WEEKLY SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
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THE NEED FOR JUST LEADERS
(A warning to Church leaders)
(Malachi 2:1-9 and 3:1-7)
One hundred years after King Cyrus decreed to allow the Jews to return to their homeland of Jerusalem from Babylon, GOD sent his prophet Malachi to deliver a six-part message, to a now restored community, that had become dangerously low on spiritual vitality.
It was Peter C. Craigie who wrote; “When people cease to care, then religion, morality, social customs and values, all cease to function as “mortar”, that holds together a society, and maintains ancient faith”.
Nehemiah and Ezra had already begun to install some necessary religious and political reforms, and now, Malachi’s task would be to direct the people of Israel to focus on their individual spiritual problems, or, sins. Also, there were some very basic problems concerning the priesthood of Israel, whose corrupt activities and neglect of GOD’s Temple had become shameful, not only to the people on earth, but also, to GOD in Heaven.
In the book of Malachi, the prophet challenges the people about their lack of relationship and obedience to GOD. It is never an easy task to deal with indifference, or its consequences, or a gradual slide towards an unstructured existence, much like the one we live in today.
Malachi is the last of the twelve “so called” minor prophets, and the final book of the Old Testament in its present order. It brings to an appropriate end, our reflections on the messages of the prophets of ancient Israel. For instance, one can hardly read Malachi 3:1 without being reminded of the ministry of John the Baptist. It prompts us to recall his immortal words of being “a voice crying in the wilderness” seeking to “make straight, the way of the LORD”.
In the biblical Greek, the word used for “messenger” is “aggelos” (ang-el-los), and “it describes one who brings news or tidings by divine order from GOD”. In Malachi 3, the word “messenger” takes on a three-fold emphasis. There we see the messenger, Malachi, announcing the coming of the messenger John the Baptist, who announces the coming of our LORD and SAVIOR, JESUS CHRIST, the ultimate MESSENGER.
In this powerful book of Malachi, we see the Old Testament coming to a dramatic conclusion with a vivid warning of a “coming ME$SSIAH” WHO would convict Israel of her sins with HIS unprecedent “in-dept teaching style”, and unique behavior and obedience toward GOD.
Over in Malachi 2, verses 1-9, we first see a warning from GOD to the priests of Israel; “Listen you priests; this command is for you! Listen to ME and take it to heart. Honor MY name, says the LORD Almighty, 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”.
The priests of Israel were appointed from the tribe of Levi and were charged with teaching GOD’s Law to the rest of the nation of Israel. Their failure to do so, over a long period of time, established their lack of reverence for GOD, and corrupted their heart, which naturally caused their teaching to be distorted. Instead of leading people to GOD, they began to, both, wittingly, and unwittingly, lead the people to sin. Accurate interpretation of the Scriptures does not so much depend of education as it does on personal dedication to, and love for, the Almighty GOD in Heaven.
GOD says in verse 5 that the purpose of HIS Covenant with the Levites was to “bring life and peace”. However, this Covenant hinged very greatly on “their continued love and reverence HIM”. Their job was to pass on the “truth of GOD’s Word” that they received directly from HIM, and to be a living example of how GOD wanted HIS people to live, here on earth. They were to live “good” and “righteous” lives before GOD, and, the people of Israel. And now instead, they were leading the people to Hell with their corrupt behavior and teaching.
The priests of Israel had strayed away from the path that GOD had put them on (v.8), and their guidance, like in today’s “Church Age” had caused many people to stumble into sin. They had corrupted the very Covenant that GOD had made with them, and, as a result, they had become despised in HIS eyes, and humiliated in the eyes of the people (v.9).
In Malachi 3, verses 5-7 the LORD says that HE will “put those corrupt leaders on trial”, and that HE HIMSELF will be a ready witness against all “sorcerers” (corrupt religious leaders) “adulterers” (those who follow them) and “liars” (all who refuse to hear the truth of HIS Word, or, are offended by HIS Word).
GOD also says the HE will speak against all those employers who cheat their workers of their wages, and all those who oppress widows and orphans and refuse to react positively to their needs. GOD says HE will also witness against all those who deprive foreigners (non-Jewish residents) of justice, because by doing so, they show a lack reverence for HIM.
The second coming of our LORD and SAVIOR, JESUS CHRIST, as it is foretold in this passage, will be one of purification. Here we are presented with the image of a refiner’s fire (Vs.2-3) that will remove the impurities of the Levite priests and make their sacrifices to GOD once again acceptable (v.4).
The only way GOD can be near to us, is for us to make up our minds to live a ‘righteousness-seeking life”, humbly under HIM. The reaction of the people here in this passage is one of “feigned shock” when Malachi talks about “the people returning to GOD”. Here they question, “What do you mean by, “return”? Who left?
It is much like the Church today, here in this, the 21st century. It is full of people who honestly believe that they are “saved”, despite all the evidence of their continued sin, in and outside the Church. Very little attention is given to the paying of tithes that are “earmarked by GOD” to support all those who are willing to work in the Church full time, and all those orphans and “true widows” who come to the Church (Storehouse) for their human needs.
The spirit of our “willingness to give sacrificially from the heart” (not for self-promotion), will take “the curse” that GOD mentions in these passages (Malachi 2:2 and 3:9) off the money and things that we keep for ourselves here on earth, and, at one and the same time, JESUS says, “will store up treasures for us in Heaven” (Luke 16:9).
A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander
LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website