Warning to the Priests
Open Your Bible
Malachi 2:1-16, Psalm 132:8-10, Hebrews 8:8-13
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.