Greetings to all!
I trust this email find all well in light off Covet-19 virus. I know there are many views and opinions concerning it's cause, purpose and solutions. I am sure that all of you have your opinion as well. But, at the end of the day we find ourselves vulnerable to contracting, spreading and possibly succumbing to the disease. The things we know are the things we should cling tightly too in times like. The issue is we fear and fret over the unknowns. But I assure each of you what we do know is greater and more beneficial to us than fear of the unknowns and what ifs.
So, what is it that we know that is so great?
1. We know that God is and HE is sovereign. Simply meaning he doesn't bend nor bow to anyone or anything including covet-19.
2. We know that God loves us. Simply put love conquers all. According to John 3:16 God spared no expense to redeem us because HE loves us.
3. We know that God is with us. We don't have to go up to bring HIM down or go down into the grave to resurrect HIM, HE is with us. Simply put he knows our concerns and predicament and He is our shepherd that's leading us through this present darkness.
So, from this day forward let's focus on what we know and less on what we don't know.
May the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ bless and keep us all.
“Need for Just Leaders”
Commentary (The ISSL Curriculum)
Sunday, March 29, 2020
Lesson: Malachi 2:1-9; 3:5-6; Time of Action: 430 B.C.; Place of Action: Jerusalem
Golden Text: “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” (Malachi 2:2).
I. INTRODUCTION. Do you ever think about what will happen when you get to heaven? One thing is certain for every human being: there will be a judgment. God’s Word makes this very clear: “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment…” Yet there are times we are judged on this earth too. Malachi deals with God’s judgment of His people. In this week’s lesson, once again we will see that God had some serious problems with His people that they needed to deal with.
II. THE BACKGROUND FOR THE LESSON. Malachi is the last of the three post-exilic (after the Babylonian Captivity) prophets. As with the other two, Haggai and Zechariah, the historical background for Malachi is found in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah. Even though he is quoted several times in the New Testament, we know nothing about Malachi’s personal life except for what we learn in this book. Since the term governor is used (see Malachi 1:8) and there is no mention of kings early in his book, most scholars agree that Malachi wrote his prophecy around 433 B.C. That means that by the time of Malachi’s prophecy, there had been Jews in Judah who had returned from captivity for over one hundred years. When Malachi was ministering, the temple had been rebuilt, but much of Jerusalem was still in ruins from the invasion of Babylon. The people had become discouraged and spiritual lethargic. Apparently, many were wondering whether the LORD really love them (see Malachi 1:2). The LORD replied by declaring that He did love them (see Malachi 2:2-5). Then the LORD addressed the priests who were guilty of dishonoring Him, and yet they were quick to ask how they had done that. God continued to describe how the priests were offering Him sacrifices that were unacceptable and that He would curse anyone who brought a corrupt animal to offer to Him because He is a “great King” and His “name is dreadful (to be feared) among the heathen “(see Malachi 1:14). Our lesson begins with chapter 2.
III. GOD WILL DISCIPLINE THE PRIESTS (Malachi 2:1-9)
A. Hear the LORD (Malachi 2:1-4).
1. (vs. 1). Our first verse says, “And now, O ye priests, this commandment is for you.” Malachi first mentions the “priests” in Malachi 1:6, where God describes them as despising the LORD’s name. One of the ways they despised God’s name was by offering defective animals that the people brought as sacrifices (see Malachi 1:7-8). In the Mosaic Law, God made it very clear that only the best or unblemished animals were to be brought to Him as sacrifices (see Leviticus 1:3, 10; 3:1). So at this point, the LORD’s message is directed at the “priests.” Speaking through the prophet, God declared “And now, O ye priests, this commandment is for you.” What the prophet is about to say is purely for the “priests” who should have taught the people the good knowledge of the LORD and how to worship Him. If given better instructions, the people would have brought better offerings; therefore the blame falls on the “priests” as God said “this commandment is for you.” The word “commandment” which normally means a directive, in this case it refers to what God is about to say and introduces a warning to the “priests.”
