Malachi 2:1-9 1 “And now this admonition is for you, O priests. 2 If you do not listen, and if you do not set your HEART to honor my name,” says the LORD Almighty, “I will send a curse upon you, and I will curse your blessings. Yes, I have already cursed them, because you have not set your HEART to honor me. 3 “Because of you I will rebuke your descendants; I will spread on your faces the offal from your festival sacrifices, and you will be carried off with it. 4 And you will know that I have sent you this admonition so that my covenant with Levi may continue,” says the LORD Almighty. 5 “My covenant was with him, a covenant of life and peace, and I gave them to him; this called for reverence and he revered me and stood in awe of my name. 6 True instruction was in his mouth and nothing false was found on his lips. He walked with me in peace and uprightness, and turned many from sin. 7 “For the lips of a priest ought to preserve knowledge, and from his mouth men should seek instruction–because he is the messenger of the LORD Almighty. 8 But you have turned from the way and by your teaching have caused many to stumble; you have violated the covenant with Levi,” says the LORD Almighty. 9 “So I have caused you to be despised and humiliated before all the people, because you have not followed my ways but have shown partiality in matters of the law.”
Kids, I am so glad to have you in our service this morning, and I am going to ask for your help. In five different places, where I hope we are hearing and receiving what God wants us to hear and receive, I am going to ask you to affirm and support what I have said by yelling out, “Preach it, Sister.” Your parents and grandparents can help, too. I would like to practice to make sure we all know how it is going to work, ok? When I count to three, I want all of the K-5th graders and the adults with them to yell out, “Preach it, Sister!” Let’s try it.
When we think about the heart we think about it in a literal sense-how it beats inside our chest or how it pumps blood throughout our body. Perhaps when we think about the heart we think about the feeling of love that we associate with the heart. But for ancient Hebrews, the heart and images of the heart meant so much more than these two ideas. For the Hebrew, the heart was everything. The heart was the entire person. The heart was the seat of a person’s will. Everything was determined in a person’s heart. The heart was what guided a person’s life. The heart was where a person’s thoughts were believed to be cultivated. The heart housed a person’s affection. To have a person’s heart meant to have them completely—mind, will and affection.
No wonder God talks so much about the heart. Deuteronomy 6:4-6 4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.
We are to love God with our entire hearts which means loving Him with our mind, will, and affection. God understands that when He has our hearts, He has our all. The priests in Malachi’s day had strayed. Their hearts no longer belonged to God, and as God’s prophet, Malachi had to address it. Now, before you tune me out because you think this is a Word for the priests of Malachi’s day, let me remind you what God says if you in I Peter 2. He calls you and me a royal priesthood. We are the people He is concerned about in this moment. This Word wasn’t just for the priests of Malachi’s time, but it is a word for all who name the name of Jesus as Scripture is clear that we are priests unto the Lord.
How do we know if our hearts have strayed from God? Let’s ask ourselves some questions from this passage of Scripture:
Do you want to honor the name of the Lord through your life? If not, you need to return your heart to the Lord. (Vs. 2)
When we are living to promote our names instead of God’s name, we have a heart problem.
1-2-3-”Preach it, Sister!”
I know of someone whose major life goal was to make enough money to build a building at The Ohio State University and to have it named after him. That is what motivated him. He wanted to leave his mark, his name there for future generations to see. He was living to honor his name.
Perhaps another level question to ask is, “Are we seeking to build God’s Kingdom or our own?” What is our emphasis? What drives us? The priests were to be living with a God-consciousness, with a preoccupation to advance God’s name. It wasn’t happening. God was offended. His holiness, His character was offended, and what God said next in verse 3 graphically and dramatically revealed just how offended He was. Look at the second part of verse 3:
I will spread on your faces the offal from your festival sacrifices, and you will be carried off with it.
Not wanting to be too gross and graphic here, I am going to attempt to describe what God was saying. When animals were sacrificed there would be leftover animal waste, animal refuse or waste material, or as one commentator called it, “dung” that would be taken outside of the area of sacrifice and would be burned. (Is everyone with me?) Instead of it being taken outside and burned, God was saying to the priests, “I’m going to take over this leftover matter and rub it in your faces. I’m going to take what you have given me, the dung from your leftover sacrifices, the sacrifices you didn’t want or consider to be valuable—and I am going to smear it on your face. You have given me the worst of the worst, now let’s see how you like having it rubbed in your face.”
