Return to Faithful Instruction
Please read Malachi 2:1-9 in your Bible. I used the NLT to prepare these remarks.
Those of you who are old enough to do so, picture Jackie Gleason in the role A number of years ago, a bus driver brought his bus to a stop. He turned to his passengers and said, “Folks, we’ll be stopping here for twenty minutes. This line makes it a strict policy never to recommend an eating place by name, but if anybody wants to see me while we’re here, I’ll be eating a wonderful T-bone steak with French fries at Tony’s first-class, spotlessly clean diner directly across the street.” With that remark, he slowly sauntered into the tiny but tidy restaurant.
Sometimes we need someone to point the way for us. We need a guide who’s been where we want to go and who can lead us there. In the Old Testament times, the men who were supposed to guide people to God were the priests. It was their duty to interpret and apply the word of God into the lives of the people. They were worship leaders and teachers, mediators who filled the gap between God and His people.
In the New Testament times in which we live, we who believe have Jesus as our Mediator. We have no need of a priest to serve that function because we are all priests. We have been given the Holy Spirit to equip us to serve God in this way. Jesus is our High Priest and we serve under Him.
We are not just priests for ourselves, but we are priests for people who do not yet believe. We are the ones God has chosen to pass along the truth to them. Everything we’re about to read about the responsibilities of the priests is to be true of us too. This passage applies directly to us.
We must not resist the truth; we must hear and obey God.
1. Heed God’s warning. (1-4)
The warning, in this case, was aimed at the priests. In Old Testament law, these were the men who were supposed to mediate God to the people. (We’ll explain below what “mediate” meant.) In the New Testament, every one of us is our own priest, so these principles apply directly to all believers.
These priests received a warning because they were guilty of not honoring God. They were the ones who were offering the defective sacrifices we studied last week. Worse, they may have been guilty of thievery. They might have taken a good animal for sacrifice, substituted a defective one, and kept the healthy animal.
The seriousness of this offense against God is revealed in the punishment threatened. God turned His BLESSINGS of them into CURSES. (2) In a truly gross way, God threatened to punish both the priests and their DESCENDANTS. (3) It sounds awful to have MANURE rubbed in your face, but it’s actually worse than that: in the original language, the word MANURE includes the organs, the insides of the sacrifices that were not offered to God but were cast aside as trash. This would be a bloody, poopy mess. This is about the worst kind of rubbing someone’s nose in it! To make a bad situation worse, God will finish by throwing them on the manure pile.
The purpose of the punishment was to maintain the covenant between God and the priests. God accomplished this by calling them to repentance. Punishment is a teaching method that calls attention to a wrong and motivates repentance. Repentance and forgiveness are the “repair” work we do on all relationships, including our relationship with God.
2. Show reverence for God in the way you live. (5-6)
God’s part of the covenant was to BRING LIFE AND PEACE to God’s people. (5) As mediators between God and His people, the Levites were to pass along the divine gifts of LIFE AND PEACE to the people. Because they were unrepentant sinners, they failed in passing God’s gifts along to the people.
The people’s part of the covenant was to worship God and obey His laws. At various times in the history of Israel, the priests and the people were faithful - they did REVERENCE God’s name, standing in AWE of Him. (5) At various times in the history of Israel, the priests were faithful - they did their job. (6) They did pass on to the people THE TRUTH OF THE INSTRUCTIONS THEY RECEIVED from God. They were also careful to live moral lives; not lying or cheating but living GOOD AND RIGHTEOUS LIVES by walking with God. Because of this, they were successful in their vocation, turning MANY people FROM LIVES OF SIN. You see, not everything in Malachi is bad news!
3. Faithfully teach the truth. (7-9)
A primary duty of the priests was to PRESERVE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD. (7) The people should be able to go to a priest for INSTRUCTION. Priests - like angels - served God as His messengers.
Knowing this, we can understand that the worst failure of these priests was that they disobeyed God and taught others to do the same. (8) In contrast to verses five and six, the current set of priests did wrong in the sight of the Lord. They had LEFT GOD’S PATHS. Their INSTRUCTIONS CAUSE MANY TO STUMBLE INTO SIN. The result was they had CORRUPTED THE COVENANT God had made with the Levites. This is a serious charge: they did not do their part of the agreement with God.
A punishment for these unfaithful priests was being DESPISED AND HUMILIATED IN THE EYES OF THE PEOPLE. (9) Part of God’s purpose in their humiliation was so the people would not go to them for INSTRUCTION (7). The people could not trust them to tell the truth, so God acted to drive a wedge between the evil priests and the people they were supposed to be serving. They demonstrated they were not trustworthy in their disobedience of God and showed favoritism in the discharge of their duties.
We must not resist the truth; we must hear and obey God.
Here’s one final thing we need to remember about the OT priests: they were all members of a single family. They were all descendants of Jacob’s son Levi. Not all the sons of Levi were priests, but only sons of Levi could become priests.
The same can be said of us. We who believe are all God’s children. We’ve been adopted into His family. What’s different is that everyone in our family is a priest.
We are called to speak God’s words and live God’s life in this world so others may hear and see God in us and join our faithful family. This is our calling and sacred duty: to PRESERVE THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD against all the violence this sin-sick world wants to do to the truth. God commands you to take your priesthood seriously and exercise it righteously.
“Return to Faithful Instruction” a sermon delivered by Rev. Travis Peterson at Olney Southern Baptist Church, Olney, IL, on January 18, 2009.
https://sermons.faithlife.com/sermons/103867-the-priesthood-of-all-believers, from 7700 Sermon Illustrations, retrieved on 28january2022.