Apaty or Piety | Lessons from Malachi | William J. Stewart
In Matthew 21, Jesus spoke of a man who asked his sons to work in his vineyard. One son refused, but afterward changed his mind. The other son said to his father, “I go, sir,” but he did not go. Jesus then taught the Pharisees that they were like the latter son, for though they claimed to serve God, they never actually put their hands to do the work of God. This was not a new problem. In Malachi 2, the prophet rebuked the spiritual leaders of Judah for not keeping their commitment to the Lord.
In verse 2, the LORD cautions them:
…if you will not take it to heart, to give glory to My name, I will send a curse upon you, and I will curse your blessings. Yes, I have cursed them already, because you do not take it to heart.
How sad that the Levitical priests of Malachi’s day did not have a heart to glorify God before the people. Of course they were not the first to fail in this. Recall Nadab and Abihu, sons of Aaron, were struck dead by fire from the LORD because they did not regard God as holy or glorify Him before the people (Leviticus 10:1-3). If those who are representatives of God, who lead others in spiritual service fail to have the proper respect and interest in the things of God, what will happen to the rest of the people? If you and I, as the children of God today, have a lax attitude about the Bible, about worship, about doctrine, about faithfulness, about morality, etc., how can we ever expect to lead others to Christ? Or maybe that is part of the problem—do we realize it is our duty, all of our duties, to lead people to Jesus?
Several times in Malachi 2, the prophet makes mention of the covenant. The tribe of Levi had been chosen to serve before God as priests; this honour fell to subsequent generations by their lineage. Malachi describes Levi as one who had “the law of truth” in his mouth, who focused on justice & peace, and who turned the people away from sin, for he knew and spoke God’s word to them (Malachi 2:6-7). Malachi could not describe his contemporaries as such:
…you have departed from the way; You have caused many to stumble at the law. You have corrupted the covenant of Levi. (2:8)
What good are priests who don’t know God’s word? For the lips of a priest should keep knowledge (v 7), but they didn’t. Do we? All Christians are described as a royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9). Do we have the knowledge of God’s word on our lips, so we can share it with people (Colossians 4:6; 1 Peter 3:15), or do we, like they, take lightly our responsibility to be students and teachers of the living word?
Of the house of Eli, the Lord said:
…those who honor Me I will honor, and those who despise Me shall be lightly esteemed. (1 Samuel 2:30)
This was also the case with the recipients of Malachi’s prophesy. Since they despised God and His word, He also took away the respect of the people from them (v 9). The Bible tells us to live and speak in such a way that opponents will have nothing evil to say about us (Titus 2:8; 1 Peter 2:12; 3:16). But, if we do not take our commit to God seriously, our reputation will be damaged, the world will rightly label us hypocrites, and our erratic walk of faith may distract people from the power of the gospel.
Since the priests did not keep the knowledge of God’s word on their lips, and thus the people were not hearing pure doctrine, the moral fabric of the nation began to fall. Some had married pagan women (v 11-12). Furthermore, they were divorcing their wives for no cause (v 14-16), which likely accounts for the tears on the altar (v 13). And finally, they minimized wickedness, basically saying that the LORD was OK with it, and called into question the justice of God (v 17). If God’s people do not take a strong stand on Scripture, they will find themselves on a slippery slope leading to more and more immorality, both in the world and among the saints. Jesus said we don’t “…light a lamp and put it under a basket…” (Matthew 5:15), but that is the very thing we do if we call ourselves a Christian but are indifferent towards our duty as the people of God to live lives that “…prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:2).