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God’s Word for You

Malachi 2:5-6 Duties of the Priests

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Saturday, February 13, 2021

5 “My covenant with him was a covenant of life and peace. I gave them to him. It was a covenant of fear, and he feared me and stood in awe of my name.  6 True instruction was in his mouth and nothing false was found on his lips. He walked with me in peace and uprightness, and he turned many from sin.

Here the “him” is Levi (see verse 4). The patriarch stands for the true and faithful priesthood, even though Levi himself was a liar, a murderer, and a thief (Genesis 34:14-29). A closer look at Genesis 34:29 will cause us to add kidnapper, slave trader, and perhaps rapist to the list. But just as Judah the patriarch had his flaws but was the ancestor of Christ, so also Levi had many flaws and was the ancestor of the godly priesthood.

The priests had a promise from the Lord that he would always look after them if they were faithful to him. The Levites had a place in the land surrounding the tabernacle (Numbers 1:53). The tabernacle was the center of worship, and the tents of the Levites were a barrier around the tabernacle and the rest of the tribes to show the holiness of the place.

The priesthood is called “he,” and in this true priesthood there had been true instruction for the people. The priests and Levites had these duties:

  1. To lead worship and its music (1 Chronicles 9:33; Ezra 3:10).
  2. To teach and preach the word of God (Nehemiah 9:3-4).
  3. To assist in the preservation of the written word of God (2 Chronicles 24:13).
  4. To administer the sacrifices on behalf of the people that foreshadowed the one sacrifice for all mankind in Christ (Leviticus 3:5).
  5. To see to the care of the physical tabernacle and later the temple (Numbers 1:50; Ezra 3:8-9).
  6. To transport the tabernacle and all of its physical equipment from place to place (Numbers 4:4-15, 24-26, 31-32).
  7. To judge cases of ceremonial cleanness and uncleanness and similar functions when necessary (Leviticus 13:2-28).

The importance of the first three points cannot be stressed enough. Through the proclamation of the word of God, the people were led to repentance. They brought sin and guilt offerings to the tabernacle, and they saw the forgiveness of sins enacted in the spilling of the animals’ blood. “Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Hebrews 9:22).

The true priesthood “turned many away from sin.” This is a simple reference to repentance, which has two parts. The first part is sorrow over sin and terror of punishment for sin, and the second part is faith in Jesus our Savior from sin. This was the message preached by John the Baptist by the Jordan River. “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near!” (Matthew 3:1-2). This is the chief doctrine of the Scriptures and of the whole Christian faith: The Gospel of the forgiveness of sins. Repentance is not a complex doctrine. It is simply this: The law in the Scriptures makes me aware of my sins, sorry for them, and it makes me frightened of the punishment for sin which is eternal damnation in hell where there are both internal and external agonies (Isaiah 66:24). But God in his mercy has proclaimed the Gospel of his forgiveness, which he gives as a gift. This gift is offered freely, even to those who don’t know Jesus at all (John 4:10). But it is the gift itself that creates faith in Jesus (Ephesians 2:8) and it has nothing to do with any of man’s good works (Ephesians 2:9). It comes from the undeserved love of God for all sinners. God calls out to his creation: “Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other” (Isaiah 45:22).

This is the message of the good and faithful minister of the word. Praise God for faithful pastors and teachers. Pray that you yourself would present God’s Gospel of forgiveness clearly, simply, and faithfully to whoever needs to hear it. Whether they are your neighbors, your neighbors’ children, your own children, or strangers, they all need God’s gift of forgiveness. And so do we all.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith

About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.


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