“And now, O priests, this commandment is for you. 2 If you will not hear, and if you will not take it to heart, to give glory to My name,’ Says the Lord of hosts, ‘I will send a curse upon you, and I will curse your blessings. Yes, I have cursed them already, because you do not take it to heart.
3 Behold, I will rebuke your descendants and spread refuse on your faces, the refuse of your solemn feasts; and one will take you away with it. 4 Then you shall know that I have sent this commandment to you, that My covenant with Levi may continue,’ says the Lord of hosts. 5 ‘My covenant was with him, one of life and peace, and I gave them to him that he might fear Me; so he feared Me and was reverent before My names. 6 The law of truth was in his mouth, and injustice was not found on his lips. He walked with Me in peace and equity, and turned many away from iniquity. 7 For the lips of a priest should keep knowledge, and people should seek the law from his mouth; for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts.
8 But you have departed from the way; you have caused many to stumble at the law. You have corrupted the covenant of Levi,’ says the Lord of hosts. 9 ‘Therefore I also have made you contemptible and base before all the people, because you have not kept My ways but have shown partiality in the law.“
This is our third conversation that God is having with the people of Israel, they that had returned from the captivity in Babylon and then Persia. God is calling out the problems that He is seeing and working to set things in order.
God is a merciful God, but He is first and foremost a Holy God. He is patient and kind, but He hates sin, and as a perfect God, has to address what He is seeing. His desire is to correct bad behavior and to preserve the future. Our actions have consequences, and often the consequences are not seen right now but in the generations to come.
God addresses the problems with the priest here, and it is clear that the vast majority did not listen since the priests are totally corrupt by the time Jesus is walking the streets of Jerusalem. They are totally sold out to power and have no appreciation for the truth at all. They, the priests, orchestrated the execution of the Messiah and pledged allegiance to Ceasar rather than their rightful King. God is addressing the roots of this corruption here in Malachi some 400 years before the real problems came to the surface, and if that vast majority of the priests had made a change, maybe things would have been different in Jesus’ day.
Think with me for a few minutes; Herod asked the priests where the king of the Jews would be born. They knew where, in Bethlehem, but NONE of the priests went with the Wisemen to see their King. So let us look at how they got to this sad place and then take a look at where we are today. We are in the same place, and many of our ‘spiritual’ leaders are just fakes seeking power and money. We are in a sad state; as such, many of the Lord’s people are not excited for Jesus’ Second Coming, just like the leaders were not excited for His first one.
- Spiritual Leaders Should Seek to Glorify God, verses 1-2
I am my greatest enemy. I am a sinful man. Yet when I was 17 years old, the Lord called me into the Ministry. I did not know what I was getting into, and now some 37 years later, I would never go back and change it. But I was taught early and often by some of the greatest preachers and pastors that you have never heard of. Their ministry is about Jesus, Jesus, and Jesus. Every sermon, every lesson, every talk should point to Jesus. He is the answer and the solution.
If they recall Jesus and never remember who I am, then I have done my job. The purpose of us preachers, pastors, evangelists, Sunday School teachers, and the like is to glorify God. The word glorify comes from a Greek word that means ‘to form the right opinion of,’ thus my job, our job as preachers and pastors is to teach the Bible so that the people listening form the ‘right opinion’ of God. Do they see Him as Holy? Do they see Him as Perfect? Do they see Him as Loving? Do they see Him as All-Powerful, All-Knowing, and Ever-Present? Do they see Him as the Righteous Judge to whom we will all answer? Do they see Him as Truthful and Trustworthy? Do they see Him as the Personal and Intimate God? Do they see Him as Merciful and Gracious?
I can go on, but you can see the responsibility is real and serious. But this is what God called us to do. This requires commitment and time, it requires learning and preparing, and it requires that we know the English language as it is a very vague language and can be used to do just as much damage as good using the same words. It means we have to be careful to carry the name of Jesus carefully. We use the 4th Commandment, “You shall not take the name of the Lord in Vain,” to talk about swearing or people using the ‘OMG’ phrase. But I hear a Jewish man talk about that commandment, and he said the real context is that we are not to take the name of the Lord to do evil and use it as an excuse to do wrong. Thus, we leave a negative glorification of God, not the right one.
