God is Worthy (P2) | Malachi 2.1-9 (Marysville)
Topic: Old Testament Passage: Malachi 2:1–2:9
Good morning! Today we are continuing our series Rhetorical God-Hard Answers to Easy Questions, looking at the book of Malachi. This is the last book of the Old Testament as God gives some final words to His people leading into 400 years of silence and darkness before the birth of Jesus Christ. This book sets up as a series of challenging conversations between God and His people who have return from exile to Jerusalem and Israel. God declares something about His character (example His love for them) and the people respond with accusatory questions “but How have you loved us?” God answers with “because I chose you and promise to restore you unlike those who are not my people.” Last week we saw God stating He is a loving a father who deserves honor and a master that deserves respect. His Name is worthy of their/our heartfelt devotion and worship and yet the people ‘despise’ it. They ask “how have we despised your name?” He tells them how they worship Him is all jacked up, specifically they are giving lame (figuratively/literally) offerings that are unacceptable sacrifices. The people are bringing blind, crippled, diseased, animals for sacrifice when God has called for their best. What is given is not the point but the heart they are displaying in their worship is one of indifference at best or at worst distain. Either way God, The Great King, is not honored by their half/no hearted actions and will not accept their offerings and actually curses those who pledge/claim to worship fully but act as hypocrites and give sick animals. While the priest are taking these worthless offerings rather than instruct or rebuke the people for their faithlessness they complain and “snort” back to God that their roll as priest/teacher is making them weary because they are to live off the offerings and tithes of these faithless people. In our section today God shifts the conversation form the people to the priests/leaders who are responsible for not upholding the purity of worship.
Mal 2:1-9 “And now, O priests, this command is for you. 2 If you will not listen, if you will not take it to heart to give honor to my name, says the Lord of hosts, then I will send the curse upon you and I will curse your blessings. Indeed, I have already cursed them, because you do not lay it to heart. 3 Behold, I will rebuke your offspring, and spread dung on your faces, the dung of your offerings, and you shall be taken away with it.4 So shall you know that I have sent this command to you, that my covenant with Levi may stand, says the Lord of hosts. 5 My covenant with him was one of life and peace, and I gave them to him. It was a covenant of fear, and he feared me. He stood in awe of my name. 6 True instruction was in his mouth, and no wrong was found on his lips. He walked with me in peace and uprightness, and he turned many from iniquity. 7 For the lips of a priest should guard knowledge, and people should seek instruction from his mouth, for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts. 8 But you have turned aside from the way. You have caused many to stumble by your instruction. You have corrupted the covenant of Levi, says the Lord of hosts, 9 and so I make you despised and abased before all the people, inasmuch as you do not keep my ways but show partiality in your instruction.”
Malachi outlines Curses for faithless priest, reminds them of the Covenant God has with leaders, and shows the Consequences for rejecting His instruction. While this text applies very clearly to pastors/leaders it is critically important for all in the church to understand what God expects from His leaders so all can hold their leaders accountable and what damage can be done when leaders fail follow and honor God. Also, each of us is either leading or responsible for something/someone and much can be gleaned from this text.
God calls out the priests “where is the honor due me and my name?” God ordained them for His service. They are the “chosen people” of His “chosen people”. Like Israel, God’s people, the priests are not the most desirable people on the planet. They don’t make the priest hood holy because of who they are but the priesthood is holy because God makes them holy for the duty and privilege to honor the name of the Lord and instruct and facilitate the people to purely worship God as their creator, father, and master. Yet they have failed miserably. Worship matters to God. For the leaders who have chosen to forsake God, He rightly warns them if they will not listen and change their course he will send curses as a response.
Blessing - This is to be a position of honor and blessing for faithful service. The Law in Numbers 18 outlines what the priest duties are and how they are to be compensated thought the tithes and offerings of the people. For these leaders their compensation is already seems cursed as what the people are bringing is grossly insufficient to sustain the priest and their families. God says “Indeed, I’ve already started this discipline to show you I mean business. You think it’s painful now? Do not go any further down this road or it’s going to get exponentially worse for you? I am starting by impacting your lively hood but I can and will hurt you in even more significant ways if you do not repent.
The most solemn service the priest would do is after the sacrifices and offering they would impart a specific blessing to the people from God. Numbers 6:22-27 22 The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 23 “Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, Thus you shall bless the people of Israel: you shall say to them, 24 The Lord bless you and keep you; 25 the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; 26 the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace. 27 “So shall they put my name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them.”
God will curse this blessing because the sacrifices the people offered and priest administered were unacceptable to Him. This means there is no atonement for their sin and no peace with, or favor from, God should be implied by the priest giving this false declaration. This is no minor thing! For God to threaten to turn this blessing into a curse is to completely undermine the entire fabric of how Israel related to God though institutional religion. Their role as a priest would become completely meaningless.
