Worthless Religious Leadership

It is time to distinguish good from bad religious leaders:

Sadly, in our churches today there are plenty of worthless religious leaders. They are not just worthless – they are evil. They are false shepherds who are leading the people astray, and they will one day stand before their Judge to give an account of their evil.

As such we can all learn from and take to heart what is found in the Old Testament prophetic writings. They spoke to this theme repeatedly. Given that I just again read through the book of Malachi, the warnings found there are worth running with here.

The OT priests were meant to represent God to man. But they had become corrupt and were taken to task by Yahweh through his prophet Malachi. The first two of the book’s four chapters are mainly about the worthless priests. In chapter 1 we read about their polluted offerings (vv. 6-14) and in chapter 2 the Lord strongly rebukes them (vv. 2-9).

Verse 2 is stark in its denunciation: “And now, O priests, this command is for you. 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.”

Wow, strong words indeed. Let me offer a few bits of commentary on this. Iain Duguid and Matthew Harmon say this:

When the priests invert their priorities, putting concern for other people and their favor above their concern for God and his favor, God inverts the outcome of their ministry. God orchestrates a divinely ordained role reversal of their office that unfolds in Malachi 2:1–3….

Pronouncing blessing was at the center of priestly ministry. This is what we call benediction: the speaking of a good word. The priests were to speak the blessing of Aaron over the people, as recorded in Numbers 6:24-26….

But since the priests dishonored God’s name, he will not honor their blessings; instead, their blessings will be turned into curses. God will frustrate the fundamental purposes of their ministry. Such a judgment may seem very light and ephemeral to us because we undervalue the powerful influence of words and of God’s power to make things happen through his Word. But if God ordained that the people would experience a curse of continual futility, then all their labors would be frustrated. In spite of all their hard work, their labors would prove to be in vain.

David Baker offers some background to all this:

Image of Zephaniah, Haggai, Malachi (Reformed Expository Commentaries)
Zephaniah, Haggai, Malachi (Reformed Expository Commentaries) by Duguid, Iain M. (Author), Harmon, Matthew P. (Author) Amazon logo

A major constituent of covenants in biblical times, and the reason why they were made in the first place, was the obligations or stipulations laid on each party. In order for the covenant to function, there were expectations on both sides. If these were breached, the covenant was in jeopardy, or at least open to some of the sanctions spelled out as part of the covenant document (e.g., Deut. 28:15-68). If the stipulations were kept, however, blessings were called down on the parties (28:3–14), and the relationship flourished.

The life of the Israelite nation is presented as a model of this blessing/curse progression, which looks almost like a sine wave, with blessing on the top of the wave and curse at the bottom (see Judg. 2:10-22). Here Malachi contrasts the two extremes, using faithful Levi as the top and the current priesthood as the bottom. Using their theology of history, he is calling the Judean priests to move back to the top, to the blessed position they once enjoyed but lost through their departure from the obligations placed on them.

And in verse 8 we read: “But you have turned aside from the way. You have caused many to stumble by your instruction.” That is the main problem with worthless and unfaithful leaders, be they priests in the OT or pastors and ministers in today’s church: they lead so many people astray.

One other verse worth noting is 2:17 which says, “You have wearied the Lord with your words. But you say, ‘How have we wearied him?’ By saying, ‘Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the Lord, and he delights in them’.” This is similar to the warning Isaiah had given: “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil” (Is. 5:20).

Let me conclude by offering one contemporary and very recent application of this. As I wrote a few days ago, in the US the search is now on for a new Supreme Court justice, with the passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. I discussed that here: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2020/09/19/barrett-scotus-and-abortion/

One thing that has alarmed me is how so many Christians – and even Christian leaders – have been singing the praises of her: one of the most pro-abortion and pro-homosexual Supreme Court justices America has had. Hmm, no wonder things are going down the tubes so fast.

You expect the world to celebrate baby-killing and moral perversion – you don’t expect those who claim to be followers of Jesus Christ to do so. Listen again to what Malachi says these worthless guides were saying: ‘Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the Lord, and he delights in them’.

When you point out what she has done, some of these champions of Ginsburg will say, “Well, um, er, I don’t support all of her positions, but we must celebrate her – she empowered women after all.” One might as well say, “Well, um, er, I don’t support all that the Nazis did, but we must celebrate them – they empowered Germans in so many ways after all.”

We are never to celebrate or endorse what God calls evil, and we are never to champion those who support such evil. She may have had some good qualities, but those must be weighed up against her enduring legacy which includes millions of dead babies and the destruction of marriage. As Jeremiah Johnson has said:

Parts of the American Church have become so lukewarm that they would have tried to comfort Jezebel on a sickbed that GOD himself threw her on! (Rev 2:22) They would have highlighted her accomplishments over the years and found the good in her….