2. (vs. 2). This verse says “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.” The phrase “lay it to heart” means “to take something seriously.” The problem with God’s priests was that they didn’t take Him seriously when they performed their duties. When they offered defective sacrifices they were despising God’s “name” (see Malachi 1:6) instead of glorifying it. So God warned them saying “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…” This is clearly a conditional prophecy. God’s sending curses upon the priests was conditioned or depended on them repenting or changing their ways and seriously give “glory” to His “name.” If they did, this statement implies that God would withhold His “curse” upon them. But if they didn’t, God said “I will even send a curse upon you, and I will curse your blessings…” The words “your blessings” refer to either the physical and material “blessings” promised to the priests who received the peoples’ tithes (see Numbers 18:21), or the words of blessing that the priests were to pronounce on the Israelites (see Numbers 6:22-27). However, it could refer to both. If God would “curse” the priest’s “blessings” upon the people, their words would mean nothing. If He cursed the material “blessings” of the priests, which were supplied by a tithe from the people’s crop (see Numbers 18:21), this probably means that there would be a poor crop which would mean less given to the priests. It should be noted that all priests were Levites, but not all Levites were priests (see Numbers 3:5-10); although the Levites served with the priests performing menial duties (see Numbers 8:6, 14-15). All true priests in Israel were descendants of Aaron and were known as the Aaronic priesthood (see Exodus 28:1; Numbers 3:1-4). The words “even send” indicate that there is no doubt that God would keep His word. God also identified Himself as “the Lord of hosts” or the LORD of armies, which speaks of God as Almighty. Then the LORD said “yea, I have cursed them (their blessings) already, because ye do not lay it to heart.” In His omniscience, God knew that the priests would not change their ways so He declared that He had “cursed them already” because they would not take Him seriously (see Malachi 3:9). The word “them” here refers to God’s blessings for the priests. The adverse conditions that the people were now experiencing were a result of God’s judgment (see Deuteronomy 28:1-2, 15). “Blessings” and “curses” are direct and are physical consequences of God’s pleasure or displeasure with his people.
3. (vs. 3). This verse says “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.” Yahweh’s rebuke of the priests is of such great consequence that they are in danger of suffering public shame. Furthermore, their posterity or descendants may be cut off from the priesthood. The word “corrupt” is usually translated as “rebuke” in many Bible translations. However, in the Septuagint, the Hebrew Old Testament, “corrupt” carries the meaning of “to cut off.” As judgment for their sins, God said to the priests, “Behold, I will corrupt your seed.” The word “seed” here means descendants. In other words, God would cut off the priest’s descendants. It appears that this prophecy was fulfilled when Herod came to power under Rome in 37 B.C. At his own discretion he removed and appointed high priests and did away with anointing them (see Hebrews 5:4). There is no record that any of these priests were Levites, descendants of Levi. The LORD continued to declare the judgment He would bring upon the priests and their descendants in the most shocking way. He said that He would “spread dung upon your faces, even the dung of your solemn feasts.” The word “dung” can refer to both human and animal waste. According to the Law of Moses, the “dung” or waste of animals that were to be sacrificed, along with the contents of their intestines was to be taken outside the camp (Jerusalem) of the Israelites and burned (see Exodus 29:14; Leviticus 4:11-12). This was to be done with all sacrifices even during Israel’s “solemn feasts.” God declared that He would “spread dung” either animal or human waste on the “faces” of the priests and their descendants. It has to be more than disgraceful to have “dung” spread over one’s “face.” However, most likely, we should not take God’s language here literally. Instead, it probably was God’s way of vividly describing how much He hated the priests’ behavior. If this was not bad enough, God also said “and one shall take you away with it.” A clearer translation of God’s words in this verse could be: “Look, I will punish your descendants. During the festivals, you priests offer sacrifices to me. You take the dung and inside parts from the dead animals and throw them away. But I will smear the dung on your faces, and you will be thrown away with it!” I can’t think of anything more humiliating than that!
