"By presenting defiled food on My altar." You ask, "How have we defiled You?" "By saying that the table of the LORD is contemptible."
Leviticus 21:6). By "polluted bread" we are to understand maimed and blemished sacrifices. The Divine reproach is that the priests show how little value they have for the worship of God, since they do not care in how slight and contemptuous a manner it is performed. The Prophet Malachi deals very largely with the unfaithfulness, the unpriestliness, of the priests of his day. It was at once a sign of a sad condition of morals and religion when the priests failed of their duty; and the way to recover the nation to righteousness, when the priests were recalled to the sense of their obligations.
I. SOCIETY REVEALED IN THE UNFAITHFULNESS OF THE PRIESTS. These may be taken as representing the clergy of the Christian generations. It has always been true that society is reflected in the moral standard of the clergy. This is embodied in the saying, "Like priest, like people;" and it is a wider and more searching truth than is usually apprehended. The clergy are the moral barometers by which the atmosphere of an age is discovered. The priests of Malachi's time declare the moral and religious degeneracy of the people. "The saddest sign of all was the degeneracy of the priesthood which Malachi, though perhaps himself a priest, was specially commissioned to denounce. The lack of all real faith and moral soundness in the very order which ought to have kept alive among the people the essential elements of the spiritual life, was eating like a cancer into the heart of the national sincerity" (Farrar). It may be shown that priestly indifference and unfaithfulness are products and results of neglected personal religious life. So long as priestly duties are instinct with spiritual feeling they will be worthily performed. When personal godliness fails, they become perfunctory, and then if in seeming they are kept up, in reality they deteriorate. It is in maintaining the personal religious life that priests lead the nations.
II. SOCIETY IS RECOVERED BY THE RECOVERY OF THE PRIESTS. Therefore Malachi appeals to them. It may be that the priests are the last to yield to the society evils; but they must always be the first recovered. They must become forces on the side of Cad in the restoration of moral health to a nation. Revivals are always hopeless things unless their first effect is the spiritual revival of the clergy. - R.T.
Ye offer polluted bread upon Mine altar.
(James Saurin.)1. Let us state the parallel between the altar of burnt-offerings, the table of the shew-bread, and the sacramental table of the Lord's Supper; the offerings which were presented to God on the first, and those which we still present to him on the second. The viands presented on both the one and the other are the meat of God, or the bread of God. The sacred ceremonies are destined to the same end, and represent the same mysteries, namely, the intimate union which God wishes to maintain with His Church and people. The august ceremony of the holy sacrament is a mystery of reconcilia tion between the penitent sinner and the God of mercy. What made the ancient Jews profane the table of the Lord . How came they to say, The table of the Lord is contemptible"? It was —(1) Because they formed not just ideas of the end which God proposed to Himself, when He enjoined the observance of these solemnities.(2) It arose from their unwillingness to fulfil the moral engagements which the ceremonial observance imposed.(3) It proceeded from their wanting a just sense of the value of the blessings communicated by these. The sources of unworthy communicating in the Christian world are the same — want of illumination; want of virtue; want of feeling. Apply to those who, on reviewing their former communion services, see cause to consider themselves as chargeable with the guilt which God imputed to the Jews who lived in the days of Malachi. Reflect on the shortness of the time usually devoted to preparation for partaking of the Lord's Supper. And on the slightness of the changes which these solemnities produce. Do not deceive yourselves. Study to know and feel the whole extent of your felicity. and let a sense of the benefits with which God hath loaded thee, kindle the hallowed flame of gratitude in your hearts.
Homilist.1. These should always be in accord. Any discrepancy between them is morally unnatural. Our conduct should accord with our creed, our deeds with our doctrines. These priests showed —
(1) (2) (3) (4) (Homilist.)
(2) (3) (4) (Homilist.)
(3) (4) (Homilist.)