Be a Phinehas!

MALACHI -Ninth in a series

Malachi 2:1-3 And now, O ye priests, this commandment is for you. (vs 1)
If ye will not hear, and if ye will not lay it to heart, to give glory unto my name, saith the LORD of hosts, I will even send a curse upon you, and I will curse your blessings: yea, I have cursed them already, because ye do not lay it to heart. (vs 2)
Behold, I will corrupt your seed, and spread dung upon your faces, even the dung of your solemn feasts; and one shall take you away with it. (vs 3)

The threatenings of God are never for mere effect or to draw attention to himself, but they are to an end. God is working to accomplish something, and someone or a group is standing in his way.

Four warnings or threats are pronounced by Malachi as a way of provoking change and reform. First, the priests should realize that they are under God's curse and will continue to be until they honor his name.

Second, he will corrupt their seed, that is, their agricultural work would be hindered resulting in famine.*

Third, he will humiliate them by spreading the dung of the sacrificial animals on their faces they will be viewed as filth by the congregation— and fourth, the sense of verse 3 is that they will be consigned to an early death: "…and one shall take you away with it."

Should these warnings not be heeded, all will understand that it is the role of the priests to uphold God's name and to teach the people to walk in his ways:
Malachi 2:4 And ye shall know that I have sent this commandment unto you, that my covenant might be with Levi, saith the LORD of hosts.
Early in the organization of Israel, the Levites were appointed by the Lord to take charge of the "hallowed things" (Num 18:8) and to teach God's Word and Law. They would have no inheritance in the land, but God himself would be their portion (Num 18:20), and they would be sustained by the offerings of the people.

Malachi 2:5 My covenant was with him of life and peace; and I gave them to him for the fear wherewith he feared me, and was afraid before my name.
An earnest Levite, Phinehas, Aaron's grandson, stood for righteousness at a critical moment (Num 25:6-8), and was then promised a covenant of peace and of an everlasting priesthood (Num 25:12-13); he was zealous for God and saved the children of Israel from judgment. That is exactly what God expected of the priests confronted by Malachi. God desired to and intended to maintain this covenant with the Levites. After 400 years it would be established afresh in Jesus Christ who would become the great high priest as God worked out his purposes in history. The next verse seems to arc to Christ from Phineas:
Malachi 2:6The law of truth was in his mouth, and iniquity was not found in his lips: he walked with me in peace and equity, and did turn many away from iniquity.

Therefore, these priests had a job to do to set an example and to teach the Jews to live holy lives. The nation was down to a small number primarily from the tribe of Judah along with the Levites who lived in the Southern Kingdom. Christ must come to this remnant; it must not disappear.

Malachi 2:7 For the priest's lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek the law at his mouth: for he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts.
The priest of God must study God's Word, or he will not be able to teach.

Vows must be honored, covenants must be upheld by both sides, truth must be preached.

Malachi 2:8 But ye are departed out of the way; ye have caused many to stumble at the law; ye have corrupted the covenant of Levi, saith the LORD of hosts.

What might be the applications of these passages to the churches and pastorates today? An obvious conclusion. Yet we can be thankful there will always be the remnant.

*Neither priests nor Levites cultivated the soil; yet, since the tithes were assigned to them, the diminution of the harvest affected them. The meal-offering too was a requisite part of the sacrifice. - Albert Barnes

Be a good witness

MALACHI -Seventh in a series

Malachi 1:9-12 And now, I pray you, beseech God that he will be gracious unto us: this hath been by your means: will he regard your persons? saith the LORD of hosts. (vs 9)
Who is there even among you that would shut the doors for nought? neither do ye kindle fire on mine altar for nought. I have no pleasure in you, saith the LORD of hosts, neither will I accept an offering at your hand. (vs10)
For from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same my name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in every place incense shall be offered unto my name, and a pure offering: for my name shall be great among the heathen, saith the LORD of hosts. (vs 11)
But ye have profaned it, in that ye say, The table of the LORD is polluted; and the fruit thereof, even his meat, is contemptible. (vs 12)

In the previous posts we noted that the priests under Malachi's scrutiny offered impure sacrifices and oblations. The animals were blind, sick and lame and the meal offerings were substandard.

Why would men offer blemished creatures to atone for their sins? Why the disrespectful bread? In today's verses we gain more insight, namely, the priests were disappointing leaders.