4. (vs. 4). This verse says “And ye shall know that I have sent this commandment unto you, that my covenant might be with Levi, saith the Lord of hosts.” The evil behavior of the priests indicates that either they had forgotten their sacred duties or didn’t really care about doing them as God had directed in His Law. But when they see the judgments that God has pronounced on them come to pass, God said “And ye shall know that I have sent this commandment unto you.” Again, the word “commandment” here refers to God’s warning to the priests in this text. A time would come, although too late, when they will realize that God was showing them grace by warning them what would happen if they continued to disobey Him. God then gave the reason why He was giving this warning. It was so “that my covenant might be with Levi, saith the Lord of hosts.” In other words, “the Lord of hosts” or the Almighty God was giving the priests this warning so that His “covenant” with Levi, one of Jacob’s sons (see Genesis 34:30) will continue (see Numbers 3:5-13). This “covenant” would also include Levi’s descendants. Note: This was a “covenant” of priesthood that God made with one family, Levi and his descendants. They were to perform the services of the priesthood, and if they did they would enjoy all the privileges of the priest’s office. Just as Israel was a kingdom of priests (see Exodus 19:6), the house of Aaron was to be a family of priests, set apart for the service and honour of God, and to lift up His name in that nation. The “LORD of Hosts” covenanted with the Levites to be His menial servants, honored to do His work and He promised to own and accept them in it.
B. Fear the LORD (Malachi 2:5-7).
1. (vs. 5). In this verse, the LORD continued to say “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.” Here, God described the spiritual blessings promised in the “covenant” He made with Levi. The pronoun “him” refers to Levi in the previous verse. God said that the “covenant” with Levi was one “of life and peace: and I gave them to him for the fear wherewith he feared me, and was afraid before my name.” Note: However, there was at least one major episode in the life of Levi that seems to indicate that he didn’t have a great deal of “fear” or reverence for the LORD’s “name.” This happened when he and his brother Simeon tricked all the male Hivites to have themselves circumcised in order to get revenge for their sister who was taken advantage of sexually by Shechem, the son of the prince of the Hivites. The error was in using the covenant sign of circumcision that God made with Abraham in their vengeful act. Because of this, many scholars believe that the “covenant…of life and peace” was made with Levi’s descendants, not Levi in particular. Most likely it was made with Phinehas and his family, descendants of Aaron as a result of his actions on a particular occasion (see Numbers 25:6-15). On that occasion, the covenant of the priesthood is also called, the covenant of “peace,” because by it “peace” was made and kept between God and Israel (see Numbers 25:11-13). Therefore, the great blessings of “life and peace,” contained in that “covenant,” God “gave to him (Levi)” was also given to Aaron, and Phinehas. The LORD promised “life and peace” to them and their posterity. God said that He gave this “covenant” to Levi’s descendants “for the fear wherewith he feared me, and was afraid before my name.” The tribe of Levi gave proof of their holy “fear” of God, and their reverence for his “name,” when they went so bravely against the Israelites who worshipped the golden calf (see Exodus 32:19-29). Phinehas also showed “fear” of God and His judgments when he stabbed Zimri and Cozbi, in order to stop the plague (see Numbers 25:6-15; Psalms 106:29-31). Just as God promised “life and peace” to Levi’s descendants because they “feared” Him with great zeal, He will provide the same for us if we “fear” or reverence the LORD with great eagerness.
