Crocodile tears and coverup

MALACHI -Eleventh in a series

Malachi 2:11-12 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.

In verse 11 of Malachi 2, Malachi gives credit to the Jews for loving God; at least there was some record of this in their past. But now they married foreign women, profaning his holiness (Lev 21:14). This was a sin both of those who held positions of leadership, the masters— the priests, and their underlings, the scholars who learned their ways.

Both would be cut off for this practice. God is no respecter of persons.

The next verse is interpreted in varying ways by commentators:
Malachi 2:13 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.

One interpretation is that the priests invited the wronged wives to cry out to God and their tears figuratively covered the altar of the temple. Their tears were regarded, but the offerings of the priests were not.

The other idea is that the priests cried out for answers to prayers with profuse tears, because God did not regard their offerings nor answer their prayers for the people. In this view, the tears were "crocodile tears."

Do crocs really cry? A bit of lore, to explain the phrase:

The 16th Century slaver John Hawkins and his crew observed crocodiles in the Carribbean and reported that they would "cry and sobbe like a Christian body". In doing this, it was claimed, they would lure sympathetic victims into range, before surprising them and devouring them. The imagery behind the story is so powerful that belief in it continued well into the 18th and 19th Century. (ref)

The weeping priests were insincere, attracting attention of the dupes who believed them to be in agony.

This latter explanation seems on target as we continue to the next verse:
Malachi 2:14 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.

The priests protested they did not "get it"— Wherefore? Malachi thus points them to the truth of Scripture, that the wife each took in pledge when young was the companion approved by the Lord. This is elaborated in the next verse:
Malachi 2:15 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.

Malachi reminds the priests that God created man (humankind), Adam and Eve, from one substance (Gen 1:26-27; 2:23-24). They were a unity by design, which Jesus also refers to as he teaches the meaning of adultery (Mat 19:4-6). Importantly, man— both the husband and the wife, Adam and Eve, had the "residue of the spirit." The word "residue" means something left or parceled from a larger base of the same substance or type. The mode of creation reflects the purpose of God in joining only one man with only one woman, namely that they would rear godly children by the help of the Spirit.

Going further, Take heed to your spirit is repeated for warning and emphasis:
Malachi 2:16 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.

John Calvin states that the men thought they might cover their violent treatment of their wives by retaining them in the home while adding new ones. Such treachery was cruel and filthy.

Nevertheless, they pretend not to understand the Lord's accusations:
Malachi 2:17 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?

Now we turn to apply the last half of Malachi 2 to Christians today. In the same way as the 5th century Hebrews were indifferent about their sin, even going so far as to believe God accepted their practice of divorce or polygamy since he had not exiled them from their land as he had in the past, do we believe God is lax in judgment? Are we comfortable in sin because he is long suffering?

What would Malachi say about the Supreme Court decision to permit homosexual marriage?

How long will it be before three can get a marriage license or two from the same family, or child and adult? Not long, for the slippery slope cannot be maneuvered; it can only serve as a chute.

Be a Phinehas!

MALACHI -Ninth in a series

Malachi 2:1-3 And now, O ye priests, this commandment is for you. (vs 1)
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. (vs 2)
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. (vs 3)

The threatenings of God are never for mere effect or to draw attention to himself, but they are to an end. God is working to accomplish something, and someone or a group is standing in his way.

Four warnings or threats are pronounced by Malachi as a way of provoking change and reform. First, the priests should realize that they are under God's curse and will continue to be until they honor his name.

Second, he will corrupt their seed, that is, their agricultural work would be hindered resulting in famine.*

Third, he will humiliate them by spreading the dung of the sacrificial animals on their faces they will be viewed as filth by the congregation— and fourth, the sense of verse 3 is that they will be consigned to an early death: "…and one shall take you away with it."

Should these warnings not be heeded, all will understand that it is the role of the priests to uphold God's name and to teach the people to walk in his ways:
Malachi 2:4 And ye shall know that I have sent this commandment unto you, that my covenant might be with Levi, saith the LORD of hosts.
Early in the organization of Israel, the Levites were appointed by the Lord to take charge of the "hallowed things" (Num 18:8) and to teach God's Word and Law. They would have no inheritance in the land, but God himself would be their portion (Num 18:20), and they would be sustained by the offerings of the people.

Malachi 2:5 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.
An earnest Levite, Phinehas, Aaron's grandson, stood for righteousness at a critical moment (Num 25:6-8), and was then promised a covenant of peace and of an everlasting priesthood (Num 25:12-13); he was zealous for God and saved the children of Israel from judgment. That is exactly what God expected of the priests confronted by Malachi. God desired to and intended to maintain this covenant with the Levites. After 400 years it would be established afresh in Jesus Christ who would become the great high priest as God worked out his purposes in history. The next verse seems to arc to Christ from Phineas:
Malachi 2:6The 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.

