Expositional commentary on Scripture using an inductive exegetical methodology intent upon confronting the lives of Christians with the dogmatic Truths of God's inspired Words opposing Calvinism and Arminianism, Biblical commentary, doctrine of grace enablement, understanding holiness and wisdom and selfishness, in-depth Bible studies, adult Bible Study books and Sunday School materials Dr. Lance T. Ketchum Line Upon Line: II. The Reprobation of the Corrupted Levitical Priesthood

Monday, May 28, 2018

II. The Reprobation of the Corrupted Levitical Priesthood

Biblical Zionism
II. The Reprobation of the Corrupted Levitical Priesthood

Kingdom Age rule is also the subject matter of Isaiah chapter twenty-nine to which we must add the context of Malachi chapter two, so we can understand what Paul is saying in Romans chapter eleven.  Notice, as we look at Malachi chapter two, that God’s communication is specifically directed toward the corrupted and defiled Levitical priesthood.  This is important in that God was setting aside this Mosaic Covenant priesthood.  God is also putting the Mosaic Covenant on Sabbath (Hosea 2:11) until the beginning of the Kingdom Age.  At the beginning of the Kingdom Age, Christ will rule on earth as Prophet, Priest, and King through a new priesthood after the order of Melchisedec, not Levi.  All Church Age believers become this new priesthood.

1 And now, O ye priests, this commandment {mitsvah; precept or governing principle} is for you. 2 If ye will not hear, and if ye will not lay it to heart, to give {or bring; it was the responsibility of the priesthood to preserve the Law in order to maintain the sanctity of God’s Name, which revealed His holy character} glory unto my name, saith the LORD of hosts, I will even send a curse {literally; a defiling execration, see Zechariah 3:3 where the word “filthy” regarding the garment of the High Priest Joshua is literally “excrement covered garments”} upon you, and I will curse your blessings: yea, I have cursed them already, because ye do not lay it to heart. 3 Behold, I will corrupt {chide or rebuke} your seed {most probably refers to their progeny; the priesthood was passed down to male children of priests}, and spread dung {excrement; the priest were responsible for preparing the sacrifices; they were to take extreme care in the slaughter of the animals in not defiling the sacrifices by carelessness in spilling the contents of the intestines upon the meat or mingling it with the blood} upon your faces {so everyone could see their defilement}, even the dung of your solemn feasts; and one shall take you away with it {the entrails, intestines, and the contents of the intestines, were to be carefully separated from the sacrifice and burned outside the camp; Lev. 8:17 & 16:27; therefore God is stating that He will cast away the priesthood, i.e., ‘without the camp,’ with these defiled parts of the animal in that they were equally defiled} (Malachi 2:1-4)

          These “solemn feasts” (Malachi 2:3) were intended to offer pure worship and adoration of God, but they had become the means merely to supply the priests with meat.  Thousands of oxen and sheep were sacrificed.  “. . . they {the people} shall give unto the priest the shoulder, and the two cheeks, and the maw {the stomach; considered a delicacy} (Deuteronomy 18:3).  The priests became careless in the slaughter of the animals and the cleaning of the entrails thereby defiling themselves with the filth of the animals’ waste. 

          It is easy to become careless when repetition is involved.  This is certainly true when it comes to water baptism and the Lord’s Supper as ordinances of the church.  They can quickly become just repetitive rituals with little meaning absent of any real cognizance of God or what He is doing in our lives.  This is true of other interactions with God as well.  Prayer becomes word spoken to the ceiling.  Singing becomes focused on the sound of the music and how pleasant and entertaining it is to us, rather than worship and praise of God.  We become more concerned with how music is to our ears rather than what it is to God’s ears. 
It is easy to become careless in our approach to God.  We begin to give more consideration to convenience in our coming before God than to conviction.  There is little or no consideration that entering into the worship of God is to enter the presence of God and thereby to “stand upon holy ground” wherever that worship happens.  People forget that to become careless is the outcome of caring less.  Becoming careless is an easy thing to slip into when worshiping an invisible God.  When the sacrosanctity of God is kept in focus, carefulness in worship, service, and prayer will remain centered upon the awesomeness of the One we worship
This carelessness was the source of the fall of the Levitical priesthood.  This carelessness was evident when the priests faces became covered with the waste of the sacrificed animals.  How many would eat in a restaurant where the chefs and servers were covered with excrement?  Yet, this is the picture before us in the careless preparation of the sacrifices to be offered to God.  How guilty are we of similar carelessness in our preparation of our own hearts, minds, and bodies for worship?  Can we speak about and discuss worship without consideration of the One being worshiped? 

