“And now, you priests, this warning is for you. If you do not listen, and if you do not resolve to honor 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 honor me.” Mal 2:1-2
Yikes! This is intense. We see that honoring God is uber important!
But what does it mean to honor God? Because it’s not just puffing him up so he looks good or feels good, the way we might honor someone in the world.
God goes on in chapter 2 of Malachi to give us an example of someone who DID honor him:
“And you will know that I have sent you this warning so that my covenant with Levi may continue,” says the Lord Almighty. “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. 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. 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.”
The Levi spoken of here is the tribe of Levi, who served God as his priests instead of getting an allotment of land like the other tribes. But this passage probably also refers to Phinehas, the son of Aaron. Phinehas was a pretty bold dude. In Numbers 25, some of the Israelite men were committing sexual immorality with Moabite women, and worshiping their god, Baal Peor. God was super mad about this. He said these men needed to be put to death. But before that could happen, an Israelite guy, in flagrant disregard for God, brought a Moabite woman to his tent right in the middle of the camp, in the sight of everyone. So Phinehas stood up for the honor of God. He got a spear and skewered both this man and his partner, killing them.
This totally impressed God. He told Moses, “Phinehas son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, the priest, has turned my anger away from the Israelites. Since he was as zealous for my honor among them as I am, I did not put an end to them in my zeal. Therefore tell him I am making my covenant of peace with him. He and his descendants will have a covenant of a lasting priesthood, because he was zealous for the honor of his God and made atonement for the Israelites.” Numbers 25:10-13
Because Phinehas was zealous for the honor of God, God spared the unfaithful men, and made a the covenant of peace with the priesthood. This same covenant is the one that the priests at the time of Malachi weren’t keeping.
Phinehas was a prototype of what a priest should be, someone who stood up for what was right, and in doing so, saved people from destruction. Let’s look at Malachi 2 again and see how God described the ideal priest as one who honored him, one who “revered” him and “stood in awe of his name.“
First, it says that “True instruction was in his mouth and nothing false was found on his lips. . . . 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.” A priest speaks the whole truth. He doesn’t water it down or shade it with his opinion. This is important, because people are LOOKING for someone to tell them how to please God. The want to know how to live a functional life, not a dysfunctional one. They need the correct message.
Second, it says that “He walked with me in peace and uprightness, and turned many from sin.” A priest walks with God and by doing so, he keeps the people from walking away from God. God doesn’t want anyone to go down a bad path. I mean, I’m a parent. When I was raising my kids, I wanted them to respect me. But even more, I wanted them to make the right choices so they would have the full life I dreamed for them.
So a priest honors God by helping the people honor God, and so have the abundant fruitful life he created them to have.
Today, the Bible says in Peter that WE are priests: “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation.” We help people to honor God by walking in obedience to him, so that it will go well with them. We teach people that God is REAL and it MATTERS how they live their life.
Because that’s often why people don’t honor God. They don’t think it matters. They don’t realize that the reason their life feels out of whack isn’t because they need to get better at following the American dream, it’s because they need to get better at following God.
People are becoming less religious. I just read a NBC news article about a study on current religious beliefs. The study reports that the number of young adults who have serious doubts about the existence of God has doubled in the last 25 years. It also reports that the percentage of people who believe that the Bible is “is an ancient book of fables, legends, history, and moral precepts recorded by men, rather than the word of God” has gone up from 14% in 1984 to 22% in 2014.
We need to fight for the honor of God! We need to be zealous for it, just as Phinehas was.
I have a couple of examples I’ve seen lately of people who are zealous for God’s honor. One of my friends was at work, and her boss stated a belief that didn’t seem to jibe with the Bible. Instead of just letting it pass, my friend spoke up and said she didn’t agree, and asked if she could email her boss some scriptures to think about. My friend stood up for the integrity of the scriptures in a way that was bold, but also respectful.
On Wednesday night the members of my house church went out to share our faith and invite people to a special church service we’re having. One of our members hadn’t done this before, but when he saw my fifty-something year old husband walking over to talk to some young men sitting on a bench, he jumped into motion. “Ken needs someone young to help him,” he called to us as he ran over to share with the guys. Afterwards, he was energized, and his face lit up with enthusiasm. He loved going all out for the Lord.
THIS is the way to do it. We go all out for the Lord, and we end up living our best life.
And then we need to help others live their best life, teaching them that God IS REAL, and it MATTERS how they live.
In practice, it’s so hard, I know. But let’s let the words of God in Malachi 2 be a motivation for us to “resolve” to honor his name.
Keep a close watch on how you live and on your teaching. Stay true to what is right for the sake of your own salvation and the salvation of those who hear you. I Tim 4:16
“See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess” Deut. 30:14