"And now, O ye priests, this commandment is for you. 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.” (Malachi 2:1-2)
By 174 BC, The Jews had largely adopted the Greek lifestyle. Jason, the high priest offered for the people to pay extra taxes if Antiochus and the Selucid Empire would build them a gymnasium and provide certain social programs to help integrate the Jews with the Greek culture. The priests were actively promoting the turning from God to the Greek religion, and God said he had already cursed them and would do more if they did not start listening.
“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.” (Malachi 2:3)
Because they were actively helping turn Israel away from God, he would cause their children to be turned away even more, and embarrass the priests for having made mere rituals of God’s feasts., finally removing them from the priesthood.
Menelaus was not descended from Aaron and thus not eligible to be a priest, but he bribed Antiochus IV to make him high priest instead of Jason. The priest’s revolt against his action led to Antiochus banning Judaism in 169 BC and the Samaritans dis-associating themselves from the Jews and demanding they no longer be under Judean control.
“And ye shall know that I have sent this commandment unto you, that my covenant might be with Levi, saith the LORD of hosts. 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.” (Malachi 2:4-6)
Because of what happened, the priests would know that the prophecy was from God, as they saw it fulfilled. They would understand the original covenant with Levi, that they were to be priests because of their fear and respect toward God. Because they feared the Lord, he and his children would not get involved in the sin many of the Israelites were involved in, such as when they got involved with the Moabite and Middianite womn in Numbers 25.
“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. 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. 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.(Malachi 2:7-9)
The priest’s responsibility is to represent the Lord to the people, just as the pastor today is to do. In order to properly do his job, he needs to find out what God expects and practice it himself. Israel’s priests had ignored God’s commands, leading the people to violate his law, and violating God’s covenant with Levi and the priests. Just as they had favored some and oppressed others, ignoring what was Right, God would do the same to them.
“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? 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.
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.” (Malachi 2:10-12)
All of Israel was descended from Jacob, and they were all created by the same God. In playing favorites the priests had encouraged the people to set some groups ahead of others, implying God loved some more than others and making a mockery of God’s covenant. This had in turn led to people turning away from God and getting involved with worshipping other things. God hates that attitude, will cut out the person who practices it even if he is a respected scholar, a leader, or a priest.
It is the same attitude James condemns in the church in James 2:1-12, and just as it caused the people to turn away from God to worship other gods, the practice leads to idolizing wealth and fame today.
“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. 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. 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.(Malachi 2:13-16)
Like an adulterous husband or wife, Israel had turned to other gods, and when confronted about it, denied it asking when they were supposed to have done it in an effort to make it look like they are being unfairly accused. One of the evidences of their unfaithfulness to God was that they no longer took their marriage vows seriously. God hates divorce, and for professing Christians to just walk away from their marriage implies they have little concern for what pleases God.
There is an old saying, that where there’s smoke, there’s fire. Where one sin becomes apparent , there are almost always concealed sins such a domestic violence as well. Israel as a whole, and the priests in particular, needed to look closely at what they were doing.
“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?(Malachi 2:17)
God was sick and tired of their constant denials of guilt, and like the adulterous mate they asked what he was upset about. He was upset that they were pointing to others who were doing evil and talking about how well they were doing and that God must approve or not care since he wasn’t stopping them. It is the same attitude we see among many who claim to be Christians today, and I suspect God is just as sick and tired of it.