Pastors and preachers should carry the name of Jesus carefully. How many times have we heard someone assume God was an ogre because they had encountered someone at a church who was one? That person did not carry the name of Jesus carefully. They left the wrong impression, a negative conclusion about God; they did not glorify Him.
- Spiritual Leaders are called by God, verses 4-5
In these verses, God accounts how He chose the tribe of Levi to be the Priestly tribe. All of the priests who served in the Temple, who served a High Priest and shared in the work of the Temple and Tabernacle, came from the tribe of Levi. It was their calling from birth, and they were groomed to take the various responsibilities that came with being born in the tribe of Levi.
In like manner today, pastors and preachers are called by God; they are not called by mom or grandma, and they are not called by a group of men. God calls preachers, and if He did not call you, then you are not in it for the right reasons. The calling is for life. Yes, we all stumble and fail, but the calling is for life. There is no real retirement from the calling of God. The priests of the Old Testament served in various capacities until they died. God called sinful men so that we can identify with the people we serve. Yes, serve. This is the most important work that we do. We serve the Lord’s people; we are under-shepherds with the Lord, and we will answer to Him as to how we fed, watered, and cared for His people, His sheep. See Ephesian 4: 10-12,
“He who descended is the very One who ascended above all the heavens, in order to fill all things. And it was He who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for works of ministry and to build up the body of Christ.”
He, God, Jesus, is the one who calls the spiritual leaders. It is not a hobby or something that you just did because your dad did it and because you like it. If your calling is not from God, you have bitten off more than you can chew, and the Devil is at the door waiting for you to use you; yes, even as saved people, he can use you. He will bring glory to you and anyone else except Jesus, and he will use you.
As I mentioned before, being a servant is important to the heart of a pastor or preacher. We must be the head servants in our churches; it is not another’s job. Take the lead and serve. Get dirty and sweaty, show by example, and if you are a good servant leader, you will glorify God. Jesus was the Perfect Servant Leader. See Philippians 2: 5-8,
“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.”
Jesus came to seek and save the lost, He did this by walking among the sinners of Israel, interacting with the outcasts and dregs of society, and He loved the unlovable, in man’s opinion.
We are the sinners of the world, the dregs of our society, and the hated of the world, yet Jesus still walks among us. Our job is to bring the modern outcasts into the eternal family of God. It is a calling from God, or the burden of the call will eat you, and the costs will be too much as you are not sure-footed in God’s calling, God’s approval only, and in pleasing Him and Him only as need be. The cost will loom on the horizon of every decision and not the power of the call from God, and you will fail. You may be successful in man’s eyes with a big ‘church’ and a lot of money, but you will fail because the goal of ministry is for me to fade and Jesus to be glorified, lifted up, and loved.
I/ We preachers are just dust, earthen vessels to be used and used up by and for God, for His glory, His goals, and His plans, not ours.
- Spiritual Leaders Need to Know to Teach the Bible Carefully, verses 6-7
The Bible!!! This is the book that we need to know. Did you know that the local church existed for 1900+ years without Christian bookstores? Yes, we did. Preachers and pastors saturated themselves in the Word of God. They read it over and over again.
I am blessed to have been raised and am still a part of a group of preachers that challenge each other to read the Bible a lot. In the past few years, I have read through the Bible multiple times. Last year I read through the New Testament 4 times, and this year I made a pledge to only read the Book of Proverbs for my personal devotions, and I have read through it close to a dozen times. We have forums where we discuss the Bible, learn from each other. This lesson series that I am working through has been 12+ years of teaching through the Bible verse by verse. I have taught through John, Revelation, Romans (twice), Daniel, Zechariah, Ruth, Esther, Matthew, and in church, I have taught through 1,2,3 John and 1 Corinthians verse by verse.
I am not boasting; that is my job as a preacher and pastor. Teach the Bible all the time. Right now, I am preparing for a series on the Trinity.
The priests’ job in the day of the book of Malachi was to know the law of Moses. They were to know it in and out and be able to use it to lead the people in righteousness. They led the people in disputes, and they were to rely on the OT Law to guide them in settlement and the way God wanted things done, not man’s opinion.
What does the Bible say? That was drilled into my head in our preaching classes. Many of us young preachers would begin a lesson with the phrase, “This is what I believe.” one of the old preachers would stop you and say, “Brother, I don’t care what you believe, what does the Bible say?” They would say it lovingly but firmly. What does the Bible say? Preacher/pastor, God called you to tell people what He said; that is it. Tell people what the Bible says. Often what it says is not popular.
