Warning to the Priests

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Malachi 2:1-16, Psalm 132:8-10, Hebrews 8:8-13

Oh, Israel.

With the book of Malachi, we’ve reached the end of the Old Testament. For 38 books prior, we’ve seen the Israelites flounder. Malachi’s sharp wit pierces the stale narrative in new ways, but it’s the same old song. The Israelites turn away from God, marry foreign women, defile the sacrifices, and get called out for it. In today’s reading, the table is turned to the Levitical priests.

There is no loyalty in the heart of Israel, no fidelity to the God who made and called His people into relationship with Him. Malachi reminds them of the covenant God made with the line of Aaron, the first high priest sons of Aaron (the first high priest), were promised in Jeremiah 33 (a reminder of God’s covenant with David) that the “Levitical priests will never fail to have a man always before me” (v.18).

That reminder came before the exile, and God restored the Levitical priests to their stations after the Israelites returned home. But, as we read yesterday, they treated their role flippantly. “You have caused many to stumble by your instruction,” the Lord said in Malachi 2:8. This contrasts with how the Lord describes the role of the priest in the verse before: “For the lips of a priest should guard knowledge, and people should desire instruction from his mouth, because he is the messenger of the Lord of Armies.”

In the whole of Israel, the Levites were ordained as a special class: the priests. Their responsibility was great, but they failed over and over again. God needed a new covenant with His people, one dependent solely on Him. A covenant that would seal His people to Him forever, no matter their fickle hearts and minds.

Hebrews 8:7 reminds us, “For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion for a second one.” It wasn’t faultess, because it depended on us.

In Matthew, the next book of the Bible and also the first of the New Testament, God sends His Son to be our Great High Priest, our Savior (Matthew 3:16–17; Hebrews 9:11–15). The new covenant through Christ would secure God’s promise to His people: “I will be their God, and they will be my people” (Hebrews 8:10).

Reading Malachi, like reading so many other books of the Old Testament, is not meant to be a discouragement, but rather, one of deep encouragement. God’s chosen people failed and still do. His special priests failed. But God Himself will never fail, and for that we give thanks.

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18 thoughts on "Warning to the Priests"

  1. Rachel Kelley says:

    He is so mighty, our God. This passage reminds us that he is the Lord of Armies. We should fear Him. But that gives new meaning to the phrase “he leads us beside still waters”. He is a powerful God who desires peace and love for his family.

    I’ve also never ready the passage in Malachi about husbands. What a strong warning to them to be faithful to their covenant! And, by extension, to wives too. I loved how the scripture notes that marriage is between man and woman with a portion of the Holy Spirit. A true chord of 3 strands.

  2. Carmela says:

    In the Old Covenant, the priests were the one who lobbied for the people of Israel, they were part of the sacrifices that were needed each yea to forgive and cleanse the sins of the people, yet they themselves could not keep themselves clean. Yet when Jesus was born into this earth, he was the only way we could be saved, he was the ultimate solution the constant filth that is sin in our life’s. The Great High Priest!