Last time we saw how, the returned exiles were not focused on what God had done for them as a nation, or His grace over their history. They were fixated on their pre-conceived ideas and misconceptions of what their post-exile return to the land should look like. God called them to remembrance of what He had done for them, using their brother nation as an example. Our first Healthy Heart Habit, coming from this passage, was to remember what God has done for us.
Just as they could relate to their past with Edom, God starts addressing this second issue with language they can relate to: “A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am a father, where is my honor? And if I am a master, where is my fear?” says the LORD of hosts to you, O priests, who despise my name.” (1:6)
God is addressing the PRIESTS in this statement. The priests of God, who were set apart for Him and His work, were no longer honouring Him, or fearing His name. Look at the repeated name God uses for Himself in this book: “LORD of hosts”. This can also be translated as “LORD of armies”. He isn’t some worthless, lifeless pagan god – He is the LORD of armies! He is worthy of their fear, He is worthy of their reverence and He is worthy of their honour. As we look at this book, ask yourself: “What does it mean to fear the Lord?” and “Why is He worthy of my fear?”
Why is it such a big deal that God defend His name? Why is He charging the people with despising it? In the Ancient Near East, a person’s name was intimately tied to their character. The Israelites had despised His name and so despised His character. We see throughout this passage evidence of how they despised Him – including snorting at the LORD of armies. Can you imagine snorting at God? The priests of God – the ones meant to be serving Him – were belittling Him! Their hearts were completely wrong towards God.
Look at 1:7-8 and take note of some of the things the priests were doing to pollute His name.
[Jot some down if it helps you to focus].
Moving into chapter 2, God is still addressing the priests and their disdain for Him. God now brings the conditions to the priests if they do not bring Him His due in honour (2:1-2):
- “This command is for you…”
- “If you do not listen…”
- “If you do not take it to heart…”
He also reminded them that they are in covenant with Him, and there were consequences for breaking this covenant. This is significant because it showed the people clearly that they were still under the Covenant with God – there were still curses for disobedience and blessings for obedience. Be sure to look at the theme of covenants in this book.
In 2:4 we hear mention of God’s covenant with Levi. There is no specific mention of a covenant with Levi until Jeremiah (chapter 33); however, we do know that Levi was a blessed tribe as they were set apart for God. You can read more about this in the following verses:
- Exodus 32:24-29
- Numbers 3:12-13
- Deuteronomy 33:8-11 (Moses’ blessings on the tribes)
- Jeremiah 33:14-26
The above verses show us that the Levites were His chosen servants; they were dedicated to Him; they were to be holy and to give their lives in service to Him. The Levites were presenting abhorrent offerings to God, and, by doing so, risking a return into exile. As God addresses them in this section, He calls them to come back to their former dedication, serving Him with willing hearts.
In this passage what He desires from His priests. Read again Malachi 2:5-8, and list the characteristics of priests who pleased God.
[Have you made your list yet? Give it a go!]
Note also that amongst this list, we see the priests called “messengers”. This is the second reference to “messengers” in this book. Here the reference shows that priests were not to speak their own words, but those of the Lord.
God was looking for priests who will teach with integrity, passing on the truth that they know. The original hearers were called out for causing many to stumble by their instruction. This shows us that true priests of God are to live by the truth they know.
So what’s the application for today? What can we learn from the priests?
We see that the priests were allowing unrighteous offerings to be sacrificed. They did not hold God in honour or in fear. Have a read of Matthew 15:8-11. This leads to our second Healthy Heart Habit:
Healthy Heart Habit #2 = Honour and fear the Lord, serving Him as a true priest
- Ask yourself: What does it mean to honour the Lord? How do you walk in fear of Him?
God has called you His royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9).
- Are you walking in a way that is honouring to Him as His priest?
- Are you walking in holiness and uprightness?
- Are you holding to His peace and the life we have in Christ?
- Will you stand firm in His ways?
- Are you speaking truth?
Challenge: Do not doubt that you are a priest of the Most High God and live accordingly! Speak the truth. Walk in holiness. Pray that His righteousness will shine forth from your life. (And maybe whilst praying, bake some heart-shaped cookies? ;))
When we come back we’ll get into the text looking at the next issue that God addresses:
Issue #3 Israel, a polluted people, ask: “Why does He not (accept our offerings)?” (2:10-2:16)