Offspring- This is literally God will rebuke their “seed” and break it off so their lives and ministry would cease to bear any fruit. The children of the priests would not have an opportunity to rise to their father’s office. People who follow the priest teachings will be stunted in their spiritual growth and maturity because of the lack of faithfulness of their teachers. No new birth, no new converts, no growth or depth of maturity. No fruit. One of the most sobering things I’ve heard as a pastor was from Alexander Strauch paraphrasing Matthew 10:24 “it is rare for a church to mature spiritually beyond the maturity of their pastor”
Offerings- Not every part of an animal offered up for sacrifice makes it too the altar. According to Ex 29 some parts the animals are so unclean, including the entrails and dung, they are to be taken out of the presence of the altar, out of the city, put on a pile of ashes and garbage and burned. God is going to smear this crap on these priest faces like rubbing a dog’s nose in an accident. They will be ritually/literally unclean. They will then be taken away with the crap because their half-hearted service is as offensive to God as fresh animal poop. They have the same status as the dung and will suffer the same consequences. Their place is not in the holy clean sanctuary of the living God but the rotting burnpile of feces. There could be no greater condemnation given to these priests who have failed to honor God, despised his name, and brought crap for worship. God will not, cannot, be shamed so he heaps filthy shame back on the priests.
Theses curses are serious and are potentially permanent when considering being discarded to a burn pile. The seriousness of these curses should come as no surprise to the priests. God is not acting in an unexpected or unpredictable fashion. He is giving his just response to the priest breaking their covenant with God.
V 4-7 Covenant
The priests were not just chosen people but they were a covenant people. God made a promise to the priest he would work though them to bless the people and they would respond with pure worship. While this started with Moses and Aaron out of the tribe of Levi, Malachi is referring specifically to the “covenant of peace” God made with Aaron’s grandson Phinehas. Roughly1000 years before Malachi, the Israelites were practicing rampant idolatry and sexual immorality with the pagan Moabites and Midianites. God responds by beginning to decimating their camp with a plague. Unfazed, one guy continues in sin with a Midianite women in the sight of the entire congregation and no one has the courage or zeal for God’s honor to do anything to stop it. Except Phinehas, who seeing no one responding grabs a spear and kills them both like a zealous idolatry assassin. Sin is purged, God’s wrath is stayed and the plague ends.
Num 25:10-13 10 And the Lord said to Moses, 11 “Phinehas the son of Eleazar, son of Aaron the priest, has turned back my wrath from the people of Israel, in that he was jealous with my jealousy among them, so that I did not consume the people of Israel in my jealousy. 12 Therefore say, ‘Behold, I give to him my covenant of peace, 13 and it shall be to him and to his descendants after him the covenant of a perpetual priesthood, because he was jealous for his God and made atonement for the people of Israel.’”
Phinehas was zealous for pure worship because he had fear and reverence for God that far exceeded any concern had of people not being happy with him. It translated to bold actions hoping to please God alone. He was willing to find his complete satisfaction in being in right relationship with God. His zeal for the Lord led to countless others receiving peace with God. The covenant is one of peace because there is protection from God’s wrath, but it is more than just no more hostility between men and God it is a covenant of Life. Life and Peace combine to express complete wholeness, well-being, health, long life, prosperity, safety and protection as benefits of being in covenant relationship with God. This is what is on the table! Despite the unfaithfulness of the people, despite the failure of the priest to honor God as they should He is still offering Life and Peace! What they’ve done deserves the crap heap of wrath yet God is exceedingly merciful and overwhelmingly gracious! The priest’s response, our response, is to be fear, honor, and awe for who God is and what he does. He gives life, we give worship, it’s that simple.
This covenant lays out specifics characteristics of what faithful leadership looks like and what it leads too.
Reverence (Heart) – God gave the priests life and peace so they would be completely captivated by Him and filled with such and awe they would be prompted and inspired to serve Him. When you know God is such a way that you revere Him and stand in awe of Him you cannot help but desire to obey Him. You cannot faithfully lead others to worship God if you are not first “standing in awe” of Him. This “fear of God” is expressed in an attitude of reverence and in obedience in accordance with His commands
True Instruction (Head) - Zeal for the Lord naturally leads to zeal for His Word. Leaders are storehouse of Gospel Truth and that knowledge is at their disposal. Leaders do not reject the knowledge of God’s revealed will, but have preserved it, keeping it intact, and so what they dispense is reliable and good and trustworthy. This leads people to seek instruction from them because they are not teaching their personal opinions or man’s ideas but God’s truth and instructions. Leaders are eager to teach and share what they know of God with others. They are not closed vaults they are open warehouses ready to dispense truth.
Walk (Hands) - Knowing God and knowing His word is meaningless if it doesn’t change the way you live. Leaders are to have an intimate relationship with God where they are not just following Him but “walking” with Him. This means godly conduct and character matters. A heart captivated by God and a head filled with His truth and instructions should lead to hands willingly acting in accordance to God’s will.
