God’s Word for You
Malachi 2:3-4 Offal
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Saturday, February 6, 2021
3 “See, I will rebuke your offspring.* I will spread offal on your faces, the offal of your sacred feasts. And you will be carried off with it. 4 Then you will know that I have sent this commandment to you, that my covenant with Levi may continue,” says the LORD of Armies.
The first sentence ends either with “offspring” or “arm/shoulder” (see footnote). If it is “offspring,” then this is a curse on the children of the priests in the way that God often curses the child to rebuke the parent or withholds a rebuke for a generation for the sake of the parent (see 1 Kings 11:12). If it is “arm” or “shoulder,” then this would be a reference to the way the priests presented the right shoulder of an animal for the fellowship or peace offering (Numbers 6:19, 18:11). The animal parts that might have belonged to the priests were cursed and would not be a blessing for them.
The priests were completely clean on special festival days. They had ritual baths, freshly laundered clothes, and everything was done in a specially sacred way, but God says: “The offal you pull out of those sacrifices, their intestines and innards, I’m going to smear all over your faces.” This is also what Nahum the prophet said: “I will pelt you with filth, I will treat you with contempt and make you a spectacle” (Nahum 3:6). God goes on: “You’re not clean, you wicked, unbelieving priests, and I’m going to show this to everyone who comes to make a sacrifice. You’re not sacrificing to me at all. You should be carried out to the dump outside the camp and treated like the garbage you leave out there (Leviticus 4:11-12). You are the true offal, the truest, grossest, most disgusting innards and bloody guts, not fit to be left near my sacred altar. You will be removed from my camp, from my people, from my holy nation.”
“Then,” God goes on, “when you wicked priests are removed and finally done away with, then my covenant with the tribe of Levi can continue.” The essence of the covenant with Levi was that the spiritual leaders should preach the word of God faithfully (Numbers 18:19-20; Deuteronomy 4:10). God himself and God’s word were their inheritance in Israel, a better inheritance than any parcel of land, any spring of fresh water, or any tree or vine they might have been given. The unfaithful were to be swept away like yeast before the Passover (Deuteronomy 16:3-4, 1 Corinthians 5:7), “swept away because of all of their sins” (Numbers 16:26).
But after this stern warning of the law, there is a gospel message. God uses the word “covenant” to remind us that he has bound himself to his covenant of forgiveness. Man’s sins break the covenant, but God does not break it. God holds himself to his word, and God promises forgiveness and redemption. He says to those who have been crushed by his law but who look to Jesus, “I will heal them and love them, for my anger has been turned away from them” (Hosea 14:4). All of our sins and mistakes are covered by the love of Jesus. When we are reminded of this by our leaders, our pastors and teachers, then we can be confident they are proclaiming the trust faithfully to us. They do this “for the sake of the Name” of Jesus (3 John 1:6), and we live for his sake, too, day by day.
Footnote: 2:3 Or “your arm/shoulder” with the change of one vowel letter (see Numbers 6:19 for this word). See Greek Septuagint and Latin Vulgate, also Luther and others.
Pastor Timothy Smith