The LORD’S Bill of Particulars Against Levi. Malachi 2:1-17.
What we have here is a basic description and delineation of the sin of Levi. Reference is here made not simply to personal sins, but to the official sins of Levi in Judahl The deep reason and legal around for Levi’s being removed out of Israel with the entire temple service of the Old Testament dispensation is here set forth in bold relief.
The Lord’s Covenant with Levi. Vss. 5 7.
When the prophet speaks here of Levi, we must not simply think of the individual whom Leah named Levi. He was the third son born to Jacob from Leah. His name means: joined. Said Leah, “Now this time will my husband be joined to me, because I have home him three sons: therefore was his named called Levi.”Gen. 29:34. This Levi, together with his older brother Simeon, avenged their sister, Dinah, by killing Hamor and Shechem with the edge of the sword, causing Jacob to cry out, “Ye have troubled me to make me to stink among the inhabitants of the land . . .” This Levi found a sepulchre in the land of Egypt; he died at the age of one hundred and thirty seven years. We know that Levi stood at the bedside of the dying patriarch Jacob when he blessed his sons, and said of Levi: “Simeon and Levi are brethren; instruments of cruelty are in their habitations. O my soul, come not thou into their secret; unto their assembly, mine honor, be not thou united: for in their anger they slew a man, and in their self-will they digged down a wall. Cursed be their anger, for it was fierce; and their wrath for it was cruel: I will divide them in Jacob and scatter them in Israel.”Gen. 49:5-7.
Yet, the LORD made His covenant with Levi. The prophecy of Jacob, concerning the things which would befall Levi in the latter end, dove tailed completely with this curse upon Levi’s wrath and cruelty. For Levi is scattered in Israel and is “joined” to the twelve tribes dwelling in the Levitical cities, forty eight in number!Num. 35:21 ff.
This is the Levi spoken of in this second chapter of the prophecy of Malachi! This Levi was separated unto the LORD from all the tribes. By the law of the redemption of the first born, the Levites were to aid the priests, the sons of Aaron in the temple worship and in the instruction of the people concerning the worship of God as His redeemed people! These received from the tithes of the people. Thus we read in Numbers 18:20-24: “And the LORD spake unto Aaron, Thou shalt have no inheritance in their land, neither shalt thou have any part among them: I am thy part and thy inheritance among the children of Israel. And, behold, I have given the children of tenth in Israel for an inheritance, for their service which they serve, even the service of the tabernacle of the congregation. Neither must the children of Israel henceforth come nigh the tabernacle of the congregation, lest they bear sin and die. But the Levites shall do the service of the tabernacle of the congregation, and they shall bear their iniquity: it shall be a statute forever throughout your generations, that among the children of Israel they shall have no inheritance. But the tithes of the children of Israel, which they offer as a heave offering unto the LORD, I have given to the Levites to inherit: therefore I have said unto them, Among the children of Israel they shall have no inheritance.”
Thus the LORD’s covenant was with Levi!
Of this the LORD speaks here in Malachi 2:5. We read there, “My covenant was with him of life and peace; and I gave them to him for the fear wherewith he feared me, and was afraid before my name.”
Of course, this does not mean that the LORD’s covenant was not with Judah and with the elect out of all the tribes of Israel. For truly God loves Israel Jacob, that is, all whom He foreknew in every tribe. And he put His covenant in the hearts of all of them. What this does refer to is that the LORD placed as adispensation, an arrangement of the divine grace to his people under the shadows and types, in the ministry of the Levites as they culminated in the Old Testament high priesthood of Aaron! They were the appointed stewards of the mysteries of God in the temple as these all pointed toward the Christ of God. Christ is the end (telos) of the law for righteousness to every one that believes. Rom. 10:4; I Cor. 4:1, 2. And it is sought in a steward that be be found faithful. The Levites were to bear the sins of the people in the Old Testament substitutional manner, as we quoted earlier, “But the Levites shall do the service of the tabernacle of the congregation, and they shall bear their iniquity.”Numbers 18:23a.
Such was the covenant with Levi!
It was a priesthood which pointed toward the finished and completed work of Christ at Calvary, where Christ died at his own time for the sins of the people!
Levi’s Blessing Turned Into a Curse. Verses 1-3.
The LORD of hosts has a commandment for the apostate priests of Malachi’s day who corrupt the Levitical institution in the tabernacle of the congregation by bringing in polluted bread and calling the Lord’s altar and table a contemptible thing. He has turned their “blessing” into a curse.
