Summary: Malachi calls the priests of his day to whole-heartedly commit to representing the Lord to the people.
Malachi castigates the priests of Israel for their lack of whole-hearted devotion. While there is truth here to benefit those who serve as leaders among God’s people today, I want us to consider a broader application. Let’s consider how what was said to these priests applies to Christians today. For we are called to represent the Lord in our society as priests.
“But you are the ones chosen by God, chosen for the high calling of priestly work, chosen to be a holy people, God’s instruments to do his work and speak out for him, to tell others of the night-and-day difference he made for you - from nothing to something, from rejected to accepted.” - 1 Peter 2:9-10 (The Message)
A priest represents God before the people, but these priests were failing to do so. Likewise, Christians today are to represent God before others. How are we doing with that responsibility? Let’s see what we might learn from what God said to these priests through the prophet, Malachi.
1. Their curse - vs. 2b-3
These priests were about to be cursed. Rather than being blessed with the privilege of representing God before the people, they would be cursed by not seeing that calling fulfilled. They would have no spiritual heritage left to them. God would “rebuke their descendants.”
This is the curse Jesus said would come on His followers who did not devote themselves whole-heartedly to the task of leading others to Him.
“He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters." - Matthew 12:30 (NIV)
These priests were not fit to represent the Lord to the people, as illustrated by what God says in verse 3. When priests sacrificed animals, they cut out the unclean intestinal part and carried it outside the camp to burn. God says these priests had become unclean, too. He says He was about to smear “offal” or “dung” on their faces and carry them from their place of service. Their ministry was over! God says they were unclean and disqualified for service. Why? Because of sin, the sin of half-heartedness.
In Baker County, Oregon, there’s a town called “Halfway.” It got its name because it was located halfway between two other towns, Langrel and Pinetown. The town of halfway owes its origin to Christians. Four or five Christian families got together and held a gospel meeting Pine Schoolhouse with T.F. Campbell. Several were converted, but Pinetown opposed the building of a church in their community. The Stalker family was developing Halfway into a town and offered the new church property. The offer was accepted, making this church the very first church in Halfway, Oregon. The church took the name of the town - Halfway Christian Church.
The church experienced growth. In 1895, a revival conducted by P.J. Taylor resulted in 45 new members, 36 by baptism. The folks at Halfway Christian Church were not living halfway for God. But as time passed, they did start living like their name - halfway. In time, it took its toll, until in 1965, the church was closed. If you go to Halfway, you can visit their building, which has been turned into a restaurant and art gallery - the Pine Valley Lodge.
Halfway Christian church no longer exists. But in another sense, it has never ceased to exist, for all across America there are halfway Christian churches. Virtually all churches that die were once vibrant churches, whole-heartedly serving the Lord, presenting a dynamic witness to their community. But somewhere along the way, they became half-hearted. And now, like God’s warning to these priests, they have been cursed with no spiritual descendants and have been declared unfit for service.
2. Their call - vs. 4-7
The tribe of Levi was called to be the priestly tribe in Israel. Rather than having land like other tribes, they had the privilege of representing God to the people. This is the “covenant” God is referring to in verse 4, a covenant He wanted to see fulfilled in the lives of these priests. So, God reminds them of their calling, which could be fulfilled by:
A. A whole-hearted devotion to the wonder of God - v. 5
In one word - TIME. If we are going to live with a whole-hearted devotion to the wonder of God, we must be willing to set aside adequate time to spend in His presence.
“We’re here to be worshippers first and workers only second.”- A.W. Tozer
A man was convicted about not spending enough time with God. He decided to spend 30 minutes in prayer. He talked to God about everything he could think of. But only 5 minutes had passed.
He tried a second time, praying about everything he had prayed about before and as many new things as he could think of - 10 minutes. In despair, he turned to God and asked what to do. With his focus on God rather than his requests, he found himself immersed in God’s presence, until 3 hours had passed!