Malachi 2 – Corruption Throughout Israel

Corruption Of The Sacrifices; Corruption Of The Priesthood; Corruption Of The Teaching; Corruption Of The Nation By Intermarriage With Non-Believing Women; Corruption Of The Nation By Divorce; And Instead Of Realizing That The Lord Was Allowing Us To Suffer Because Of Our Sins, We Claimed To Be Righteous And Accused Him Of Being Unjust Because He Treated The Righteous And The Wicked The Same

Malachi means “My Messenger” or “My Angel.” He was well named because he was a messenger sent by God with messages from God. That makes Malachi very special, since there have only been a few human beings who have received divinely inspired messages like that.

Malachi lived after the return from the Babylonian captivity and after the second temple was built – sometime after 520 BC. It’s possible that Malachi was the last prophet before the arrival of the Son of God, who inaugurated the New Covenant.

After returning from exile and rebuilding the temple, which was a time of spiritual renewal, the Jewish people drifted away from the Lord. We lost our first love. Our religion became external, ceremonial, ritualistic, passionless, lukewarm. We were performing the outward ceremonies of our religion while our hearts were far from God.

Israel in the time of Malachi was experiencing a lot of problems. The Lord had been removing our blessings. The harvests were bad. Pests were attacking the crops. It’s possible that the weather was bad, the economy was bad, that there was an unusual amount of sickness and death, that there was internal strife in the nation, that were being attacked by enemies. Times were difficult.

Israel was the Chosen People, and we had a special relationship to the Lord. When we loved Him and were obedient to Him, He blessed us. Things went well for us. We prospered. When we were far from Him and disobedient, things did not go well for us. We suffered. Instead of realizing that our sins were the source of our problems, the Jewish people of Malachi’s generation complained that God was the source of our problems.

Malachi let us know that our problems resulted from our bad attitudes and behaviors – our indifference to God; disregard for the worship at the temple; lack of the required financial support for the temple and priests and sacrifices; intermarriage with unbelievers; and a high divorce rate. Malachi challenged us to turn from our sins, and renew our relationship to the Lord. He did that in an interesting way – by listing our bad attitudes and behaviors and the Lord’s responses to them.

Maybe the situation wouldn’t be so bad if Israel’s spiritual leaders were loving God the way they should, respecting Him the way He should be respected. Maybe they could win the hearts of the people to the Lord and reignite their love for Him. But it wasn’t just the ordinary people who were dishonoring the Lord. Israel’s spiritual leaders, who should have known better, were also expressing contempt for the Lord. “And now, you priests, this warning is for you. If you do not listen, and if you do not resolve to honor my name,” says the Lord of Hosts, “I will send a curse on you, and I will curse your blessings. Yes, I have already cursed them, because you have not resolved to honor me.” To whom much is given, much is required. Leaders are held to higher standards. And the punishment for their failure is greater. The Lord had already started punishing these leaders. They needed to resolve to honor God the way He should be honored. They needed to renew their commitment to the Lord – or He would continue to curse them by removing more of their blessings and allowing them to experience further harm.

The spiritual leaders of Malachi’s generation had treated the great God of Heaven with contempt. If they didn’t change, and change soon, the Lord warned them that He would treat them with even greater contempt. Because of you I will rebuke your descendants; I will smear on your faces the dung from your festival sacrifices, and you will be carried off with it. If the priests didn’t change their bad attitudes and bad behaviors, they would be shamed and removed from their privileged position.

The Lord threatened to cover their faces with the excrement that came from the animals they sacrificed. And just as the excrement from the animals were taken outside the temple (see Exodus 29:14), they and their descendants were at risk of being removed from their privileged position.

The Lord didn’t want that to happen. He didn’t want to shame them and remove them from the priesthood. This was to be understood as a warning, so they would make the changes they needed to make, so that they could continue their very important ministry. And you will know that I have sent you this warning so that my covenant with Levi may continue,” says the Lord of Hosts.

