Saturday, June 25, 2011

Malachi: images of Jesus

“But when you present the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? And when you present the lame and sick, is it not evil? Why not offer it to your governor? Would he be pleased with you? Or would he receive you kindly? says the Lord of hosts. “But now will you not entreat the Lord’s favor, that he may be gracious to us? With such an offering on your part, will he receive any of you kindly?”says the Lord of Host. “Oh that there was one among you who would shut the gates, that you might not uselessly kindle fire on my altar! I am not pleased with you, says the Lord of hosts, nor will I accept an offering from you,” says the Lord of hosts. For from the rising of the sun even to its setting, my name shall be great among the nations, and in every place incense is going to be offered to my name, and a grain offering that is pure, for my name will be great among the nations,” says the Lord of hosts. (Malachi 1:8-11)

The text, from Malachi, is from post exilic Israel and is an indictment of the priests for allowing offerings on God’s altar that defiled the altar. The offering was to be pure, and whole. In the text Malachi goes on to tell the priests that they will be carried out with refuse (vomit) on their faces for allowing such offerings. God’s wrath is on the priests. But in the midst of the indictment there is a reference to God’s priest referring back to Levi. The Scripture states:

"My covenant with him [Levi] was one of life and peace, and I gave them to him as an object of reverence; so he referenced me and stood in awe of my name. 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. For the lips of a priest should preserve knowledge , and men should seek instruction from his mouth; for he is a messenger of the Lord of hosts.”

The reference to Levi is really the picture of an ideal priest. In the text there is a covenant between the ideal priest and God. Joyce g. Baldwin in his Tyndale commentary, using Deut 33:8-11, the blessing of Moses on Levi in his priestly role, and citing W. Eichrodt, points out that in the minds of the people this role and blessing has been elevated to a covenant which includes the whole people. Other scholars attempt to see the priest as Aaron. But neither Levi, Aaron nor the people fit completely the description given in the text.

This priest is a teacher (see Calvin) he worships with truth. He is also a messenger of the Lord of hosts. In Malachi 3:3 the text speaks of a messenger of the covenant who will “purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, so that they may present to the Lord offerings in righteousness. This is a picture of Christ. He is the reality of Malachi’s images.

Jesus like the messenger of the Lord of hosts in Malachi purifies the sons of Levi and all those who desire to keep covenant with the Lord. He, in the same manner as the God of the Old Testament enters into the events and needs of humanity in order to purify. The wrath of God is still there in the New Testament, but it is placed upon one person, Jesus Christ. That is so repentance and the irrevocability of true life could be in the one who is both God and human. He is the priest who is carried outside the camp not for his distain or arrogance but for the sins of the people. He is also the perfect sacrifice. And not only is he the ideal priest and the perfect sacrifice but now through him the blind, lame and sick can be brought into the presence of God as gifts to God.

In his righteous priesthood, Christ makes all believers, in union with him, priests before God and humanity. They too offer reverence to his name. They, the broken and lame, have perfection in Jesus and are called to live as a sacrifice to the Lord of hosts.

Therefore, I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice acceptable to God which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind so that you may prove that which is good and acceptable and perfect. ( Romans 12: 1-2)

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