Malachi 1:6: “‘A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am a father, where is my honor? And if I am a master, where is my fear?’ says the Lord of hosts to you, O priests, who despise my name. But you say, ‘How have we despised your name?’”
God had a great plan. To love and lead His people, he created something called the priesthood. The priest was supposed to function as a bit of a mediator in the relationship between God and His people. The priest was supposed to bring the Word of God to the people through Bible teaching and bring the burdens of the people to God through prayer.
The priests were descendants of the Old Testament leader Aaron. God’s intent was that the leadership of His people would be passed on through families from one generation to another. This would ensure relational ministry so that people were loved and cared for generation after generation.
The priesthood was centered in the city of Jerusalem at the Temple. This was the most sacred place on earth – the place where heaven and earth connected and the location for people to meet with God, who was present in the Holy of Holies. The first Temple was destroyed and, after a long season, was finally rebuilt at great work and expense to God’s people. The entire point of the Temple was to have a place where the Kingdom of God came down to the earth and theocratic rule of God over His people occurred.
The plan was wonderful, but the priests were awful. The priests stopped living Kingdom down and instead started doing ministry that the people wanted but God hated. They stopped teaching God’s truth and leading the people to obey God. Instead, they created a discount form of religion where people could disobey God morally, rob God financially, and go through the motions spiritually without any correction from the priests. In exchange, the priests were lazy at their jobs, cared little about God, and turned a calling from God into yet another job that they hated.
The Bible has three major themes: sin, suffering, and stewardship. Much of the book of Malachi is about stewardship – how God wants us to invest our life and money for His Kingdom. Their sin was in regards to their stewardship. Since everything rises and falls with leadership, God begins by dealing with the pathetic priests. In God’s rebuke, we learn three things that are crucial to all of life.
One. Honor is supposed to go up to God so that blessing can flow down from God. Throughout Malachi, the people repeatedly complain that blessing is not coming down from God. God’s response is that honor is not going up to Him. In the same way that a good parent does not reward bad behavior, God will not fund sin.
Two. In ministry, God is to be the focus and people the beneficiary. The problem in Malachi’s day, and in our own, is that people became the focus of ministry. Ministry leaders can slip into the error of thinking that their primary job is to do what people want and quickly forget that their primary job is to do what God wants.
Three. The first duty of godly leaders is to seek the will of God for His ministry and His people. Ministry is to be done Kingdom down and not people up. When torn between the desires of the people who paid them and the desires of the God who called them, they choose to obey the people and disobey the Lord. Sadly, it just goes to show that for two and a half millennia, if you want to disobey God and appear spiritual, you can find someone to teach what you want to hear and call you godly even if you are not.
Thankfully, Jesus Christ came as our great High Priest as the New Testament book of Hebrews continually explains. Unlike the failed priests, we now have Jesus. He’s our perfect High Priest who, as both God and man, mediates between God and men reconciling our relationship, forgiving our sins, and lifting our burdens without fail. Amazingly, He also places the Holy Spirit in us so that our bodies and lives become little temples through which God’s presence goes forth into the world to serve others as Jesus has served us. This is what 1 Corinthians 3:16 means saying, “…you are God’s temple…God’s Spirit dwells in you…God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.”
Is there any area of your life where you are currently not honoring God (e.g. financial, sexual, vocational, marital, parental, etc.)?