God is Worthy (P2) | Malachi 2.1-9 (Snohomish)
October 6, 2013 Series: Malachi | Rhetorical God
Topic: Old Testament Passage: Malachi 2:1–2:9
Malachi 2.1-9 | God is Worthy (Part 2)
October 6, 2013
Introduction | the PASTORS
The worst has happened for God’s people—their worship has become meaningless. Worship is meaningful when we are doing everything to make God’s name great, and meaningless when we don’t. God has condemned the people for despising His name by making worthless sacrifices. Instead of offering the best of their flocks to the Lord, they bring the priests blind, 3-legged animals full of scabs. Their sacrifices are unlawful, their commitments dishonest, and their worship worthless. God is grieved that they do not love Him as a Father, and God is angry that they do not fear Him as Lord. The King holds men responsible for the lame sacrifices they bring and curses them (1.14). The people are breaking their vows to God, covering up their rebellion with religion, and offering God their leftovers for the same reason we all do: something else has become more important than God. The question is WHY has something become more important than God?
God has cursed those responsible for bringing lame sacrifices; now God addresses those responsible for accepting those lame sacrifices—the Priests. The priests were not responsible to force every single person to come and worship God perfectly; but they were responsible to protect purity of any worship that took place at the altar of God—to guard the importance of God’s table. This is the primary job of a pastor—to protect the purity of worship. THEY SHOULD HAVE SAID SOMETHING. This was their God-given job. The priests were appointed by God—they were chosen ones among the chosen ones. LIKE THE PEOPLE, they were not chosen because they any less sinful than any of the people—as evidenced by the elaborate purification process they had to go through in order to make sacrifices. BUT UNLIKE THE PEOPLE, the Levites alone were called to a particular service on behalf of the people. They were appointed by God to mediate the covenant between God and man through making acceptable sacrifices on the altar of God. Fulfilling this function ensured peaceful relationship with God.
Warning| the PASTOR’S FAULT
The priests have refused to confront the people, so God confronts them. He doesn’t command the priests to MAKE THE PEOPLE WORSHIP. He commands them to stop profaning His name, to make right sacrifices, and to consider their OWN heart of worship. And He warns them that, if they do not take the honoring of His name seriously and refuse the lame sacrifices being offered, He will curse THEM just as He is cursed those who bring the lame sacrifices. Jesus said, “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master (Matthew 10.25). The people’s love of God and the people’s fear of God were directly tied to the heart of their priests. I’ve heard it said that, “the depth spirituality of the church will never surpass the depth of spirituality of the pastors”. The same can be said for our homes.
The apathetic priests have made God angry. He warns that, if they don’t get serious, He will curse their blessings, curse their offspring, and put DUNG on their faces. We have to do some work here to understand what He is doing beyond scatological humor… FIRST, the Lord charged the priests with the responsibility to bless the people. 22 The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 23 “Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, Thus you shall bless the people of Israel: you shall say to them, 24 The LORD bless you and keep you; 25 the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; 26 the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace. (Numbers 6.23-27) The Old Testament, the blessing of God was synonymous with God looing upon you with His face. In representing God to the people, this blessing would assure God’s people that they are blessed, loved, secure, forgive, and at peace with God. SECOND, Aaron and his son, and his son, and his son would perpetually fill this role. And as the priest represented God to the people, it was as if God’s own mouth was blessing them face to face. THIRD, before the priest could bless the people or offer any sacrifices, he had to be purified by sacrificing a bull because he was “poopy” himself. Exodus 29.14 says, “the flesh of the bull and its skin and its dung you shall burn with fire outside the camp; it is a sin offering.”
God curses their blessings, their offspring, and their offerings BY placing poop on the Priest’s face. In essence, God literally threatens to smear their sin back onto their faces, making any offerings they or their sons make, impure and unacceptable. If the priests are not purified by God, then the people don’t have a chance for their own sins to be atoned for. Without a priest, the people would all die in their sins even if they brought sacrifices. The non-confrontational pastor thinks he is loving, but his silence is hurting.
