The message was presented on June 16, 2013 as a part of the series on Malachi.
Mirror God’s Character to Lead People: Enough is Enough II
There are few things worse than being told you’re doing a bad job. God rebuked the spiritual leadership of Israel prior to the destruction of Israel. Turn to Ezekiel 34.
Ezekiel was taken into captivity in B.C. 597. Five years later in B.C. 592, when he was 30 years old, which is the time a priest began ministering in official priestly duties, he began prophesying to the exiles and to those still in Jerusalem. Jerusalem would not be destroyed until B.C. 586. Even though Ezekiel was in exile, the people were still responsible to hear the word that God gave through Ezekiel. He was the messenger of God. It was not his responsibility to determine seven ways to get the information to the people. They were supposed to go to the prophet and ask what the Word from the Lord was. So God spoke through Ezekiel to rebuke the leadership,
· And the word of the LORD came to me, saying,
· 2 “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy and say to them,`Thus says the Lord GOD to the shepherds: “Woe to the shepherds of Israel who feed themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flocks?
· 3 “You eat the fat and clothe yourselves with the wool; you slaughter the fatlings, but you do not feed the flock.
· 4 “The weak you have not strengthened, nor have you healed those who were sick, nor bound up the broken, nor brought back what was driven away, nor sought what was lost; but with force and cruelty you have ruled them.
· 5 “So they were scattered because there was no shepherd; and they became food for all the beasts of the field when they were scattered.
· 6 “My sheep wandered through all the mountains, and on every high hill; yes, My flock was scattered over the whole face of the earth, and no one was seeking or searching for them.” (Eze 34:1-6)
After pointing out their polluted offerings in Malachi chapter one, God sternly warns them in Malachi chapter two. What should they have been doing that they were not? What are God’s requirements for spiritual leadership?
1) Serve glory to God’s name Mal. 2:1-2
- “And now, O priests, this commandment is for you. (Mal. 2:1)
This is the second part of God’s rebuke to the priests. You might be sitting there thinking, “Whew, this applies to pastors, not me!” Before you shut down for the morning, consider what Peter wrote to Jewish believers scattered in what is called the Dispersion in Asia Minor. He said, “…But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood,… (1 Pet. 2:9) Peter was talking to believers in general and he called them all a “royal priesthood.” They were all priests. In other words, they represented themselves to God and were called to lead others to God, just as Jesus commanded all believers to disciple people to the Lord (Matt. 28:19-20). They were priests, but they were also called a “royal priesthood.” They were royalty, because they shared in the blood of Jesus Christ, who was the King of kings. Therefore, the application of this passage impacts every believer, not just those in leadership positions.
Specifically it is given to the priests, the spiritual leaders. It is not just the pastoral leadership who is accountable today. It is the remnant of believers. The priest represented people to God, and was a teacher of the law on behalf of God. Prophets declared God’s Word to the people regularly and on special occasions. What were they doing in Malachi’s day?
We saw in Malachi chapter one, that they had made light of God’s name. Malachi said, “And when you offer the blind as a sacrifice, Is it not evil? And when you offer the lame and sick, Is it not evil?” (Mal. 1:8a) God had given precise instructions on the kind and quality of the offering that was to be made in Leviticus 22:19-22.
Furthermore, Malachi said, “You also say,`Oh, what a weariness!’ And you sneer at it,” Says the LORD of hosts. “And you bring the stolen, the lame, and the sick; Thus you bring an offering!” (Mal. 1:13) They were tired of making offerings and caused others to have a bad attitude toward worship. Additionally, the priests were more concerned about the feelings of people than the holiness of God. So whatever the people brought to offer, that is what the priests offered. What could a priest say? They were all far more concerned about entertainment, play and stimulation than in offering a holy offering to God.
Imagine if I could read your heart. And let us say you spent $200 on an Indianapolis Indians or Pacer game and you just bought a $900 television this weekend. You come to church and pull out your wallet for the offering and all you have is $20.00, so you put that in the offering bag. However, imagine I can read your heart. So I walk up to the bag, take out the 20.00 and say, “This is leftovers and no good here. God does not need this.” How would you respond? Do I need to be more concerned about you or the holiness of God?
