O priests, that despise my name

MALACHI -Fourth in a series

Malachi 1:6 A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master: if then I be a father, where is mine honour? and if I be a master, where is my fear? saith the LORD of hosts unto you, O priests, that despise my name. And ye say, Wherein have we despised thy name?

Has the Lord ever said a threatening word to you personally, through his Word? Every Christian would say, Yes! The Bible has power to discern our thoughts and motivations and to exhort and guide us. And if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. (1 Cor 11:31)

In Malachi 1:6 there is potential guidance for us, since WE are the priests today. (1 Pe 2:9; Rev 1:6)

What does it mean to despise the name of God?

In answering this question, it is good to have a resource to consult such as the Westminster Larger Catechism (WLC). It teaches that breaking the third commandment comprises a great number and variety of sins. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord in vain (Ex 20:7) is an analogous concept to despising His name.

WLC Question 112 asks: What is required in the third commandment? The answer is:

The third commandment requires, That the name of God, his titles, attributes, ordinances, the Word, sacraments, prayer, oaths, vows, lots, his works, and whatsoever else there is whereby he makes himself known, be holily and reverently used in thought, meditation, word, and writing; by an holy profession, and answerable conversation, to the glory of God, and the good of ourselves, and others. [ref]

Then, the answer to Question 113 elaborates on this explanation, relating various Scripture passages to the numerous ways in which we may show lack of reverence for God's name, in effect despising it, though at times unwittingly.

Q 113: What are the sins forbidden in the third commandment?
We normally view the below points in paragraph form, but the list format makes it easy to view the associated Scriptures. (The rollover popup may not load quickly if you hover over the Scripture references in rapid succession.)

A. The sins forbidden in the third commandment are,

  • the not using of God’s name as is required; [Malachi 2:2]
  • and the abuse of it in an ignorant, [Acts 17:23]
  • vain, [Proverbs 30:9]
  • irreverent, profane, [Malachi 1:6-7, 12; 3:14]
  • superstitious [1 Samuel 4:3-5; Jeremiah 7:4, 9-10, 14, 31; Colossians 2:20-22]
  • or wicked mentioning or otherwise using his titles, attributes, [2 Kings 18:30, 35; Exodus 5:2; Psalm 139:20]
  • ordinances, [Psalm 50:16-17]
  • or works, [Isaiah 5:12]
  • by blasphemy, [2 Kings 19:22; Leviticus 24:11]
  • perjury; [Zechariah 5:4; 8:17]
  • all sinful cursings, [1 Samuel 17:43; 2 Samuel 16:5]
  • oaths, [Jeremiah 5:7; 23:10]
  • vows, [Deuteronomy 23:18; Acts 23:12, 14]
  • and lots; [Esther 3:7; 9:24]
  • violating of our oaths and vows, if lawful; [Psalm 24:4; Ezekiel 17:16, 18-19]
  • and fulfilling them, if of things unlawful; [Mark 6:26; 1 Samuel 25:22, 32-34]
  • murmuring and quarreling at, [Romans 9:14, 19-20]
  • curious prying into, [Deuteronomy 29:29]
  • and misapplying of God’s decrees [Romans 3:5, 7; 6:1]
  • and providences; [Ecclesiastes 8:11; Ecclesiastes 9:3; Psalm 39]
  • misinterpreting, [Matthew 5:21-22]
  • misapplying, [Ezekiel 13:22]
  • or any way perverting the Word, or any part of it; [2 Peter 3:16; Matthew 22:24-31; 25:28-30]
  • to profane jests, [Isaiah 22:13; Jeremiah 23:34, 36, 38]
  • curious or unprofitable questions, vain janglings, or the maintaining of false doctrines; [1 Timothy 1:4, 6-7; 6:4-5, 20; 2 Timothy 2:14]
  • abusing it, the creatures, or anything contained under the name of God, to charms, [Deuteronomy 18:10-14; Acts 19:13]
  • or sinful lusts and practices; [2 Timothy 4:3-4; Romans 13:13-14; 1 Kings 21:9-10; Jude 4]
  • the maligning, [Acts 13:45; 1 John 3:12]
  • scorning, [Psalm 1:1; 2 Peter 3:3]
  • reviling, [1 Peter 4:4]
  • or any wise opposing of God’s truth, grace, and ways; [Acts 13:45-46, 50; 4:18; 19:9 et al]
  • making profession of religion in hypocrisy, or for sinister ends; [2 Timothy 3:5; Matthew 23:14 et al]
  • being ashamed of it, [Mark 8:38]
  • or a shame to it, by unconformable, [Psalm 73:14-15]
  • unwise, [1 Corinthians 6:5-6; Ephesians 5:15-17]
  • unfruitful, [Isaiah 5:4; 2 Peter 1:8-9]
  • and offensive walking, [Romans 2:23-24]
  • or backsliding from it. [Galatians 3:1, 3; Hebrews 6:6]