The message of Malachi chapter two is to the descendants of Levi as a priesthood representing God to the people and the people to God.  Do we see the corruption of this representation in these first three verses of chapter two?  God saw the children of Israel represented in the carelessly defiled excrement covered priests.  The children of Israel saw God represented in the carelessly defiled excrement covered priests.  Instead of white garments of pure linen, the children of Israel’s image of purity and holiness in the worship of God became a stinking slaughter house full of filth and wretchedness.  Why would the priests think it was appropriate to allow this corruption to represent God to the people?  Secondly, why would the people allow this corruption to go on, whereby the filth covered priests were representing what they were like to God? 

Why did God choose the family of Levi to be the priests of Israel?  Malachi 2:4-6 tells us that Levi’s worship of God was birthed from pure reverence/awe/fear of God.  No one will ever worship God properly if he does not reverence and fear God properly.  Somewhere in the generations of Levi’s descendants, they became commonly familiar with God and lost their fear of God.  When worshipping an invisible God, it is easy to begin to see all the things we do as mere formalities and responsibilities. 

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. 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. 6 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).

These few verses describe the central qualification for God’s choice of Levi as the High Priest of Israel.  These few verses describe the primary characteristic of a heart prepared to worship God and serve him – AWE!  When we begin to see all that we do in worship as mere formalities and responsibilities, worship of the Person of God will soon become the worship of the ideology of God.  When we retain the understanding of the anthropomorphisms (use of human physical characteristics and attributes to explain how God experiences His creation) of Scripture that God is a Person with eyes that see all, ears that hear all, a mind that knows all, and a heart that loves and feels, we are humbled before His awesome presence wherein we tremble before Him. 

30 And when forty years were expired {to humble Moses}, there appeared to him in the wilderness of mount Sina an angel of the Lord in a flame of fire in a bush. 31 When Moses saw it, he wondered at the sight {curiosity}: and as he drew near to behold it, the voice of the Lord came unto him {to inform}, 32 Saying, I am the God of thy fathers, the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. Then Moses trembled, and durst not behold. 33 Then said the Lord to him, Put off thy shoes from thy feet: for the place where thou standest is holy ground” (Acts 7:30-33).

In most part, Moses’ knowledge of the God of Israel was nothing more than stories and rumors.  For hundreds of years, while the children of Israel were enslaved in Egypt, these historic stories about God were all they had to sustain their faith.  God had not given the inspired Books of the Law to Moses yet.  There were very few personal encounters with God by anyone during those hundreds of years of captivity.  Faith that the promises of God to Abraham were given by a real and genuine Being called Jehovah was all that held the children together.  Although the children of Israel believed in this Being named Jehovah, they knew little about Him except what they had learned from these historical reminiscences of their elders, none of which were any longer personally familiar with what took place.  Unfortunately, this reality is what is common to all people who have no personal experiences with God of their own.  Most people become dependent upon the testimonies of those who have genuine faith and who have had personal experiences of God’s grace.  Most people will spend much time talking about faith while living without having any experiential knowledge of a God’s operations in their lives.  

The prophecy and rebuke of the Levitical priests of the Mosaic Covenant Malachi chapter two are very sobering truths.  The statements to the Levitical priests of Malachi chapter two are even more sobering considering the warnings to the Melchisedecan priesthood of the New Covenant in Romans chapter eleven.  The Melchisedecan priesthood of the New Covenant consists of every “born again” believer of the Church Age.  The warning is about being faithful to the obligations wherein the Levitical priesthood failed.  These obligations are spelled out in no uncertain terms in Malachi 2:7-9. 

