God demonstrated His peace with the nation of Israel when He allowed the elders to eat a covenant meal in His presence (Ex. 24:1–11). The Lord then made provision for His people to have regular covenant meals, both in the celebration of festivals, like Passover, and in the sacrifice of peace offerings (Ex. 12; Lev. 3; 7:11–18). If the Israelites followed the stipulations in the Mosaic law regarding these meals and the spotless animals that were to be a part of them, they could experience God’s blessing in a unique way, recalling His redemption of them from Egyptian slavery.
Unfortunately, that is exactly what the nation as a whole failed to do. Being holy ordinances, the covenant meals were not to be profaned through the offering of lessthan- perfect animal sacrifices. Just before the voice of prophecy ceased prior to the first advent of Christ, the prophet Malachi was sent to the people of God to call them to repent for profaning worship. Their sacrifices were polluting the altar, for they had been offering up blemished animals instead of the first and best of their flocks (Mal. 1:12–14). They were violating the “Lord’s table,” sharing food, metaphorically speaking, with God that was not fit for even an earthly king. The covenant meal and the honor of the Lord were profaned by such insolence. Matthew Henry comments, “There cannot be a greater provocation to God than the profanation of his name; for it is holy and reverend.”
It is better to offer no worship at all than to offer false worship. So the covenant Lord called for the Israelites to shut the doors of the temple and stop pretending when it came to their praise of Him (v. 10). Interestingly, however, immediately after saying He will not receive an offering from the hands of the unrepentant covenant community, the Lord then makes a pledge that He will be honored among the nations, with incense being offered up to Him in purity (v. 11). This pointed to a day when animal sacrifices would be ended entirely and the Gentiles would be reckoned among those who have a chance to sit at the Lord’s Table. That offering was given two thousand years ago when the spotless Lamb of God gave up His life on the cross. Consequently, we celebrate a new covenant meal to commemorate this event, and, as under the old covenant, it cannot be treated with contempt (1 Cor. 11:17–34).