“For the lips of the priest should guard knowledge; and they should seek the law from his mouth; for he is the messenger of YHWH of hosts.” Malachi 2:7
Guard – The Hebrew verb shamar means “to watch over, to guard, to keep, to preserve and to care for.” It’s the same verb that described Adam and Havvah’s assignment in the Garden. We expect a priest to do these things when it comes to God’s Word. But take one more look at this verse. Do you find something unusual? When we think about God’s Word, we associate shamar with a heart activity. We think of guarding God’s Word as an inner operation like memorizing, honoring and studying. But what does God say through Malachi? “The lips of the priest” are associated with shamar. This can only mean one thing – speaking. From God’s perspective, guarding knowledge is about what I say. As a priest, if I am not speaking God’s truth, my inner spiritual life doesn’t seem to matter much.
This apparent disconnect is resolved when we realize that the role of the priest is to act as intercessor between God and the people. He is called upon to speak to God on behalf of the congregation. His job is to plead our case, direct our worship and faithfully communicate God’s instructions. He is the public servant of the Lord. What he says matters a great deal. So, God instructs His priests to guard knowledge. “Be very careful about your words for with your words you direct My people. Know what you are saying.”
Malachi’s revelation creates two big issues for the Church today. The first is obvious. The priest (or whatever title we wish to assign) must know God’s instructions and speak them truthfully. Unfortunately, eighteen centuries of Christian syncretism leave most of our leaders in a position where God’s instructions are no longer guarded. The lips of most priests speak half the truth, unintentionally to be sure, but nevertheless, a tragic mistake. We are led astray by misunderstood messages.
The second issue is the congregation’s expectation of the role of our priests. We think they are leaders of the Body. We think they are managers of the membership. We think they should direct the decisions. In other words, we put them in charge of everything. That is not God’s assignment. Priests are first and foremost intercessors on our behalf. They are not pulpit pundits, committee counselors or budget barons. They are called to be like those apostles of the first century who gave up running the “church” in order to devote themselves to prayer and the study of God’s Word.
We have left our priests and pastors in an impossible position. We have forgotten what God called them to do – know Him, intercede for us and speak His truth. What would happen if we followed the model of the apostles? Well, for one thing, the congregation would have to take on all the other roles of the church. We would have to act on God’s instructions instead of sitting in the pews.
Topical Index: priest, guard, shamar, Malachi 2:7
Yesterday I posted an article on Jerusalem written by one of the members who went with us in October. You might find it very interesting. You can see it here.