Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore, let us go forth to him outside the camp, bearing his reproach. For we have no continuing city here, but we seek one to come.
Select a thought to read by choosing a collection, the month, and then the day:
“The burden of the word of the Lord to Israel by Malachi.”
God made at least seven comments to Israel through Malachi, to which His people responded with haughty, indignant questions, challenging His wisdom and justice. God’s words were simple and true, but by that time in Israel’s history, they had been so badly taught by their ministers that even simple truth was too much for them to bear.
“Your words have been stout against me, says the LORD. Yet you say, ‘What have we spoken against you?’ ”
The response of the elders of Israel (“What have we spoken against you?”) indicates that these men thought they were saying good things about God. Some of what these religious leaders were saying has already been quoted by Malachi in previous segments of this series. One thing they were teaching God’s people was that even if God’s people lived sinful lives, God saw them as being good and, so, they never should think of God as being a God of Judgment (Mal. 2:17). These teachers thought that saying those kinds of doctrines about God was to speak well of Him. God saw it as arrogant ignorance because they contradicted His word through His prophets. Israel’s teachers were setting themselves up as opponents of the Almighty even as they esteemed themselves to be wise leaders of the saints.
We do not have the authority to formulate doctrine. Doctrine, or teaching about God, is of such importance that those who teach it wrongly are worthy of great wrath. James warned the brothers not to aspire to be a bunch of teachers, “for we shall receive the greater condemnation”; that is, if we teach wrongly. God was angry with Job’s three friends for this very reason. He told Eliphaz, one of the three, “My wrath is kindled against you and against your two friends, for you have not spoken of me the thing that is right, as my servant Job has” (Job 42:7). One of Jesus’ fiercest criticisms of the Pharisees and elders of Israel is that they taught as God’s doctrines their own good ideas about divine things. He said, “You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying, These people draw nigh to me with their mouth, and honor me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. But in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Mt. 15:7-9).
It is striking that one’s worship can become “in vain”, or worthless, because one teaches wrongly. It is frightening to consider that God may reject one’s worship if that person teaches wrong things about God. This usually results when one has exalted himself to be a teacher, but God has not ordained him to be one. When the standard among God’s people is to have teachers made by men instead of anointed by God, as it now is, confusion and division reign. It is for good reason that Jesus exhorted his disciples to pray that God would raise up leaders for His people. Jesus knew that if God did not raise them up, leaders will come anyway and that the sheep would follow, even if those leaders are blind and the course they set is one toward destruction.