Paul rightly said to the Galatians, “For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ. (Gal 1:10) Paul was not trying to persuade God to accept men’s actions the way they were. Paul was trying to persuade men that God was holy and they should act in accordance to God’s holiness. Paul was saying that if he were still trying to please men by accommodating men, then he’d have to make light of the holiness of God. He would not do that. He was a bondservant of the Lord, not to men. Malachi explains himself in verse two.
- 2 If you will not hear, And if you will not take it to heart, To give glory to My name,” Says the LORD of hosts, “I will send a curse upon you, And I will curse your blessings. Yes, I have cursed them already, Because you do not take it to heart. (Mal. 2:2)
God is saying through Malachi, first, you are not listening, or you would obey me. He said second, you do not take it to heart, or you would be transformed and your purpose and priority would be to give God glory. The word, “glory” means “to make big, to honor, to give an abundance, to make heavy or weighty.”
It’s the story, in reverse, of when Eli heard that his two sons, Hophni and Phineas died in battle against the Philistines. Upon hearing the news, Eli fell over and broke his neck. The wife of Phineas was pregnant and gave delivery to her baby boy. She named the boy an unusual name, “Ichabod.” Ichabod comes from the Hebrew word cabod or “glory” and the prefix “I”, negates the meaning and thus she was saying “No glory.” The glory had left Israel, because the Ark of the Covenant was gone. God admonished the Israelite priests to give glory to God, because God would curse them if they didn’t.
If they did not give glory, then God would send a curse on Israel. The word for ‘send” is the Hebrew word “shalach” and means he would “shalach-d” them or send a missile to reap destruction. He would, first, send a curse on the people. Secondly, He would send a curse on their blessings, and that cursing had already begun! When God curses blessings, life becomes horrible. Your chariots will have transmission trouble, your harvest will rot, your streams will dry up and your septic systems will back up.
Let me give an illustration. Let’s say a person wants a job and goes for an interview. But he doesn’t dress for the interview, doesn’t do his research on the company, doesn’t show up on time and doesn’t look very interested. Would you hire someone like that? Would you accept that person, because his work will probably reflect how he approaches the interview? God looked at the priesthood in the same way. He did not want their offerings. They led, but not to holiness. They had no passion.
You can tell what someone’s priorities are by first, how they spend their time; secondly, how they spend their money, and thirdly how often they connect to worship God, become equipped to be like Jesus and multiply themselves for the kingdom. God wants us to be “ate up with His kingdom.” He wants us to pursue His righteousness and He’ll take care of the details (Matt. 6:33). Serve glory to God’s name, not yours. It’s about Him, not you.
2) Stand in God’s covenant of truth Mal. 2:3-4
- 3 “Behold, I will rebuke your descendants And spread refuse on your faces, The refuse of your solemn feasts; And one will take you away with it. (Mal. 2:3)
God says, “You aren’t teaching your children, so I will have to rebuke them.” No one wants to hear a stranger rebuke their children. There is something inside that says, “That is my responsibility as a parent.” Those parents who don’t care are far down the downward spiral of indifference. Parents were not able to bring the children under control. The word “refuse” is a horrible word referring to dung, entrails, or undigested food. Moses wrote about this when he said, “But the flesh of the bull, with its skin and its offal, you shall burn with fire outside the camp. It is a sin offering.” (Ex. 29:14) Yes, the offalis awful and is to be removed from the camp. Do not let it be a part of your life.
Furthermore, God said He would “spread refuse on your faces.” What could be worse than on the face? This was a visible sign of God expressing shame on the leadership. It’s like God said, “Shame on you!” They would be rendered unclean for service. Just as you would want to wipe it away, so God was saying, “You will be carried away to the dung heap; treated as filth by the people. Shame on you!” God was saying, “Enough is enough!”
