DEVOTIONAL STUDIES IN MALACHI
A LEGACY OF CORRUPTION
A Historical Backdrop
By Henry Jaegers
And the Lord spake unto Aaron, saying, Do not drink wine nor strong drink, thou, nor thy sons with thee, when ye go into the tabernacle of the congregation, lest ye die: it shall be a statute forever throughout your generations: And that ye may put difference between holy and unholy, and between unclean and clean; And that ye may teach the children of Israel all the statutes which the Lord hath spoken unto them by the hand of Moses. (Leviticus 10:8-11)
On that day they read in the book of Moses in the audience of the people; and therein was found written, that the Ammonite and the Moabite should not come into the congregation of God forever; Because they met not the children of Israel with bread and with water, but hired Balaam against them, that he should curse them: howbeit our God turned the curse into a blessing. (Nehemiah 13:1,2)
I chose these two sets of verses to use as a standard established by God for the office of the priesthood. In the first set of verses, it is significant that these words were spoken immediately after the death of Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron who offered strange fire before the Lord and immediately they experienced a completely unexpected fire. By their action, they offered an offering contrary to that prescribed by God himself, and immediately incurred the wrath of God for doing so. The call into the priesthood was established by God and the bar was set high for their responsibilities. These verses are set forth as a reminder to them of the line that Nadab and Abihu crossed as a deliberate act of the will. Perhaps it was pride that causes them to think that they had a better way than God. Later we find Jeroboam doing the same thing when he erected strange alters in the land of Samaria to attract the Israelites from going to Jerusalem and worshiping in the temple. God's holiness has not changed, neither has the bar been lowered to accommodate those like Jeroboam and the sons of Aaron.
It is interesting, that for now, the people were not corrupted by the sins until later, when the sons of Eli so corrupted the priesthood that the people lost confidence in God and demanded a king.
Here we find an indulgent priest who set a bad example for his sons who followed after in the same self- indulgent lifestyles and by doing so, they turned the hearts of the people away from God in its demanding of the king. In these cases, we say the corruption arrested immediately in the case of Aaron's sons, but now when we come to the sons of Eli, we see that corruption has extended to the whole nation of Israel.
In the second set of verses, it is noted that these were sent to remind the people of the standard that God had set for the priests in keeping them from being involved in repeating the problems set forth by the teachings of Balaam, a corrupt priest-for hire.
There is much to be said along this line and we will continue further to see how a corrupted priesthood has affected and was responsible for the fall of Israel to Babylon.
The book of Malachi reminds us that the possibility of the corrupt priesthood still exists, and although the outward forms of religion hide that corruption, Malachi brings forth in his message the real source of their problem. He does not leave the people in that condition but offers them a way out of this jungle placed upon them by a corrupt priesthood.