A Model Priestly Messenger
Malachi presents the model of a true priest. No one is named directly, but on the surface it appears that the model was either Aaron or Phinehas. Ultimately, of course, this prophesies of Jesus Christ, the High Priest after the Order of Melchizedek.
The prophet says in Mal. 2:5-7,
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.
The true high priest is the second “messenger” in the book of Malachi. Any godly high priest, of course, became a type of Christ and thus also could fit the general description of this “messenger of the Lord of hosts.” He is one who lives at peace with God, one who has no arrest warrants issued against him by the divine court.
Such a high priest preserves the knowledge of God, so that men may “seek instruction from his mouth.” Hosea 4:1 denounces the House of Israel, “because there is no faithfulness or kindness or knowledge of God in the land.” It was the responsibility of priests to set the example of righteousness and to administer the law in a perfect balance of justice and mercy.
Such priests did not often fulfill this great responsibility. The prophet goes on to condemn the priests in Hosea 4:6,
6 My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being My priest. Since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children.
We see, then, that false priests reject the knowledge of God and forget the divine law. The law reveals the knowledge of God’s mind and plan. The priests were supposed to qualify as judges in the land, deciding cases and resolving disputes according to the mind of God. But the priests in Malachi’s time were violating the law, disqualifying themselves as God’s true priests.
Perhaps Hosea was thinking of Eli when he said “I also will reject you from being My priest.” Eli had allowed his sons to steal the offerings (1 Sam. 2:14) and to seduce the women (2:22). He probably had no difficulty judging other people for similar sins, but he showed partiality to his own sons. On account of Eli’s lawlessness, Hosea said, “I also will forget your children.” In other words, Eli’s descendants would be stripped of the priesthood.
Ultimately, a greater High Priest was needed, One who would know the law and its intent, so that he could qualify to judge the world as the Supreme Court Justice. When such a One holds the office of High Priest to judge the nations, they will rejoice. Psalm 67:4 says,
4 Let the nations be glad and sing for joy; for Thou wilt judge the people with uprightness, and guide the nations on the earth.
Malachi then chides the priests in his day for not following the model that God had set forth for them to follow.
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.
Injustice comes when the judges (priests) do not hold to the divine standard of right and wrong when they settle disputes among the people. The priests in the time of Malachi had turned aside from the ways of God. They had “corrupted the covenant of Levi.” God had covenanted with Levi to administer His laws, so that justice (and mercy) could bring peace and prosperity to the land.
But the priests had failed to implement true justice, and as a result, the priests were “despised and abased before all the people.” When justice is not done, the people lose respect for the judges. When the judges do not remain good examples to the public, the people soon lose the knowledge of God and forget His law.
Injustice often involves showing partiality or favoritism in applying the law. The rich are often favored above the poor; but sometimes the poor are favored over the rich, when governments decide to rob the rich in order to support the poor. The law addresses this in Exodus 23:3, “you shall not be partial to a poor man in his dispute.”
The other major problem which the law addresses is men’s partiality toward other tribes or ethnicities. Exodus 23:9 says,
9 And you shall not oppress a stranger [ger, “guest, sojourner, alien”], since you yourselves know the feelings of a stranger, for you also were strangers in the land of Egypt.
Hence, in the same way that the Israelites were aliens in the land of Egypt—where they were oppressed—so also were there aliens in Israel who were NOT to be oppressed.
This law is explained further in Lev. 19:33, 34,
33 When a foreigner resides with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. 34 The foreigner who resides with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were aliens in the land of Egypt; I am the Lord your God.
This is the law on which the second great commandment is based: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Lev. 19:18). Verse 34 shows that aliens were also neighbors that were included in this commandment. This is fortified in Deut. 10:19, which says,
19 So show your love for the alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.
God makes it clear that Israel ought to know that showing partiality is a sin against God, because they too had been aliens in the land of Egypt just a short time earlier. The Egyptians mistreated them, so Israel should know better than to mistreat non-Israelites.
The law against partiality is summarized in Num. 15:15, 16,
15 As for the assembly [kahal, “church, assembly”], there shall be one statute for you and for the alien who sojourns with you, a perpetual statute throughout your generations; as you are, so shall the alien be before the Lord. 16 There is to be one law and one ordinance for you and for the alien who sojourns with you.