No doubt each of us will find ways in which we have not honored the name of God.

In the next post we will study the specific ways that the priests to whom Malachi spoke directly were not honoring God's name. As the leaders, the blame fell upon them more than on the people. This is true for Christians as well. We are the leaders who must set a good example.

For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? (1 Pe 4:17)

The postexilic posture

MALACHI -Third in a series

In the previous post we looked at the beautiful ways of love elaborated in 1 Corinthians 13, and noted that love is at root a decision. I may love you in a simple or emotional way for a time, but eventually I must choose to love you despite yourself and my self. To this, we now add that true love disciplines; it is tough love.

For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives. It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? … all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. (Heb 12:6-11)

The exile was a severe discipline:

  • WHAT A forced deportation of Jews living in Judah and Jerusalem to a foreign land, Chaldea.
  • WHY Ordained by the Lord to show his rejection of their evil behavior and heathen worship practices.
  • WHERE They were exiled in Babylon, the ancient site on the Euphrates where the Lord had confused the language so that tribes would scatter and populate the earth.
  • WHO Nebuchadnezzar, the king of the Chaldeans, only deported the prominent citizens of Judah: professionals, priests, craftsmen, and the wealthy. The simple folk were allowed to stay.
  • WHEN Various groups were deported over a period of time. The exile was prophesied to last for 70 years and ran between 605 and 536 B.C., though the last group did not return until about 432 with Nehemiah.

The probable dates of Malachi's ministry were 440-430 BC, and some suggest he was Ezra, whose surname could have been Malachi. Malachi means My Messenger, and is considered to be generic, not a personal name, in the same vein as Luke's Theophilus. (Luk 1:3; Acts 1:1)

For the Israelites, there were two times of exile. The first, of the northern kingdom, was a "diaspora" resulting in a disappearance, but during the second— of the southern kingdom— the deported Jews formed their own community in Babylon and retained their religion, practices, and philosophies. (ref) Yet their worship ceremonies in Babylon would not have enjoyed the same feeling or perception of God's presence since it was identified with their Temple and Jerusalem.

The latter returnees showed eagerness and diligence in reestablishing Jerusalem and temple worship, as we read in Ezra and Nehemiah, but Malachi addresses descendants who seem disenfranchised. Their ceremonial observances had become rote, mechanical in nature. They no longer honored the Lord in their offerings and worship, but rather, insulted him.

It is hard to maintain a sincere, lively faith. Again, Malachi speaks to us today.

Upon their return to Israel, the Jews never again practiced idolatry, yet they were in need of renewal in heart and vision, as we will see in the next post.

Debilitating doubt

MALACHI -Second in a series

Malachi 1:1-5... Malachi reproves the Jews for doubting God's love.