The Lord made a covenant with Aaron and his descendants. He entered into a special relationship with them. They were to be a special family among the special people. They were entrusted with the spiritual leadership of the nation. They were to teach Israel the truth. They were to offer the sacrifices, which brought life and peace to the nation. What a great privilege it was to be a priest! How could this generation of priests take such a great privilege for granted? How could they not honor Him and faithfully serve Him? They needed to follow the example of the first priests, good priests like Moses, Aaron and Pinchas. “My covenant was with him, a covenant of life and peace, and I gave them to him; this called for reverence and he revered me and stood in awe of my name. True instruction was in his mouth and nothing false was found on his lips. He walked with me in peace and uprightness, and turned many from sin.

The priests of Malachi’s generation needed to respect the Lord – which they hadn’t been doing. They needed to give pure, uncorrupted teaching – which they hadn’t been doing. They needed to live in a way that was characterized by peace and uprightness, by integrity and high moral and spiritual standards – which they hadn’t been doing. They needed to turn away from their sins and turn others away from their sins – which they hadn’t been doing.

Priests had awesome responsibilities – responsibilities which these priests weren’t fulfilling. “For the lips of a priest ought to preserve knowledge, because he is the messenger of the Lord of Hosts and people seek instruction from his mouth.” Priests were the Lord’s messengers, the Lord’s representatives on Earth. And they were the gatekeepers and the teachers of the divine revelation. They were entrusted with the responsibility of knowing the Word of God and teaching it to the rest of the nation.

However, the priests of Malachi’s generation had been failing miserably. “But you have turned from the way and by your teaching have caused many to stumble; you have violated the covenant with Levi,” says the Lord of Hosts. They turned away from their God-appointed path as the Lord’s teachers. Instead of giving pure teaching, they had been corrupting the teaching. Instead of helping the people to be more faithful to God, which would result in them being blessed, the priests had done the opposite – they had corrupted the teaching which caused many to stumble and experience harm.

The people knew that the priests were guilty of corrupting the teaching and had been losing respect for them. “So I have caused you to be despised and humiliated before all the people, because you have not followed my ways but have shown partiality in matters of the law.” How did the priests show partiality in matters of the law? Probably by the way it’s usually done – by twisting the truth to benefit themselves and the rich and powerful.

Malachi accused the people of corrupting the sacrifices; the priests of not honoring God and corrupting the teaching. Now the Lord’s messenger accused the nation of sinning by marrying non-believers. Do we not all have one Father? Yes. Did not one God create us? Yes. The Jewish people had one Father and one Creator. We were all brothers and sisters. Everyone in the nation was united by the bond of brotherhood. So, what one member of the nation did affected everyone else in the nation – for good or for bad.

Regrettably, many were doing something which was harming the integrity of the nation. Why do we profane the covenant of our ancestors by being unfaithful to one another? Judah has been unfaithful. The Lord made a covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, a covenant that included their descendants. Many of those descendants living in Malachi’s generation were violating that covenant, and their violation was affecting everyone else. They were being unfaithful to the covenant and unfaithful to each other.

How? By marrying women the covenant forbid us to marry. A detestable thing has been committed in Israel and in Jerusalem: Judah has desecrated the sanctuary (better, the “holy thing” referring to the holy nation itself) the Lord loves by marrying women who worship a foreign god. The nation was far from God. One way our spiritual apathy manifested itself was in our choice of women to marry. Instead of marrying nice Jewish girls who loved the Lord, many of the men of Malachi’s generation married non-Jewish women who worshiped foreign gods.

That was an abomination to the Lord, something He really detested. Why? Several reasons:

The Lord had forbidden us to marry anyone who served any other god. Anyone who married a non-believer was being disloyal to God.

The Chosen People were to be a holy people. Every marriage to a woman who wasn’t holy diminished the holiness of the nation.

And the children produced by that union would tend to have divided loyalties, and be even more disloyal to God.

The men needed to stop marrying women the covenant forbid us from marrying.