2. (vs. 6). This verse says “The 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.” Since the LORD is speaking through Malachi in the past tense here, it appears that He considered Levi’s priestly descendants to be godly priests, and the evil priests in Malachi’s day should’ve followed in those footsteps. So God lists three important responsibilities of all faithful and godly priests that were found in Levi. First, God said that “The law of truth was in his mouth.” Unlike the evil priests who Malachi was talking to, Levi taught “the law of truth” faithfully (see Deuteronomy 33:8-10). Concerning spiritual leaders today, we might say that they are to be “mighty in the Scriptures” (see Acts 18:24-28). Second, God said that for Levi “iniquity was not found in his lips.” In other words, nothing false came from his mouth; he did not handle “the word of God deceitfully,” (see II Corinthians 4:2) to please men. Instead, he only spoke what the law was, as he received it from the LORD, whether it was pleasant or unpleasant. Third, the LORD said that Levi “walked with me in peace and equity.” This means that Levi is credited with living a life of communion with God, and made it his constant business to please him. A person of “peace” will also love God’s law (see Psalms 119:165). The Hebrew word translated “equity” has the idea of being straight as opposed to crooked. The person who walks with God leads an upright and righteous life (see Psalms 25:21). As a result of Levi’s godly life, unlike the priests in Malachi’s day, Levi “did turn many away from iniquity.” Like Levi, the godly priest or leader should set an example that causes people to imitate their righteous lifestyle which will lead them away from sin. Note: Of course, we all know that only God by His grace can “turn men from iniquity,” and yet it is here said that Levi, a pious, laboring priest “turned many from iniquity.” But he did it by working together with God, as an instrument in His hand. It is true that “those that turn many to righteousness shall shine as the stars” (see Daniel 12:3). Even today, ministers who are most likely to “turn many from iniquity,” are the ones who preach sound doctrine (see Titus 2:1, 7-8) and live good lives according to the according to the scriptures.
3. (vs. 7). This verse says “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.” In addition to the responsibilities given for a godly “priest” in the previous verse, Malachi also said “For the priest’s lips should keep knowledge.” The word “keep” here means “to guard.” The godly “priest” or spiritual leader must guard and preserve “knowledge” of God’s Law as spoken by God through Moses (see Leviticus 10:11). If the “priests” kept the knowledge of God’s Law, Malachi went on to say “and they should seek the law at his mouth.” The pronoun “they” refers to God’s people who should “seek the law” meaning God’s instructions, from the “mouth” of God’s ministers or leaders. This is because as the prophet says, the “priest” or minister “is the messenger of the Lord of hosts.” In other words, God’s ministers or leaders are His representatives to bring His message to His people just as those priests were to do (see Ezra 7:11; Nehemiah 8:1-8; I Corinthians 1:17; II Timothy 4:2).
C. The results of departing from the LORD (Malachi 2:8-9).
1. (vs. 8). This verse says, “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.” As Malachi continued to speak to the ungodly priests, he contrasted the godly life of Levi to the way those priests were conducting themselves. He said to the ungodly priests “But ye are departed out of the way.” The phrase “out of the way” refers to the righteous path that God had set for these spiritual leaders. Instead of following God’s godly way of living, these ungodly priests had “departed out of the way,” which God had prescribed for them; a way of life that their godly ancestors had walked in before them. It’s truly a harmful thing to God’s people when those who are called to guide and teach them in the right way “depart” out of it themselves (see Jeremiah 2:8). When that happens, the prophet said “ye have caused many to stumble at the law.” In other words, the priests’ ungodly guidance had caused many Israelites, God’s priestly nation to fall into sin (see Hosea 4:1-6). Malachi then added “ye have corrupted the covenant of Levi, saith the Lord of hosts.” The ungodly behavior of the priests had violated “the covenant” that God made with “Levi” (see verse 4). In essence, they betrayed their trust by contradicting the great intentions of “the covenant.” They served in the priestly office as if it was only designed to make them rich and great, and not for the glory of God and the good of the souls of men. They lost the benefit of that “covenant,” the life and peace promised to the descendants of “Levi.” Let’s not fool ourselves, when God makes a conditional “covenant” with us, we cannot expect Him to keep His part of “the covenant” if we don’t keep ours. And Malachi made sure that his audience of priests understood that these were not his words, but the words of “the Lord of hosts.” Note: Undoubtedly, Malachi was angry with the priests because as God’s messengers they didn’t know His will. This lack of knowledge caused them to lead God’s people astray. Their ignorance was willful and inexcusable. Pastors and leaders of God’s people must know God’s Word, what it says, what it means, and how it applies to daily life. Any leader of God’s people must ask themselves the question, “am I spending enough time in God’s Word?” (see II Timothy 2:15).