Do you like God? That does not matter. The Lord is looking for those who will love him. The heart that is wholly devoted is what the Lord seeks. (Rev 3:16; 2 Chr 16:9; Mat 6:33)

We like people because they are clever, fun, intelligent, whatever, and act toward them with friendliness and so forth; but love is much different and deeper. First Corinthians 13 tells us what love is, and the list is long:

  1. longsuffering
  2. kind
  3. not envious
  4. not prideful or boastful about self nor about the object of affection
  5. not ill-behaved
  6. not self centered
  7. not easily provoked
  8. not thinking evil
  9. not rejoicing in iniquity but in truth as an ideal
  10. concealing the errors and faults of the one who is loved
  11. believing all things to encourage the loved one
  12. hoping all things to inspire and support you
  13. enduring all things, standing by you no matter what
  14. never failing

Paul lists the expressions and qualities of Christian love, while Malachi in his prologue reminds us that love is an act of volition.

The burden [oracle] of the word of the LORD to Israel by Malachi. I have loved you, saith the LORD. Yet ye say, Wherein hast thou loved us? Was not Esau Jacob's brother? saith the LORD: yet I loved Jacob, And I hated Esau, and laid his mountains and his heritage waste for the dragons of the wilderness. (Mal 1:1-3)

Malachi describes his prophecy as a burden. God has shown him that his nation, those returned from exile and now settled back in Israel, doubt God's love for them despite his preferential treatment of them. Indeed, over time Esau would be removed forever. Whereas Edom saith, We are impoverished, but we will return and build the desolate places; thus saith the LORD of hosts, They shall build, but I will throw down; and they shall call them, The border of wickedness, and, The people against whom the LORD hath indignation for ever. And your eyes shall see, and ye shall say, The LORD will be magnified from the border of Israel. (Mal 1:4-5) A full end of Edom would arrive while Israel would revive, and why? The Lord is mindful of his own; he remembers his children, and promises they will “possess the gate” of their enemies. (Gen 22:17)

Doubting is not believing all things. It is not kind, long-suffering or never-failing. It is instead ill-behaved, thinking evil of God; not hopeful but displaying that turn of heart also known as being easily provoked.

Perhaps God's nation did not like to recall that their exile to Babylon was for sins they committed. Perhaps they did not care that they were special because they were the children of Abraham. Isaiah wrote, "Look unto Abraham your father, and unto Sarah that bare you: for I called him alone, and blessed him, and increased him." (Is 51:2)

An aside: The language of Isaiah is rich and poetic, moving and lifting. Malachi's words are blunt and hard-hitting. Commentators point out that Malachi lived in the decline of Hebrew poetry. As nations lose their acumen and affinity for fine expression, indulging rather in blunt, vulgar and simple conversational communications, it is no use to regale them with poetry or prose. You will barely reach them with plain language, though slang or some cursing may help. Malachi relates God's message plainly: I loved Jacob and I hated Esau. (Ref unknown)

God had called Abraham and made a covenant with him which was maintained through Isaac not Ishmael and then through Jacob not Esau. Why? Perhaps in the case of Ishmael we can understand: wrong mother. But with the twin brothers we cannot. It seems to us like favoritism which we perceive as unjust or imperious. Romans 9 makes clear the distinction was not drawn based on behavior but on God's sovereign actions. (Rom 9:11-13)

We encounter stumbling blocks on the road to faith. One of these is Jesus Christ whose sacrificial death was required to save man from eternal damnation, so that man cannot recommend himself to the Lord on the basis of his good deeds.

And there is the stumbling block of election, so that man cannot recommend himself to the Lord on the basis of his decision to serve Christ. Man's decisions are important, but the choice to serve God and to love him is enabled by God first choosing and loving man. (John 6:44; 1 John 4:19) Again, this smacks of favoritism, and we cannot understand.

There is also the stumbling block of presumption. We cannot figure out God's ways. We question his methods and doubt his judgment. The result is that we also doubt his love for us and do not trust in his promises.

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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