Now, that sounds juvenile or like God is playing some kind of junior high game, but if and when that yucky stuff would have been rubbed on the priests faces, they would have been made ceremonially unclean according to the Law. That is a big deal. That meant they would have had to leave the Tabernacle. They would have been cast out of God’s presence. And to be cast away from God was to forfeit God’s blessings.
This was the level of disrespect that the priests were displaying for God. They were treating Him with such terrible disrespect, and God used this dramatic illustration of how He would treat them back to get them to see the level of their offense. Listen, to have “offal” on your face would be “awful” for many reasons, but to be cast away from God’s presence would be the worst possible thing any person could face.
1-2-3! “Preach it, Sister!”
Honoring God’s name has to be the priority of our hearts. If we are living for self, if we are just giving lip-service to a relationship with God, we are dishonoring His name, and we need to return our hearts to Him. The blessed life is the life with God at the center of our hearts.
Do you enjoy abundant life and peace with God? If not, you need to return your heart to the Lord. (Vs. 5)
Look at verse 5 again: “My covenant was with him, a covenant of life and peace, and I gave them to him; this called for reverence and he revered me and stood in awe of my name.
This verse tells us that when our hearts are fixed on revering the Lord and when we live in honor and awe of His name, we can expect to enjoy life and peace. Joy and peace transcend circumstance. Joy and peace can be present even in the midst of the storm. This is a promise or covenant God makes with His people. How is your life and peace with God today? Do you enjoy abundant life and peace?
When we allow our hearts to drift away from the Lord and give them to the things of the world, we forfeit the blessings of abundant life and peace. David prayed in Psalm 86:11, “Teach me your way, O LORD, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.” He made the correlation between having a heart devoted to God and a heart that honors the Lord’s name. I like this phrase, “undivided heart” because when I hear it, I think of “undivided attention.” I think of focus. I think of hitting the target. I think of being all-in. I like the idea of giving God our undivided all. That is what He wants and that it what leads to us truly enjoying life.
When we are chasing so many different things at once, it will be difficult, if not impossible, to succeed at all of them. Think of one of the most hectic week you have had recently. Did you feel yourself being pulled in many directions? Did you find it hard to remember everything you were supposed to remember? Were you easily distracted when you were trying to focus on a project at work? Did you run low on sleep? Were you stressed about getting everything done? Did some things have to go undone? Did you feel pressured and squeezed? Were you short-tempered and cranky? Or were you abounding in peace and joy during that time? When we do too much, when we are in a constant state of pursuing too many things at once, we will fail to do some of those things well. Spiritually speaking, chasing after multiple things for contentment, meaning, and fulfillment will result in us feeling stretched, stressed, overburdened and fragile rather than cause us to experience abundant life and peace. We need to pray for an undivided heart which will enable us to pursue only those things that God has for us because the things that God has for us will lead to life and peace.
Do you love and hold fast to the Word of God? If not, you need to return your heart to the Lord. (Vs. 6-7)
Malachi 2:6-7 6 True instruction was in his mouth and nothing false was found on his lips. He walked with me in peace and uprightness, and turned many from sin. 7 “For the lips of a priest ought to preserve knowledge, and from his mouth men should seek instruction–because he is the messenger of the LORD Almighty.
We cannot be Christians in name only. We cannot claim the name of Jesus and live any way we want to live. You cannot divorce God from His Word. You can’t say, “I’ll take Jesus, but I don’t need His Word.” You really can’t know Christ apart from the Word of God. Who He is has been revealed in Scripture, both in the Old and the New Testament. You also cannot please God without following His Word.
1-2-3! “Preach it Sister!”
Satan has been trying to discredit the Word of God since time began. That was his tactic with Adam and Eve in the Garden in Genesis 3:1 when he questioned them saying, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden?’”
There is really nothing new under the sun because the same agenda, the same tactic to try to twist and undermine the Word of God is being used today by Satan as he has convinced some people that the Bible is irrelevant, outdated, unnecessary or can’t be trusted. There are actually people who teach that the Bible promotes hatred, racism, bigotry, classicism, sexism, and war. Nothing could be further from the truth. But what is happening, is that Satan wants you to discount and dismiss the Word of God, so he is seeking to promote the idea that God is what YOU want Him to be, that God can simply be anything you desire and God can endorse anything you want to do if you just maintain that love and kindness are all that matter. The idea of tolerance is in the forefront of this dirty agenda because Satan wants to lead people to a place where sin is simply tolerated. And when you tolerate sin, you forfeit God’s blessing. When sin is cherished in our hearts, our prayers won’t be answered. When sin becomes acceptable because we have divorced God from His Word, we won’t live in right fellowship with God, and that, my friends, is a very dangerous place to be.