2. (vs. 9). This verse says, “Therefore have I also made you contemptible and base before all the people, according as ye have not kept my ways, but have been partial in the law.” Since the priests had “corrupted” or violated “the covenant of Levi” with their ungodly behavior, in this verse the LORD of hosts said “Therefore have I also made you contemptible and base before all the people.” Their unrighteousness had led the LORD to make them despised and abased “before all the people” or in the eyes of all Israel. While they glorified God He dignified them and supported their reputation, so that they were esteemed by the people while they did their duty and walked with God in peace and equity. But when they forsook the ways of God, and corrupted the covenant of Levi, God made them vile even in the eyes of the common people. Their misconduct put dishonor upon God, and made His “table and the fruit thereof contemptible” (see Malachi 1:12). Therefore, God justly put dishonor upon them and made them “contemptible” or “despicable.” Just as sin is a reproach to any people (see Proverbs 14:34), so especially it is to priests. I don’t think that there is a more despicable animal upon the face of the earth than a profane, wicked, scandalous minister. God said that He was making the priests “contemptible and base before all the people” because they “have not kept my ways, but have been partial in the law.” This means that instead of fully obeying God’s laws, the priests let their favorites break the law without any rebuke. This indicates an intentional and conscience disregard for God’s “ways.” The LORD abhors anyone who is partial when applying His laws, mainly because the Mosaic Law warns Israel against partiality or showing favoritism (see Leviticus 19:15; Deuteronomy 16:19). Even the New Testament declares that God does not respect persons (see Acts 10:34). Note: In the Law that was given to these priests they would pick and choose their duties; they would do just as they pleased while those whose hearts are upright with God have respect to all His commandments. In addition, they willfully misinterpreted and misapplied the law, either to cross those they didn’t like, or to give an advantage to those they liked. The priests would wink at the sins in some, while they rebuked the same sins in others as they saw fit. God is “no respecter of persons” in making His law, nor will He be in judging those for breaking it. The LORD does not regard the rich more than the poor, and therefore His priests, His ministers, misrepresent Him, and do Him a great deal of dishonor, if they show partiality or favoritism to persons in doctrine or discipline (see I Timothy 5:21).
IV. GOD: A WITNESS AGAINST HIS PEOPLE (Malachi 3:5-6). Malachi 3:1-4 is not part of our printed text, but in those verses, God states His solution to the ways of the ungodly priests. God’s solution begins with Malachi 3:1 where the LORD declares that He will send His “messenger” who will “prepare the way” before Him. Of course, the “messenger” is John the Baptist (see Matthew 11:2, 10; Mark 1:2-4; Luke 7:27-28) and the word “Him” refers to Jesus Christ. The second “messenger” mentioned in Malachi 3:1 refers to Jesus’ first coming and verses 2-4 looks ahead to His second coming and summarizes some of what He will do at that time. Our lesson continues with verse 5.
