by Zac Poonen
In Malachi 2:1-3, Malachi’s message is to the priests. It was like saying, “I am not speaking to the congregation. I am speaking to the leaders who are sitting on the platform.” “Take it to heart”, the Lord says, “Honor my name or I will bring a terrible curse against you. I will curse even the blessings you receive. Indeed, I have already cursed them, because you have not taken my warning seriously. I will rebuke your descendants and splatter your faces with the dung of your festival sacrifices, and I will add you to the dung heap.”
These prophets were not gentle, nice preachers who stood behind ornamented pulpits and said pleasant things to make people happy. They used strong words. How would you feel if a preacher came and told you, “I’ll splatter your faces with dung”? These prophets spoke strongly because things were so bad in Israel. Being nice and gracious and kind is all right in personal conversation. But when you stand up to speak God’s word you have to be as a lion. You must be a lion in the pulpit and a lamb outside. That is what I would recommend to all preachers. That’s how Jesus was. He used strong words. And then Malachi said, “You will know that I was sent by God with this warning.”
In Malachi 2:5,6, Malachi compared the Levites of his time with the Levites of old. And today the Lord reminds us of how the first apostles were, how they left everything to follow the Lord. “Compare yourself with them,” He says to us. The Lord says, “The purpose of My covenant with the Levites was to bring life and peace. This was what I gave them; and this called for reverence from them – and they did greatly revere Me.” Notice in verses 5 and 6, seven qualities that characterised those early Levites – characteristics that should be true of every servant of God.
1. They reverenced God.
Reverence for God is the ABC of wisdom.
2. They had a concern for God’s name.
Our Lord taught us to pray, “Hallowed be Thy name.” We must have a great longing for the name of Jesus to be honoured and respected in our land
3. They preached all of God’s truth.
Many preachers do not preach the whole counsel of God, because that would make them unpopular. So they become compromisers. I was once invited for meetings to a place where I was to be the sole speaker. A week before the meetings were to commence, the organisers wrote to me requesting that I not speak on the topic of water baptism at any of the meetings, lest it offend some of the people. I wrote back saying that in that case they would have to find another preacher. I told them that I could not accept an invitation to speak anywhere, if I was going to be told what to speak and what not to speak. As a servant of the Lord, I would have to speak whatever the Lord laid on my heart.
4. They hated sin.
They did not lie or cheat. There was a hatred for sin in their hearts.
5. They walked with God.
They safeguarded their daily walk with God.
6. They lived uprightly.
In everything in their life – the way they handled money, the way they conducted themselves, etc., – they were upright, without any crookedness.
7. They turned many from sin.
In those two verses, we have a beautiful description of what a true preacher should be like.
“The priests’ lips should guard knowledge, and people should go to them for instruction, for the priests are the messengers of the LORD” (Mal 2:7). We must go to the Lord first and receive His Word and only then go to the people and give them His Word. A messenger must have God’s word in his mouth. But those Levites, like many today, had left God’s paths, corrupted His covenant and caused people to stumble by their preaching (Mal 2:8,9).
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