Summary: This message seeks to instruct church leaders to honor the name of God above all other matters.
Ministry under the Microscope
On June 17, 2002 Federal authorities arrested a United States Forest Service employee for starting the largest fire in Colorado’s history.
Terry Barton was a 38-year-old woman and had worked every summer for the Forest Service for 18 or 19 years.
She had ventured into the forest to burn a letter form her estranged husband.
She had evidently become angry with him and burning the note was perhaps her emotional release.
Yet, because of dry conditions in the Pike National Forest, she was unable to extinguish the fire as quickly as she had desired and the fire burned out of control.
At the time the fire began, Barton was under orders to patrol for fires in the vicinity where she had started the fire.
This fire that was to be the largest in the state’s history burning over 130 homes with an estimated total cost of damage ranging anywhere from $27 million to almost $40 million dollars.
In this strange juxtaposition of events, Terry Barton who was to prevent fires in the Colorado forest had now begun a fire.
The irony of the one who protects instead causing destruction cannot be lost on ministers.
We live in a day of clergy scandal.
Some of this scandal hits the newspapers and other media outlets.
Yet much of the disastrous results of a ministry that has failed to protect people and in its place has unleashed its destruction upon the people in our pews and in our communities will go unnoticed by the media’s eye.
The secular media will concentrate on the Jim Baker’s and the Roman Catholic Clergy’s sexual abuse scandals.
While a multitude of ministers’ success and failure will go unnoticed without so much as a newspaper clipping.
Yet it does not escape the eye of God nor are the results of ministerial success or failure hard to locate in the contemporary scene.
Our aim this morning is to place our ministry under the MICROSCOPE OF GOD.
It is to place us under the intense scrutiny of the eyes of an all knowing God along the contours of His message given over two millennia ago through the hand of the prophet Malachi.
His words will give us some contemporary clues to both ministerial success and failure.
Would you stand with me in the reading of God’s Word as I’ll be reading from the English Standard Version?
"And now, O priests, this command is for you. 2 If you will not listen, if you will not take it to heart to give honor to my name, says the LORD of hosts, then I will send the curse upon you and I will curse your blessings. Indeed, I have already cursed them, because you do not lay it to heart. 3 Behold, I will rebuke your offspring, and spread dung on your faces, the dung of your offerings, and you shall be taken away with it. 4 So shall you know that I have sent this command to you, that my covenant with Levi may stand, says the LORD of hosts. 5 My covenant with him was one of life and peace, and I gave them to him. It was a covenant of fear, and he feared me. He stood in awe of my name. 6 True instruction was in his mouth, and no wrong was found on his lips. He walked with me in peace and uprightness, and he turned many from iniquity. 7 For the lips of a priest should guard knowledge, and people should seek instruction from his mouth, for he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts. 8 But you have turned aside from the way. You have caused many to stumble by your instruction. You have corrupted the covenant of Levi, says the LORD of hosts, 9 and so I make you despised and abased before all the people, inasmuch as you do not keep my ways but show partiality in your instruction."
Malachi 2:1-9 (ESV)
As you can see from verse one (1) this is a text for church leadership.
It was specifically written for the priest of the Old Testament.
The text before us serves as a warning of the consequences ahead if the religious leadership does not have a complete change of heart.
It compliments Malachi’s earlier message which served as a positive motivation for the nation of Judah to return to God (1:2-5).
Verses one (1) through four (4) are marked by a series of six (6) future tense verbs while the following verses (5-9) are marked by past tense verbs.
It’s these past tense verbs in verses eight (8) and nine (9) that mark the church leadership’s failure in contrast to the model priests’ behavior in verse five (5), six (6), and seven (7).
Verses one (1) through four (4) speak directly of what God will do if His people, and especially His priests, do not have a change of heart and change their practices