Malachi 2.1-9 (Study And Application)
REPENT OR DIE (1-3)Wicked leaders breed death. Godly leaders bring life. Which kind of leader are you? What kind of leaders are you following? Malachi 2.1-3 is loaded with a potent rebuke for weak worthless priests, calling them out to basically repent or die. Malachi 2.4-7 also records the life and peace that comes from God through godly leaders. The church today needs to hear these verses and after listening, to hear them again. Pulpits across our nation are often filled with peddlers not preachers, weaklings not warriors, and men more concerned with their popularity than with Jesus. It is sad. It is deadly.
The Kind Of Men No One Needs In Malachi 2.1-3 we are given a brief but colorful picture of the kind of men no one needs. These are men who don’t fear or honor God. Men who don’t care whether the church brings God spotted offerings and weak worship (see Malachi 1). Leaders too scared to speak truth, too distant from God to care, and too concerned with receiving honor instead of giving it. Men like this would be laughable if they didn’t damage so many with their spineless, sinful, self-gratifying leadership. Men like this never sin alone. They drag others to death with them and model poorly what it means to follow Jesus. They fear men, not God, and therefore forge fearful men who are far from God.
• Summarize the rebuke given in Malachi 2.1-9 against these woeful priests • Why does God directly rebuke the priests when all of His people are guilty of not honoring or fearing Him? • Do you think the rebuke of this passage can be levied against leaders today? Why?
Cursed Blessings If the priests don’t repent God will curse them. He will curse their blessings. He will pour out upon them His personal wrath over their pathetic leadership. A few reasons for God’s fury for these priests is that the people they lead are God’s people. The church is Christ’s bride, the sheep belong to the Chief Shepherd. Leaders today need a constant reminder that they are not The Leader, The Shepherd, The Priest. No, they are underlings, and under-shepherds operating under the authority of the Great King. This should have caused the priests in Malachi’s day to fear and honor God by serving the people instead of themselves, just as pastors today should lead as followers of Jesus for His glory and not their own.
• How would you apply these verses to leaders in the church today? • What are some reasons that the church seems so willing to put up with leaders who don’t fear God or honor His name? • What are the generational implications for weak leaders? How do weak leaders make weak leaders?
A Face Full Of Fertilizer And Forsaken In addition to cursed blessings and rebuked offspring we see an activity of God that is jarring and shocking. Malachi 2.3 says that God will take the dung of the worthless half-hearted offerings the priests are bringing and will wipe their faces with it. God takes the defecation of deficient worship and smears it on these dejected leaders. Instead of receiving the offering as worship, God rejects the priests and sends them outside the camp. In other words, weak worshippers are carried away with weak worship. This act of God publically shamed and defiled the priests. The honor these leaders sought for themselves is tarnished as they are visibly disqualified from the office they held. The warnings and threats of this passage should cause many leaders to look at their own standing before God and to ask if they honor Him or seek honor for themselves, if they fear God or fear man. God’s name will be great among the nations, His name will be feared, He will be honored, is He great to you? • How will spotted, blemished, half-hearted worship shame the worshipper? • How does allowing weak worship disqualify you from leading? • How does this verse play out in the church today?
FEAR AND AWE (4-7)
In light of the first three verse of Malachi 2 verse four is a breath of fresh air. The bedrock of verse 4 is God’s faithfulness to His covenant, His name and His people. We read in Malachi 2.4-7 of a different kind of leader. Here we see a leader of God’s people that is first and foremost a follower of God. We see a man who fears God, trembles in awe before His Name, preaches the Word, practices what he preaches, speaks of sin and protects people by speaking God’s Words.
God Raises Up Men By Removing Mice God clears away weak leaders to make way for men who will fear His name and preach His word. Malachi 2.3 speaks of leaders being removed and verses 4 and following speak of the kind of men God raises up to replace them.
• Spend time asking God to remove weak leaders of the kind Malachi 2.1-3 speaks of • Ask God to raise up godly men who will walk in step with Malachi 2.4-7 • Thank God for leaders in your life who have led you by following Jesus, men who feared God more than they feared you, and who were willing to preach not for popularity but to please God.
