1 “And now this commandment is for you, O priests. 2 “If you do not listen, and if you do not take it to heart to give honor to My name,” says the LORD of hosts, “then I will send the curse upon you and I will curse your blessings; and indeed, I have cursed them already, because you are not taking it to heart. 3 “Behold, I am going to rebuke your offspring, and I will spread refuse on your faces, the refuse of your feasts; and you will be taken away with it. 4 “Then you will know that I have sent this commandment to you, that My covenant may continue with Levi,” says the LORD of hosts. 5 “My covenant with him was one of life and peace, and I gave them to him as an object of reverence; so he revered Me and stood in awe of My name. 6 “True instruction was in his mouth and unrighteousness was not found on his lips; he walked with Me in peace and uprightness, and he turned many back from iniquity. 7 “For the lips of a priest should preserve knowledge, and men should seek instruction from his mouth; for he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts. 8 “But as for you, you have turned aside from the way; you have caused many to stumble by the instruction; you have corrupted the covenant of Levi,” says the LORD of hosts. 9 “So I also have made you despised and abased before all the people, just as you are not keeping My ways but are showing partiality in the instruction.
God is very angry with the priests, more so than with the people, because it is their job to maintain the righteousness of themselves and the people. Priests, pastors, deacons, and elders have the responsibility not of just caring for the people’s physical needs (making sure they are being cared for) but also their emotional and spiritual needs. This means, as spiritual leaders, they must be always on the alert and constantly putting forth their best effort to walk in righteousness for the people’s sake. Earlier we saw that spiritual leaders will not only have to give an account for themselves and their families, but also those over whom God has put them in charge to serve. In Paul’s first letter to Timothy, we see in chapter three how important it is for a spiritual leader to be solidly based and continue to pursue righteousness in all things:
2 An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money. 4 He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity 5 (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?), 6 and not a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil. 7 And he must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he will not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil. 8 Deacons likewise must be men of dignity, not double-tongued, or addicted to much wine or fond of sordid gain, 9 but holding to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience.
God is upset because the priests have led the people astray. They have gotten comfortable in their positions as leaders to “lord it over them” (as Paul would say) instead of to serve. They have gotten fat and lazy by the piety of the people and as a result the people have become slack in their worship and honor of God as well. The problem with this, as we see, is that they have put themselves and the people in a place of cursing. Their religious celebrations and rituals are meaningless to God because they are not done with the right heart. We should take heed to this as God is calling into question their motives behind what they do.
We discussed in chapter one about how God prefers a cheerful giver. We shouldn’t give just because “tis the season,” but because we have the desire to give. A close friend wrote about this not too long ago, which you can read On Giving and Serving. Even more, God prefers that when we offer sacrifices, when we have religious celebrations and feasts, when we fast, when we pray, when we give God honor for something we were successful in, that we do it with a cheerful heart. We shouldn’t be doing it because we feel obligated, but because we get to do it! Our worship of God, however we do it, should be in response to how amazing He is and worthy He is of praise, not because we were taught it is the “right thing to do.” The right thing to do is praise God with all our mind, body, soul, and spirit because of who He is and who we are because of Him.
We can see here that even though the priests were going through the motions, they were not pleasing God (which is the point of all the things they were doing). The author of Hebrews gives us an interesting point to ponder in chapter 11:
6 And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.
Do we praise Him with the faith (belief/trust) that He is who He says He is and that He does what He says He does? If not, our offerings, worship, praise, giving, actions, even our vocabulary are worthless rituals we perform to make ourselves feel better but do not properly render to God the praise and worship He deserves. As we approach Christmas day, let us thinking about why we do what we do and if we are doing it to praise God or something else. Let’s give God the glory and honor He deserves.