1-2-3! “Preach it, Sister.”
Love and Tolerance are not the same thing. If you tolerate the wrong things, that isn’t loving. Parents, am I right? If you tolerate the wrong behavior you wind up endangering and harming your child. But this is the agenda of our enemy who is trying to get us to divorce God from His Word. This is just one example of one way that Satan has tried to twist the Word of God. We don’t make the rules. God does. And He has a reason for desiring that His children live a certain way. It is for our benefit. Satan doesn’t want us to be blessed. Satan doesn’t want us to enjoy the benefits that come from obeying God’s Word. Satan wants us bent out of shape. He wants us broken. He wants to undermine the Word of God because he wants to ruin us. Plain and simple. This is the truth. It has always been the truth. It will always be the truth. There will never be another truth. If you want life and peace, if you want to walk in fellowship with God, if you want to experience the blessings that come from obedience to God, you have to hold fast to God’s Word.
If you are trying to live a Christian life while thinking you can separate God from His Word, you need to return your heart to God.
Do you speak the truth at all times, even when it might make you look bad? If not, you need to return your heart to the Lord. (Vs. 6)
Verse 6 tells us that falsehood was on the priests’ lips. There is nothing that will destroy your life faster than lying and living in a duplicitous state where you are always looking to cover your tracks. When you lie, you are living in preservation mode. You are always trying to preserve something. You are trying to preserve your reputation or your job or your marriage or your friendship or your money or something. That’s why you lie. When you are living in preservation mode you can’t live in peace and prosperity. You can’t live enjoying the promises of God because you are always looking over your shoulder in fear.
We need to walk in truth first with God. Adam and Eve, after they sinned, tried to hide from God. It didn’t work. It won’t work, ever. There will always be consequences for falsehood. God always sees what we do, and even if we think we have successfully gotten away with something or we seem to be able to manage three or four different stories with different groups of people for a period of time, eventually, the truth will come out. And in the meantime, we will likely have elevated blood pressure, anxiety, sleeplessness, and guilt and shame that comes from trying to run from consequences. You cannot outrun consequences.
God decides what the consequences for lying and ever sin are, and you can’t outrun Him.
Think of lying as cancer. Every time we lie we implant a spiritual cancer, a dark spot, into our being. Over time, those dark spots become tumors. They spread. They overtake and kill the other parts of our lives that have been aligned with God’s heart. We start to suffocate spiritually. Life leaves us when we lie. What about other sins? Aren’t they dangerous? Yes, but perhaps lying is at the core of them all. Perhaps at the root of all sin is the lie, the deception that we think we can do what we want and falsely believe it doesn’t matter. It matters more than I have time to explain. Truth is the foundation for a growing relationship with God.
God doesn’t want us to live with the painful consequences that come from duplicitous living. He wants us to have life and peace. If we are not walking in truth, there is a bigger issue below the surface than just wanting to try to save ourselves from some consequence, and it is a heart issue, it is a character issue. If we have to lie in order to live, we aren’t living the way God wants us to.
1-2-3! “Preach it, Sister!”
We need to get right in our hearts so that we stop doing the things that we think we then need to lie about.
Do you seek to be a godly example for others? If not, you need to return your heart to the Lord. (Vs. 6, 8 and 9)
In verse 6 we read that many people were able to follow the priests when they were living righteously. Many were turning away from sin. Isn’t that one of the goals of our lives? That we could be an example to others and help them turn away from sinful living? Verse 7 tells us that we should be the kind of people from whom others seek instruction about life. Others should see how we live and be coming to us to ask us to share the wisdom we have found in Christ.
Verse 8 is a blistering indictments. 8 But you have turned from the way and by your teaching have caused many to stumble; you have violated the covenant with Levi,” says the LORD Almighty.
If your life doesn’t inspire anyone to see and follow God, that is bad, but it is horrible when your life causes people to go further and further from God. Neither one of those scenarios is good. Our lives are supposed to be convincing evidence to the world that they need God.
Listen to verse 9 again:9 “So I have caused you to be despised and humiliated before all the people, because you have not followed my ways but have shown partiality in matters of the law.”
These priests were filled with character flaws, divided hearts, and their lives exemplified corruption. They were dishonest, living for selfish gain-for some kind of payback. They were manipulating the law for some people, doing favors for their favorites, instead of holding a standard for everyone to maintain.
So where do we go from here? We need to seek to have a heart that honors God. We need to desire abundant life and peace. We need to cling to the Word of God. We need to live in truth. We need to be godly examples for others. Will you join me in taking this word to heart?