The people fo God, and especially the leaders, are made to honor God.
As we mentioned last week, there are 6 disputes in the book of Malachi. The first one went straight to the heart of the matter: God’s love for humanity – especially his chosen people. THAT first dispute gives us “probable cause” for why these other problems exist.
If the first of the 10 Commandments is about loving God above all else, and if the Shema is about loving God with all we have, then a failure to love God and understand God’s love for us will surely lead to deficiencies in our beliefs and actions.
In verses 6, Malachi takes aim at a specific people group: the priests. We do not have priests in our denomination, and we don’t practice many of the things that were prescribed for the priests in the OT such as animal sacrifices, but I believe that the lessons apply to all of us in the faith community.
The structure of the disputes is pretty consistent throughout Malachi:
1. The dispute verbalized FROM God
2. The supposed reply FROM the accused
The first dispute was about whether or not God loves the Jews, and if that love is measurable by their current circumstances.
The dispute was answered that God DOES love the Jews.
This week we get to the second dispute which is made against the priests.
NOTICE: the message of the prophets is one that is meant to confront and cause a change or repentance in action or attitude. As we study the book of Malachi, expect to be pierced, expected to be confronted and to be uncomfortable. But also expect that God will bless you as you allow him to convict you and change you!
Malachi 1:6 (CSB) — 6 “A son honors his father, and a servant his master. But if I am a father, where is my honor? And if I am a master, where is your fear of me? says the Lord of Armies to you priests, who despise my name.” Yet you ask, “How have we despised your name?”
God appeals to the priests by using his roles of both Father and Master.
I do not think of my father as my master or boss. There is a different relationship there. My father is the one who cares for and provides for me and even disciplines me when needed. This was part of the message of the first dispute regarding God’s love.
The command to honoring our earthly parents was given in the wilderness as part of the ten commandments.
Exodus 20:12 (CSB) — 12 Honor your father and your mother so that you may have a long life in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.
However, the command to honor our earthly fathers is designed to also remind us of the need to honor our heavenly Father. God says that the priests failed to honor HIM as a father.
The second role that God called upon is that of master. A master or boss is worthy of respect if for no other reason than the office that they hold. Even if you do not care for the person you can respect the office and the person in that office.
· We examined this in the life of Daniel many times as he served leaders who worshipped other gods, yet Daniel showed respect for his masters.
· We saw David live this out when he had a chance to kill Saul but would not.
1 Timothy 6:1 (CSB) — 1 All who are under the yoke as slaves should regard their own masters as worthy of all respect, so that God’s name and his teaching will not be blasphemed.
Just as we are to respect our earthly bosses, that respect is meant to reflect our desire to honor God as our ultimate boss/master.
1. You have not honored me.
2. You have not feared/revered me.
After laying these two charges, God attached yet another charge: “you priests who despise my name”.
“How have we despised your name?”
Their reply, of course is, “What are you talking about? How have we defiled you?”.
SIDE NOTE: by the way, all these retorts from the accused are reminiscent of the reply of Cain when God confronted him about the murder of his brother, Abel.
I noticed that they did not ask, “how have we not honored you?” or “how have we not feared you?”. They DO ask, “how have we despised your name?”.
Malachi 1:7 (CSB) — 7 “By presenting defiled food on my altar.” “How have we defiled you?” you ask. When you say, “The Lord’s table is contemptible.”
They had despised God by offering defiled food as sacrifices.
Malachi 1:8–14 (CSB) — 8 “When you present a blind animal for sacrifice, is it not wrong? And when you present a lame or sick animal, is it not wrong? Bring it to your governor! Would he be pleased with you or show you favor?” asks the Lord of Armies. 9 “And now plead for God’s favor. Will he be gracious to us? Since this has come from your hands, will he show any of you favor?” asks the Lord of Armies. 10 “I wish one of you would shut the temple doors, so that you would no longer kindle a useless fire on my altar! I am not pleased with you,” says the Lord of Armies, “and I will accept no offering from your hands. 11 “My name will be great among the nations, from the rising of the sun to its setting. Incense and pure offerings will be presented in my name in every place because my name will be great among the nations,” says the Lord of Armies. 12 “But you are profaning it when you say, ‘The Lord’s table is defiled, and its product, its food, is contemptible.’ 13 You also say, ‘Look, what a nuisance!’ And you scorn it,” says the Lord of Armies. “You bring stolen, lame, or sick animals. You bring this as an offering! Am I to accept that from your hands?” asks the Lord. 14 “The deceiver is cursed who has an acceptable male in his flock and makes a vow but sacrifices a defective animal to the Lord. For I am a great King,” says the Lord of Armies, “and my name will be feared among the nations.
You have not honored or feared me because you have presented defiled food on the altar.
Any time we walk in blatant disobedience to God’s law it is an indicator that we have lost our respect and honor of God.
They had failed to honor and fear God which led to their callous disobedience to the command of God.
