Malachi 2 One Thing, More…

Questions: Why are priests singled out for special admonition? Why does God punish? Does reverence for God matter? Why? How? Where does “unity” fit into all this? Click “Read More” to pursue answers in Malachi .

Lord, speak to me through your Spirit and your Word, your Body and your Blood;
that I might know you as you are, and manifest the image of Christ in this world,
and the world to come. Amen.

And now, O ye priests, this commandment [is] for you.

If the first chapter was a general broadside against the religious “faithful”, this one looks to be a dagger thrown at the heart of the priesthood. Does that language seem too strong? Consider this:

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.

and if that wasn’t bad enough:

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.

Ick. Does this mean that God is so disgusted with them he’s giving up? No, actually — in fact quite the opposite:

And ye shall know that I have sent this commandment unto you, that my covenant might be with Levi, saith the LORD of hosts.

If I’m reading this right, God isn’t (merely) annoyed because they’ve insulted Him, but because they’ve debased what was supposed to be glorious:

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. 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. 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.

Which, now that I think about it, comes to the same thing: reverence for God and reverence for Good are intimately tied together, and you can’t diss one without dissing the other. Unfortunately, they appear willing to diss both:

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.

Ouch. I count three sins:

* personal transgressions

* making others stumble
* violating an inherited covenant
From that perspective, their punishment seems richly deserved:

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.

But, God doesn’t stop there:

Have we not all one father? hath not one God created us? why do we deal treacherously every man against his brother, by profaning the covenant of our fathers?

This is a bit surprising, as the context seems more about dealing treacherously against God (not “our brothers”):

Judah hath dealt treacherously, and an abomination is committed in Israel and in Jerusalem; for Judah hath profaned the holiness of the LORD which he loved, and hath married the daughter of a strange god.

Which, needless to say, God doesn’t take very kindly to — no matter the high station of the person doing it:

The LORD will cut off the man that doeth this, the master and the scholar, out of the tabernacles of Jacob, and him that offereth an offering unto the LORD of hosts.

Then again, the author probably didn’t draw a sharp distinction between unfaithfulness to God, ancestors, “brothers” — or “sisters”:

And this have ye done again, covering the altar of the LORD with tears, with weeping, and with crying out, insomuch that he regardeth not the offering any more, or receiveth [it] with good will at your hand. Yet ye say, Wherefore? Because the LORD hath been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth, against whom thou hast dealt treacherously: yet [is] she thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant.

Intriguingly, Malachi makes another argument about “one-ness” (‘echad) to justify God’s displeasure:

And did not he make one* Yet had he the residue of the spirit. And wherefore one* That he might seek a godly seed. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth.

There’s an underlying current here which I’m tempted to call “integrity” — the state of being whole. One God, one people, one flesh — God hates it when any of these unities are broken:

For the LORD, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away: for [one] covereth violence with his garment, saith the LORD of hosts: therefore take heed to your spirit, that ye deal not treacherously.

I wonder if that essential unity — of God, community, and individuals — is in fact the basis for God’s justice. That is, it is only when we submit to the one God that we can become whole people and maintain united relationships. And to deny any aspect of that is to unravel the whole fabric of life. No wonder God gets sick and tired of our rationalizations:

Ye have wearied the LORD with your words. Yet ye say, Wherein have we wearied [him]? When ye say, Every one that doeth evil [is] good in the sight of the LORD, and he delighteth in them; or, Where [is] the God of judgment?

God, more and more I am realizing the reality (and subtlety) of both good and evil. On the one hand, mere ritual observance does not please you; then again, violating hereditary covenants is just as despicable. Maybe the answer is that we need more than the Law, not less. Specifically, we need You. I need you. Father, I confess my lack of one-ness in my relation to my brothers and my wife, which is probably rooted in a lack of submission to You. Teach me more about who you are, and what it means to know (and show) your goodness. Grant me the grace to deal honorably and with integrity towards all I know. I ask this in Jesus name, Amen.
About the Title:
Today’s title, with its allusion to God’s ever-unfolding list of complaints about “one-ness” in this chapter, is inspired by detective Columbo’s famous last-minute questions.