Malachi 2:3: “Behold, I will rebuke your offspring, and spread dung on your faces, the dung of your offerings, and you shall be taken away with it.”
Growing up, my kids watched a lot of animated Bible stories and fun Christian shows like the Veggie Tales. This verse was never an episode. Admittedly, this is a bit of a surprising verse and much worse than having egg on your face in what will perhaps set a new record for most awkward daily devotion of all time. But, since I’m teaching through Malachi, let’s assume that “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable” (2 Timothy 3:16). God doesn’t waste words, so why is this in His Word?
Like any conversation, context is crucial. Malachi is the last book of the Old Testament, and in it, God is giving a performance review of sorts to His leaders, the priests. They were supposed to teach people the Word of God and lead people in the Way of God. After this book was written, there would be 400 years during which no more books of the Bible would be written and then Jesus would come. If the preachers and teachers did not teach the Word of God then the people would not be ready for the Son of God.
God was telling them that since dung was coming out of their mouths with false teaching, He would smear it on their mouth unless they stopped. The word used here means unclean as unclean leaders were offering unclean sacrifices to God and teaching unclean doctrines about God. The word refers to part the part of the sacrifice that was defiled and taken out of town to be burned (Ex. 29:14; Lev. 4:11-12, 8:17). In the strongest possible language, God is telling them that what they are saying and doing is disgusting to Him. The problem was, outwardly, these looked like pious holy religious leaders. Externally, they looked wonderful to man, but internally they looked woeful to God. So, unless they changed what was inside them, God would reveal outwardly who they truly were internally for all to see.
Why does God use such strong language? There are at least three reasons.
One. God rarely uses strong language. He only uses it on occasion to grab the attention of people who have not listened to anything else and are running headlong into trouble. If you’ve ever raised our voice, changed your tone, or picked a colorful word as a last resort to get someone to listen then you understand how this works. Since God uses such language sparingly, we should do the same.
Two. It’s important that we use good words for good things and bad words for bad things. When our language is not clear, our morality becomes unclear. God sets this example. Here, God is speaking to families of ministry leadership called the priests. The adult kids were serving with their parents and all that they knew they learned from their parents. Rather than echoing God, the next generation of leaders is echoing their parents so God corrects everyone clearly.
Three. The goal of the strong language God is using is a passionate plea to get them to change their ways before it’s too late. This is not merely crassness or purposeless, it is crafted and purposeful. When God says, “if…then”, He is warning them as time is running out.
Is there anything in your life that God has recently turned up the volume on to get your attention?