- 4 Then you shall know that I have sent this commandment to you, That My covenant with Levi may continue,” Says the LORD of hosts. (Mal. 2:4)
In the midst of the shame and misery, God says, “It will not be because others have become powerful. It will be because you have turned from Me and I have given you over to them.” Why? God made a covenant – a promise. The sons of Levi stood with Moses in Exodus 32 and killed 3000 men at the golden calf incident. Years later, just before Israel was to enter the Promised Land, the Levites were still making a name for the Lord. There were a number of Israelite men who were attracted to Midianite women and one decided to present a woman to Moses and the leadership. Without approval, the Jewish man led the woman into the tabernacle and performed the woman’s fertility cult rite. Phinehas , who was a Levite, said, “Enough is enough!” and went into the tabernacle and thrust a spear right through the man and the woman. Phineas was more concerned about the holiness of God, than the feelings of the man and the woman. You can imagine how the man and woman felt. But God said this about Phineas,
- 12 “Therefore say,`Behold, I give to him My covenant of peace;
- 13 `and it shall be to him and his descendants after him a covenant of an everlasting priesthood, because he was zealous for his God, and made atonement for the children of Israel.'” (Num. 25:12-13)
When you serve glory to God, it will lead you to stand in the covenant of truth. When you stand in the covenant of truth, it will be because you have submitted to the covenant of life and peace.
3) Submit to the God’s covenant of life and peace Mal. 2:5-7
- 5 “My covenant was with him, one of life and peace, And I gave them to him that he might fear Me; So he feared Me And was reverent before My name.
- 6 The law of truth was in his mouth, And injustice was not found on his lips. He walked with Me in peace and equity, And turned many away from iniquity.
- 7 “For the lips of a priest should keep knowledge, And people should seek the law from his mouth; For he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts. (Mal. 2:5-7)
God gave the covenant with Levi of life and peace. God gave the covenant that he might fear the Lord. Fear is appropriate with God. We do not deserve anything from God. Yet, for many people, He is like a genie. But God is not a genie.
God delineates in these next three verses what is required of leaders. First, leaders must have the fear of God (Mal. 2:5). God gave life and peace, that they would be reverent before His name. This makes us think of Proverbs 1:7, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, But fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (Pro. 1:7)
Secondly, an ability to instruct truth. The law of truth was in his mouth (Mal. 2:6a). These are the duties of equipping and discipling. Leaders must know it, so they can teach others what they have learned (Matt. 20:28).
Thirdly, integrity in judgment on behalf of others (Mal. 2:6b). This is self- control, not selfish-control. He is just in his judicial functions.
Fourthly, intimate devotion to the Lord (Mal. 2:6c). His walk matches his talk. God’s leaders walk in peace.
Fifthly, he restored many to the Lord (Mal. 2:6d). They turned from sin.
Sixthly, he preserved the truth (Mal. 2:7a). The lips are a part referring to the whole life. The lips have truth, because truth is hidden in the heart. And the lips provide what was fresh every morning.
Seventhly, he is honored by the people (Mal. 2:7b). The people seek from their leaders the message from God. God put Malachi and Israel’s leadership there to give God’s Word.
Spiritual leadership is to serve glory to God’s name and stand in God’s covenant of truth. That will happen, because they submit to the covenant of life and peace and as that happens, they will pursue sanctification. One of the purposes of sanctification is to disciple others.
4) Sanctify your life to disciple others Mal. 2:8-9
- 8 But you have departed from the way; You have caused many to stumble at the law. You have corrupted the covenant of Levi,” Says the LORD of hosts.
- 9 “Therefore I also have made you contemptible and base Before all the people, Because you have not kept My ways But have shown partiality in the law.” (Mal. 2:8-9)
The priests had failed. There were six indictments against them. First, they turned from God’s ways (Mal. 2:8).
Secondly, they led many astray (Mal. 2:8b). Contrary to how Phineas turned people to the Lord, the spiritual leadership in Malachi’s day were not helping to sanctify the people. Twenty years ago, Episcopalians ordained women. Now they ordain homosexuals to the spiritual leadership. What will they do next?
Thirdly, they were unfaithful in their commitment (Mal. 2:8c).
Fourthly, God made them contemptible in reputation (Mal. 2:9a). This is just the opposite of what God did with Elijah. Elijah was confronted with 450 prophets of Baal. So, Elijah set up a contest to see whose God was God. Both sides took an ox and were to prepare the ox for sacrifice, but neither side could light the fire. The real God Himself, would consume with a fire. Elijah had some fun with this.
When the 450 prophets of Baal set up their altar and sacrifice, they started chanting, singing and shouting. They started hopping and hobbling around the altar. Elijah decided he had seen enough and yelled out, “Maybe Baal has gone on vacation, or maybe he’s relieving himself!”
