Charles Simeon Commentary - Malachi 2:5 - 2:7

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Charles Simeon Commentary - Malachi 2:5 - 2:7


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DISCOURSE: 1271

THE MINISTERIAL OFFICE

Mal_2:5-7. 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. 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 priests, in the days of Malachi, were extremely degenerate. It was to them principally that the prophet addressed himself, because to them principally was owing the degeneracy of the people. In the preceding chapter he complains of them as despising God, and polluting his altar, and offering to him such worthless sacrifices as they would not have dared to offer to an earthly governor; yea, and as so venal, that “not one amongst them would shut the doors of the temple for nought, or kindle a fire on his altar for nought [Note: Mal_1:7-11.].” In this chapter, after calling them to repentance [Note: ver. 1, 2.], he contrasts their conduct with that of those to whom the priesthood was first committed; such as Aaron, and Eleazar, and Phinehas, whom he designates by the name of Levi, from whom they sprang. The piety of those early priests he describes in the words of my text; and then, with a special reference to the terms used in that description, he addresses the priests of his day, saying, “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.”

The description given of the Jewish priesthood, at the period of their first appointment, will serve to shew us what the Christian priesthood should be. In it we see the minister of the Gospel drawn, as it were, at full length. We see,

I.       His obligations—

With Levi, the Jewish priesthood, “God had made a covenant of life and peace”—

[At the time that the people turned aside to worship the golden calf, Moses gave commandment, that they who were on the Lord’s side should gird on their swords, and go through the camp, slaying every one, even his nearest relatives, if he should find them in the act of idolatry: and the tribe of Levi in particular obeyed with promptitude this trying injunction, and executed without any partiality this severe decree [Note: Exo_32:26-28.]. As a reward for this (“for this fear wherewith Levi feared him”), God gave to that tribe the priesthood in perpetuity: “Of Levi he said, Let thy Thummim and thy Urim be with thy holy one; who said unto his father and to his mother, 1 have not seen him; neither did he acknowledge his brethren, nor knew his own children: for they have observed thy word, and kept thy covenant. They shall teach Jacob thy judgments, and Israel thy law: they shall put incense before thee, and whole burnt-sacrifice upon thine altar [Note: Deu_33:8-10.].” The same grant was re-renewed to Phinehas, on account of his zeal in slaying a prince of Israel, who, in the sight of all the congregation, had taken a Midianitish woman to his tent [Note: Num_25:6-8; Num_25:11-13.]. “The covenant of an everlasting priesthood” given to him, was that which, in my text, is called “a covenant of life and peace.” And to that tribe was the priesthood confined, even to the latest ages; they alone being consecrated by God to that high office, and having God himself for their portion; whilst all the other tribes had their portion allotted out of the Promised Land [Note: Num_18:20-21.].]

The Christian priesthood, in like manner, are consecrated to the special service of the altar—

[Every pious minister has been truly “called of God, as was Aaron;” and every one, at his ordination, expressly avows his persuasion, that he has been moved by the Holy Ghost to take the office of the ministry upon him. Every such minister has entered into covenant with God at his altar, engaging to renounce all worldly pursuits, and to dedicate himself exclusively to the work he has undertaken. Of all engagements that any man can enter into, this is the most solemn: for by this act he makes himself responsible for all the souls committed to his charge, and must answer with his own soul for the blood of everyone who perishes through his neglect [Note: Eze_33:6-9]. St. Paul, under a sense of his deep responsibility, said, “A dispensation is committed to me: and woe is unto me, if I preach not the Gospel [Note: 1Co_9:16-17.]!” And “the same necessity is laid on” every minister of Christ; who, by his own solemn engagement, is bound to disregard even life itself, in the discharge of this all-important duty [Note: Act_20:24.].]

In the description of the Jewish priests, a Christian minister may further see,

II.      His office—

The Jewish priests were “messengers from God” to all the tribes of Israel—

[They were to study the law of God, and to teach it unto others; at the same time exemplifying it both in their hearts and lives. To them the people were to apply for information; and they were to give their instructions with simplicity and godly sincerity: “the law of truth was to be in their mouth, and no iniquity was to be found in their lips.” At the same time, they were so to “walk with God in peace and equity,” that their whole life might be a visible lesson to the people, of all that God required of them.]