7 For the priest’s lips should keep knowledge, and they {the children of Israel} should seek the law at his mouth: for he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts. 8 But ye {priests} are departed out of the way {‘the way’ is salvation as a gift through the way of faith in the Abrahamic Covenant; the responsibilities of the priesthood as described in verse 7}; ye have caused many to stumble {falter or fall} at the law; ye have corrupted {destroyed or ruined} the covenant of Levi, saith the LORD of hosts. 9 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 {see Lev. 19:15; the priests were not to be uneven in their application of the Law to give preferences to gain political or personal favors; God declares this to be injustice, not justice} in the law” (Malachi 2:7-9).

          “The way” of faith in the Gospel of the Abrahamic Covenant was an ongoing problem in the understanding of the Jews after the Levitical priesthood had corrupted it.  Even the disciples struggled with this truth requiring Jesus pointedly explain it to them.

1 Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. 2 In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. 4 And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know. 5 Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way? 6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:1-6).

Christ is explaining that the Abrahamic Covenant was an immutable promise from God.  Christ is explaining that the Messiah would completely satisfy God’s wrath upon sin (“propitiate” God) and would gift God’s righteous to the believing sinner (justification) through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  Salvation by faith in the Messiah’s propitiation of God and His justification of the believing sinner is “the way” of faith.  Therefore, Jesus is “the way.”  The ministry of every believer-priest is the PRESERVATION and EXPLANATION of “the way.” 

Therefore, the first failure of the Levitical priesthood was in failing to preserve and explain the promise of salvation as a gift of grace given through faith in the Promised One and what He would accomplish in His death, burial, and resurrection.  Therefore, the warning to Church Age believer-priests is to be very careful with the Gospel and what defines saving faith (Romans 10:1-13).

Secondly, the Levitical priests failed in the administration of the Law by compromising its judgments.  This second level of failure corrupted the sanctification and separation from worldliness of the children of Israel.

10 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 {the Mosaic Covenant through unjust, partial, prejudicial judgments in judicial matters thereby corrupting the sanctification of the children of Israel}? 11 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. 12 The LORD will cut off the man that doeth this, the master and the scholar, out of the tabernacles of Jacob, and him {the priests} that offereth an offering unto the LORD of hosts {for those described in verse 11 and who bring an offering without accompanying repentance from that which is described}” (Malachi 2:10-12).

Preferential treatment is prejudicial treatment.  The great corruption of prejudice is that injustice is its progeny.  Injustice creates bitterness and mistrust.  Prejudicial injustice is one of the quickest ways to destroy a government and bring about revolution.  The Levitical priesthood became corrupt and was known for prejudicial judgments, bribes, graft, double standards. 
Israel was not a secular government.  Israel was supposed to be a Theocratic government where the king of Israel and the priesthood of Israel ruled in the place of God over God’s people.  The Law was God’s instrument of governance administrated primarily by the High Priest and his circuit of the priests and their courts of justice in every city throughout the country.  This will be established perfectly in the Kingdom Age with a new Melchisedecan priesthood of glorified, sinless, selfless, believer-priests ruling under Christ with a “rod of iron.”  The “rod of iron” metaphor does not mean that mercy and forgiveness will not be available to the repentant sinner, but that the truth, the law, and justice will not bend to any level of prejudice by the judging priests. 
The level of the corruption of the priesthood, addressed in Malachi 2:10-12, was simply their viewing every breach of the Law as an opportunity to capitalize on someone’s failure by using the failure to enrich and promote themselves through bribes and graft.  Isaiah chapter fifty-nine describes God’s view of the all-encompassing outcome of the despicable corruption of “judgment” and justice. 
9 Therefore is judgment far from us, neither doth justice overtake us: we wait for light, but behold obscurity; for brightness, but we walk in darkness. 10 We grope for the wall like the blind, and we grope as if we had no eyes: we stumble at noonday as in the night; we are in desolate places as dead men. 11 We roar all like bears, and mourn sore like doves: we look for judgment, but there is none; for salvation, but it is far off from us. 12 For our transgressions are multiplied before thee, and our sins testify against us: for our transgressions are with us; and as for our iniquities, we know them; 13 In transgressing and lying against the LORD, and departing away from our God, speaking oppression and revolt, conceiving and uttering from the heart words of falsehood. 14 And judgment is turned away backward, and justice standeth afar off: for truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter. 15 Yea, truth faileth; and he that departeth from evil maketh himself a prey: and the LORD saw it, and it displeased him that there was no judgment” (Isaiah 59:9-15).