They were presenting “defective” animals to God as a sacrifice: blind, lame and sick animals. Apparently they even STOLE some of them! And they presented these pathetic offerings to God in hopes that he would bless them.
RATIONALIZATION: Perhaps the people felt justified offering the sick and lame? I mean, they were captives and lost most of what they had, if not all of it. Their society and economy were in disrepair and their economic situation was not stable. Doesn’t it make sense to offer to God the parts that are weak so they can build up stronger and be able to give God more and better in the future? NO WAY!
There are a few reasons why this was wrong: It was a violation of God’s command.
Leviticus 22:17–20 (CSB) — 17 The Lord spoke to Moses: 18 “Speak to Aaron, his sons, and all the Israelites and tell them: Any man of the house of Israel or of the resident aliens in Israel who presents his offering—whether they present payment of vows or freewill gifts to the Lord as burnt offerings—19 must offer an unblemished male from the cattle, sheep, or goats in order for you to be accepted. 20 You are not to present anything that has a defect, because it will not be accepted on your behalf.
There are several other passages that talk about this, and of course, the priests, who are responsible for overseeing the sacrifices, would KNOW what the law says about it.
The next statement really shows how they had dishonored God. “Would you give that to your earthly governor? If so, would he be pleased with it?” They didn’t recognize God as important.
What a powerful statement. If you would not give that gift to someone on this earth, why would you offer it to Yahweh, the creator and sustainer of all life?
God said that he would rather have the temple doors shut and sacrifices cease than to be mocked and minimalized by the pathetic offerings of this people.
Instead of being magnified through the offerings, God was being minimized. Instead of the Jews fearing God they were despising God.
THOUGHT: have you ever thought that the value of the gift you offer someone, especially God, can reflect the value and honor that you feel for that person?
I believe verse 13 shows another problem: an attitude issue. “What a pain”. Imagine being a priest an offering up the sacrifices of the people day in and day out.
That word nuisance is also translated as “hardship”. God, what a burden you have put on us!
The priests viewed their service to God as a hardship, not a privilege. They were chosen from all the rest to have a special relationship with God and were handpicked to offer service to God! [we studied that when we studied Exodus 28-29]
Yet they found it an annoyance or drudgery to perform their duties for God and to present their best to God.
Disobedience & discontentment plagued the priests after the exile.
This set of charges ends with a declaration:
Malachi 1:14b (CSB) — 14 “… For I am a great King,” says the Lord of Armies, “and my name will be feared among the nations.
This is similar to the declaration in 1:11
Malachi 1:11 (CSB) — 11 “My name will be great among the nations, from the rising of the sun to its setting. Incense and pure offerings will be presented in my name in every place because my name will be great among the nations,” says the Lord of Armies.
As well as in 1:5
Malachi 1:5 (CSB) — 5 Your own eyes will see this, and you yourselves will say, ‘The Lord is great, even beyond the borders of Israel.’
Regardless of what the priests do, God will not allow his name to be mocked nor his honor minimalized. He will be praised, he will be exalted. If not from the Jews then from the rest of the nations.
Because of what they have done, God will punish them. The sentence is passed down:
Malachi 2:1–9 (CSB) — 1 “Therefore, this decree is for you priests: 2 If you don’t listen, and if you don’t take it to heart to honor my name,” says the Lord of Armies, “I will send a curse among you, and I will curse your blessings. In fact, I have already begun to curse them because you are not taking it to heart. 3 “Look, I am going to rebuke your descendants, and I will spread animal waste over your faces, the waste from your festival sacrifices, and you will be taken away with it. 4 Then you will know that I sent you this decree, so that my covenant with Levi may continue,” says the Lord of Armies. 5 “My covenant with him was one of life and peace, and I gave these to him; it called for reverence, and he revered me and stood in awe of my name. 6 True instruction was in his mouth, and nothing wrong was found on his lips. He walked with me in peace and integrity and turned many from iniquity. 7 For the lips of a priest should guard knowledge, and people should desire instruction from his mouth, because he is the messenger of the Lord of Armies. 8 “You, on the other hand, have turned from the way. You have caused many to stumble by your instruction. You have violated the covenant of Levi,” says the Lord of Armies. 9 “So I in turn have made you despised and humiliated before all the people because you are not keeping my ways but are showing partiality in your instruction.”
Just as God has been humiliated by their offerings, God will humiliate them. This is a pretty graphic description of the dung from the sacrifices being smeared on the faces of the priests and them being carried out with the excrement to be dumped into the manure pile at the dung gate.
