The Priests and the Messiah
The priests were to officiate at many offerings under the Law of Moses, including the burnt offering, meal offering, dough offering, sin offering, guilt offering, release of the scapegoat, peace offering, heave offering, drink offering, incense offering, thank offering, etc., throughout the liturgical year. (Source)
For Consecration, too. The ceremony of consecration extended through an entire week (Exodus 28-29; Leviticus 8, the consecration of Aaron’s priestly descendants and of their sons). This included certain rites which all priests were required to undergo: purification; the sacrifices; the “filling” of the hands; the smearing with blood. (Source)
God commanded that the Urim and the Thummim be placed in the breastpiece over Aaron’s heart. The breastpiece was important because the names of the sons of Israel in the breastpiece of judgment were to be over the high priest’s heart when he entered the holy place, for a memorial before the Lord continually. The phrase his heart (meaning Aaron’s heart) is mentioned three times, making it an important concept. It is perhaps to signify God’s love of Israel, and that Aaron’s service is a reminder of that love. (Source)
And yet, the priests were treating God with disdain
“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. But you say, ‘How have we despised your name?'” (Malachi 1:6 ESV).
What does it mean to “honor” God? Strong’s #3519: “A masculine singular noun meaning honor, glory, majesty, wealth. This term is commonly used of God.”
“Turning from the people to the priests, Jehovah asks, whereas His love to the people was so great, where was their love toward Him? If the priests, as they profess, regard Him as their Father (Is 63:16) and Master, let them show the reality of their profession by love and reverential fear (Ex 20:12; Lu 6:46). He addresses the priests because they ought to be leaders in piety for the rest of the people, but instead, they had become foremost in ‘despising His name.‘”
We don’t talk much about reverential fear of the LORD, but our love and commitment to Him must enable us to recognize the need to respect and to exalt His holy Name. Imagine in your church if the pastor and all the leaders despised God, refusing to worship Him, how would that impact your faith?We don't talk much about reverential fear of the LORD, but our love and commitment to Him must enable us to recognize the need to respect and to exalt His holy Name. #faith #lovingGod Click To Tweet
The priests of this time knew this, but had ceased to live it day by day, never directing Israel to honor God with this type of deep personal respect after they had returned from Babylon.
Not only did the priests show no love, reverence, nor respect, which they should have been feeling and living, but they instead showed contempt toward the LORD of hosts, probably due to bitterness.
“It is you priests who show contempt for My name. But you say, ‘How have we despised Your name?’
“But you [the priests] ask, ‘How have we shown contempt for Your name?'” (Malachi 1:6a,6b NIV).
The situation is truly bad when the priests don’t believe in the words and actions they daily perform.
1. They acted out of contempt for the LORD by mocking and disdaining these acts of worship,
2. They showed contempt for the LORD by talking about Him with disrespect,
3. They showed disrespect for the LORD by holding the entire idea of their faith as a mockery.
Imagine how these actions might impact your church if the senior pastor and all the leaders acted like this every time you came to worship — mocking, disdaining, and disrespecting the LORD.
4. Consider how it would have harmed the young priests, who returned after the exile.
5. In this way the priests failed the people, for the responsibility of the priesthood was to instruct the Jewish nation in how to worship the Lord, how to approach Him, and how to know their God.
6. When they first returned from Babylon, they hadn’t worshiped the LORD in temple worship for more than 70 years, yet the instructions were written down in the Old Testament scrolls.
The priests knew this, yet they ignored it.
7. “A son honors his father, and a slave his master. If I am a Father, where is the honor due Me? If I am a Master, where is the respect due Me?” says the Lord Almighty. “It is you priests who show contempt for My name.“
8. “But you ask, ‘How have we shown contempt for Your Name?’
9. “By offering defiled food on my altar.“
10. “But you ask, ‘How have we defiled You?’“
11. “By saying that the Lord’s table is contemptible” (Malachi 1:6-7 NIV).
The situation is grim. If you’ve ever faced a faith crisis and have turned your back on God, you know how dangerous this position is for you and those around you. Because of their distrust, disdain, and contempt for the LORD, the priests neglected their responsibility to instruct and to guide the people in how to worship and how to approach their God. This was their assigned calling.If you've ever faced a faith crisis and have turned your back on God, you know how dangerous this position is for you and all of those of those around you. #Faith Click To Tweet
The Holy Spirit inspired Malachi to explain more thoroughly how these were to honor the LORD:
12. “When you offer blind animals for sacrifice, is that not wrong? When you sacrifice lame or diseased animals, is that not wrong? Try offering them to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you?” says the Lord Almighty.
13. “Now plead with God to be gracious to us. With such offerings from your hands, will He accept you?”—says the Lord Almighty (Malachi 1:8-9 NIV).
14. Nevertheless, in spite of personal challenges and catastrophes, when we focus on the goodness of God, taking all our requests to Him, we are upheld by Him. Therefore, the priests were to guide the people toward Him.
15. To “plead” with God means, according to Strong’s #2704, to entreat, implore, seek favor, intercede, i.e., ask a request of another, with the focus as a positive, humble request with no commanding or demanding (Ez 32:11; Job 11:19; Jer 26:19; Dan 9:13; Zec 7:2; 8:21, 22; Malachi 1:9).
16. Animals which were blind, lame, or diseased were unacceptable to offer to the LORD. These were in “a ceremonial unclean state and so not acceptable as covenantal behavior…”
The Lord Almighty Himself instructed them to plead with Him to be gracious toward them. All they were required to do was to humble themselves before Him and ask.
The LORD made the way clear and plain. However, the people wouldn’t know this unless the priests had passed on what God has instructed. Messiah was all wrapped up in this.
The perfection required of the offering was a foreshadowing of when Messiah would be sacrificed for us, the final necessary sacrifice.
His perfection would far excel this meat market brawl of what is clean and what is not clean, what is worthy behavior, and what most decidedly is not.
“In this letter, Malachi defends the reality of God’s elective love for Israel, a love which calls for robust covenant obedience and sincere worship as its response. Instead, the people were dishonoring God by their worthless offerings and the hypocritical formalism of their worship.“
Again, this reminds us of the current state of the church in our nation. Are we doing the same? In what ways do we carry this out?
“‘I have loved you,’ says the LORD‘ (Malachi 1:2 ESV) were God’s first words to Israel in His attempt to turn their hearts toward Him. This fact, the most significant reality in their lives, is where they needed to focus. God’s love for them surpasses all.
Like them, do we forget to focus on the goodness of God and of all His blessings?
Do we honor the Lord with our whole hearts, with our words, our actions, and our commitments?
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Definitions and quotations:
- All word definitions in this article are via The English-Hebrew Reverse Interlinear Old Testament English Standard Version via LOGOS Bible Software, Exegetical Guide.
- Quotations which are numbered are via: Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Vol. 1, p. 737). Logos Research Systems, Inc.
- Numbered quotations are also via: Baker, W., & Carpenter, E. E. (2003). In The complete word study dictionary: Old Testament (p. 529). AMG Publishers.