“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? says the Lord of hosts to you, O priests, who despise my name. But you say, ‘How have we despised your name?’ By offering polluted food upon my altar. But you say, ‘How have we polluted you?’ By saying that the Lord’s table may be despised.” Mal. 1:6,7 (ESV)
Affirmation: “A son honors his father, and a servant his master.” This affirmation derives from what is common, what is understood by the reader. In that time and today, children are expected to honor their parents. Servants are obligated to their masters. This affirmation is followed by…
A Corresponding Inquiry: “If I am a father, where is the honor due me? If I am a master, where is the respect due me?” Based on what is commonly known, the inquiry is designed to convict the people of ignoring common knowledge, to go in their own way. God, their Father, should have been honored, but was shunned. God, their Master, should have been respected, but was dis-respected by the people.
Specifically: “…you, O priests, have despised my name.”
How? “By offering polluted food upon my altar,” and “by saying that the Lord’s table may be despised.”
Matthew Henry Observes: The prophet is here, by a special commission, calling the priests to account, though they were themselves appointed judges, to call the people to an account. Let the rulers in the house of God know that there is one above them, who will reckon with them for their mal-administrations. Thus saith the Lord of hosts to you, O priests! v. 6. God will have a saying to unfaithful ministers; and it concerns those who speak from God to his people to hear and heed what he says to them, that they may save themselves in the first place, otherwise how should they help to save those that hear them? It is a severe, and no doubt a just reproof, that is here given to the priests, for the profanation of the holy things of God, with which they were entrusted; and, if this was the crime of the priests, we have reason to fear the people also were guilty of it: so that what is said to the priests is said to all, nay, it is said to us, who, as Christians, profess ourselves, not only the people of God, but priests to him. Observe here,I. What it was that God expected from them, and with what good reason he expected it (v. 6): A son honours his father, because he is his father; nature has written this law in the hearts of children, before God wrote it at Mount Sinai; nay,a servant, though his obligation to his master is not natural, but by voluntary compact, yet thinks it his duty to honour him, to be observant of his orders, and true to his interests. Children and servants pay respect to their parents and masters; every one cries out shame on them if they do not, and their own hearts cannot but reproach them too; the order of families is thus kept up, and it is their beauty and advantage. But the priests, who are God’s children and his servants, do not fear and honour him. They were fathers and masters to the people, and expected to be called so (Judges. 18:19 , Mt. 22:7, Mt. 22:10 ) and to be reverenced and obeyed as such; but they forgot their Father and Master in heaven, and the duty they owed to him. We may each of us charge upon ourselves what is here charged upon the priests. Note, 1. We are every one of us to look upon God as our Father and Master, and upon ourselves as his children and servants. 2. Our relation to God as our Father and Master strongly obliges us to fear and honour him. If we honour and fear the fathers of our flesh, much more the Father and Master of our spirits, Heb. 12:9 . It is a thing to be justly complained of, and lamented, that God is so little feared and honoured even by those that own him for their Father and Master.