When Obedience Becomes a Burden

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Malachi 1 is a painful account of God’s indictment against Israel’s priests who had been offering blind, crippled, and diseased animals to Him in the temple. 

We know that the sacrificial system was established graciously by God for His people as a means of atonement.  In a beautiful move toward a restored, whole relationship, God takes the initiative.  He makes forgiveness of sins possible.  Peace with God can be a reality.

So how do the priests respond?  “What a burden.”  Can you believe it?  God’s grace is everywhere!  This is good news for His people!  They can know Him and enjoy a relationship with Him!  All He wants is their best.  The strongest, healthiest male animals were to be offered to Him as sacrifices.  Instead, they are giving the worst and complaining that the whole thing is getting a little old – it has become burdensome.

1 John 5:3 reminds us that our love for God is expressed by obedience to His commands which are “not burdensome.”  We obey because we love Him, not because we feel guilty.  When we begin to feel that obedience is a burden, it is an indicator that our understanding of God’s grace is skewed.  This is a big deal for several reasons, but let me mention two from Malachi.

  • Treating an obedient relationship with God like a burden hurts His heart.  You can sense the pain in His voice in Malachi 1:10 when He tells the priests not to bother with sacrifices anymore – just shut the temple doors and don’t light any fires on the altar.  He is displeased and uninterested in their offerings because they aren’t being given from a pure heart or in accordance with His standards.

  • Treating an obedient relationship with God like a burden is a poor testimony to a watching world.  One of the reasons God is angry with the priests is seen in verses 11 and 14 – “My name will be great among the nations, from the rising to the setting of the sun…I am a great king…and my name is to be feared among the nations.”  The world is looking on as God’s people offer Him less than the best.  Their sacrifices aren’t communicating the message that Israel’s God is a great King who is worthy of their very best.

What a privilege we have to be in a relationship with God as recipients of His grace.  What a delight it is to live lives of faithful obedience in gratitude for the abundant mercy He has extended to us.  And as we demonstrate our love for Him by joyful obedience, He is honored and His name is proclaimed as great to a watching world.

Written by: Abbey Le Roy, MA in Theological Studies from CIU's Seminary and School of Ministry

"Give us this day our daily bread." Matthew 6:11