Poisoned Tree

“Come and dig me up, reach down to the root. Rip the deadness out and plant something new.” – Ghost Ship

In Malachi, God tears apart His people and their manner of sacrifice. Malachi 1:6-9 says:

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. When you offer blind animals in sacrifice, is that not evil? And when you offer those that are lame or sick, is that not evil? Present that to your governor; will he accept you or show you favor? says the LORD of hosts. And now entreat the favor of God, that he may be gracious to us. With such a gift from your hand, will he show favor to any of you? says the LORD of hosts.

This is God speaking. Verse 1 says it’s “the oracle of the word of the LORD to Israel by Malachi.” God speaking to the Israelites.

I haven’t done a lot of searching through the Old Testament, but from what I’ve read, there’s a lot of God talking to His chosen people. And a lot of the time He’s kinda angry. From what I’ve read at least.

Here is nothing different. God is talking about how the people are making poor sacrifices, “polluted food upon my altar,” He says. “When you offer blind animals in sacrifice, is that not evil? And when you offer those that are lame or sick, is that not evil. Present that to your governor; will he accept you or show you favor?” God says.

So the Israelites were giving sacrifices of animals that were not the best. The way the sacrificial system worked in Old Testament times, they were supposed to give the best of what they had. The best. Not the weak of their flock that they were easily able to get rid of, but the best. Because God deserved the best if He was to withhold His wrath from them.

In Numbers 3, two sons of Aaron, Nadab and Abihu (wonderful names), were going to give a sacrifice to God as priests, Aaron’s line. But verse 4 says, “But Nadab and Abihu died before the LORD when they offered unauthorized fire before the LORD in the wilderness of Sinai, and they had no children.” They offered “unauthorized” fire before God and died. The original Hebrew word the ESV translators got “unauthorized” from is “zuwr.” The same word and story is used in Leviticus 10:1,

Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it and laid incense on it and offered unauthorized fire before the LORD, which he had not commanded them.

Which he had not commanded them. The word “zwur” means “to be strange.” To be unordinary. To be odd.

We have a tendency in our Christian life to give our sacrifices to Christ very wimpy. We offer the last of what we have. We give the blind lamb, the limping goat. We read our Bibles late at night when we’re exhausted and spend five minutes. We go to church and do nothing of consequence in Christian fellowship. We pray a few sentences and shut the light off and think of God no more.

1 Peter 2:5 says that we are being “built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” We are a holy priesthood. We are supposed to offer “spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” Spiritual as in relating to the things of the Holy Spirit. Our works for Christ derived from a desire to serve Christ. And they are to be “acceptable to God.”

Are we really giving everything to Christ that we should? Examine the way you spend your time. Are you giving the best time of your day to Christ? Or are you spending it for yourself?

This is something that really convicts me. For the longest time, I would always do my quiet time and prayer time right before I went to bed. That meant that a mere 20 minutes later, I would forget exactly what I read. 40 minutes later, if I was still awake, the reference of the passage I read was gone. Nothing.

Another thing to think about: is our fruit, our fruit of the Spirit, like those sacrifices? Is it the best of what we have that we’re giving to God? Is our love selfish? Is our patience accomplished just so we get what we want? Are we showing joy, but as merely a show?

That’s sin. Not letting Christ pick the best fruit we have to offer is selfishness.

The song “Poison Tree” by Ghost Ship, a former Mars Hill Church (Mark Driscoll’s church) worship band, has been repeating in my mind the past few days. It tells of a tree:

This tree bears strange fruit/there’s blood on the leaves/it’s dead at the root/The cracked gray branches are decaying within/just like the black poison that hangs from its limbs.

That’s the picture of us as a tree when we sin. We produce fruit, yes. But it’s “strange.” We’re dead at the root.

It’s a heart condition.

I tried to tie good fruit/to a tree that had poison all the way through/it rotted and fell off/it was dead to the core/it even killed the ground/I was worse than before.

We can try to act like we are good people and are following Christ, but if our heart is not following Christ, if we’re not committed to giving our best to Christ, that fruit will fall off so easily and negatively affect the people around us (“It even killed the ground”).

That’s where the happy part of the song comes:

I am alive/I will abide in the life-giving blood of Christ/I’m grafted in/You’ve killed my sin/now I will live/I’ll live in Him.

That’s the picture of us when God roots out the poison in ourselves, the tree. That’s where the line in the beginning of this post comes in. God can rip the deadness out.

It’s about consciously making those spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God. It’s about sacrificing the best of what we have for Him.

That way, our tree becomes fruitful.

Not a poison tree.