[June 26]—Foul-mouthed Priests

Malachi 2:1-9

            God’s system of leadership and authority is really really different from the way the world and other religions work. For example, I’d like to contrast the God of the Bible with Allah of the Koran. Mohammed was his prophet, so over and over you see in the Koran and in other stories how Allah told him that he (Mohammed) wasn’t under the same rules as the rest of humanity. For example, Muslims are officially restricted to (at most) four wives, but Mohammed—so conveniently—was told by Allah that he could have as many wives and concubines as he wished.
            This is completely the opposite of God’s system as stated in the Bible. Nowhere do you see leadership given special privileges. Nowhere do you see leaders given a pass under a different standard from what the hoi polloi are under. Quite the opposite: Over and over and over God makes it clear that his standards for leaders are far more stringent than for the common people. I could cite dozens of examples, but here’s one you might have missed. I have to give R. C. Sproul credit for this one. In the Torah God accuses the people of Israel of rebelling against his directions and leadership “ten times”—which might be literal or just a way of saying “too many times to count.” For these crimes, they were excluded from entering Israel and were sentenced to die out in the desert. Moses, their leader, is recorded to have screwed up one time. One time he lost his temper and flagrantly disobeyed the Lord’s express command. For this one screw-up, he was also sentenced to never enter the Promised Land, to die 40 years later on the very borders. For this one transgression, he was given the same punishment as the people who'd transgressed on multiple occasions.
            That’s illustrated in today’s passage. Malachi—under the inspiration of the Spirit—has a lot to say in condemnation of his society. The entire nation—or the majority of them—were turning away from the Lord. But first off he starts with the priests. These were the spiritual leaders. They were the main representatives for the people before the Lord. But more than this, they also, in a sense, represented the Lord before the people. They were expressly commanded to teach the people his ways, his teachings in the Torah. They were to pronounce the official blessings of the Lord on the people in his name.
            But they were completely failing his expectations. As such, the Lord said that he would “send a curse” on them, and “curse [their] blessings.” If a leader screws up, the blessings he’s supposed to convey turn into curses. What were they doing wrong?
            By implication (in contrast to their ancestor Levi), they weren’t teaching the people God’s ways. We already know from the 1st chapter they were accepting unacceptable sacrifices from the people. This showed a disregard, a total despising of God’s name, in stark contrast to Levi who revered the Lord and “stood in awe of [his] name.” Levi “turned many from sin.” They “caused many to stumble.” Levi believed and followed God’s standards, which apply equally to the king all the way down to the lowest peasant or slave. They showed “partiality in matters of the law.”
            And the Lord was very very angry at this. They had publicly flouted his standards, and he would return the favor by publicly humiliating them. They would learn to regret playing these games with the Almighty. As we mentioned yesterday, “God cannot be mocked.”
            So what should we take from this? I think this passage says something to leaders. If anyone reading this has been called into a position of spiritual leadership, take care. His standards for you are, if anything, higher than for those you lead.
            But if you’re saying “But I’m not called to any type of leadership in the church,” then number one I’d question that premise. I’m pretty sure God’s called you into some type of leadership in some area. But leaving that aside for a moment, if you are a believer in Jesus, you are a priest. Peter said so: “[You] also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” Every true believer represents God before men, and men before God. So all this stuff we’ve talked about? Yes, it applies to you too.

Father God, it is an awe-inspiring, rather frightening responsibility to which you’ve called me. I so desperately need your empowering grace here. Please. 

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