There are only 2 genders, male and female. You cannot change what God has done; you will be either male or female for eternity no matter how many drugs you take and surgeries you have. Marriage is for a man and a woman; nothing else will work. Jesus is the only means of salvation; there is no other way. Hell is real. Judgment is coming, and we will all answer to God. The world cannot change God’s view by legislating sin to be legal. The Bible is God’s only word to us, and it does not need to be reinterpreted or changed.
We live in a celebrity-ruled world, but remember, they killed Jesus, Stephen, and almost all of the apostles for teaching the truth. You are not called to be popular, but you and I are called to tell the truth. That means countless hours of reading and studying, even and especially when you don’t want to. I will confess that some days it takes all I have to read one verse, other days I can read entire books. But on those days that it is hard, I have learned that consistency is more important than anything else.
Learn how to teach the Bible, ask the fundamental questions: who said, to whom did he/she say it, why did they say it, when did they say it, what did they say, and what did it mean at the time they said it. These are the rules of interpretation. The last one is the most important of all — what did it mean when they said it?
The English language is a fluid language; if I said a man was gay in the 1960s, it meant he was happy. If I say that in 2021, it means he is attracted to men. So, if we are reading a book dated in the 1960s, we must interpret the book to see what it means in the era that it was written in. Well, that is why we study things like culture and history in regards to the Bible; this is why we even look at secular Jewish and Roman historians to find out what things meant then. Then we can properly interpret and apply them today.
The Bible has not changed, and God is not progressive. He does not have to be; He has neither a past nor a future; He is Ever-Present.
Pastor/ preacher, know the Bible, love it, love its message and its author. It is all we need and more than we will ever need. We will never get to the end, and we never complete it. There is always more to learn and more to grow into. The more you study, the more you realize that you are the one who needs it the most. It challenges you and calls you out, and God transforms you into a person only He can make while still struggling with my sinfulness and humanity. Lord help me!
- Spiritual Leaders are Dangerous When they Defy God, verses 8-9
Jesus calls them wolves. Undisciplined and Biblically illiterate spiritual leaders are wolves. They seek fortune and fame at the expense of God’s people. Sadly, what happens is that God’s people begin to be drowned out, and then the fans of the wolves keep calling wolves and hate the pastors who are the servants of Jesus the King. Truth becomes the enemy and lies the norm.
Remember, they killed Jesus for preaching the truth. They killed a Man who could raise the dead, heal the sick and cure the diseased; they killed a Man who loved the poor, fed the hungry, and befriended the outcasts. Remember that it was the religious leaders that led the charge to kill this Man. Remember that the crowd followed the wolves, the very people that hate them and killed them, their own people, and they hated the Man who told the truth. Wolves devour their prey, but they are always looking to fight the leadership for power, and the only way to maintain power is to be nastier and meaner than the other guy.
This is what is happening in the Lord’s churches today; there are constant power struggles, and men come in who use the Bible as a springboard to teach lies. Remember what Paul said in Galatians 1:8,
“But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.”
Wolves are majestic-looking animals, but they are dangerous and deadly. They seek to kill and eat. The leader who is ruthless and insubordinate is intolerant, and questioning the leadership is met with deadly force. We see this in the Lord’s churches today, and we have an abundance of wolves, men who are obviously not called by God. They take the word of God and lie about God. Each sermon reminds you how good you are, but the Bible tells us we are evil and ONLY GOD is GOOD.
Somewhere along the lines, we began to measure success in God’s churches by how many we had in church, not by how many lived like Jesus. We wanted subjects over submission, and we traded disciples for attendees. There are many churches here in Ontario that have hundreds, if not thousands, that attend, but few are members who serve each other and take responsibility. Church has become something they do, not someone they are. They no longer glorify God. Why? Because the preacher does not lead that way. There is a paid staff, and the guy in the pew is just a number to keep the money rolling in, not an active follower of Jesus.
Hey, Sean, are you knocking on large churches? No, I am not. What I am asking is that no matter how big the church, that we, the preachers and pastors, make sure that Jesus is the Head, the King, the One we glorify.
Remember, all preachers and pastors leave, some in U-hauls and others in hearses, but if Jesus is the Head of your local church, He never leaves.
God bless you,
Dr. Sean Gooding
Pastor of Mississauga Missionary Baptist Church
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