Summary: BIG IDEA: Those who talk God's talk need to walk God's walk.
INTRODUCTION: In 2007, the I-35 bridge that crosses the Mississippi River in Minneapolis, Minnesota, collapsed suddenly during rush hour, killing 13 people and injuring 145. The investigation revealed that the gusset plates that connect girders together in the truss system were undersized, resulting in a structural flaw leading to its collapse. After the tragedy, investigators determined that the designers had specified a metal plate that was too thin to serve as a junction of several girders. The bridge was designed in the 1960s and lasted 40 years. But like most other bridges, it gradually gained weight during that period, as workers installed concrete structures to separate eastbound and westbound lanes and made other changes, adding strain to the weak spot.
To say it another way, the bridge lacked integrity. A bridge has integrity when it does what it was designed to do. Cars, trains, or people can travel across the bridge without it collapsing. In this sense, integrity isn't about morality, but about the ability to function according to the intended design.
The prophet Malachi had to speak to a variety of sins among the clergy and the people. In chapter 1 he focused on their “cheap” worship and contempt for the sacrificial ritual. In the second half of chapter 2 he will address the problem of divorce and marriage to unbelievers. Somehow the people had the idea that such things were not serious sins, or that they could do them and get away with it. They had grown comfortable with their sin.
Malachi turns in this passage to lay the blame where it belongs: with the priests. Blaming the priests for the problems doesn’t let the rest of the people off the hook; they too were responsible for their sin even if they were unaware of what Scripture said about it—ignorance is never an excuse for breaking God’s law. But the guilt was greater for those who by their false teaching or lack of teaching caused God’s people to stumble. The priests were not functioning with integrity, according to their intended design. And it was going to cost them.
[READ Malachi 2:1-9]
Malachi’s message begins with the bold, direct confrontation: “And now, you priests, this warning is for you.” One can only envision the temple filled with priests, Levites, and people—and all of a sudden the prophet stood up to speak directly and bluntly to the spiritual leaders. They might have anticipated that he would be critical of something, as prophets often were, but I'm sure they had no idea what was coming!
This announcement would have absolutely overwhelmed Malachi’s priestly audience, probably present in clean white garments. They though they were doing everything correctly, as their earlier protests indicate. But God was saying they were unclean, disqualified, and not welcome in the holy place.
I. GOD REMOVES HIS MINISTERS WHO REFUSE TO HONOR HIS NAME (1-4, 8-9)
A. The message was that God would send a curse on them if they did not honor His name, that is, treat the Lord Himself with reverence.
1. The priests no doubt thought they were giving God the glory because they were saying and doing all the right things in the worship ritual, but their heart was not in it to do it in a way that honored and exalted God.
2. There were three basic duties the priests were to perform: teach the Law of God, burn incense (which was done when priests made intercessory prayer), and make the atoning sacrifices for the people. It looks as if nothing the priests do is being done appropriately or diligently.
3. The first thing they lack is listening (2).
a. The Hebrew verb has the range of meaning “hear, listen, obey.” God’s will regarding priestly duties has been presented numerous times previously, so they have indeed heard. What they lack is to render due honor to God through “setting their heart” toward Him.
b. This idiom, used twice in v.2, occurs four more times in Scripture indicating an attitudinal position of caring about or understanding things of God. The lack of this attitude results in a curse.
4. So God announced He would send a curse on them.
a. The word “curse” essentially means to remove or banish from the place of blessing. In this text God made it clear that He would “curse their blessings.”
b. If God cursed their blessings, it meant that He would render them unfit for ministry, or that they would have no effective ministry even though they might remain in office. In fact, this passage ends with God making them contemptible in the eyes of the people (9).
5. V.3 announces what this curse on the priests will be: a rebuke on their descendants. Because of the sins of these priests, their family line would be stopped from being priests.