Malachi points out to the priests that God will not hear their prayers on behalf of the people because he would not "regard your persons." (vs 9) These were leaders who would not even shut the door of the house of God unless they were paid to do so. (vs 10) Much less would they kindle a fire on God's altar without payment. They only did their assigned duties for a paycheck, not because it was in their hearts to serve God. Then, when they performed their priestly functions, it was with unacceptable offerings.

The people must have known what their priests were as men, so they did not honor them by bringing good animals, which were to atone for their sins as well as to provide food for the priests. One perfunctory deed deserves another—a vicious cycle.

The larger context casts some light on this situation. While the Jews were in captivity there was no temple worship. During that time,

the Jews consolidated around their sacred writings, and the Torah took the place of the temple as a sacred center… One of the Talmuds, a compendium of Jewish legal thought, was written in Babylon in the fifth century. (ref)
Elders supervised the Jewish communities… This was possibly also the period when synagogues were first established, for the Jews observed the Sabbath and religious holidays, practiced circumcision, and substituted prayers for former ritual sacrifices in the Temple. (ref)

But having returned to their land and rebuilt the temple, they were to worship in the old ways which may have seemed less interesting, more expensive, and a lot more trouble.

In either case, whether the priests and people had not adjusted to the old ways or whether they were simply sinners in their treatment of each other and their Temple worship, the result was that God's name was profaned.

Only pure offerings could please him in his Temple for my name shall be great among the heathen (vs 11) You may wonder, how could the Gentiles have known whether or not the Jews were fulfilling God's worship requirements? At this time, they were in control of Jerusalem, so they could see the Jews as they went to worship.

Though Cyrus, King of Persia, had promoted their return to their homeland and the reconstruction of their Temple (2Ch 36:23; Ezra 1:1-8; Isa 44:28), he did not go so far as to cede the land back to them. Thus, God wanted his own to be good witnesses to their overlords, and perhaps this did not occur to the Jews. Malachi forces their attention to these unbelievers to whom they are called to be faithful witnesses.

The bloody sacrifice

Why would healthy domestic animals brought as offerings to God's House be a good witness to the heathen? (vs 11)

These pointed to the lamb slain from the foundation of the world (Rev 13:8) and would cause the Gentiles to stop and wonder.

Once inside the temple, the ‘meat’ oblations (see fifth post) testified of the bread of life (Jhn 6:35, 48), for living bread would come down from heaven to bring salvation to his own.

In the 21st century AD, our practices are different yet we like the Jews of the fifth century BC must be wholehearted in worship, knowing and proclaiming that the blood atones for our sins— for us, the blood of Jesus. The celebration of communion that cannot be shared with outsiders will cause them to wonder about our God.

The Euphrates

The River in the Bible - Fifth in a series

The Euphrates is a river of mystery, history and boundary.

The fourth river to flow out of Eden (Gen 2:14), ancient as time, it joined its Edenic brother, the Hiddekel – also known as the Tigris, to flow as one to the Persian Gulf in southern Iraq.

Today, we locate the sources of the Euphrates in the Caucasus Mountains of the Armenian Highlands of eastern Turkey. The largest river of southwest Asia, its name means fruitfulness, with the masculine root in Hebrew meaning to break forth.

A mysterious word is spoken to the sixth angel of the Trumpet Judgments in The Revelation, "Loose the four angels which are bound in the great river Euphrates." We then read,

"And the four angels were loosed, which were prepared for an hour, and a day, and a month, and a year, for to slay the third part of men. And the number of horsemen were two hundred thousand thousand: and I heard the number of them." (Rev 9:14-16)

A demonic host of 200 million (Rev 9:17) were rallied by these four angels to foment a fiery destruction (Rev 9:18) of what would be about 2.5 billion people if this were to happen soon, since the world's population is estimated now at a little over 7.6 billion.

That these angels were chained at the Euphrates leads us to think they may have been those who "departed their habitation" and were chained thereafter (Gen 6:4; 2 Peter 2:4; Jude 1:6). Were they four in number to set forth with their legions from where life began, to the north, south, east and west, to destroy a third of the human race?

But why were they bound at the Euphrates? And why will the Euphrates dry up just prior to the Battle of Armageddon?* (Rev 16:12), Perhaps these mysteries can be solved by studying Israel's relation to this river.

The Euphrates owns a unique place in history for God's people. After we are introduced to it in Genesis 3, twelve chapters later it is proclaimed as the east to northeast boundary for Abraham's seed in God's promise that he would be a father of countless peoples and that his descendants would inherit Canaan land (Gen 15:18-21), which was formally deeded to him by God (Gen 15:9-17).