The covenant with Levites is one that God made and will keep. We are reminded of that trough the prophet Jeremiah:
Jeremiah 33:17–22 (CSB) — 17 “For this is what the Lord says: David will never fail to have a man sitting on the throne of the house of Israel. 18 The Levitical priests will never fail to have a man always before me to offer burnt offerings, to burn grain offerings, and to make sacrifices.” 19 The word of the Lord came to Jeremiah: 20 “This is what the Lord says: If you can break my covenant with the day and my covenant with the night so that day and night cease to come at their regular time, 21 then also my covenant with my servant David may be broken. If that could happen, then he would not have a son reigning on his throne and the Levitical priests would not be my ministers. 22 Even as the stars of heaven cannot be counted, and the sand of the sea cannot be measured, so too I will make innumerable the descendants of my servant David and the Levites who minister to me.”
And both Malachi and Jeremiah are referring back to this passage:
Deuteronomy 10:8–9 (CSB) — 8 “At that time the Lord set apart the tribe of Levi to carry the ark of the Lord’s covenant, to stand before the Lord to serve him, and to pronounce blessings in his name, as it is today. 9 For this reason, Levi does not have a portion or inheritance like his brothers; the Lord is his inheritance, as the Lord your God told him.
The LORD was their inheritance! They were selected to stand before the Lord and to serve the Lord! But they found that service a burden.
God refers to Levi, the person, but seems to be referring to the priesthood as a whole more so than a particular person. In a way, God is symbolizing the entire priesthood into a single person – Levi, the father of their tribe.
SIDE NOTE: Levi or Genesis, the father of the tribe, was actually cursed by Jacob(Israel) because of his vengeful anger and murderous actions. God, later, reverses that curse and blesses the tribe of Levi to be a special people to serve Him. In Malachi, God threatens to reverse the blessing back toa curse.
God points out how the original priests (whom he refers to as Levi) acted:
· They revered God and stood in awe of God (feared God)
· They were faithful to instruct people with truth (honored God)
· They walked with God in peace an integrity (obedience)
· They turned people back to God (mission)
These were the things lacking in the priests at the end of the exile.
The priests were to be messengers for the Lord of Armies (Lord of Hosts) Yahweh of the Armies. They are to teach, instruct, walk and live in such a way that the name of God is revered and that the people around them (nations) – those who are of God and those who are not – see and experience God.
The priests were guilty of living lives of spiritual hypocrisy and ritualistic mediocrity that taught people the wrong things about who God is and the majesty of his name.
We started the message saying that we are not the OT priests and we do not have animal sacrifices. So, why does this book even matter to the church today?
First, we have to understand that Jesus is the ultimate high priest who gave his life and the ultimate sacrifice, unstained from sin, unblemished, to atone for our sins. His life and death are the ultimate example of a sacrifice that pleases God!
ASSIGNMENT: read the book of Hebrews this week and see what you learn about Jesus as the high priest and how it fits into the covenant with Levi.
However, you and I ARE priests according to the new covenant!
1 Peter 2:2–5 (CSB) — 2 Like newborn infants, desire the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow up into your salvation, 3 if you have tasted that the Lord is good. 4 As you come to him, a living stone—rejected by people but chosen and honored by God—5 you yourselves, as living stones, a spiritual house, are being built to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
1 Peter 2:9–10 (CSB) — 9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his possession, so that you may proclaim the praises of the one who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
We refer to this as the priesthood of believers. Do you see any parallels between these verses and the verses in Malachi?
In essence, the commands to the priests apply to each and every one of us that has accepted Jesus as the chosen one from God and surrendered our lives to him.
WE are messengers of the Lord of Armies, chosen to stand before him, privileged to offer up our lives as sacrifices to Him. WE are called to represent him, to teach his word, to be examples and point others to him. SO THAT HIS NAME WILL BE GREAT AMONG ALL THE NATIONS THROUGH US!
So, as priests of the new covenant, as spiritual descendants of Levi, chosen by God to walk blamelessly before him and obeying his commands, how are we doing?
Do any of the charges pressed against the priests in Malachi sound like charges God might press against you or me today?
· Do you offer God the leftovers, discard and things that you do not need/want or do you give him the best and first of everything? Do you give bigger gifts to co-workers than you do to God?
o If you had a chance to chat with God about your finances and look over your budget with him, do you think he would be pleased with the gifts that you have set aside for him?
o If not – you should change that! Talk to God about that and adjust immediately!
· Do you find service to God to be a chore and a burden?
o I mean, let’s face it, being in on yet another Zoom meeting is exhausting and can be burdensome! But as a general rule, do you find spending time with God in his Word, with his people and doing his work as an additional, wearisome burden or an amazing privilege and calling?
1 John 5:3–4 (CSB) — 3 For this is what love for God is: to keep his commands. And his commands are not a burden, 4 because everyone who has been born of God conquers the world. This is the victory that has conquered the world: our faith.
o This can be tougher to work through because this is a heart issue! Start with prayer and ask to change your heart – your attitude about this.
Psalm 139:23–24 (CSB) — 23 Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my concerns. 24 See if there is any offensive way in me; lead me in the everlasting way.
· Are the lives that we are living pointing others to the greatness of God?