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Yesterday we saw the command and the curse from Malachi 2:1-9. Today we continue with the covenant and the corruption of the priest.
III. A Covenant v4
After all of these curses come upon them, then they will know that God was the one who issued the command through Malachi. He says in verse 4, “Then you will know that I have sent this commandment to you, that My covenant may continue with Levi,” says the LORD of hosts.” They will receive this discipline from God in order that His covenant may continue with Levi. Notice the word “that” in verse 4. He is disciplining them because He wants His covenant to continue with them, but it can’t continue as it is, so He disciplines them. Out of that discipline they will come to know that He sent the command and will eventually repent and return. Out of that discipline His covenant will be able to continue with Levi. He is faithful to them and to His covenant promises and He will ensure that His covenant stands. We see this in the New Covenant with us as well. Hebrews 12:5-6 says, “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor faint when you are reproved by Him; for those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, and He scourges every son whom He receives.”
God is extremely serious about His covenants. He approached His covenant with Levi no differently. We read in verse 5, “My covenant with him was one of life and peace, and I gave them to him as an object of reverence; so he revered Me and stood in awe of My name.” This covenant was one of life, peace, and reverence. The word reverence here is placed alongside “stood in awe” which literally means “to be shattered.” The implication is that when Levi understood this covenant of life and peace he reverenced God and was broken into pieces. If we see the holiness of God and the sinfulness of ourselves and the mercy and grace of God in Christ, we will be broken into pieces! We will be spiritually shattered. If you get hit by a tractor trailer truck, you will be impacted, broken, and transformed. The gospel is more powerful than any tractor trailer truck on earth! We cannot encounter the gospel of life and peace without being impacted, broken, and transformed.
We read in verse 6, “True instruction was in his mouth and unrighteousness was not found on his lips; he walked with Me in peace and uprightness, and he turned many back from iniquity.” Levi was a faithful priest. True instruction was in his mouth. Unrighteousness did not come from his lips, but rather he turned many from their sin back to God. Verse 7 goes on, “For the lips of a priest should preserve knowledge, and men should seek instruction from his mouth; for he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts.” It is just logical that men should seek instruction from the priests since they are God’s messengers, literally in the Hebrew, malach. Yet, now we have a messenger, literally Hebrew malachi, coming to the messengers (malach) to rebuke them for failing to be faithful malach! Assuming Malachi was indeed the prophet’s name instead of his title, is it not ironic that God would send a man with a name which means “my messenger” to rebuke His messengers who were no longer faithful messengers like Levi? Being faithful to the Word of God is still priority in the New Covenant. Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 1:13-14, “Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. 14 Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you.” God’s covenant with Levi was one of life, peace, and reverence. It was one of faithfulness to the Word of God. Unfortunately, that was no longer the case in the days of Malachi.
IV. A Corrupt Priesthood v8-9
The priests of Malachi’s day did not reflect their fore-father, Levi. God made it clear through Malachi, “But as for you, you have turned aside from the way; you have caused many to stumble by the instruction; you have corrupted the covenant of Levi,” says the LORD of hosts. 9 “So I also have made you despised and abased before all the people, just as you are not keeping My ways but are showing partiality in the instruction” (verses 8-9). Their corruption was three-fold.
1. They Turned Aside from the Way v8a
First, the priests of Malachi’s day had turned out of God’s way. Verse 8 begins, “But as for you, you have turned aside from the way…” Their lives fell short of the standards of the truth that they were supposed to teach and model. They were not keeping God’s ways per verse 9: “So I also have made you despised and abased before all the people, just as you are not keeping My ways.”
2. They were Causing many to Stumble v8b
Not only did they turn out of God’s way, but they became stumbling blocks for the people by their faulty teaching. The second portion of verse 8 says, “you have caused many to stumble by the instruction.” How were they causing many to stumble by their instruction? The latter part of verse 9 gives some insight. We read, “you are not keeping My ways but are showing partiality in the instruction.” They were showing partiality in their teaching. That should not be surprising to us. Any priests who would give the Lord of Hosts the types of sacrifices that would leave them with the most money in their pocket would not flinch at giving the people the kind of teaching that will bring in the most money to their pockets. It was not uncommon, and is not uncommon, for teachers to play to their audience and say peace, peace when there is no peace! We read of this happening in Micah 3:11, “Her leaders pronounce judgment for a bribe, Her priests instruct for a price And her prophets divine for money. Yet they lean on the LORD saying, “Is not the LORD in our midst?” They were causing many to stumble by their greedy, partial preaching. This is a frightening accusation especially when you consider Jesus teaching in Mark 9:42: “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe to stumble, it would be better for him if, with a heavy millstone hung around his neck, he had been cast into the sea.”
3. They Corrupted the Covenant v8c-9
Not only did they turn out of God’s way and become stumbling blocks for the people by their faulty teaching, but they corrupted the covenant ordained by God Himself. They were supposed to be faithfully, and without partiality, judging the people. They were supposed to be interceding for the people and offering acceptable sacrifices for the people. Instead they were corrupting the covenant! So, God made them despised and abased. That would be an understatement when you consider that he threatened to spread refuse on their faces (v3).
The Lord of Hosts, by His very nature, demands honor from His people, disciplines His people, and keeps covenant with His people in spite of His people.
God had issued a very clear command. Honor my Name. If you fail to do so, and since you are failing to do so, I will send the curse upon you, cursing your blessings, your offspring, and your worship. They had corrupted the covenant of Levi and the priesthood and had caused many to stumble because of it! Can you imagine? Thank God we have a High Priest who is like us, yet not like us!