The promise and agreement is reiterated in Genesis 17, confirming the land as "an everlasting possession" for his family (Gen 17:8). After this, we read of peoples who lived beyond the river, in reference to the lands on the east of the Euphrates, over which Abraham had crossed from Haran as he journeyed to Canaan.

We read of Jacob crossing over the river Euphrates, leaving Laban (Gen 31:21), so, obviously, when he departed his home in flight from Esau, he crossed beyond Israel's boundary, yet he was among kin, as his mother had desired him to find a wife from her family. This pictures that a boundary can be flexible on rare, ordained occasions. Perhaps it also pictures Jacob as an outcast for his sin, foreshadowing the exile of Israel that would take place twelve centuries hence.

The boundaries of Israel were reconfirmed to Moses (Ex 23:31), who related them to the tribes (Deut 11:24); with the condition that their enemies would be manageable as long as the Hebrews obeyed the Lord's commandments.

Over the centuries they often lost control of their land to enemy peoples through backsliding, but the Lord would restore their ownership when they repented.

This pictures to us that God has firm boundaries: when we transgress them we lose his blessings and peace, but if we truly repent God returns the deed to the kingdom of heaven that is within us and restores his protection of us.

Will Israel's stated boundaries ever be restored this side of heaven? Today other nations possess this area.

David battled to hold the land deeded to Abraham (2 Sam 8:3; 1 Ch 18:3) and Solomon reigned in peace in Israel's full territory (1 Kings 4:21), but after that civil war led to a downward spiral and in only about two centuries, after much disobedience, first the northern kingdom and then the southern were conquered, and God's people were taken as slaves "beyond the river" where they remained 70 years before being permitted to return to their land by King Cyrus.

After that, they never again worshiped idols. However, the number who returned was small in comparison to those who were driven out. This reminds us that our love and longing for God and his law must be very deep-seated or we may never desire to return to his established order after being severely disciplined for disobedience.

There are three major boundaries to consider in respect to Israel, which is a type of each believer. First is the southern boundary over which the Hebrews came as they left their lives of slavery in Egypt. They were NEVER to return there, though at times they wanted to and some made that mistake. The Lord strictly forbid that; we must never return to our former existence before we were set free to serve Christ (Heb 6:4-6).

Second, the western boundary of the blue Mediterranean could picture the Lord himself. We must respect and honor the glory and magnificence of the Lord, and if we overstep our bounds through familiarity and lack of fear, we will be convicted of the sin of presumption. Truly, the Lord is our brother, but he is also almighty God. Then again, the Sea could picture peoples and nations that believers are invited to navigate in sharing the gospel: a friendly boundary that we should not view as impassable.

Finally, the east to northeast boundary is the Euphrates. First we should ask ourselves, are we living out to the boundary of God's gracious provision for our lives? Have we pushed forward to conquer all the territory he has allotted? Many will find joy and greater fulfillment by reaching out to their full boundaries in Christ's call to the abundant life.

Yet, the Euphrates speaks of a firm wall — the edge to what we may pursue and indulge in before we transgress God's laws. Staying within our bounds is a daily struggle and we need all the help we can get from the Holy Spirit, the Bible, prayer, fellowship and our church to keep ourselves in God's land.

A day is coming when all hell will break loose and the Euphrates will dry up.* In a conflagration of filth, madness and hatred the heavens and earth will pass away. (2 Peter 3:10) On that day we will want to be safe in Christ, so we strive today to respect all of God's boundaries.

*Could the time of the great battle be near? "In 2008, Turkey, Syria and Iraq instigated the Joint Trilateral Committee (JTC) on the management of the water in the Tigris–Euphrates basin and on 3 September 2009 a further agreement was signed to this effect. On April 15, 2014, Turkey began to reduce the flow of the Euphrates into Syria and Iraq. The flow was cut off completely on May 16, 2014. The Euphrates now terminates at the Turkish–Syrian border. This is in violation of an agreement reached in 1987 in which Turkey committed to releasing a minimum of 500 cubic metres (18,000 cu ft) of water per second at the Turkish–Syrian border." (Ref 1; Ref 2)

Attention Readers

Have you visited the Biotech Blog on this website? Find information and resources to help you think about biotech as a Christian.

During the summer of 2017, I explored the topic of kidney donation. Is it right for a society to permit that? To encourage it? What do you think? Read the Live Kidney Donation Series!

Should you sign your driver’s license to be an organ donor? Is cremation OK with God? Do these practices undermine the Christian doctrine of the Resurrection?

Learn more. The conscience cannot function without facts.


Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. -Mat 5:14

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