Responsibility | WHAT SHOULD A PASTOR DO…AND WHY
God is not concerned with the purity of sacrifices AS MUCH as He is concerned with the purity of the heart of the one sacrificing. God reminds them of the Covenant with Levi. The story is found in Numbers 25.11ff. The Israelites are in the midst of their 40 years of wilderness wandering. Aaron the first High priest has recently died and, in a short time, the men of Israel go after foreign women and break God’s Covenant. God gets angry and demands that all of the chiefs of the people be hanged. The men delay in their obedience and one man, in the sight of everyone, brings out his unlawful Midianite girlfriend. Everyone cries, with the exception of the grandson of Aaron—a man named Phineas. He grabs a spear and kills both the man and the woman—thus removing the sin from Israel. So that people don’t think Phineas has lost his mind, God comments on Phineas’ fury: “ 11 “Phinehas the son of Eleazar, son of Aaron the priest, has turned back my wrath from the people of Israel, in that he was jealous with my jealousy among them, so that I did not consume the people of Israel in my jealousy. 12 Therefore say, ‘Behold, I give to him my covenant of peace, 13 and it shall be to him and to his descendants after him the covenant of a perpetual priesthood, because he was jealous for his God and made atonement for the people of Israel.’ ”
The covenant with Levi is called a covenant of peace, meaning, the priesthood existed to protect the people from God’s wrath. In Malachi God calls this same covenant a covenant of fear. Meaning, Phineas acted because he feared God (internal motivation). The Bible says that HE WAS JEALOUS for HIS GOD. He was not jealous OF, but jealous FOR God’s reputation. More than anything, he desired God’s people to fear God—because he himself stood in awe of His awesomeness. And He was not only willing but devoted to removing whatever obstacles would prevent pure worship—good or bad
We know that, even in their zeal, priests did not make a practice of walking around with spears killing anyone who sins! But they were to be just as jealous for God’s name. God explains what jealously for God’s name looked like. The priests were to be faithful to: 1) Teach the people the ALL of the words of the Lord—proclaim God’s Word 2) Walk in fear with the Lord before the people—Live God’s Word 3) Confront the people and call them to repent of false worship—uphold God’s Word 4) Guard the word of the Lord from perversion—protect God’s Word. They were to represent the Lord by communicating everything that God said, and the people were to come to them to learn everything that God had said.
Failure | WHEN & WHY PASTORS FAIL
The priests fail to do their job. They failed to proclaim the word, live the word, uphold the word, and protect the word. God’s Word became unimportant. They became partial in their instruction: they knew some truth, taught half-truth, and skipped hard truth. Failure doesn’t begin when they stopped reading their Bibles; you sto reading your Bible when you have turned aside from loving/fearing God.
The priests’ fail to protect to people or the pulpit. As part of our elder training, we have candidates make a list of all of the people who would be impacted by their failure. As one’s responsibility grows, so does one’s influence. When a pastor shipwrecks their faith, others go down with the ship. God says that the failure of these priests, to make God THE most important thing in their lives, corrupts the people directly AND they corrupt the priesthood indirectly. When the storms of life hit, or the wolves attack, or the missiles of the enemy fall, the people scatter like a sheep without a shepherd looking for refuge in all the wrong things—they stumble into sin. AND when one pastor fails, all pastors suffer as shame is brought upon the whole office, the whole church, perhaps even the whole faith.
The priests fail to find joy in their role. Because they serve with the wrong motivation, they complain about their job as they do it. They are viewing their role as a joyless duty with few beneift. In Malachi 1.13 God reveals their attitude: ‘What a weariness this is,’ and you snort at it, says the LORD of hosts. The priests view their job, to lead worship, as TOO HARD--they have to do it all day every day and their tired. The priests snort at their work because it is TOO MESSY—to make sacrifices is bloody work. The priests despise their role because it is TOO UNREWARDING—they are getting leftovers of their leftovers. They DO NOT view their responsibility as a privilege because they DO NOT feel blessed or appreciated.
