This is the last week of the 2019 blog series. The new 2020 blog series will start on Monday 20 January.
A prophecy: the word of the Lord to Israel through Malachi.
Israel doubts God’s love
2 ‘I have loved you,’ says the Lord.
‘But you ask, “How have you loved us?”
‘Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?’ declares the Lord. ‘Yet I have loved Jacob, 3 but Esau I have hated, and I have turned his hill country into a wasteland and left his inheritance to the desert jackals.’
4 Edom may say, ‘Though we have been crushed, we will rebuild the ruins.’
But this is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘They may build, but I will demolish. They will be called the Wicked Land, a people always under the wrath of the Lord. 5 You will see it with your own eyes and say, “Great is the Lord – even beyond the borders of Israel!”
Breaking covenant through blemished sacrifices
6 ‘A son honours his father, and a slave his master. If I am a father, where is the honour due to me? If I am a master, where is the respect due to me?’ says the Lord Almighty.
‘It is you priests who show contempt for my name.
‘But you ask, “How have we shown contempt for your name?”
7 ‘By offering defiled food on my altar.
‘But you ask, “How have we defiled you?”
‘By saying that the Lord’s table is contemptible. 8 When you offer blind animals for sacrifice, is that not wrong? When you sacrifice lame or diseased animals, is that not wrong? Try offering them to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you?’ says the Lord Almighty.
9 ‘Now plead with God to be gracious to us. With such offerings from your hands, will he accept you?’– says the Lord Almighty.
10 ‘Oh, that one of you would shut the temple doors, so that you would not light useless fires on my altar! I am not pleased with you,’ says the Lord Almighty, ‘and I will accept no offering from your hands. 11 My name will be great among the nations, from where the sun rises to where it sets. In every place incense and pure offerings will be brought to me, because my name will be great among the nations,’ says the Lord Almighty.
12 ‘But you profane it by saying, “The Lord’s table is defiled,” and, “Its food is contemptible.” 13 And you say, “What a burden!” and you sniff at it contemptuously,’ says the Lord Almighty.
‘When you bring injured, lame or diseased animals and offer them as sacrifices, should I accept them from your hands?’ says the Lord. 14 ‘Cursed is the cheat who has an acceptable male in his flock and vows to give it, but then sacrifices a blemished animal to the Lord. For I am a great king,’ says the Lord Almighty, ‘and my name is to be feared among the nations.
Additional warning to the priests
2 ‘And now, you priests, this warning is for you. 2 If you do not listen, and if you do not resolve to honour my name,’ says the Lord Almighty, ‘I will send a curse on you, and I will curse your blessings. Yes, I have already cursed them, because you have not resolved to honour me.
3 ‘Because of you I will rebuke your descendants; I will smear on your faces the dung from your festival sacrifices, and you will be carried off with it. 4 And you will know that I have sent you this warning so that my covenant with Levi may continue,’ says the Lord Almighty. 5 ‘My covenant was with him, a covenant of life and peace, and I gave them to him; this called for reverence and he revered me and stood in awe of my name. 6 True instruction was in his mouth and nothing false was found on his lips. He walked with me in peace and uprightness, and turned many from sin.
7 ‘For the lips of a priest ought to preserve knowledge, because he is the messenger of the Lord Almighty and people seek instruction from his mouth. 8 But you have turned from the way and by your teaching have caused many to stumble; you have violated the covenant with Levi,’ says the Lord Almighty. 9 ‘So I have caused you to be despised and humiliated before all the people, because you have not followed my ways but have shown partiality in matters of the law.’
Breaking covenant through divorce
10 Do we not all have one Father? Did not one God create us? Why do we profane the covenant of our ancestors by being unfaithful to one another?
11 Judah has been unfaithful. A detestable thing has been committed in Israel and in Jerusalem: Judah has desecrated the sanctuary the Lord loves by marrying women who worship a foreign god. 12 As for the man who does this, whoever he may be, may the Lord remove him from the tents of Jacob – even though he brings an offering to the Lord Almighty.
13 Another thing you do: you flood the Lord’s altar with tears. You weep and wail because he no longer looks with favour on your offerings or accepts them with pleasure from your hands. 14 You ask, ‘Why?’ It is because the Lord is the witness between you and the wife of your youth. You have been unfaithful to her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant.
15 Has not the one God made you? You belong to him in body and spirit. And what does the one God seek? Godly offspring. So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful to the wife of your youth.
16 ‘The man who hates and divorces his wife,’ says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘does violence to the one he should protect,’ says the Lord Almighty.
So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful.
Breaking covenant through injustice
17 You have wearied the Lord with your words.
‘How have we wearied him?’ you ask.
By saying, ‘All who do evil are good in the eyes of the Lord, and he is pleased with them’ or ‘Where is the God of justice?’
Judean exiles in Babylon are back in Jerusalem. The temple that King Nebuchadnezzar had looted and burnt down (2 Kings 18) was rebuilt, albeit without its former splendour. The sacrificial system was up and running again. What could possibly go wrong?
Unfortunately, lots. Men were behaving badly. Including the ‘holy men’, the priests. They were turning a blind eye to blind sheep. That was deeply disrespectful to the Lord of celestial armies.
We may wonder what’s changed when so-called ‘priests’ in our day appear in court and in newspaper headlines on charges of the sexual abuse of children, and their bishops are accused of cover-ups. A building with organised religion is not what a faith community is all about. Not back then, or now. South Africa should know that, given our history and our court cases.
It’s the men, again, who are going for easy divorces and marrying women who worship idols, while others weary God with their cynical shrugs: ‘Where is the God of justice?’ (2:17).
This is so-called male headship upside down. What would Malachi have to say to South Africa about men behaving badly in 2020?
Women of God, pray for the men in your faith community and your extended family. They need it.