When leaders are in awe of God, love his work, and walk faithfully, the impact goes far beyond the individual. Worship of God by the leaders overflows and results in “many turning from iniquity”. People actually turn from sin AND turn towards God. Leaders should have concern for the spiritual wellbeing of the covenant people they lead because these people matter to God. The greatest thing leaders can do to positively impact those around them is remain faithful in their worship and obedience to God.
Your pastors are not perfect men but each of them would gladly tell you of the awe inspiring things God has done in their lives in the past decade or more. Likely each one could tell you something God has done in the last week that has captivated their attention. They are men who are eager to know, share, and teach God’s word. They are men who conduct themselves respectably both publically and privately. And they have genuine love affection and concern for the people God had graced us to lead. Part of our process of becoming pastors at Damascus Road is we write out person by person those who would be impacted if we had a significant moral failure starting with our families, our church, and our community. We do this to remind ourselves of the gravity of the responsibility to serve God by leading others and how the consequences for our failure would spread far beyond our individual lives.
The previous verses outline what a faithful leader is, does, and produces. Sadly we know this is not always the case. This last section shows what the consequences are when faithless leadership is not repented of. When offered true life and lasting peace these leaders have chosen to turn their backs on God and fallen off the prescribed path. The lack humility yet have an abundance of pride. Looking back to Ch1 v 13 when confronted by God about them despising His name they don’t respond with reverence or repentance they arrogantly snort back at God “What weariness this is” to have to do your service. They have lost a heart of worship and are now serving in joyless lifeless duty. Atheist Pastor in Tuffs University Study said:
“Here’s how I’m handling my job on Sunday mornings: I see it as play acting. I kind of see myself as taking on a role of a believer in a worship service, and performing. Because I know what to say. I know how to pray publicly. I can lead singing. I love singing. I don’t believe what I’m saying anymore in some of these songs. But I see it as taking on the role and performing. Maybe that’s what it takes for me to get myself through this, but that’s what I’m doing.”
My heart breaks for a church where is pastor is someone who is supposedly leading others in worship of a God he doesn’t believe in. Instead of his example causing many to turn from iniquity and to God, Malachi says pastors like that will cause many to stumble. In the NT Paul warns Timothy, a young pastor, of this possibility. 1 Tim 1:19 19 holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith, The effects of a leader’s sin or fall are both deep and wide. Paul describes the consequences leaders’ sin as a “shipwreck”. I don’t believe Paul chose that image of by accident. A shipwreck is very different than “boat wreck” or “car wreck” in that a ship either has valuable cargo, a significant amount of passengers, or a special/specific mission. Churches have all three, cargo being the witness of Gospel, passengers being the members of the church body, and a specific mission to GO and make disciples. In the case of a pastor’s “shipwreck” there are significant casualties and damage done to all three. Nearly all of us have some experience of a faithless pastor causing harm to a congregation and shame to the church.
Costa Concordia Jan 2012. Captian Francesco Schettino deviated from the prescribed route claiming he was more familiar with the waters then the charts. He did nothing to ask the harbor for help after hearing the collision. The captain was detained, with traces of cocaine in his system, on charges manslaughter in causing the shipwreck "owing to ... imprudence, negligence and incompetence" resulting in deaths of 32 people; abandoning the ship about 300 people "unable to fend for themselves"
Who is on your boat? What are the consequences, or who are the casualties if you shipwreck?
Christ on the Cross
While we should rightly strive to worship God and lead others more faithfully we have to remember who we are at our best. We are NOT a Phinehas! Or the ideal priest outlined in these verses. We are all covered in dung. None of us are worthy to approach the throne of God. Because of our sin we have all been separated from God so far we are cast to the dung pile. We are all on that pile. No matter what we've offered up dung pile is what we deserve and is where we belong. Some of us know we are on that pile right now and we want the filth, the stank, the disgustingness and the burning to just go away. Zech 3:3 talks about a high priest who stood in the presence of the angel of the lord wearing filthy robes. He didn’t realize how dirty he truly was. Some of us don’t believe we are in a pile of poop and have fooled ourselves in to believe that we are in a bed of roses. Either way we are stained and cannot clean ourselves enough to present ourselves before the King and Father worthy of our worship. Our only hope is Jesus diving into our pile grabbing a hold of us, cleaning us off, and holding us up to the father because he has bared the curse and shame of the pile in our place.
Hebrews 12:1-2 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
We will fail to lead and worship faithfully until we rely on Jesus as the faithful priest in our place. We are able to lead well only because he has lead us perfectly into the presence of the Father despite our failure.
Hebrews 4:15-16 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
We come to the communion table recognizing we need(ed) Jesus body and blood to cleans us of our sin
We give our tithes and offerings not hoping to appease the wrath of God but because Jesus already has.
We sing with joyful reverence and awe of the God who gives us life and peace through Jesus Christ.
1 Tim1:12-17 12 I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, 13 though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, 14 and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 15 The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. 16 But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. 17 To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.
More in Malachi | Rhetorical God
October 20, 2013God Refines | Malachi 2.17-3.5 (Snohomish)