There is a false repentance that weeps before God because God’s blessings have been withdrawn and His protection removed.  However, there is no turning from the corruption that brought about these consequences in the first place.  There is no repentance if there is no turning from the sin and failure.  A chance of heart and a change of mind about the sin is not Biblical repentance if there is no turning from the sin. 

13 And this have ye done again, covering the altar of the LORD with tears, with weeping, and with crying out {the priest could not repent for someone else or offer an acceptable offering for someone else if that person has not genuinely turned from his sinful acts}, insomuch that he {the LORD} regardeth not the offering any more, or receiveth it with good will at your hand. 14 Yet ye say, Wherefore {Why does God not accept the priest’s sacrifices}? 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. 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. 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 {The priests were to be the models of righteousness before the people.  Their failure to be just with their own wives brought about a false dichotomy that gave permission to the people to do the same.  Therefore, not only did the people of Israel need to repent for their failures regarding God’s commandments, but the priesthood had a higher culpability because it was their failures that gave permission for the injustice.} 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 {the LORD} delighteth in them; or, Where is the God of judgment {pragmatically determining what is right and wrong by the fact that God did not immediately and apparently judge wrong doing when, in fact, God had delegated the responsibility to judge wrong doing to the priesthood}” (Malachi 2:13-17)?

          These transitional issues regarding the priesthood of all believers during the Church Age impacts almost every post-salvation doctrine regarding the believer’s life, formal church membership, the emphasis of water baptism, personal sanctification, congregational polity, and the accountability of each believer in his priestly responsibility to maintain purity and holiness in the “body” through church discipline.  The priesthood of Israel was “cut off” for failure in these responsibilities and the warning of Romans chapter eleven is that Church Age believers are subject to the same judgment of God should they fail in their moral responsibilities to their corporate and vocational election (Ephesians 4:1-32). 

10 And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables? 11 He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. 12 For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath. 13 Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. 14 And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias {Isaiah 29:9-16}, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: 15 For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them” (Matthew 13:10-15)

          Year after year and century after century God patiently sent prophets to call the priesthood of Israel and the rebellious children of Israel to repentance from their ongoing apostasy.  Like Noah, who preached righteousness for one-hundred and twenty years while he built the Ark, the lost apostates of the world would no longer hear the voice of God in God’s prophet.  Although Noah proclaimed for one-hundred and twenty years what God was going to do, when the flood began, they “knew not.”  Why did they not know? They “knew not” because, “By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive” (Matthew 13:14).  The point is that there comes a time when a person’s heart becomes so closed in unbelief to what God says, that such a person hears without hearing and sees without seeing. 

38 For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, 39 And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be” (Matthew 24:38-39).

          Apostasy within Christianity is as prevalent as it was in the days of Noah.  Professing Christians intermarry with heathens and raise heathen children who live in rebellion and unbelief.  Their hearts grow so hardened to the truths of God that they are angered at the very mention of righteousness.  This is the judge me not generation.  They will not hear about God’s definition of sin, nor its consequences.  These souls reject the God of the Bible and therefore refuse to hear or heed His warnings.  Hearing they will not hear and seeing they will not see.
Someone once told me they did not like the God I preached.  They believed in a god of love who would never send anyone to hell.  The point is that such a god does not exist anywhere except in that person’s mind, because that god is manufactured in that person’s mind. 


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Numerous studies and series are available free of charge for local churches at: http://www.disciplemakerministries.org/ 
Dr. Lance Ketchum serves the Lord as a Church Planter, Evangelist/Revivalist. 
He has served the Lord for over 40 years.

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