Blogging the Bible 241 – Malachi 2-4 – Offer your best

Malachi begins his prophecy by voicing God’s frustration with the Temple as it has become; lax, half-hearted and lazy.
First he speaks to those who bring an offering, not bringing the best their land or flock can produce but roadkill and the bits that no one else wants.
On the one hand, perhaps it’s linked to Haggai’s prophecy, calling people to get their priorities right. It may seem pointless to offer the best to God, when it will be burned on an altar. But even if it makes no practical difference to God, the quality of the offering makes a difference to the giver.
On the other hand, there’s also here a clear bit of pretence and hypocrisy going on, when Malachi speaks to the one who talks publicly of giving his prize ram as an offering but takes instead a lame, diseased old sheep. Public pretence about anything to do with faith is never going to end well.
Then Malachi shifts his focus and speaks to the priests who have allowed this to happen. He reminds them of their ancestor Levi, in idealised version. He charges them,
The lips of a priest should guard knowledge, and people should seek instruction from his mouth, for he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts. (Malachi  2:7)
It’s a high and privileged calling, and a tradition in which I’m honoured to follow. It’s a reminder that priesthood has alongside the roles of worship leading, prayer and caring the challenge to instruct. But one detail strikes me. The priest should be one from whom people seek instruction. That’s about people first being keen to learn; but it’s also about the priest being seen as someone with truth worth learning.
Why, when so many are finding help through the modern spirituality of mindfulness and meditation, does it not occur to anyone to ask their local Vicar for advice?
Perhaps because they assume that they will have to sign up for an Alpha course or the flower first. Or perhaps because they haven’t first seen in me the results of knowledge worth sharing.

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