Lord's Day Evening Meditations January 11, 2004

Malachi 2:1-10

"O Priests …This Is For You."

We have seen the Lord's heart expressing sorrow at the condition of His beloved people. Outwardly they were carrying on with the usual services, but inwardly they had grown cold and indifferent - they had left their first love. What a warning for us!

Before leaving chapter one, I want to look at verse 11. "For from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same My name shall be great … incense shall be offered … and a pure offering." Israel, the only nation in the world who had, and knew, the one true God, slighted Him, and refused to give Him what was rightfully His. Well, if they wouldn't, the heathen would. Who are the heathen? That is ourselves; those who previously had no knowledge of God but who now know Him, love Him, and desire to honor His name. How wonderful it is that, thousands of miles from the land of Israel, and hundreds of years later, there are those who know that Name, who gather to it, and who offer to Him the incense of worship and praise, while Israel remains in the darkness of ignorance and unbelief!

But there is something else here. God will have His Son to be honored and adored. If we don't do it, then someone else will, to our shame and loss. When the Pharisees tried to stop the praise that was being given to the Lord as He rode into Jerusalem, He said, "I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out." Luke 19:40. The Lord will have the praise that is due to Him; it is our privilege and responsibility to render it to Him now. If we don't, He will have it anyway from someone else, but we will lose the blessing of having done it.

We haven't in any way exhausted chapter one, but we must get on to chapter two where, in verses 1 - 10 the Lord speaks directly to the priests. "And now, O ye priests, this commandment is for you." Israel was composed of twelve tribes, of which one tribe, the tribe of Levi was chosen for the service of God. Out of that tribe one family was chosen, the family of Aaron, to be God's priests. The priests were the most privileged ones of all because they were the only ones who could come into the presence of God and set sacrifices before Him. This had been given to them as "a service of gift," a special favor. Besides, as the people could not come into the immediate presence of God, the priest was the intermediary, appearing before God on behalf of the people.

The New Testament teaches us that today every true believer is a priest, and has the privilege to come directly to God through the only mediator, the Lord Jesus Christ. It is wrong now to set a class of men, as priests, between God and the people. Believers are privileged to come directly to Him and present their praise and worship through Jesus Christ.

The privileges given to the priests, the sons of Aaron, had responsibilities attached. When the Lord spoke to them, they were to "hear," to "lay it to heart," and "to give glory" to His name (v. 2), but they had gone wrong, as we saw in chapter one. Should we not lay to heart the things the Lord says to us? Read Isa. 66:1 - 2. See the greatness of the One Who speaks in verse one, and the response that He looks for in those whom He speaks to: "To this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at My word."

Verses 2 and 3 speak of serious consequences for these priests because they would not take "to heart" what the Lord had to say to them. Verses 4 - 6 go back to the time when Levi had been "on the Lord's side" on the occasion of the making of the golden calf at Mt. Sinai. When Moses came down from the mountain and saw the calf and the people dancing, he stood in the gate of the camp and said, "Who is on the Lord's side? let him come unto me. And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together unto him." Exod. 32:26. It was a difficult and costly thing to be on the Lord's side at that moment, but Levi proved to be faithful, and the Lord rewarded him with the privilege of being chosen for the service of God. We are called to be on the Lord's side today, but it is to take the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God, and to use it firstly on ourselves. Levi has a bright record, in verses 5 and 6 of what he had once been.

Verse 7 tells us one special duty that the priests had - to learn the law of God, and to teach it to the people. They were not only the representatives of the people before God, but they were also God's representatives to the people - "the messenger of the Lord of hosts." As those who, today, have the blessing of knowing the Lord, of being near to Him, and have some knowledge of His word, we have a responsibility to the many who know nothing of Him. Read 2 Cor. 3: 1 - 3. "Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ," Paul wrote to the Corinthians, and to us. The Bible reveals the Person of Christ, but people don't read the Bible. What do they have to read then, to show them Christ? They have the believer. An unsaved person should be able to observe a believer and learn in his or her life and ways, all about the Lord. When He was here, the Lord Jesus said, "He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father." All that He did and said was a perfect demonstration of the Father. Now it should be true of a believer that, "He that has seen me has seen the Lord." None of us would dare to say that, because we know how very far short we come of it, yet it is something that should, and could be. Not concerning the Person of the Lord, but concerning the gospel, someone has written,

You are writing a gospel, a chapter each day,

By things that you do, and words that you say;

Men read what you write, whether faithless or true;

Say, what is the gospel according to you?

It is not that you are to get up in the morning with a great burden on you as you think, "I must be like Christ today." That would only end in failure. When Moses came down from Mount Sinai the second time, his face shone (he didn't know it) because he had spent time in the Lord's presence and had seen "the glory of the Lord." He had said to the Lord, "I beseech Thee, show me Thy glory," and the Lord had answered, "I will make all My goodness pass before thee." Exod. 33:18 - 19. So we read in 2 Cor. 3:18, "But we all, with open face beholding (as in a glass should be omitted) the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord." Seeing the glory of the Lord is not seeing some brilliant light that dazzles our natural eyes; it is seeing all the traits of His character, such as His love, His patience, His compassion, His sympathy, His goodness, His holiness, etc. as we find Him in His Word. As we are occupied with these things that we find in Him (they are some of His glories), we, imperceptibly to ourselves, become more like Him. As we meditate on His patience, we become more patient, as we consider His sympathy, we become more sympathetic, and so, without effort, and unconsciously to ourselves, we become more like Christ, and others will be able to see Him in us. What a blessing!

Verses 5 and 6 in our chapter tell us what Levi had once been; verse 7 tells us what the Lord wanted His priests to be; and, verses 8 -10 what the priests in Malachi's time had become. The people looked at the priests, God's representatives, and despised them and were stumbled by them. Sadly, this has been repeated over and over again in Christendom. Take, for example, some preachers who were known to millions as preaching Christ, and then were caught in some immoral scandal. People shake their heads and say, "See, they're all just hypocrites!" What a dishonor to the Lord's name, and how many have been turned away from even wanting to hear the gospel. Paul wrote to the Jews, "The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentile through you." Rom. 2:24. Well, we can't control the actions of others, but we are responsible for our own. May our Saviour's love constrain us to honor Him at all times! S.L.