The book of Malachi has two main themes: The corruption of the priesthood, and the work of the Elijah prophet in preparing the way for Messiah. These themes are related. We know that the Law was full of doctrine concerning the Messiah. The priesthood should have so read and enthused about that Law, that over the generations they would have communicated an intricate picture of Messiah to Israel. We have mentioned that God had intended all Israel to enthuse with each " saying, Know the Lord" . Does this imply that they should have all been eagerly chattering about Lord Messiah? Sadly, nothing of the sort happened. For this reason Malachi was bidden prophesy an Elijah ministry which would purge the priesthood, and declare Messiah's coming accurately, converting Israel to Him, as the priests should have done by the time of the first century AD. It was for this reason that John the Baptist taught the people of Messiah, occupying a priestly role. " Many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God" (Lk. 1:16) was alluding back to Malachi's message and prophecies of Messiah's forerunner; and it also referred to Mal. 1:16, which defined the ideal priest as one who " did turn many away from iniquity" (Mal. 2:6).
It might not be amiss to highlight the areas in which the Jewish priesthood particularly failed:
- The priests " corrupted the covenant of Levi" (Mal. 2:8), in that they married out of the Faith (Neh. 13:29), thus violating the Spirit of the Levitical covenant- which was given in recognition of zealous action against the courting of Gentile women (Num. 25:12,13). A number of prophets condemn the priests for sexual malpractices.
- They offered the blemished sacrifices which Israel presented to them (Mal. 2:8,14). Thus they failed to speak out against the low spiritual standards of their flock, but instead went along with them.
- The repetitive nature of priestly work led them to treat it as " a weariness" , and to concentrate more on their own business enterprises.
- Worst of all, they refused to realize that there was anything wrong with their attitude They became spiritually self-satisfied.
Churchlife in this century is likewise based around repetition. Malachi's message is for us too. And the very same temptations exist, too. The epistle of James and those to Corinth and the seven churches would indicate that the first century eldership failed in just the same way. Indeed, there are a number of subtle allusions in James back to Malachi and the priesthood just after the restoration.