Wednesday
Jan212009

The Lord’s Table May Be Despised

The book of Malachi is something of a bridge from the Old Testament to the gospels.

A remnant people had taken root again in Jerusalem and many of the nation’s ills had been largely resolved through the heathen conquest a century before. Idolatry had been punished and mostly disavowed, but a chasm had been left in the hearts of too many people.

Judah now faced a threat just as serious as idolatry or the Babylonians that had mustered on their former borders. Judah’s affection for God was a casualty of the war and subsequent occupation. Her worship had been reduced to a heartless exercise of ritual and reluctance.

God cried out, “A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am a father, where is my honor? And if I am a master, where is my fear” (Malachi 1:6)? Far from reverencing his name, they had made it vain by “offering polluted food” upon the altar of sacrifice, so much a part of Old Testament worship (7). They held back the choicest animals of their flocks and offered instead the blind, lame and sick – hardly a sacrifice at all, really nothing more than a simple thinning of the herd (8). 

Thus the Lord’s table was despised and polluted by his reluctant worshipers. “But you say, ‘What a weariness this is,’ and you snort at it, says the Lord of hosts” (13). 

Animal sacrifice is absent from the New Testament economy, yet his table reappears, converted from an altar of slaughter to a commemoration of his son’s sacrificial death. Upon it rests an unleavened representation of his body beside a crimson cup filled, as it were, with his blood. Jesus instituted a supper upon that table in the night he was betrayed and the earliest disciples gathered around it on the first day of the week (see Matthew 26:26-29, Acts 20:7). The Holy Spirit indicated that partaking of the Lord’s Supper was at once a moment of self-examination and faithful proclamation. “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes” (First Corinthians 11:26).

“But you say, ‘What a weariness this is,’ and you snort at it, says the Lord of hosts.”

Complaining that a weekly observance is too frequent to maintain any meaning. Choosing to hug the mattress all morning or spend the hour at the fishing hole. Being present in body, but not in spirit as the mind wanders away from the cross. Making a mockery of the meal by feigning piety after a week of profligacy. Savoring hatred and resentment while choking down the bread and juice.

Absent a reverent, thoughtful spirit, the Lord’s Supper is nothing more than a meager snack. A mind trained on Calvary and a life built to match cause this table of the Lord to be an altar of self-sacrifice and glory.