II. The priests despised the Name of God, 1:6-2:9
With God’s love as the backdrop, Malachi now addresses the priests. It is impossible to be precise as to a date for the writing of Malachi. But it is clearly in the time of the Medo-Persian rule as he refers to a governor (1:8). There is no reference to the building of the second temple so it is likely after 515BC. And it is possible more time passed as the corruption of the priesthood pictured here became a reality as time wore on. The High Priest and the priestly family gained political prominence, a factor evident in the time of Christ.
Here then is the problem. The priests dishonored God. Malachi anticipates the question: In what way have we despised Your name? The answer is that they offer defiled food on the altar. Again, the rebuttal is anticipated: In what way have we defiled You? With that we get to the specifics: contrary to the Law of Moses (Lev. 22:22; Deut. 15:19-23) and to common sense (no son would treat his father like this, nor a servant his master) they were offering defective offerings to the LORD. This is not hard. We just need to think about our gifts to anyone. We always try to give something that tells the recipient they are loved or appreciated. God loved Israel, giving her the best; this is how she responded.
· Common sense says: try offering this to your governor, 1:8. Perhaps the priests (and the worshipers) were taking advantage of the love of the God they could not see while honoring the governor they dealt with day to day. Do we ever do that?
· God’s response is clear: I have no pleasure in you. Be sure you note His reason: My name shall be great among the Gentiles (twice in v11). What Israel is doing even the Gentiles would not do for their gods. Israel is God’s testimony to the world of the fact that their God is God Most High. What does the world hear when they see this shameful worship.
· Again God argues His greatness, 1:12-2:1. What a shame that God must proclaim His own greatness because it is not so proclaimed by His people. We must hear this today. How we serve God, what we offer to Him as a sacrifice (Rom. 12:1), says something about what we think of Him. Because of this God announces He has already cursed the blessings of the priests!
· The priests of the day proclaimed their own greatness but were in fact were nothing compared to their father, Levi, 2:2-6. On two occasions, the time of the golden calf (Ex. 32:25-29) and at Baal-Peor (Num. 25:1-13), Levi and his descendents took up the sword against their own people to proclaim the honor of the LORD. In Malachi the priests were a shameful excuse for the special position they held.
· Even worse, the priests who were to teach the law were a stumbling block keeping people from obeying the law, 2:7-9. Remember Malachi’s name: My Messenger. 2:7 has the noun form of the word: the priests were to be God’s messenger so that people would seek God’s law. Thus these priests who treated God with contempt were themselves debased by God and became contemptable. Again we are confronted today with this truth: are those who are to be God’s messengers, opening His word and proclaiming His word, are they by their lives a stumbling block to the people they lead?
Malachi is right on for his day and ours. Let us hear and heed the burden of the word of the LORD.