“The priests’ lips should guard knowledge, and people should go to them for instruction, for the priests are the messengers of the LORD Almighty. But not you! You have left God’s paths. Your ‘guidance’ has caused many to stumble into sin. You have corrupted the covenant I made with the Levites,” says the LORD Almighty. - Malachi 2:7-8
The only mutiny in the long, illustrious history of England’s Royal Navy took place in 1933. The seamen’s wages had been cut in a desperate political move to head off the effects of the nationwide depression. In retaliation, the seamen attacked their officers. But the men of the Royal Marines defended their officers against the rest of the crew. As a result, to this day the Marines are quartered on board ship between the officers and the crew, to act as the officers’ guards and to maintain the security of the ship. In Britain’s navy today, this is mainly symbolic, but it symbolizes a reward for faithfulness. It is a source of pride and a great factor in the unusual esprit de corps of the Royal Marines.
When King David’s son Absalom staged a mutiny against his father, many of the king’s men went over to the side of the young revolutionary. But Zadok the priest remained faithful and protected the king (see 2 Sam. 15:1-37). As a result, he and his descendants were rewarded by being appointed as the priests in Jerusalem right up through the time of the Exile (see Ezek. 44:15ff). No doubt they accepted this position with great pride and, as faithful men, they endeavored to fulfill their roles.
It comes as a great surprise, therefore, to read what Malachi had to say about the priests in his day, after Israel returned from exile. He reminded the priests of their privileged position and their profound responsibilities. They had been called to greatly reverence the Lord, to stand “in awe” of him, to pass on to the people “all the truth they received,” to live “good and righteous lives” before the people, and to turn “many from lives of sin.” They were called “to guard knowledge” and to function as “messengers of the Lord Almighty” (Mal. 2:5-7).
But something had gone wrong. They had “corrupted the covenant” (2:8), they had failed to live in obedience, and they had “shown partiality in [their] interpretation of the law” (2:9). As a result, their “ ‘guidance’ [had] caused many to stumble into sin” (2:8). This was a monumental disaster for Israel, and God did not treat it lightly. The faithful men had become unfaithful.
Peter wrote that Christians are now “a kingdom of priests” (1 Pet. 2:9). That means that we have access to the Father through the Son, that we should offer sacrifices to God consisting of praise, and that we are called to live in a manner befitting our high standing. This requires faithfulness—like Marines standing at their posts.
For Further Study: Malachi 2:1-12