Choosing the right person to marry is one of the most important decisions a person will make in life. Who you marry will affect your life and the life of your children and grandchildren. And for a believer, the decision who to marry must be a deeply spiritual decision.

Most people have a list of things they want from their partner:

Do I find him or her attractive?

Am I able to communicate with him or her?

Can he or she fulfill the things I expect of a spouse?

Will he or she be fully committed to me and our children?

Does he or she share my values?

These are important things to consider when deciding whether or not to marry someone.

And, for a Christian or a Messianic Jew, at the top of the list must be: is he or she committed to serving God with me? Many of the Jewish people in time of Malachi had ignored what must be at the top of the list.

This was the sin of Baal Peor all over again, when many Jewish men had relations with Moabite women and joined them in worshiping Baal. This was the sin of Solomon all over again – marrying foreign women who worshiped other gods – which led to Solomon’s demise and damaged the nation.

The punishment for this kind of unfaithfulness was very serious. As for the man who does this, whoever he may be, may the Lord remove him from the tents of Jacob – even though he brings an offering to the Lord of Hosts. Malachi prayed that the Lord would not forgive the man who did this; that the Lord would accept no sacrifice to atone for this terrible sin; that he would be removed from the community of Israel.

Marriage is very important. If you are wise, you will be very careful about whom you decide to marry. If you are serious about being a Christian or a Messianic Jew, do not marry a non-believer. Find someone who is serious about serving God with you.

The majority of the nation was far from God. Malachi accused the people of corrupting the sacrifices; the priests of not honoring God and corrupting the teaching; the men of sinning by marrying non-believers which damaged the integrity of the nation. And there was more. The sin of divorce. Another thing you do: You flood the Lord’s altar with tears. You weep and wail because he no longer looks with favor on your offerings or accepts them with pleasure from your hands. You ask, “Why?” It is because the Lord is the witness between you and the wife of your youth. You have been unfaithful to her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant.

Marriage is designed by God to be a covenant, a binding, sacred contract between a man and a woman.

God designed us to be male and female.

God designed male and female to become besar echad – one flesh, to come together in marriage and form a one flesh team – come together physically, emotionally, spiritually, financially.

God designed marriage so that we will cleave to our husbands and wives – which means marriage is an exclusive union between two individuals, a loving, cleaving commitment or covenant, which is to be permanent.

Divorce, unless there are Biblical grounds, which are very limited – like adultery, or a non-believing spouse abandoning a believing spouse – breaks the covenant of marriage and defies the will of God.

And, divorce is a sin against the spouse. You promise a lovely young lady that you will be partner for life, that you will love her and take care of her and be committed to her for the rest of your life – and then you divorce her? You have been unfaithful to her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant. Divorce is wrong. It is a sin. It is unfaithful. It is selfish. It is unfair.

God hates divorce. It offends Him. It causes Him to oppose the one who breaks the marriage covenant, to work against him. You flood the Lord’s altar with tears. You weep and wail because he no longer looks with favor on your offerings or accepts them with pleasure from your hands. You think you have the right to divorce without having Biblical grounds? That there won’t be consequences? You are wrong. Do not divorce without Biblical grounds.

Many of the men had been divorcing their wives – but not all. Why many but not all? The answer can be translated several ways. Here’s my translation: But not one has done so who has a remnant of the Spirit. Those men who had remained committed to the Lord were strengthened by the Spirit of God, and He helped them not go along with the others and divorce their wives. It was their commitment to God and the work of the Spirit that enabled them to go against the crowd and do what was right.

And the same is true today. There are so many horrible trends going on in our culture. Only those who are committed to God, and have the Spirit of Messiah living in them will be able to withstand the corruption of our culture and not go along with an increasingly wicked majority.

Marriage was designed by the Creator to be a permanent union between a man and a woman. Divorce without Biblical grounds is a sin against God and a sin against the spouse. Another reason why a believer should only marry another believer and why we should be committed to that marriage is because of the children. And what is the one God seeking? Godly offspring. God has designed us with the amazing ability to reproduce, and reproduce beings made in the image of God, beings with the ability to know God and love God and live forever with God. God wanted Israel to produce godly offspring would know the Lord and have good character.