God’s law reveals His standard of righteous behavior. What is right for an Israelite is right for all ethnicities. Right is right, and wrong is wrong, no matter who does it. That is the mind of God, as revealed in Christ. Conversely, this also means that aliens in the land must obey the laws of the land and submit to the King (Jesus). They cannot bring with them idols to worship, nor are they allowed to follow foreign laws that contradict the laws of the land. If they wish to come under God’s covenant with Israel, they are welcome (Isaiah 56:6-8), but they cannot come with the intent to replace the laws of the Kingdom with the laws of other gods.
Many Jewish rabbis today promote the idea that non-Jews should follow the so-called “Noahide laws,” while the Jews should follow the laws of Moses. This double standard is rooted in the racist idea that non-Jews have “satanic souls” and are thus incapable of understanding or complying with the bulk of Mosaic law.
The teaching of Jewish superiority is discussed more fully by Dr. Israel Shahak in his book, Jewish Fundamentalism in Israel. Dr. Shahak quotes Rabbi Menachem Schneerson:
“Two contrary types of soul exist, a non-Jewish soul comes from three satanic spheres, while the Jewish soul stems from holiness.” (p. 60)
Hence, because non-Jews have “satanic souls,” they are on the level of “beasts” and “cattle,” and as such they are incapable of having serious moral values. For this reason, they developed the idea of two laws, one for Jews and the other for non-Jews.
Such thinking violates Num. 15:14-16, which says,
14 And if an alien sojourns with you, or one who may be among you throughout your generations, and he wishes to make an offering by fire, as a soothing aroma to the Lord, just as you do, so he shall do. 15 As for the assembly, there shall be one statute for you and for the alien who sojourns with you, a perpetual statute throughout your generations; as you are, so shall the alien be before the Lord. 16 There is to be one law and one ordinance for you and for the alien who sojourns with you.
The problem was that the priests in Malachi’s time were violating the law by their partiality in administering the law. Though the prophet does not explain himself further, we know that he was prophesying of the problem as it was developing, a problem clearly seen in Jesus’ day and which has continued to the present time.
Partiality in Jesus’ Time
Jesus denounced the priests for their partiality. Matt. 5:43-45 says,
43 You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” 44 But I say to you, “Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, 45 in order that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”
By this time, Jewish culture was rooted in the idea that they were supposed to hate their “enemies,” which referred to virtually all foreigners. They despised the Samaritans, and so the Samaritan woman at the well was very surprised when Jesus spoke to her (John 4:9).
Even Peter found it somewhat difficult to explain God’s impartiality in giving Roman soldiers the Holy Spirit. Acts 10:34, 35 says,
34 And opening his mouth, Peter said: “I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, 35 but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him.
In other words, Christians were supposed to break free of the cultural idea of Judea and its priests, which instructed Jews to hate their perceived enemies and to treat non-Jews unjustly whenever possible. The law said to love the aliens, whereas Jewish traditions allowed Jews to mistreat aliens.
Impartiality in Keeping Feast Days
The law of God commands all men to keep the feasts of the Lord. Passover was to be kept by both Israelites and aliens (Exodus 12:48, 49). Pentecost too was to be kept by all men (Deut. 16:11), as well as Tabernacles (Deut. 16:14).
In the book of Acts, even Peter was surprised when the Holy Spirit came upon Roman soldiers, but he quickly learned the law of impartiality. If he had understood that Pentecost was to be observed by aliens, as well as Israelites (Deut. 16:11), this would not have been an issue, and Peter would not have needed to learn this valuable lesson.
In our time, some deny that non-Israelites can fulfill the feast of Tabernacles as overcomers. They think that one must be of a particular genealogy to be an overcomer. Hence, even though the issue of aliens entering into the experience of Pentecost was resolved in Peter’s day, now some must learn the same lesson about Tabernacles. Once again, the answer is found in the law, which tells us in Deut. 16:13, 14,
13 You shall celebrate the Feast of Booths [i.e., Tabernacles] seven days after you have gathered in from your threshing floor and your wine vat; 14 and you shall rejoice in your feast, you and your son and your daughter and your male and female servants and the Levite and the stranger [“alien”] and the orphan and the widow who are in your towns.
The law shows no partiality in regard to any of the feasts. All are not only allowed to keep the feasts, but they are commanded to do so. This same law shows that no matter who you are, male, female, widow, orphan, Levite, or alien—all are commanded to become overcomers through the feast of Tabernacles. Of course, only a few will actually fulfill this law during their life prior to the Kingdom, but it is important to know that God is impartial in this regard.