Therefore, these priests had a job to do to set an example and to teach the Jews to live holy lives. The nation was down to a small number primarily from the tribe of Judah along with the Levites who lived in the Southern Kingdom. Christ must come to this remnant; it must not disappear.

Malachi 2:7 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.
The priest of God must study God's Word, or he will not be able to teach.

Vows must be honored, covenants must be upheld by both sides, truth must be preached.

Malachi 2:8 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.

What might be the applications of these passages to the churches and pastorates today? An obvious conclusion. Yet we can be thankful there will always be the remnant.

*Neither priests nor Levites cultivated the soil; yet, since the tithes were assigned to them, the diminution of the harvest affected them. The meal-offering too was a requisite part of the sacrifice. - Albert Barnes

Be a good witness

MALACHI -Seventh in a series

Malachi 1:9-12 And now, I pray you, beseech God that he will be gracious unto us: this hath been by your means: will he regard your persons? saith the LORD of hosts. (vs 9)
Who is there even among you that would shut the doors for nought? neither do ye kindle fire on mine altar for nought. I have no pleasure in you, saith the LORD of hosts, neither will I accept an offering at your hand. (vs10)
For from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same my name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in every place incense shall be offered unto my name, and a pure offering: for my name shall be great among the heathen, saith the LORD of hosts. (vs 11)
But ye have profaned it, in that ye say, The table of the LORD is polluted; and the fruit thereof, even his meat, is contemptible. (vs 12)

In the previous posts we noted that the priests under Malachi's scrutiny offered impure sacrifices and oblations. The animals were blind, sick and lame and the meal offerings were substandard.

Why would men offer blemished creatures to atone for their sins? Why the disrespectful bread? In today's verses we gain more insight, namely, the priests were disappointing leaders.

Malachi points out to the priests that God will not hear their prayers on behalf of the people because he would not "regard your persons." (vs 9) These were leaders who would not even shut the door of the house of God unless they were paid to do so. (vs 10) Much less would they kindle a fire on God's altar without payment. They only did their assigned duties for a paycheck, not because it was in their hearts to serve God. Then, when they performed their priestly functions, it was with unacceptable offerings.

The people must have known what their priests were as men, so they did not honor them by bringing good animals, which were to atone for their sins as well as to provide food for the priests. One perfunctory deed deserves another—a vicious cycle.

The larger context casts some light on this situation. While the Jews were in captivity there was no temple worship. During that time,

the Jews consolidated around their sacred writings, and the Torah took the place of the temple as a sacred center… One of the Talmuds, a compendium of Jewish legal thought, was written in Babylon in the fifth century. (ref)
Elders supervised the Jewish communities… This was possibly also the period when synagogues were first established, for the Jews observed the Sabbath and religious holidays, practiced circumcision, and substituted prayers for former ritual sacrifices in the Temple. (ref)

But having returned to their land and rebuilt the temple, they were to worship in the old ways which may have seemed less interesting, more expensive, and a lot more trouble.

In either case, whether the priests and people had not adjusted to the old ways or whether they were simply sinners in their treatment of each other and their Temple worship, the result was that God's name was profaned.

Only pure offerings could please him in his Temple for my name shall be great among the heathen (vs 11) You may wonder, how could the Gentiles have known whether or not the Jews were fulfilling God's worship requirements? At this time, they were in control of Jerusalem, so they could see the Jews as they went to worship.

Though Cyrus, King of Persia, had promoted their return to their homeland and the reconstruction of their Temple (2Ch 36:23; Ezra 1:1-8; Isa 44:28), he did not go so far as to cede the land back to them. Thus, God wanted his own to be good witnesses to their overlords, and perhaps this did not occur to the Jews. Malachi forces their attention to these unbelievers to whom they are called to be faithful witnesses.

The bloody sacrifice

Why would healthy domestic animals brought as offerings to God's House be a good witness to the heathen? (vs 11)

These pointed to the lamb slain from the foundation of the world (Rev 13:8) and would cause the Gentiles to stop and wonder.

Once inside the temple, the ‘meat’ oblations (see fifth post) testified of the bread of life (Jhn 6:35, 48), for living bread would come down from heaven to bring salvation to his own.

In the 21st century AD, our practices are different yet we like the Jews of the fifth century BC must be wholehearted in worship, knowing and proclaiming that the blood atones for our sins— for us, the blood of Jesus. The celebration of communion that cannot be shared with outsiders will cause them to wonder about our God.

Attention Readers

Have you visited the Biotech Blog on this website? Find information and resources to help you think about biotech as a Christian.

During the summer of 2017, I explored the topic of kidney donation. Is it right for a society to permit that? To encourage it? What do you think? Read the Live Kidney Donation Series!

Should you sign your driver’s license to be an organ donor? Is cremation OK with God? Do these practices undermine the Christian doctrine of the Resurrection?

Learn more. The conscience cannot function without facts.


Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. -Mat 5:14

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