Summary: The third sermon in a series on the book of Malachi
The question is: “Can you have a valid faith without being faithful?” The greatest issue we have found so far in our study of Malachi is that of disobedience. The people of Judah wanted to enjoy all the benefits of following God without any of the hassle that comes from playing by God’s rules. Malachi is trying to wake the people up in regard to their quality of worship and lack of obedience. The leaders were showing a blatant disregard for God and the statutes that He had set down. So with the poor example set by the leaders the people were having their hearts turned away from God. Malachi takes on the task in the first part of chapter 2 of addressing the failures of the leadership at the temple and the negative effect they are having on the people. In the New Testament James addresses this very issue, “Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.” (James 3:1—NIV) Leaders in the Lord’s church need to take their responsibility very seriously, and realize a poor understanding of our role or believing that regardless of what God says I am going to do it my way carries with it destructive consequences. To have an ill-prepared or incompetent leader was bad enough; much worse was it to have a deceiver, a schemer, a wolf in sheep’s clothing for a leader. Today I want us to take some time to discover the seriousness of the role of the leader and the effects of consistent behavior that refuses to acknowledge the Lord’s teachings and fails to give Him the honor due Him. Let’s begin to take a look at the fruit of disobedience as described by Malachi.
I. The religious leadership of Malachi’s day has chosen a path that has led them and the people away from God.
A. The passage opens up with the recurring theme so far in the book of Malachi of the people and leaders failing to honor God.
1. Because of their contemptuous attitude the priests merited punishment from the Lord.
2. Malachi once again warns the religious leaders of the day to once again begin honoring God.
3. That would lead to a question of how they should honor God which is obvious from looking at the ways they were failing to do so in verses 6-14 of chapter one.
4. The priests are standing in danger of God’s judgment if they fail to get it together.
B. There are most definitely serious consequences for anyone who is foolish enough to continue ignoring God’s word.
1. The threat or announcement of judgment is called a “commandment” because God ordained it and issued orders for its execution.
2. This simply goes back to the fact that the leaders were to lead the people on the right path and away from sin, but they were doing the opposite by even encouraging sin.
3. These leaders have confessed to having great faith in God but their actions give evidence to the opposite being true.
4. The conditional nature of verse 2 reminds the people that a possibility of the Lord’s mercy was still remaining for these leaders.
5. A change of attitude is called for in the words, “set your heart.”
6. The Hebrew word for heart “lebab” refers to the command center of one’s life where the knowledge collected determines the decisions and plans that determines the direction that one’s life takes.
7. The leaders of Malachi’s day are called to repent, and begin honoring God the way He deserves and if they do so they would escape the judgment.
II. Mankind has the tendency to forget their covenants with God when they are no longer convenient.
A. Malachi’s words serve as a reminder that the priests of old were faithful to God’s covenant with Levi, but now the priests had become utterly corrupt.
1. The covenant arrangement with the Levites was to endure unaltered. Obviously they were not meeting their responsibilities.
2. God is trying to get the leaders to change their actions and once again be faithful to God.
3. If the leaders failed to correct their sinful attitudes and behavior and start honoring God, He would remove them from their position.
4. This is so very ironic as we compare what we learned from verse 13 of chapter 1 where the priests were considering it a burden to serve God.
5. God leaves no doubt that He is serious about maintaining His covenant with the Levites.
B. The privilege of association with a group blessed by God does not assure the individuals in that group of God’s favor.
1. "Life and peace," "reverence," "true instruction “and” uprightness" were to be the main characteristics of those serving in the temple.