Can we turn to Malachi chapter two please [P]. We have been looking through the book of Malachi – let’s have a look at what we’ve done and where we have got to. [P] This outline was done by someone else – so it’s not quite the way I would do it. It says verse 1 is introduction [P] – and the first message I gave was an introduction to the book of Malachi. Then we looked at verses 2-5 – it says that it was a prophecy against Edom [P], but in fact it was a message for Judah, not Edom; a message of יהוה’s love for His people, demonstrated by His differential treatment of the nation come from their twin brother. Then there is a second oracle: one directed against the priests. [P] We have looked at the first half of that in the last two sessions. So let’s look at the second half of that second oracle: [P] [Malachi 2:1-9 “And now this commandment is for you, O priests. (the message is still for the priests)“If you do not listen, and if you do not take it to heart to give honour to My name,” says יהוה of armies, “then I will send the curse upon you and I will curse your blessings; and indeed, I have cursed them already, because you are not taking it to heart. “Behold, I am going to rebuke your offspring, and I will spread refuse on your faces, the refuse of your feasts; and you will be taken away with it. “Then you will know that I have sent this commandment to you, that My covenant may continue with Levi,” says יהוה of armies. “My covenant with him was one of life and peace, and I gave them to him as an object of reverence; so he revered Me and stood in awe of My name. “True instruction was in his mouth and unrighteousness was not found on his lips; he walked with Me in peace and uprightness, and he turned many back from iniquity. “For the lips of a priest should preserve knowledge, and men should seek instruction from his mouth; for he is the messenger of יהוה of armies. “But as for you, you have turned aside from the way; you have caused many to stumble by the instruction; you have corrupted the covenant of Levi,” says יהוה of armies. “So I also have made you despised and abased before all the people, just as you are not keeping My ways but are showing partiality in the instruction.] It is a message to priests, the Levites are also mentioned; and I need to tell you a couple of stories about the priests and Levites [P] so that we have the background to how these came to be in the position that they were in. 1/ The first is found in: Exodus 32:1-29 [P] You recall יהוה bringing His people Israel out of Egypt to the Promised Land. He brought them to Mount Sinai where He came down to them. Moses went up the mountain to speak with יהוה. What happened? The people go impatient, thought he wasn’t coming back; and so they made an idol a golden calf and had a huge party, revelling before this idol. יהוה was furious and sent Moses down. Moses was angry and smashed the stone tablets on which the law was written. The people were out of control and something had to be done! [Exodus 32:26-29 then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, “Whoever is for יהוה, come to me!” And all the sons of Levi gathered together to him. He said to them, “Thus says יהוה, the God of Israel, ‘Every man of you put his sword upon his thigh, and go back and forth from gate to gate in the camp, and kill every man his brother, and every man his friend, and every man his neighbour.’ ” So the sons of Levi did as Moses instructed, and about three thousand men of the people fell that day. Then Moses said, “Today you have been ordained for the service of יהוה, each one at the cost of his son and of his brother, so that He might bestow a blessing upon you this day.”] That day the tribe of Levi was set apart to יהוה, “ordained to His service”. [P] That was the blessing that they received from יהוה. What they did brought a blessing from יהוה [P] - He responded to their zeal by blessing them. They had no inheritance in the land, instead יהוה became their portion! That was their blessing. We are the same, our inheritance isn’t in this world, our citizenship is in heaven; our inheritance is reserved for us in heaven: [1 Peter 1:4 to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you,]. From among the Levites came a much smaller group consecrated more particularly for the service of יהוה: the priests. The second story has to do with one of them. 2/ It also took place during the journey to the Promised Land. It is found in: Numbers 25:1-18. [P] Again the Israelites had fallen into idolatry. Advised by Balaam, the women of Moab had seduced the men of Israel. Having been enticed sexually, the Israelites joined in the worship of their gods. Again Moses stepped in to restore order, telling the judges to kill those who had become linked to Baal of Peor. But even while the people were weeping in repentance, there was still a man, Zimri, who took a Midianite woman. Then Phinehas, who was a priest, a son of the high priest; took a spear and drove it through the two of them while they were in the very act. The zeal of Phinehas became proverbial. We might regard him as a bit extreme; but his action halted the plague that יהוה had brought upon them. This is what יהוה said: [Numbers 25:11-13 “Phinehas the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, has turned away My wrath from the sons of Israel in that he was jealous with My jealousy among them, so that I did not destroy the sons of Israel in My jealousy. “Therefore say, ‘Behold, I give him My covenant of peace; and it shall be for him and his descendants after him, a covenant of a perpetual priesthood, because he was jealous for his God and made atonement for the sons of Israel.’ ”] You notice that יהוה made a covenant with him [P] – a covenant of a perpetual priesthood, and [P] a covenant of peace. In both of these stories the outcome was a job to do and a blessing bestowd. Two things stand out in common in the Levites in these two stories: one they had a fervent zeal for the honour of יהוה’s Name [P]; and the second is that they were willing to take drastic action against those closest to them – they feared יהוה more than they did man and in His opinion [P]. And in both cases יהוה rewarded this zeal for His Name. What was the issue in Malachi’s message that we looked at last time? The greatness of the Name of יהוה! [P] Honouring the Name of יהוה! We looked at: [P] [Malachi 1:11 From the rising of the sun to its setting, My Name is great among the nations, and in every place incense is being presented to My Name, and a pure offering. For My Name is great among the nations,” says יהוה of armies.] Then again in: [P] [Malachi 1:14 For I am a great King,” says יהוה or armies, “and My Name is feared among the nations.”] Particularly for the priests, the issue was upholding the honour of the great Name of יהוה! So יהוה gave a commandment [P] in verse 1 and again it is referred to in verse 4. What was the commandment? Verse 2: [“If you do not listen, (listen to what? To יהוה’s commandment) and if you do not take it to heart to give honour to My Name,” says the יהוה of armies.] There is the commandment: [P] “To give honour My Name!” That is the order of יהוה to His priests. Now we are priests of God – that is what our role is: to give honour to יהוה’s Name, to make His Name great, exalt His Name, among the nations. יהוה has called us to honour His Name. Hannah is learning a bit of Latin at school – she told me, that “vocat” means “call” – your vocation is your calling. God has called me to honour His Name – my job may be a medical laboratory scientist but my vocation is honouring יהוה’s Name! Now I may be fairly proficient at counting blood cells, but how effective am I in honouring יהוה’s Name! Look you are not a house wife, mother, car mechanic, doctor, even missionary – your vocation is exalting the Name of יהוה! This vocation, this high calling, needs to be laid on our heart – twice in verse 2 יהוה speaks of “laying to heart”. Three times in Isaiah and once in Jeremiah it speaks of those who “do not lay it to heart” or “do not take it to heart” [Jeremiah 12:11 “It has been made a desolation; desolate, it mourns before Me; the whole land has been made desolate, because no man lays it to heart.] – some of the most tragic verses in the Bible, when we don’t take it to heart. This is to be in our heart, central to the core of our being: to honour the Great Name of יהוה, to make it great. יהוה speaks and the spiritual leaders that He has appointed do not take any notice! This is endemic today! They do not obey or take to heart His instruction, His principles; they carry on their own way in human strength, with their own plans and schemes. We must hear and place on our hearts the word of יהוה. The issue is giving honour to יהוה's Name! but spiritual leaders are more concerned with honour going to their own name. The church is taken up with human needs and projects, not with giving honour and glory to Jesus. When will we lay it to heart - to honour the Name of יהוה? As we saw earlier, these priests were not doing this – they were doing precisely the opposite: they “despised the Name” (1:6) they “profaned” it (1:12). They were not obeying the commandment and so there would be a consequence [P] – It is very logical, do you see the “if, then” statement in verse 2? If they failed to listen to יהוה and take His commandment to heart then there would be a curse! That would be the consequence – their blessings turned into a curse. When Israel was on the verge of entering the Promised Land, remember that the king of Moab hired Balaam to curse Israel. But יהוה turned Balaam’s curses into blessings – this is the other way around! The blessing is going to be turned into a curse! What is the blessing that was to be cursed? We read about it in: [Exodus 32:29 And Moses said, “You are ordained today for יהוה, because each has been against his son and against his brother and so bringing on you today a blessing.” ] The blessing upon them as Levites, specially set apart to His service, with יהוה Himself as their portion. Instead of being a blessing, it would be a curse. And what a curse! Do you know that the Bible speaks in such strong language that the translators are loath to translate it? They know what the word means, they just are wary of causing offense. “I will spread shit on your faces, the shit of your feasts” He was going to rub their faces in it! – excuse the language, but that is what the Word of God says! This is a rebuke! God is angry and it comes through in the words used. יהוה says that their fine religious ceremonies were sewerage! Surely our religious performance isn’t such a stench in יהוה’s nostrils, is it?! But when you see men parading around as superstars before their audience, like some specially anointed spiritual guru who alone has the hot-line to heaven; creaming the money in from the masses with their TV shows, books, DVDs. When worship has become big business and an entertainment treadmill, ever chasing after the better band, the more spectacular light show to attract the money bringing audience whose offerings sustain the whole man-centred carry-on. Then there are churches with a liturgy that is recited as a formula – long since become devoid of heart or meaning. There is the established church which has become corrupt and political. Where is the honouring of the Great Name of יהוה in what we do? To יהוה it was sewerage! And what do you do with that? You flush it away! That is what He was going to do to them! יהוה is going to cleanse the land of their filthiness and defilement, removing all that is unclean – we read about it further on in [Malachi 