April 3, 2011

GOD’S FINAL JUDGMENT OF OLD TESTAMENT ISRAEL.

(Malachi 2:1-10)


Part of the Saxon Pericope Gospel list series, preached at a Sunday Morning service

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost be with you all. Amen. Our text is recorded in the 2nd chapter of Malachi, the 1st through the 10th verse, reading as follows:

Dear fellow redeemed sinners, redeemed by the precious blood of God’s only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, that we may share in heaven with Him. Lent is a season of personal inspection. It applies to all, pastors and people alike. If we not do so, then God must examine us. Sadly, often our major flaws are all too obvious, and little effort is needed to discover them. Initially this text was addressed to priests in the late Old Testa-ment times, but we shall see that it includes all who allege themselves to be believers. This message is delivered by the Messiah through the last Old Testament prophet, Malachi. He declares –
GOD’S FINAL JUDGMENT OF OLD TESTAMENT ISRAEL.
I. There is a threat of disobedience and a curse; then a
II. Plea for obedience and peace; and finally, we have an
III. Application to all people.
I
We begin with the threat of disobedience bringing about a curse. Initially God addresses the priests of Malachi’s time: And now, O ye priests, this commandment is for you. Malachi speaks of their misbehavior. God has witnessed many abominations under their leadership. Obviously it will not stop but only continue to get worse and worse. Thus Malachi brings them a warning from God that He is well aware of what is going on. They should not fool themselves that they are getting away with anything. His longsuffering and His mercy must finally come to a close. The previous chapter catalogs some of their offenses. For example, Numbers (23:3, 9, 11,17, 26) gives specifications to offer up yearlings without spot or blemish, etc. However the priests now give pathetic sacrifices. They would drive in or drag in any old cow that was still breathing (1:7-8), and proclaime such animals fine for sacrifice to God. Yes, at Jesus’ time the authorities made it extremely difficult to bring in fine animals, but if bought from their licensed vendors any old scraggly beast would be found perfectly acceptable. They played favorites regarding persons (1:9). The only time they would offer up anything was when they got money first. Thus the poor had little chance.
For all this the priests merit a curse. “If ye will not hear, and if ye will not lay it to heart, to give glory unto my name,” saith the LORD of hosts, “I will even send a curse upon you, and I will curse your blessings: yea, I have cursed them already, because ye do not lay it to heart. Behold, I will corrupt your seed, and spread dung upon your faces, even the dung of your solemn feasts; and one shall take you away with it.” Despite their wicked doings God has continually blessed them with great temporal blessings. But these things can also be twisted into a curse. Thus rich food may give gout. The fast car may lead to a crippling accident. To show off expensive jewelry may well attract a mugger. So these blessings may be turned into curses. There is already a loss of prestige. God notes in verse nine: “Therefore have I also made you contemptible and base before all the people, according as ye have not kept my ways, but have been partial in the law.” The people are not blind; one can only fool some of the people some of the time, not all of the time. The people have seen through their actions and holy pretense. The Lord is not in their heart, even when they pretend to do things properly outwardly. They want to be held highly by men and but God has now made them contemptible before the people. This pride was a problem long before the Pharisees whom Jesus judged guilty of wanting the praises of men (Matt. 6:5; 23:5). There will be a spiritual loss. They endanger their own souls by doing these things. Can one look up to a God who lets people get away with such behavior? It is hard to respect such a God as holy and just if He lets such continue. However, God does not want even these priests to perish. Thus He sends Malachi with this severe message. He gives them opportunity to repent and receive pardon.
II
Next we have a plea for obedience that they may repent ant receive peace. “And ye shall know that I have sent this commandment unto you, that my covenant might be with Levi,” saith the LORD of hosts. “My covenant was with him of life and peace.” God speaks of the Levites at Moses’ time. He appeals to a lesson from history which they well know. God is a holy and zealous Lord. At Moses’ command the Levites slew the idolaters of the golden calf (Ex. 32:26ff). Later the Levites were obedient to His laws and instructions. “I gave them to him for the fear wherewith he feared me, and was afraid before my name. The law of truth was in his mouth, and iniquity was not found in his lips: he walked with me in peace and equity, and did turn many away from iniquity.” Levi and his descendants were loyal to the Lord. “For the priest’s lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek the law at his mouth: for he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts.” That is their job. They are supposed to be messengers of the LORD to the people. At first they seriously studied the Law and applied it rightly. They passed on the truth faithfully without charge.
They are then to learn from the LORD’S response to Levi and the faithful. God provided for all their needs throughout the centuries. The descendants of Levi did not receive a portion of land as the other tribes, but instead for their work’s sake received income from the other people. God protected the Levites. Yes, they were greatly respected by all the people, for they knew that they were right with the Lord. They had peace of conscience with God and offered that peace which passes all understanding (Phil. 4:7). At last God held out to them the glorious prize of heaven. This message and pledge, however, do not concern only the prophets and priests at Malachi’s time. Thus we learn of its –
III
Application to all. “But ye are departed out of the way; ye have caused many to stumble at the law.” They have departed in doctrine. They teach error. So Jesus scolded about bringing in the traditions of men (Matt. 15:9). Their rules were often actually contrary to God’s Law (Matt. 5). The Pharisees by making their own laws as necessary for salvation make the promise of none effect (Rom. 4:14). They give the impression that one is saved by being good like the Pharisees rather than by the grace of God. Some are supporters of error or errorists. Frankly, every leader needs followers. Followers are enablers of these false priests. Malachi goes on: “Ye have corrupted the covenant of Levi,” saith the LORD of hosts. “Therefore have I also made you contemptible and base before all the people, according as ye have not kept my ways, but have been partial in the law.” Yes, they would cause many to stumble. That was initially the direct doing of the teachers of the Law. But it may also apply to parents. Do they make their children to stumble by their words? Do they mislead them by inconsistent actions, telling them one thing while doing another? What about church members in dealings with the public? By our behavior we may cause them to disdain our Lord rather than desire to learn more about our good and gracious God. Indeed, priests and parents, pastor and people, all have sinned and come short of God’s high standards (Rom. 3:23).
Malachi ends: Have we not all one father? hath not one God created us? why do we deal treacherously every man against his brother, by profaning the covenant of our fathers? Malachi is speaking here to his fellow Jews. Are they not all created by one God? Yes, they were all created by the only God. Do they not all have one father, share father Abraham’s faith in the Messiah? All believers are called a royal priesthood, an holy nation, by Peter in the New Testament (1 Pet. 2:9). God is no respecter of persons (Acts 19:34). If they sin like those priests, then He must punish them, too, or become unjust. As said at the start, Lent is intended to be a season of personal inspection. When we do so, we find that we have sinned much and in many ways. But Lent also stresses that we have a Savior, God’s own Son, who came to keep the Law perfectly, to pay our punishment for failures and faults, that through Him we may live eternally. We are to turn to God for mercy and forgiveness, for that is the only way to heaven. Then we receive the same pardon and peace once given to the Levites and offered to the disobedient priests. May we through faith in that blessed Savior enjoy eternal life with our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

HYMNS: 155, 326, 342, 315*, 365
Gloria Dei – Hood River, OR
April 3, 2011