A. Offenders on trial (Malachi 3:5). This verse says “And I will come near to you to judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against false swearers, and against those that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow, and the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger from his right, and fear not me, saith the Lord of hosts.” Here is a continuation of the judgment that will be carried out by the second messenger (see Malachi 3:2-4) mentioned in verse 1, Jesus Christ. This second messenger declares that “I will come near to you to judgment.” At His second coming, Jesus will come to judge unbelievers. He said that He will “be a swift witness” against unbelieving sinners. Those whom the LORD will judge will try to justify themselves, and try to artfully conceal their sin, hoping to escape punishment thinking there is no proof of their sins. But God, who sees and knows all things, will Himself be a witness against them. There can be no greater “witness” against unrighteousness than the LORD Himself. Since He knows everything about everybody, He will also be a just and fair judge. Malachi declared that in “judgment,” the LORD will “witness against the sorcerers,” those who forsake the oracles of the God of truth to consult the father of lies (see John 8:44) and familiar spirits. These practices were strictly forbidden in the Law (see Deuteronomy 18:9-14). Jesus will “witness against the adulterers,” those who wallow in the lusts of the flesh, those “adulterers” who violate the seventh commandment (see Exodus 20:14; Matthew 5:27-32). He will “witness against false swearers,” those who profane God’s name and insult His justice, by calling Him to witness when they took a false oath. The LORD will also “witness against those that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow, and the fatherless.” These are oppressors, who barbarously take advantage of the most vulnerable people in Israel, and are not able to help themselves. The Mosaic Law contained specific directions for caring for these groups of people (see Leviticus 19:13; Deuteronomy 24:14-22; James 5:4). The LORD said that these oppressors “oppress the hireling in his wages” and will not give him what was agreed to. They crush “the widow and fatherless,” by not paying them what they are owed, because they cannot prove what they are owed, or have the resources to sue (see Deuteronomy 24:17). And the LORD will not forget the “stranger” or a foreigner in Israel. Although “the hireling, the widow, and the fatherless” most likely refer to Israelites, “the stranger” refers to any foreigner, who was not an Israelite. God has a special concern for “strangers” who live in Israel for He often reminded His people that they were once “strangers” in Egypt and should treat “strangers” in Israel differently than they were treated in Egypt (see Exodus 22:21; 23:9; Leviticus 19:34; Deuteronomy 10:19). The LORD will also “witness against” those who “turn aside the stranger from his right.” This refers to those who deprive foreigners of fair justice. They are taken advantage of because they have no friends to stand by them and they are also ignorant of the laws of Israel. God then said that at the bottom of all this sin was the fact that “they fear not me, saith the Lord of hosts.” The psalmist spoke correctly when he said “The transgression of the wicked saith within my (his) heart, that there is no fear of God before his eyes.” God expects and deserves to be feared or held in reverence (see Deuteronomy 31:12-13). The “fear” of the LORD will always be “the beginning of knowledge” (see Proverbs 1:7). The truth is, where there is no “fear” of God, no good can be expected.
B. The unchanging God (Malachi 3:6). Our final verse says “For I am the Lord, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.” God Himself declares His immutability, or His unchangeableness, and is glorified in His words: “for I am the Lord, I change not.” Yes, God can “change” His mind (see Jonah 3:10), but His character or who He is will never “change.” He is as much an enemy to sin as He ever was, and impenitent sinners will one day find that He still is. What God calls right will always be right, and what He calls wrong will always be wrong. God also said that because “I am the Lord, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.” The name “Jacob” here is another name for Israel (see Genesis 32:24-28). Although, “Jacob” or the Israelites deserved to be destroyed, “The LORD” said that since He does not “change,” His people have not been “consumed” or destroyed. They have not been “consumed” because God is faithful to His covenant promises with Israel and their fathers (see Genesis 12:1-4; 17:1-8, 19; Exodus 2:24). If He had not adhered to His promises they would have been “consumed” long ago and cut off from being a people. Note: The Israelites had been false and fickle in their conduct toward God, and He could have easily and justly abandoned them to be “consumed” and ruined. But because He “remembered his covenant,” with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (see Exodus 2:24; Leviticus 26:42), He would not violate it, nor change the thing that had proceeded from his lips. As a result, the Israelites have been preserved from ruin and recovered from the brink of it on more than one occasion. As believers in the God of the Scriptures through faith in His Son Jesus, we ought to be more than grateful that God does “not change” and we will never be “consumed” because His mercy endureth forever (see I Chronicles 16:34; Psalms 106:1; 107:1; 118:1-4). The LORD is, always has been, and always will be merciful. Jeremiah said it well: “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness” (see Lamentations 3:22-23).
V. Conclusion. God takes evil seriously. Although He does not work as fast as we often would like Him to, we can be sure that He will punish those who do evil. We need to make sure we are not among them. The only way to be certain of that is to be part of His family through faith in Jesus Christ.
***The International Sunday School Lesson Curriculum***