When Elijah set up his altar and ox, he directed that water be poured over the sacrifice. When Elijah prayed that God would exalt His name, God sent fire down that licked up the entire sacrifice, including the ox, wood, stones and water. The people were so moved, they bowed in worship of God and killed the false prophets of Baal. God exalted Elijah’s reputation, because Elijah honored God. The spiritual leadership of Malachi’s day had dishonored God’s name, so God made their reputation contemptible.
Fifthly, they were negligent in their duties (Mal. 2:9b).
Sixthly, they showed partiality in judgment (Mal. 2:9c). They favored people rather than God. This is what Eli the priest did for his sons in 1 Samuel 2-4. While Eli rebuked his sons, he did not insist that they do the right thing nor pull them from serving the Lord. “You respected people over my truth. You have not kept My ways. You have picked and chosen what you wanted. You find some Scripture exciting, but are bored with others.” God was saying, “Enough is enough.”
God’s leaders must mirror God’s character
and lead people in truth to the Lord!
What kind of leadership does America have? We are still dealing with the deceitful cover-up of the American Embassy in Benghazi. We are still dealing with the attack on the freedom of the press by seizure of the reporter’s phone records, and spying on media outlets to root out leakers. We are still dealing with the IRS intentionally and maliciously targeting conservative groups and leaking personal and private taxpayer information. We are still dealing with IRS officials, who threw lavish million dollar parties for themselves, even as Americans struggled to keep their jobs and pay their taxes. Those officials cannot account for their expenses – imagine that? We are still dealing with Pro-life and Christian groups, who report extreme and intrusive demands from the IRS. The IRS demanded one group to promise not to picket Planned Parenthood. We are still dealing with the IRS, who conducted 100,000 audits of adopting families in 2011 alone – because they adopted a child. The IRS just purchased coffee trays and plants with hidden cameras. Not everyone in the IRS is included. There are many law-abiding people.
What about the healthcare, that was voted in so that we could allegedly find out what is in it and now all parties are backing away because what was promised was false.
While the government is trying to disarm you, they’re arming up with millions of weapons, ammunition and executive orders.
A tyrannical government is rising up out of the ocean of people with an entitlement attitude.
But the problem is really the American Church. There have been so many deviants in pulpits abusing their position, abusing their power and abusing the people around them. It is no wonder that many denominations are experiencing a decline. But it is not just the leadership in the church, it is also the people in the pew, who allow this foolishness, this wickedness, these leaders to continue. Enough is enough!
Jesus said, “Do not be like them.” (Matt. 6:8). Jesus said, “Seek first His kingdom and all these things will be added unto you.” (Matt. 6:33). God loved Israel. That is why in His mercy He would become silent, so they would say, “Where is the voice, the message of the Lord?” Beloved, God loves you. Are you hearing from the Lord in His Word everyday?
God’s leaders must mirror God’s character
and lead people in truth to the Lord!
- Remove leaders who become complacent regarding God’s character and actions. You cannot afford not to remove them if they are complacent or they do not respond to rebuke. Some need to be tested to see how they will respond to rebuke.
- Choose leaders whose character mirrors God’s character.
- Develop leaders who are pursuing God’s character and actions.
It’s all about character, not just talent or looks. Find the right character in a man, and the other superficial things will take care of themselves. Let God develop your character and you will experience more blessing from God that you can imagine.
Message Based Discussion Questions
1) When you were growing up, what was your view of pastors, priests or spiritual leaders?
2) Read. Deuteronomy 28:1-14. What did God want to do if Israel obeyed the Lord? _______________ What if they did not obey the Lord (cf. Deut. 28:15-21)? What areas of life are covered? Did they have a choice?
3) How important is the concept of blessing to God (cf. Num. 6:22-27)? ________________ Why does a people not receive that?
4) Note 1 Timothy 3:1-13; Titus 1:6-9; and 1 Peter 5:1-5. Are the characteristics required of spiritual leaders only applicable to those in a leadership position? ______________ Why or why not?
Making application of the message to life:
5) How should followers relate to spiritual leaders (cf. Heb. 13:7,17)?
6) How can you hold spiritual leaders accountable, while being respectful and helpful?
7) What are seven things you can do to multiply yourself to prepare the next generation to lead others to Christ?