3:2-3 And who can endure the day of His coming?! And who is the one who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner’s fire, like launderers’ soap. (refining, cleansing) He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; He will purify the children of Levi, and He will refine them like gold and like silver, and they will present to יהוה offerings in righteousness.] They would be removed, taken away with the filth of their religious carry-on. The curse is from יהוה Himself! This is the consequence of not carrying out our priestly role of honouring His Great Name! – a curse! The curse would remind them of the commandment, the command that was necessary for the covenant to continue on. There was a covenant [P] a perpetual covenant that remains. They were in covenant relationship with יהוה! Not just the covenant of Sinai, but a special covenant just with them as priests. We read about the covenant made with Phinehas – it was a covenant of peace! A covenant of Life! We too have been made priests, we too are in covenant relationship – a covenant made in the blood of Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God Himself! Jesus Himself said: [Matthew 26:28 for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins.] Like them it is a covenant of: Life [P] [1 John 5:11 And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.]; and a covenant of Peace; [P] Jesus said [John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.]. A covenant is a legally binding agreement, but it is also, above all a relationship. The priests had special access to יהוה; they were in relationship with Him, closer to Him than everyone else. And the state of your relationship is reflected in your behaviour. Look how things were when the relationship, the covenant, was fresh and new [P] – the way things used to be: remember the issue is honouring the Name of יהוה – and יהוה says that you revered Me [P]; we saw the heart of the Levites and Phinehas – they stood in awe of His Name [P]. Their task was to instruct the people, and true instruction was found on their lips [P]; no unrighteousness [P]; and they practised what they preached: they walked in peace [P]; that was the way they lived, in close relationship. They walked in uprightness [P]. They were a fine example and they turned many from iniquity [P]. This is the priest's role: to keep the people walking in the right way, in fellowship with God, to distinguish between right and wrong, clean and unclean, and turn those defiled by iniquity back to God. The priest's task was to make atonement, cause sin to be covered and bring the sinner back into fellowship with God through a spotless sacrifice. But for this fellowship to be restored, for forgiveness to be sought and atonement made; first the sinner must turn from his iniquity. That is how priests should be. But it is not how they were now! [P] Now, instead of turning others from iniquity, they themselves turned aside from the way to iniquity [P]. But they were still teaching – teaching people the wrong way! It is one thing to go the wrong way yourself it is another thing to cause others to stumble! [P] For such a crime Jesus spoke about millstones being hung around your neck and being drowned in the depth of the sea! The priests’ job is to teach, but their instruction was false [P], leading people astray, causing them to stumble. יהוה had entered into a covenant with them but they had corrupted it [P]. They used to walk in יהוה’s ways but now they were not keeping His ways [P]. Instead of passing on יהוה’s pure teaching they were showing partiality in instruction [P]. People would come to the priests for judgement and they would favour the one that favoured them – bribery and corruption. יהוה made a covenant with Phinehas and his descendants - a covenant of perpetual priesthood because Phinehas was jealous for his God and made atonement of the sons of Israel. Phinehas feared יהוה and stood in awe of His Name. Tragically, his descendants show little of his zeal for יהוה and the reverence that he had for His Name. The priest was to be jealous for God, defending holiness, distinguishing between clean and defiled, and making atonement. This attitude of Phinehas could not be further removed from that of the priests of Malachi's day! The covenant of peace had been violated, now they opened themselves to the curse of יהוה! Where is the zeal of Phineahs today? We don't want to seem extreme, dogmatic, bigoted; we don't want to offend people and turn them off - we must be meek, mild and completely innocuous and insipid. We don't stand up for anything! In the name of "grace" we let anything go! Where is the fear of יהוה's Name?! [2 Corinthians 5:11 Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men,]. יהוה holds Phinehas out as an exemplar of how a priest should be. He taught the truth - true instruction, he upheld the instruction of יהוה uncompromisingly. He did not allow God's word to be altered - it was the inviolable standard, the truth and he proclaimed it. The true Torah was in his mouth - he educated Israel in it, he told the people what יהוה's word to them was. He upheld the Scripture unadulterated before the people. Oh how this is needed in the Church today! - teachers of God's Word, who set it forth uncontaminated by human ideas. Tragically, Bible teachers are a rare breed in the Church today. Living by the true Torah produces peace and wholeness, uprightness and life - just as the covenant with him had promised. Peace and wholeness comes from living in accord with יהוה's Word. We are in a covenant of love – can you recall your first zeal. Perhaps, like me you did some dumb things – but they came from a zeal and a love for the LORD. Remember what Jesus said to the Ephesians [Revelation 2:4-5 ‘But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. ‘Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first.’]