Ruth Bader Ginsburg ruled repeatedly on the side of infanticide, partial-birth infanticide, homosexual ‘marriage’ (and officiated homosexual ‘weddings’), against religious liberties, and saw to it that the Supreme Court stopped dating their documents ‘In the Year of our Lord.’ Ginsburg has now discovered that there is a court higher than the one called ‘Supreme’ and she does not sit in the seat of the judge, but as the defendant. She will answer to a holy God who remembers every ounce of bloodshed she is responsible for and every act of abomination she approved of. The justice of God knows no delay, and the law of God knows no limits.

Yes we have a lukewarm church that cannot distinguish between good and evil. Of course plenty of other examples of worthless religious leadership could be offered here. It is clear that far too many people who call themselves Christians, and far too many of their leaders, are either not familiar with the sorts of warnings found in the book of Malachi, or they have simply disregarded them.

Their outcome will be just the same as that of the worthless priests found back then.

[1229 words]

10 Replies to “Worthless Religious Leadership”

  1. A few years ago I mentioned the name of a senior and influential Australian catholic archbishop ( not Cardinal Pell) to a priest. The priest said, “Ah! He sold his soul to the devil years ago.” I refrained from saying to the priest – “Interesting you should say that. I know a woman who knew him in catholic student circles at the university in the 60’s. She was interested in dating him. But he told her – he didn’t want to walk out with her because his aim in life was to become an Archbishop.” Not just a priest – but an Archbishop. God help us.

  2. Thank you for this piece Bill, God is getting rid of the wolf leaders, false prophets and teachers. Sorting out the sheep from the goats. Sick of all the apostasy in the church!

  3. When leading conservatives pass away Leftists have a tendency to engage in orgies of hatred. You don’t see this from the Right. In fact the most offensive thing I think I’ve seen regarding RBG was a comment that she’s with Jesus now. I don’t know if the person saying so was Christian, but it was the most empty headed, logic lacking thing I’ve seen in a long time! RBG was Leftist and Jewish – not sure if she was practicing or ethnic only. By what measure is she supposed to be embraced by Jesus and what makes anyone think she’d want to be?

  4. ‘She will answer to a holy God who remembers every ounce of bloodshed she is responsible for and every act of abomination she approved of. The justice of God knows no delay, and the law of God knows no limits.’ Ruth Bader Ginsburg sounds like a representative of the woman in Revelation 17.
    Also the wrath of God comes to mind with a third of the sea to become blood in the first four trumpets Rev 8:7-12 and then the seven last plagues will cause all waters (both in the sea and fresh) to become blood Rev 16:3-4. God may be telling us that He sees all the bloodshed down through the ages and this is how much there is – enough to fill all the seas and watercourses.

  5. Way too many Christians do that Andrew. They try to excuse it as being nice but what is nice about giving their family false hope?? For some reason we want so desperately to be liked by the world we say things like this. We need to tell people whose loved ones died without Christ the truth they are NOT in heaven, they are NOT with Jesus, they are in hell. We seem more Interested in the secular commandment “thou shalt be nice” rather than God’s commandments that we don’t know what salvation even requires.

    We have a covenant too but many Christians think since we are covered with Jesus blood God doesn’t see anything bad we do so there are only blessings for Christians no curses, no judgement, no reprimand, not even a naughty naughty. We essentially seem to think once you are Christian God just winks and nods at your sin. Jesus is like your insurance so if you sin Jesus just says I got this and you go on your merry way. For some reason we believe God is like the battered wife we abuse and mistreat him and expect him to take it and stay in the relationship. We act like “yeah I lie cheat steal and sleep around but so what I LOVE you”. So many of these people will be quite surprised by their fate and sadly they won’t find out till they die. How many times have Christians said “let us make God in our image”????? how many won’t even talk to someone of another denomination or read anything from preachers of old so they never get exposed to the real Jesus?? “Why should I listen to someone with whom I disagree???”

  6. Regarding the comment someone made about RBG ,”She’s with Jesus now”. Well actually, not right now but she will be “with” Jesus, at the Great White Throne Judgement. Her last moments in the proximity of Him, in front of him. Her life on earth, aside from any death bed repentance, indicates that she has chosen her eternal fate, separation from God. Revelation 21:11-15

  7. I have just read a book covering the history of the Jews during the lives of Aaron, Caleb, Jonathan, Amos and Silas. Although the book points out the wrath of God on the Jews’s time and time again because of their disobedience, it clearly shows the longsuffering heart of God and his willingness to forgive.

    As society continues its downhill slide and the church going downhill with it, it makes me think why have we survived as long as we have. By OT standards we would have been blasted into kingdom come long before now.

    With the church abandoning its first love and replacing it with me, myself and I, surely the days are short and I get the feeling there are going to be a lot of people that are expecting to be a resident of heaven that are not going to be there.

    This means that I have to make sure that I am not going to fall by the wayside preaching a false gospel.

  8. God is quite longsuffering. I sometimes joke with people “it’s a good thing I’m not God I would’ve smited this world a long time ago. In fact I would probably be smiting it every 10 to 15 years”.

  9. The biggest problem is people mistake his longsuffering for either indifference or worse approval. So because he doesn’t immediately punish far too many think there is nothing wrong with what they are doing.

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