Such “messengers” are the Christian priesthood—

[Ministers should not only study the Gospel, but be able to declare it from their own experience; saying, “What my ears have heard, my eyes have seen, and my hands have handled, of the word of life, that same declare I unto you [Note: 1Jn_1:1-3.].” In truth, brethren, “we are ambassadors from God:” we come in the name, and stand in the very place, of God himself. We bring to you from him “a covenant of life and peace [Note: Eze_37:26-27. Mark the agreement of this with the text.]:” we set before you the terms on which he will accept you to his favour: and “we beseech you, in Christ’s stead, to be reconciled to God [Note: 2Co_5:18-20.].” The word which we deliver is God’s, and not our own; and “it must be received, not as our word, but God’s [Note: 1Th_2:13.].” And what we deliver with our lips, we are bound to exemplify in our lives, so as to be living “epistles of Christ, known and read of all men [Note: 2Co_3:3].” We should ourselves be living witnesses of its excellency and power, so as to address you in the words of St. Paul; “Whatsoever ye have seen and heard in me, do; and the God of peace shall be with you [Note: Php_4:9.].” Nor should you account it any indignity to look up to us for information, and to “receive the word at our mouth.” True, you have the Scriptures in your hands; and by them should you “try every word that proceeds from us [Note: 1Th_5:21. 1Jn_4:1.]:” but, whatever we deliver in accordance with them must be received by you as from God himself: for be ye assured, “if you despise it, you despise not us who deliver it, but God himself” who revealed it [Note: 1Th_4:8. with Luk_10:16.].]

In the discharge of this office, God gives him many promises for,

III.     His encouragement—

The Jewish priests were instruments in God’s hands, to “turn many from iniquity”—

[God had promised to all his faithful servants, that, though they should not all be crowned with equal success, no one of them should labour in vain. And this he casts in the teeth of the false prophets: “I have not sent these prophets; yet they ran: I have not spoken unto them; yet they prophesied. But if they had stood in my counsel, and had caused my people to hear my words, then they should have turned them from their evil way, and from the evil of their doings [Note: Jer_23:21-22.].”]

But far greater encouragement is given to us under the Christian dispensation—

[The Gospel is far more powerful than the law. It is, by way of eminence, “the rod of God’s strength [Note: Psa_110:2.];” and has been in every age “the power of God unto salvation, to all who truly believed it [Note: Rom_1:16.].” St. Paul, by means of it, “turned multitudes from darkness unto light, and from the power of Satan unto God [Note: Act_26:18.].” To the Thessalonian Church he could make his appeal: “Ye see what manner of entering in we had unto you; and how ye turned to God from idols, to serve the living and true God; and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, who delivered us from the wrath to come [Note: 1Th_1:9-10.].” And are not we also assured, that, if we “take heed to ourselves and to our doctrine, we shall both save ourselves and them that hear us [Note: 1Ti_4:16.]?”

Behold, then, what encouragement is here! Were we instrumental only to the saving of one soul, it would well repay a whole life of labour. Yet may we hope to “turn many unto righteousness,” if we faithfully discharge our high office; and, as the fruit of our labours, to have “many for our joy and crown of rejoicing in the last day [Note: 1Th_2:19-20.].”]

Address—

1.       Those who have taken, or are about to take, upon themselves the sacred office of the ministry—

[You have seen what holy and useful priests there were under the law: and shall we, whose employment is so much more spiritual, be less distinguished under the Gospel? Think, I pray you, of your obligations — — — your offices — — — and your encouragements; and “give yourselves wholly to these things,” that your profiting may appear unto all. At the same time, bear in mind your fearful responsibility: for of all people under heaven, none are so contemptible in the sight both of God and man, as those who violate their covenant-engagements, and mind the fleece only, instead of attending to their flocks [Note: ver. 8, 9. with 1Sa_2:30. This subject should be touched with a due regard to the age and authority of the preacher.] — — —]

2.       Those who desire to derive benefit from the ministry of the Gospel—

[If your ministers must be careful in the discharge of their duty, so must you also in the discharge of yours: and if they have need to fear lest they contract additional guilt by the neglect of their duty; so have you, lest you, by not paying due attention to the word, bring upon yourselves an aggravated condemnation. Capernaum, which was exalted to heaven in its privileges, was cast the deeper into hell for its abuse of them. Yea, even Sodom and Gomorrha will have a less severe doom at the day of judgment, than they will who harden themselves against the Gospel of Christ. Remember, you too have entered into covenant with God: and you too have your proper offices to sustain and execute, if you will approve yourselves God’s faithful servants. May you then know the day of your visitation! and may we so preach, and you hear, that we may all rejoice together for ever in the great day of the Lord Jesus!]