Reverence And Relationship A few characteristics mark out the kind of man who leads and cares for God’s people well. Men who lead well are men who fear God and stand in awe of His name. These are men who have been confronted with the God of the Bible, the God of creation, the Trinitarian thrice Holy God and did not walk away unwounded or unmoved. These are men who know God is not safe. These are leaders that don’t domesticate God or remake Him in their image but fall before Him and cry out “woe is me.” The covenant of life and peace is with the one that knows God is an all consuming fire and that it is not right nor wise to treat Him lightly as if He was a trained dog following commands or as a sky-genie granting wishes. No, these are men who bow and tremble and fear and praise. Men with faces to the ground and hands raised high in honor. These are servants before the Master and sons before the Father.
• How does the Bible teach us to fear God and to stand in awe of His name? • How does your knowledge of God directly impact your approach to God? • How often do you think of God in terms of fear and awe?
Messenger Of The Lord (6-7) A man that fears God and honor’s His name gets to carry the role of messenger of the Lord. A priest should guard knowledge and people should find instruction from his mouth. The kind of man pictured in verses 4-7 is someone who preaches the word, practices what he preaches, rebukes sin, and protects people by preaching truth. This is not the kind of preacher who sprinkles verses into a sermon and offers anecdotes and opinions. No. This is a leader who trembles at God’s Word and love’s His law. This is a man who knows his opinions are worth very little compared to the God-breathed, Holy Spirit inspired, inerrant, living, active, soul-piercing, life-giving Word. A man like this will turn many from iniquity because he speaks of sin and salvation. A leader like this will protect people best by preaching the Word most.
• Why is it so important that a leader love the Word? • What does it look like today for a leader to handle the Word of God in the way that verses 6-7 speak of? • How is life and doctrine connected in this passage in the life and lecturing of a leader? Why is it necessary for a leader to watch both their life and doctrine?
DESPISED AND ABASED (8-9)
Verse 8 turns us back to weak leaders who have turned away from following God, have taught others to do the same and have corrupted the covenant God has made with His people.
Weakening Worshippers Through Woeful Teaching (The Church Suffers) The priests are not walking according to the Word, and they are not teaching the Word. Both their life and their doctrine are flawed and unfortunately they are not alone. One of the great tragedies of lame leaders is the weakening of the Church. Their bad doctrine and half-hearted living leads many to stumble. As we apply these verses to the church today we see men who are healed lightly, following weakly, and “affectionally” stunted. These are often preachers speaking of a God they do not know, do not love, do not honor and do not fear. Doctrinally this creates all sorts of problems as they instruct poorly. We may see this in atheological teaching. This often works out as anti-theology, poorly developed theology, ambiguous theology, or an attempt at no theology. Some teachers are more heterodox as they reach for “generosity” and end up in syncretism and heresy. This heresy may flow from ignorance and in its worse cases stems from hostility to God and His Word. All too often a preacher may speak with a devil’s orthodoxy. They make true statements about God but these statements are lifeless. These are men with orthodoxy and no doxology growing churches with no passion, no heart, no worship, no fear, and no awe.
• What are the different ways a preacher might cause people to stumble by their instruction? • What is the result of poor instruction? How does bad teaching harm the church?
Finished, But Not Well (Despised And Abased For Life And Doctrine) The priests addressed and rebuked in these verses reach an end that none of us should desire. God makes them despised and abased before all people because they do not keep His ways or preach His Word. As we read through Malachi 2.1-9 we see that weak, woeful leaders generate weak leaders, harm churches, and finish poorly. These are the type of men no one needs but unfortunately they are too often the type of men the church is full of.
LIFE AND PEACE (The Gospel And “Gospeled” Leaders)
The Only Man We Need (Follow Jesus) Malachi 2.1-9 ends in condemnation but praise God the story doesn’t end with these despised and abased leaders. The weakness of these wicked priests points all the more to the need for a great high priest who is totally unlike them. While much of this passage describes the kind of men no one wants, we are compelled to look for the only Man who we truly need. As our eyes shift from this passage they search to find the kind of man described in Malachi 2.4-7, and in the God-man Jesus Christ we find Him. A man who loved the law and mediated on it day and night. A man who’s mouth was filled with God’s Words and true instruction. A man who walked in the paths of righteousness. Jesus loved the law and lived the law, and then as the perfect High Priest died for those who didn’t love the law or live the law. This is perhaps the biggest contrast we see between the rebuked priests and our Redeemer Jesus Christ. Wherein the wicked leaders were destroying the people they were called to serve, we see Jesus die for His people bringing a covenant of life and peace. Jesus is the One Man we truly need.
