Malachi 2:7-9, “For 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. (8) But you have turned aside from the way. You have caused many to stumble by your instruction. You have corrupted the covenant of Levi, says the LORD of hosts, (9) and so I make you despised and abased before all the people, inasmuch as you do not keep my ways but show partiality in your instruction.”
God had a case with the priests. The people had returned to the land, rebuilt under the leadership of Ezra and Nehemiah, spurred on by the prophets Haggai and Zechariah. Now they were stumbling again. And God hammers the spiritual leaders for it. I have no doubt that His words apply directly to our condition today.
What SHOULD be happening in our churches under the ministry of godly leaders?
- They should be teaching the Lord’s truth – knowledge,
- The people should be able to go to their shepherds and know that the instruction they receive will be the message of the Lord
What IS the far-to-common case in our churches however?
- The shepherds have turned aside from the way
- Their instruction causes the people to stumble under a heavy load
- They show partiality in their ministry
God sees it and knows it. He has a case against those who are doing this to His people.
Now, I know full well that there are some, here and there, faithful pastors ministering for Christ. And I am not trying to sit back and be the self-righteous “I am the only one left” kind of Elijah. I do not enjoy having to say these things, believe it or not. Frankly it frightens me to have to say it because if what I am saying is true, then the evangelical church of our day is in one huge, terrible mess.
And yet story after story after story comes to us every week now it seems, describing the treatment that the weak and oppressed are receiving at the hands of their churches. I would have to be willfully blind to claim it isn’t happening. Story after story after story of sexual abuse. Of domestic abuse. And of cover-up. Of church leaders rendering judgment in favor of the wicked.
Arguing that this is mostly caused by ignorance will only get us off the hook so far. But it cannot explain what is happening completely. What does explain this sorry state of affairs is Malachi’s description of the sinning priests of his day. They had turned aside from Christ to their own way. They teach things that cause Christ’s sheep to stumble. They side with those who can benefit them the most rather than being impartial in their judgments.
Yes, I know very well that to the average church member it doesn’t look this way. People who talk like I am talking here are going to be labeled as paranoid, self-glorifying, dooms-dayers. But I challenge – no, I double and triple-dog dare anyone, to sit down and read and listen to the victims of this terrible injustice that I read every week, and still maintain that I am overstating the case. The rising tide of the outcry is growing and growing and I do not think that the church is going to be able to continue to ignore it. At least I pray not. The cat is out of the bag and that cat has no intention of crawling back inside it. Victims of abuse who have come into the light and now understand what has happened to them, both at the hands of their abuser and at the hands of their church, are just not the kind of folks who tend to shut up about it.
What is the solution? Guess what, it isn’t really very complicated at all. “Return to Me, and I will return to you.” But keep refusing, keep turning a deaf ear and blind eye to the plight of the weak and oppressed, well, here it is in the Lord’s own words:
Malachi 2:1-2, “And now, O priests, this command is for you. (2) If you will not listen, if you will not take it to heart to give honor to my name, says the LORD of hosts, then I will send the curse upon you and I will curse your blessings. Indeed, I have already cursed them, because you do not lay it to heart.”
And the next verse is one of my favorites in the Bible. There’s nothing like God telling His abominable priests He wants to rub their faces in the dung of their own sacrifices.
“Behold, I will rebuke your offspring, and spread dung on your faces, the dung of your offerings, and you shall be taken away with it.” Malachi 2:3
I totally hear your heart. I am recently catching up on these posts from almost a year and I just read this post in tears as you say exactly what I feel, “Am I the only ONE?” Do I want a war? Am I seeing the glass half empty? But, no, as much as I love the Truth, the Truth often causes division, isolation, even ostracism. At least maybe I made a tiny bit of impact last night in the “All-pervasive-just speak-about-how-good-we-have-it-in-Christ” thinking, and YES we DO! No question. But the study is soooo focused on curbing my attitudes and responses, I see little space for anyone wishing to bring to light anything “negative” such as “I am being abused.” The Bible study is the book of James and of course has much to do with the use of our words. I believe I have grown much in this area, and I’m not saying a good solid reminder isn’t necessary, BUT, I determined to focus my thoughts and responses in this study on words that are NOT said which should be. I write answers with the thought I may get to read out loud one of my responses to a question. Last night I answered a study question: “How should our words flow from a heart of humility.” My answer was this: “We should never speak untrue or unnecessary words. We should humbly evaluate if there is a cause or reason behind words (I might to speak) that are difficult to speak (i.e. exposing evil). Words spoken for my own advantage should never be said, i.e. out of jealousy, contempt, ‘one-up-manship,’ unjust anger, etc. It is never right to malign a righteous person.” The leader thought this was really good and asked if I had written it or someone else had. Her question reveals to me that many are not aware of “the other side of the coin.”
Thank you for this brave post that lays responsibility where it belongs, i.e. the shepherds. If these truly feared (reverenced) God, whom they pledged to serve, they’d take their charge of feeding their flock seriously. But many a church leadership has become some kind of mafia and woe unto the one who breaks the omerta!
I can’t help thinking sometimes how my life would have been so different if my church leaders had been true shepherds instructing me about the tactics of evil and how to recognize the red flags and turn away, They would have equiped me for the battle each child of God has to fight against the enemies and his minions, instead of being ripped apart by the wolves in the garb of believers.
This trend of loving and accepting everyone is a fiery dart of the devil, which has done much damage. As if more saint than God Himself. Churches are no places of refuge but dens of lions. So compromised and infiltrated by evil that God will soon shake and sift it. Vomit the unfaithful hirelings. And embrace and bandage the faithful wounded.
I’m so thankful to God for you Jeff Crippen. May He continue to protect and empower you.