Divorce is destructive to the production of godly offspring. Divorce harms the children. The men in the time of Malachi needed to stop divorcing their wives. So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful to the wife of your youth. “The man who hates and divorces his wife,” says the Lord, the God of Israel, “does violence to the one he should protect,” says the Lord of Hosts. So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful. Why this warning to be on guard so we won’t be unfaithful to our wives? Because it is easy to become unfaithful to the wife of our youth. After being married for a while, the romantic feelings may lessen; a man and a woman may grow apart. Then, instead of doing everything we can to renew that relationship, to maintain that relationship, we take the easy way out and divorce and start over with someone new. That is an act of unfaithfulness and an act of violence and an act of hate.

The majority of the nation was apathetic toward God. There was corruption of the sacrifices; corruption within the priesthood; corruption of the teaching; corruption of the nation by marriage with non-believing women; corruption of the nation by a high divorce rate. As a consequence of our sins, the Lord was removing our blessings and allowing us to experiencing lots of problems. But instead of realizing that we were suffering because of our sins, we thought we were righteous and accused the Lord of ignoring justice and treating the wicked and the righteous the same. You have wearied the Lord with your words. “How have we wearied him?” you ask. By saying, “All who do evil are good in the eyes of the Lord, and he is pleased with them” or “Where is the God of justice?” It seems that the majority of the people were experiencing hard times while some of the corrupt priests and the rich and powerful they favored were doing well. Maybe some of the surrounding pagan nations were doing better than Israel was. How could this be? we asked. And we came up with the answer.

We were suffering because we were righteous and God wasn’t fair. He was unjust. He didn’t make a distinction between the righteous and the wicked. He treated the righteous and the wicked the same. He was not committed to reward the righteous – us, and punish the wicked – them. So why bother to be righteous and serve Him? It wasn’t worth the effort to do what was right and serve the Lord. That twisting thinking wearied the Lord. He grew tired of hearing it.

Malachi challenged us to examine ourselves, and realize that we were not righteous, and like a good father disciplines a disobedient child, the Lord was allowing us to experience difficult times in order to correct us, so He could bless us the way He wanted. We needed to acknowledge our bad attitudes and behaviors and turn to Him with a renewed commitment.

Let’s pray:

Lord, thank You for the lessons we learn from Malachi, lessons that we can apply to ourselves today.

Lord, if we are suffering, help us understand that You use trials to discipline us, like a good father disciplines his children. May we never conclude that we are righteous and You are unjust or that You treat the righteous and the wicked the same.

Just as the priests of Malachi’s day did not fulfill their responsibilities, many of our nation’s spiritual leaders have not been fulfilling their responsibilities. They have been too worldly, too desirous of approval. They have not proclaimed a pure and holy message. They have not spoken truth to power. Lord, please work so that the spiritual leaders of our churches and synagogues are everything they should be, and teach the truth and say everything they should say.

And Lord, each Christian, each Messianic Jew, is a priest. Help us fulfill our individual priesthood by honoring You the way we should, and serving You the way we should – wholeheartedly, in the Spirit, in the truth, with passion.

God, just as the nation of Israel was united by Your fatherhood, everyone in Messiah’s Community is united by the fatherhood of God. What we do affects everyone else. Help us do what is right and good so that we build up and encourage our brothers and sisters, and not discourage them and tear them down.

Lord, You created marriage. Help us to marry wisely, to marry well.

Help us to be on our guard so that we are not unfaithful to the wife of our youth, the husband of our youth.

Help us to stay committed to our marriages.

Prevent us from divorcing without Biblical grounds.

Lord, You were seeking godly offspring from Israel and You are seeking godly offspring today. Help us to do everything we can to create an environment for our children to be raised properly, so that we produce godly children.

Finally Lord, fill us with your Spirit, so we are close to You and full of power, so we can resist following along with the evil trends of our generation.