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:
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: 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.