Return to Me…Some Tough Words to Hear

2 But now, this command is for you, priests:
    If you don’t listen, or don’t intend to glorify my name, says the Lord of heavenly forces, then I will send a curse among you. I will curse your blessings, and I mean really curse them, because none of you intend to do it.
I am about to denounce your offspring; I will scatter feces on your faces, the feces of your festivals. Then I will lift you up to me,  and you will know that I have sent this command to you so that my covenant with Levi can continue to exist, says the Lord of heavenly forces.
My covenant with him involved life and peace, which I gave him,  and also fear so that he honored me. He was in awe of my name.
True Instruction was in his mouth, injustice wasn’t found on his lips.
He walked with me in peace and did the right thing, he made many turn from iniquity.
The lips of the priest should guard knowledge; everyone should seek Instruction from his mouth,  for he is the messenger from the Lord of heavenly forces.
But you have turned from the path. You have caused many to stumble by your instruction. You have corrupted the covenant of Levi, says the Lord of heavenly forces.
Moreover, I have made you despised and humiliated in the view of all the people, since none of you keep my ways or show respect for Instruction (Malachi 2:1-9, Common English Bible).

These are tough words. It seems pretty obvious that God was far from happy with the priests from Malachi’s era. It is difficult for me to imagine language from God that was much more difficult than these words from Malachi. I am about to denounce your children. I am going to spread feces on your faces. Could God say anything that would be more difficult than this?

In the latter of the two, it just seems pretty disgusting. I really don’t think I want to go any further on that front.

But, the former has always bothered me. Verses in the Bible where my children will suffer because of the things I do really does bother me. That would be like saying I go out and commit a crime and my child goes to prison along with me. It doesn’t make sense. Even more, verses that say, “I will punish your descendants to the thousandth generation,” does not fit the image of God that is in my mind when Scripture also says, “God is love.”

What is so tough about this passage has more to do with the people it is addressing than what it actually says. God is calling out the priests for their heresy, their taking advantage of their position, for leading people down wrong paths and more. God is far from pleased.

For a pastor, at least part of my role is that of a priest. At least to me, that means, I need to take a serious look at myself and what I preach and teach. I need to make sure I am not leading people down wrong paths. The consequences for such misdirection can be dire.

But, when faced with difficulty and warning in Scripture I always strive to remember, there is more grace in God than there is sin in us. If I am wrong, I pray God will point out my error so I might fix the issue and so I might confess my sin and receive that grace, even if I don’t deserve it.

I know the same is true for all of us. Thanks be to God.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

With Joy and Thanksgiving,
Keith

Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Author:

"The Pastor Ponders" is my attempt to share some of my thoughts. I often share what I am thinking with my dog "Bishop," but he keeps his thoughts to himself. He will even go to sleep sometimes while I am sharing my thoughts with him. The truth is, if it doesn't involve getting his ears scratched, his belly rubbed or some kind of treat, he really doesn't care. I will say this for him, he never argues with me or tells me I am wrong. So, I decided to share some of my thoughts with whoever might come across this blog in their ramblings around the Internet. Bishop and I live in Sweeny, Texas where I am the pastor of First United Methodist Church. I have served here for the past two years. For the past 27 years I have served United Methodist congregations throughout East Texas including rural Madison County (Elwood UMC), Lovelady (First UMC) and Kennard (Center Hill UMC), Canton (First UMC), rural Smith County (Mt. Sylvan UMC and Union Chapel UMC), Grapeland (First UMC), Tyler (Pleasant Retreat UMC), Santa Fe (Aldersgate UMC), Freeport (First UMC) and Oyster Creek (Oyster Creek UMC), Diboll (First UMC), and now Sweeny (First UMC). My wife Cindy and I have been married for over 40 years. We have two grown sons. Wayne and his wife Nikki and all our grandsons (Kaleb, Noah, and Jaxon) live in Southern California. Christopher and his wife Morgan and both our granddaughters (Jenna and Natalie) live in Tyler Texas. I enjoy preaching and all aspects of preaching from research to writing to the actual preaching event. I also love writing, reading, playing the guitar as well as a bit of drawing. I have spent quite a bit of time over the past two years working with paracord on various projects, mostly prayer ropes I usually give away. I sing bass with a local barbershop chorus called The Coastalaires. I have also recently begun doing a little wood carving. I also enjoy playing with Bishop, something he likes a great deal better than listening to my thoughts. I hold an Associate of Applied Science Degree in Business Data Processing, specializing in Microcomputers from San Jacinto College in Pasadena, Texas, a Bachelor of Science in Political Science with a minor in History from Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, TX, a Master of Divinity from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX and a Doctor of Ministry from Carolina University of Theology. When I was a student at Carolina, the school was in Iron Station North Carolina. They have since relocated to Manassas Virginia (Yeah, go figure, a school named Carolina geographically in Virginia). This blog is mostly devotional writing, but there are other things here too. Just about every week I will either post my sermon manuscript or a video of the worship service. On occasion, I will post something I see in society. Occasionally I write a short story, a poem, or a song and will post it here too. I will say this, my motivations for writing this blog are really selfish. I write it to get what I am thinking out of my head and onto something a bit more permanent. They say, after all, once something is on the internet it never really goes away. Still, I hope you enjoy reading it. And, should you desire, you can one-up Bishop and actually tell me what you think. Who knows, it might generate a bit of discussion between you and me and anyone else who might make their way here. With Joy and Thankfulness, Keith Sweeny, Texas May 2018

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