Scripture Focus: Malachi 2.3-4, 9
3 “Because of you I will rebuke your descendants; I will smear on your faces the dung from your festival sacrifices, and you will be carried off with it. 4 And you will know that I have sent you this warning so that my covenant with Levi may continue,” says the Lord Almighty.
9 “So I have caused you to be despised and humiliated before all the people, because you have not followed my ways but have shown partiality in matters of the law.”
Reflection: Offal Leaders
By John Tillman
In their commissioning, priests had the blood of the sacrifices daubed on their ears, hands, and feet to represent their holiness. This marking of symbolic purity qualified them to speak for God, work for God, and lead the people.
Malachi describes a de-commissioning of unfaithful priests. Instead of blood that represented purity and life, the unclean feces from the animal would be smeared on their faces, representing impurity and death.
Normally this fecal matter, along with the skin and any other part of the animal not eaten or offered as a sacrifice would be carried to a location outside the community to be burned. In Malachi’s vision, the priests who dishonor God will be carried off with this offal.
God instituted the priesthood as a way of blessing the people. It was part of God’s fulfillment of his promise to bless the entire world through Abraham. For these priests, however, their part in that blessing was over. God even promised to reverse the priests’ blessings to curses.
However, there is still hope in Malachi’s vision. The disgusting image of the feces-smeared priests does not mean God is canceling the priesthood or the Temple or his mission to bless the nations. He’s just removing the sinful, the prideful, the corrupt, and the abusers of his people. God removes these priests so “that my covenant with Levi may continue.”
In every age, not just the time of Malachi, God is displeased with spiritual leaders who misrepresent him. God promises to bring dishonor on leaders who bring dishonor on his name. However, God’s plan to bless the nations won’t be derailed by spiritual leaders who fail.
We can make two mistakes when we are confronted with revelations of sin and corruption in spiritual leaders. One is to continue following/supporting these leaders. God smeared their faces with offal, but some keep trying to wipe it off and pretend nothing is wrong. Anyone can be forgiven. Not everyone can be reinstated. (Luke 12.48; James 3.1)
A second is to abandon faith in God because we lose faith in humans. God’s holiness is the reason these leaders are disgraced. We do not have to allow these “offal-smeared” leaders to cause us to stumble and abandon faith.
Rather than destroying everything, God’s purpose is to restore everything. Despite our shock at the removal of leaders, God’s covenant of life and peace through our high priest, Jesus, can continue.
Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
I am bound by the vow I made to you, O God; I will present to you thank-offerings;
For you have rescued my soul from death and my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before God in the light of the living. — Psalm 56.11-12
Read more about Priests of Life and Peace
God’s purpose is not to end the priesthood. Instead, through Christ’s sacrifice, he instituted a new priesthood for all who follow Jesus.
Read more about The Branch and the Branches
There are multiple reboots of the priesthood. Joshua is just one of them. Zechariah has a vision of Joshua… as a “burning stick snatched from the fire.”