• How does this passage point you to Jesus? • How is Jesus the hero of this passage? The Kind Of Men We Want (Follow Those Who Follow Jesus) We need Jesus and we want men to lead who know they need Jesus. In other words, in our churches we should pray and seek and ask God to fill our churches with men who follow Jesus with fear and awe. A.W. Tozer captures this desire well in his essay; “We Need Men Of God Again.” As you read through this essay ask God to raise up these kinds of men.
“We Need Men Of God Again” A.W. Tozer The Church at this moment needs men, the right kind of men, bold men. The talk is that we need revival, that we need a new [movement] of the Spirit—and God knows we must have both; but God will not revive mice. He will not fill rabbits with the Holy Ghost.
We languish for men who feel themselves expendable in the warfare of the soul, who cannot be frightened by threats of death because they have already died to the allurements of this world. Such men will be free from the compulsions that control weaker men. They will not be forced to do things by the squeeze of circumstances; their only compulsion will come from within—or from above.
This kind of freedom is necessary if we are to have [powerful preachers] in our pulpits again instead of mascots. These free men will serve God and mankind from motives too high to be understood by the rank and file of religious retainers who today shuttle in and out of the sanctuary. They will make no decisions out of fear, take no course out of a desire to please, accept no service for financial considerations, perform no religious act out of mere custom; nor will they allow themselves to be influenced by the love of publicity or the desire for reputation.
Much that the church—even the evangelical church—is doing these days she is doing because she is afraid not to. Ministerial associations take up projects for no higher reason than that they are being scared into it. Whatever their ear-to-the-ground, fear-inspired reconnoitering leads them to believe the world expects them to do they will be doing come next Monday morning with all kinds of trumped-up zeal and show of godliness. The pressure of public opinion calls these prophets, not the voice of Jehovah.
The true church has never sounded out public expectations before launching her crusades. Her leaders heard from God and went ahead wholly independent of popular support or the lack of it. They knew their Lord’s will and did it, and their people followed them—sometimes to triumph, oftener to insults and public persecution—and their sufficient reward was the satisfaction of being right in a wrong world.
Another characteristic of the true [man of God] has been love. The free man who has learned to hear God’s voice and dared to obey it has felt the moral burden that broke the hearts of the Old Testament prophets, crushed the soul of our Lord Jesus Christ and wrung streams of tears from the eyes of the apostles.
The free man has never been a religious tyrant, nor has he sought to lord it over God’s heritage. It is fear and lack of self-assurance that has led men to try to crush others under their feet. These have had some interest to protect, some position to secure, so they have demanded subjection from their followers as a guarantee of their own safety. But the free man—never; he has nothing to protect, no ambition to pursue and no enemy to fear. For that reason he is completely careless of his standing among men. If they follow him, well and good; if not, he loses nothing that he holds dear; but whether he is accepted or rejected he will go on loving his people with sincere devotion. And only death can silence his tender intercession for them.
Yes, if evangelical Christianity is to stay alive she must have men again, the right kind of men. She must repudiate the weaklings who dare not speak out, and she must seek in prayer and much humility the coming again of men of the stuff prophets and martyrs are made of. God will hear the cries of His people as He heard the cries of Israel in Egypt. And He will send deliverance by sending deliverers. It is His way among men.
And when the deliverers come . . . they will be men of God and men of courage. They will have God on their side because they will be careful to stay on God’s side. They will be co-workers with Christ and instruments in the hand of the Holy Ghost. . . .
The Type Of People We Will Be As we look to Jesus and follow those that follow Jesus we will be people who fear God, stand in awe of His name, turn from sin and live in salvation. May God by His mercy and grace fill our churches with leaders who serve under the Perfect Leader, Jesus Christ. May our churches be led by the only Senior Pastor, Jesus Christ with servants under Him for His glory and the good of His people. We need leaders in our churches but only leaders who know that first they are followers, and who follow with fear and awe. As we follow Jesus, and follow those who follow Jesus the promise of this passage is we receive life and peace not dung and death.