It is well to take a bit closer look at the term “commandment” here. The Hebrew term is mitzvah, a commandment, precept. It is interesting to notice that this term is translated in the King James Version some 173 times as commandment, once as law, once asordinance and four times as precept. The Hebrew verb from which this noun is formed is tsavah. It means to set up, to place, to constitute, to appoint. It is translated 422 times as command, 6 times asappoint, and 24 times as charge. There is a difference between charge, command, and to determine. The commandment implies that it is authoritative. It is the last word, and it brooks no contradiction or change of venue. It is emphatically pointed out in this “bill of particulars” to Levi that this commandment is the LORD’s ultimatum to them. It touches them not as persons, first of all, but refers to them in their official ministry which they are corrupting! This command is really the “thus saith the LORD” pin-pointed in its content.
That the LORD thus addresses these priests is because he is jealous of His Name as revealed in the temple in, the services of the Levites. A hasty survey of these four chapters of Malachi will verify how the LORD has deep concern for his NAME. He will make his name great among the Gentiles. It is really the Name of Jehovah, as it spells salvation and mercy toward his people. Thus we read in Malachi 1:6, “And ye say, wherein have we despised thy name?” Or look at verse 11 of this same chapter, where we read, “My name shall be great among the Gentiles.” Then in this commandment to these priests He says, “My name is dreadful among the heathen.” Vs. 14. The LORD announces in Malachi 2:2 that “if ye will not hear, and if ye will not lay it to heart; to give glory unto my name,” then he will bring upon them the curse. In verse 5 of this second chapter we are told that the LORD gave his covenant to Levi “for the fear wherewith he feared me, and was afraid before my name.” And, finally, in Malachi 3:16 we read of the future glory of the redeemed people, and of their godliness, “. . . and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the LORD; and that thought upon his name.”
But now the blessing which should accrue from the ministry of the Levites shall be changed into a curse. This curse is the direct opposite of the blessing. It is noteworthy that the prophecy of Malachi speaks in such strong and ultimate language about this curse. The term curse as a noun occurs three times in this prophecy. In Malachi 2:2, 3:9, and Malachi 4:6. It is the Meerahwhich means: that which is abhorred, detested, and cannot stand before the LORD. It refers to the blessings which come from God in His house. But that shall be no more. Instead the judgment of the Lord will begin in the house of God. The house shall be left desolate. Upon these priests and by means of their false ministry will come the very opposite as the blessing of Abraham. Here is spoken of the terrible curses of the law: cursed is he that does not walk in all that is written in the book of the law to perform it. It is in line with such passages as Gen. 3:14, 17; Gen. 9:23; Deut. 27:15-26; Deut. 28:16-19; Jer. 11:3; Jer. 17:5; Jer. 20:14, 15; Jer. 48:10.
This means that all the bringing of sacrifices is of no avail. They continue in polluting the temple. They have caused many to stumble at the law, they corrupted the covenant of the LORD with Levi to bear the sins of the congregation in the temple—pointing to Christ! It is all made Christless! It is the salt which has lost its savor! It is good for nothing but to be cast out and to be trodden under foot of men.
The Great ADULTERY in Judah. Vss. 14-17.
In these verses the Lord speaks of a particular sin of Levi and of Judah. It is the sin of putting away their wives. Such a wife is called the “wife of thy covenant,” vs. 14b, and the “wife of thy youth,” vs. 115b.
Why does the LORD bring up this particular sin in this connection? Were there no other sins which they committed by breaking other commandments? And is the law not one, so that he who hateth his brother hath broken the entire law? Why then enumerate this sin at great length?
The answer must undoubtedly be found in the fact that really the covenant of God in Christ is the great covenant, and that the marriage-tie is a picture, an earthly manifestation of that covenant relationship between God and his people. See Gen. 2:24 and Eph. 5:21, where Paul speaks of this mystery of Christ in marriage when he says, “For this cause shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall be joined to his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.”
Such was also the fundamental relationship of Israel to the Lord, Isaiah 54:5, where we read, “For thy Maker is thine husband; the LORD of hosts is his name; and thy redeemer the Holy One of Israel; for he hath glorified thee.”
The putting away of wives is ever rooted in the deeper evil of not understanding or willing to know the basic relationship of God to His people in Christ. This relationship was present in the ministry of the priests in the temple. But this they trampled horribly underfoot.
They weary the LORD! And, what is worse, they brutally ask: wherein have we wearied thee?!!
Where is the God of judgment?