Identification | WHO ARE PASTORS…REALLY
But before you go and celebrate ‘pastor appreciation month’, know that the gospel reminds us that this experience is not isolated to priests. 1Peter 2.9 says: 9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. WE ARE, not should be, priests called to proclaim. We all have congregations full of people we pastor, whether they are spouses, parents, friends, even neighbors. We all go about our daily lives making sacrifices of worship as we live. We all preach sermons constantly—either full of truth about Jesus or full of lies. Instead of proclaiming we usually find ourselves complaining. Pastoring is hard, messy, and unrewarding. Marriage is hard, messy, and unrewarding. Parenting is hard, messy, and unrewarding. Working is usually hard, messy, and unrewarding. Living as the church is hard, messy, and unrewarding.
What does God want from us as worshippers? God wants people who are jealous for the name of God because they are in awe of Him. He wants people so captivated by His glory that, like Phineas, they remove anything that might hinder their worship of Him OR the worship of those in your care. This does not simply mean avoiding bad thing, it means avoiding making all things, GOOD or BAD, into ULTIMATE things. Heb. 12.1-2 let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us. 2 looking to Jesus, the founder & perfecter of our faith…
Redemption | JESUS is the BETTER Phineas
Did you hear that? This cannot be done by becoming more adequate priests. Our imperfect worship can only be healed by recognizing how inadequate we are…AND looking to Jesus—the perfector of our faith. The cross changes our complaining to proclaiming. We can’t just tell others to look at Jesus, to command them live for Jesus, or to confront them when they don’t. WE need to see Jesus as THE better Phineas.
We need a better Phineas to curse us. In ourselves, we all fall short of worshipping God. And we will fail to lead others to worship God. Before helping anyone, we need healing. We need forgiveness. We need cleansing of sin. Jesus is the perfect priest who willingly dies in my place for my sins. Sinners, worthy to have dung wiped in their faces, are saved. And the only sinless one, worthy of glory, willingly accepts your sinful crap smeared on his face. He not ONLY becomes the perfectly jealous priest I NEED; He becomes the idolatrous Israelite I AM, who deserves death.
We need a better Phineas to bless us. But I need more than just a death. I need new life. Jesus obeyed God’s command, worshipped the glory God, upheld the honor of God, guarded the name of God and directed everyone toward the grace of God—perfectly. I get his perfection.I have heard that every prayer Jesus prays in the New Testament begins with Father, except one. Jesus’ final prayer on the cross is quote of Psalm 22—My God, why have though forsaken me. God literally turned his face away, cursed His Son covered in my sin, be blessed as He turned His face toward us to bless. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2Corinthians 5.21). There is no longer a need for blessing and no fear of cursing. We have a permanent priest.
We need a better Phineas help us. My priest offered himself as sacrifice for me, that I might offer myself as a priest to others. Like the priests, if you are a husband or wife or a parent or an employee you have been appointed by God in that role. And though it is hard, messy, and often underappreciated—you are his righteousness. You are there to uphold the name of God. You are there to display the glory of God. You are there to preach the grace of God. No one else has that job more than you. At times what you’re loved ones need is for you to challenge their partial obedience, lame sacrifices, and heartless worship.
But most times, what your husband or wife , your children, our church, even this world REALLY needs is not people who try to offer perfect sacrifices—there are none—or claim their “sin” doesn’t stink. The best way to pastor those in your care is FOR YOU live in awe of Jesus our High Priest. They need you to lead them the throne of grace by going there first. 14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4.14-16 We need not worry if we are good enough. We are not. But by grace through faith, my worship through Jesus looks, sounds, feels, and is perfect. Come find grace…it is always your time of need.