone who is determined not to give. But I believe there’s room for all of us to do more for the glory of Messiah Yeshua in how we prioritize our assets.

As you’ll see in a moment, this is way more than about money. It’s about how you employ all your resources, and the contrast between being generous or tight-fisted with them.

Now, hopefully, you aren’t living beyond your means, spending every last penny you earn, but that you have at least some savings and cash on hand. If you are carrying debt, the wise and biblical thing to do is to get out of debt. You do that in a couple of possible ways: change your spending habits; downsize, if that’s what it takes, to free yourself from burdensome financial obligation. Rabbi Loren has made it a point to encourage us to be financially responsible and wise. Too many people are living beyond their means. If possible, don’t be one of them.

Perhaps you have some modest investments, hopefully you have equity in your home; and if you’ve been paying any attention to Rabbi Loren these past several years, you probably also have a little gold or silver.

But here’s the point: Is God getting “the firstlings of the flock and their fat portions” where your finances are concerned? Or does He get the leftovers? Hopefully, you are giving in a thoughtful, proportional and intentional way. The manner in which you give is a reflection of your valuation of Adonai, and the importance you attach to your faith community. Nobody else needs to know about it; your Father in Heaven knows, and that is sufficient. Just be honest with Him and with yourself.

Let’s talk about the A: Abilities

If you think your financial portfolio is the sum total of your assets, you are thinking way too small. Every single one of you has one or more unique, God-given abilities, which are also highly valuable commodities, and ought to be cultivated and put to use; and you need to think about them in those terms.

For example, if you’re mechanically inclined; if you know how things work, and are able to disassemble and fix and reassemble them, or if you have the skill to fabricate things out of wood or metal or synthetic materials for use in automobiles or construction, that is to be admired. You have an ability that most of the rest of us do not, and those skills are always going to be needed. That’s very significant. But beyond merely earning a living with those skills, have you found a way to put them to use in order to glorify God and help His people?

If you have an eye for design; if you understand what colors are compatible with one another, or how to create areas of interest or comfort in homes or in gardens, or how to incorporate lighting in just such a way as to make a place feel inviting, that is exceptional. You have a rare and valuable ability, and that skill is always going to be needed. But again, beyond merely earning a living with those skills, have you found a way to put it to use in order to glorify God and help His people?

And the same could be said for those of you who have abilities in the area of healing, of medicine, in the culinary arts, or in teaching or communication, in technology, or in the arts and music, or who have insight into human nature and are able to counsel people. The Lord God of Israel created each of you with unique and valuable abilities, which are very much a part of what constitutes your ‘asset portfolio’. The question is, are you employing those gifts only for yourself, or are you looking for ways to glorify God and help others through them?

Finally, and perhaps most importantly…

Let’s talk about the T: Time

You want to hear something funny? When I got to this part of the sermon, the part about time – I was just about out of time to finish it.

Of all the resources you have at your disposal, this is far and away the most valuable. More so than money and more so than your abilities. Your abilities, though they may wane from disuse, remain with you, and can be reacquired or honed if you discipline yourself. And if you lose money, you have the possibility of making it back through harder work or ingenuity.

But time is irretrievable. Once you spend it, it’s gone. How much time have I wasted on lesser things? How much time that we might have given, that I might have given, to prayer, to study, to visitation, to encouraging others, to hospitality, has been squandered on truly unimportant pursuits.

Once again, the question is whether Adonai is getting the fat portions, or the leftovers. But if the Holy Spirit puts it in your heart to realign your priorities, then consider your use of time to be your greatest gift of all. For starters, most of us could probably do with less time in front of a television screen. Maybe it’s the grace of God that our professional teams here in Detroit aren’t worth following anymore. But, seriously, this is an area in which we ought to be more thoughtful and intentional.

If there is a need that you hear about, can I encourage you to view it as an opportunity to worship God with your time? And because it’s the one irretrievable commodity, it is arguably the most precious gift of all. And please don’t think that I am pitting one against the others, or that you don’t need to give of your finances or your abilities as well.

But time is priceless. And I won’t take any more of yours for now. But in each area of your resources, your finances, your abilities and your time, make a concerted effort to reprioritize, so that God gets “the firstlings and the fat portions.”

Avinu Malkaynu, You deserve our very best, and yet so often we give You the leftovers. Help us to repent of our selfishness, and to give You our FAT portions. May our actions be a true reflection of our love for You, for Your Son, for one another, and for a lost and dying world. In Yeshua’s name.