. [P] So there was a commandment, a consequence for breaking it, and a covenant; and lastly, there is a commission [P] – what priests were meant to do: it is found in [Malachi 2:7 “For the lips of a priest should preserve knowledge, and men should seek instruction from his mouth; for he is the messenger of יהוה of armies.] – what they should be doing was: [P] to give true instruction, uphold uprightness, and turn people back from iniquity,. Here is יהוה's definition of a priest, his duty: He is the messenger of יהוה! [P] The messenger of יהוה is: מַלְאַ֥ךְ – that is what the name of the prophet was מַלְאָכִֽי׃ - "My messenger". The priest is the one who stands between God and man. Sinful man has no access to God, he is spiritually dead, cannot hear His voice – there has to be a messenger! One who hears יהוה’s voice and speaks His message to the people. Why did God appoint us priests? – that we may hear His voice and pass on His message to others. What is the message that we speak? It is the Word of יהוה, His תּוֹרָה. We are to preserve knowledge [P] – the knowledge of יהוה. Everywhere God is being denied, His glory of His Name being denigrated. A massive propaganda machine is set on portraying His glorious work in creation as some huge accident of chance, all that exists is a mere coincidence! Evolution is a lie, it is not true, it is not knowledge. Jesus is true, יהוה is true, His word is truth – this is what we should be preserving because it is under an all out assault! And tragically that assault is even coming from within the church! We must guard knowledge - there is a concerted campaign to adulterate true knowledge, the instruction of Scripture, with human ideas and philosophy. There is a spirit of deception at work and we must guard the true knowledge and not allow it to be compromised (e.g. soft pedalling justification by faith alone to appease Catholics, giving way to Liberals on the inerrancy of Scripture, accommodating scientists with regard to evolution, old age of the earth etc.). The priest is to guard knowledge, Jude wrote: [Jude 3-4, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints. For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.] That’s what the Levites and Phinehas were doing – contending for the truth. The golden calf was a lie, it was not a god; it did not lead them out of Egypt! It was robbing יהוה of the honour due to His Great Name! It is essential to preserve the true knowledge and instruction of יהוה. Those who seek knowledge should know where to come – true instruction should come from our mouths. [P] Four times “instruction” is mentioned in (v.6-9) – each time it is the word: “תּוֹרָה” – the law, the instruction of God’s Word. All around the lie pervades – the only rock against this storm of untruth is the un-shifting rock of Scripture – the Word of God which is true and cannot be broken. You notice that these three aspects of the commission are all connected with what we say – a messenger who speaks, lips preserving knowledge, instruction from our mouth. The priest's primary role was to teach – to orally impart knowledge and the instruction of God's Word (His תוֹרָ֖ה). He was to be the one to whom men were to go if they sought to know what God's instruction was, what God's Word said on a matter. His word was authoritative because it was based on תוֹרַה i.e. he had to ensure that he knew God's Word thoroughly. How we need priests today! - not to mediate between man and God - that is the role of Jesus, the High Priest; but we are a kingdom of priests - our role is to know God's Word intimately and thoroughly and to teach it. To be the source that people can go to if they seek to know יהוה and His will – Peter wrote: [1 Peter 3:15 sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defence to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence;] People see that there is something different, that we have a hope. What hope is there if you believe the lie that we are nothing but a cosmic accident? They ask, they seek, and we are to be ready to speak instruction, the truth from the Word of God. As priests of God we are to preserve and impart His instruction - if we pervert it, the priesthood has become worthless, the covenant corrupted, and people will be led in the wrong way and will stumble. Tragically, this is what is happening in the church today - the priestly teaching of God's Word, upholding His instruction, is abysmally rare – we have the written word in abundance but as Amos foretold, hearing it is rare: [Amos 8:11-12 “Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord יהוה, “When I will send a famine on the land, not a famine for bread or a thirst for water, but rather for hearing the words of יהוה. People will stagger from sea to sea and from the north even to the east; they will go to and fro to seek the word of יהוה, but they will not find it.] That is the LORD’s commission to us as His priests to speak His instruction to a people stuffed full with lies but starving for truth: [P] [2 Timothy 4:1-5 I solemnly charge you before God and Christ Jesus, who is going to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom, preach the word, be ready in season and out of season, reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching (instruction). For there will be a time when they will not put up with sound teaching, but in accordance with their own desires, they will accumulate for themselves teachers, because they have an insatiable curiosity, and they will turn away from the hearing of the truth, but will turn to myths. But you, be self-controlled in all things, bear hardship patiently, do the work of an evangelist, fulfil your ministry.] For to this ministry we were ordained.