Jehovah Hates the Course of Treachery
‘Do not deal treacherously with one another.’—MALACHI 2:10.
1. What does God require of us if we are to receive everlasting life?
DO YOU want everlasting life? If you believe in that hope as promised in the Bible, you will probably say, ‘Of course.’ But if you wish God to favor you with endless life in his new world, you will need to meet his requirements. (Ecclesiastes 12:13; John 17:3) Is it unreasonable to expect imperfect humans to do that? No, for Jehovah makes this encouraging statement: “In loving-kindness I have taken delight, and not in sacrifice; and in the knowledge of God rather than in whole burnt offerings.” (Hosea 6:6) So even mistake-prone humans can meet God’s requirements.
2. How did many Israelites deal treacherously with Jehovah?
2 However, not everybody wants to do Jehovah’s will. Hosea reveals that even many Israelites did not want to. As a nation, they had agreed to come into a covenant, an agreement, to obey God’s laws. (Exodus 24:1-8) Yet, before long they were ‘overstepping the covenant’ by breaking his laws. Thus, Jehovah said that those Israelites “dealt treacherously” with him. (Hosea 6:7) And so have many people since then. But Jehovah hates the course of treachery, whether it is directed toward him or toward those who love and serve him.
3. What analysis will be made in this study?
3 Hosea was not the only prophet to highlight God’s view of treachery, a view we need to adopt if we hope to enjoy a happy life. In the preceding article, we began an analysis of much of Malachi’s prophetic message, starting with the first chapter of his book. Now let us turn to the second chapter of that book and see how God’s view of treachery receives additional attention. Even though Malachi was dealing with the situation that prevailed among God’s people decades after their return from captivity in Babylon, that second chapter has real meaning for us today.
4. What warning did Jehovah give the priests?
4 Chapter 2 opens with Jehovah’s censure of the Jewish priests for departing from his righteous ways. If they did not take to heart his counsel and correct their ways, grave consequences were sure to follow. Note the first two verses: “‘This commandment is to you, O priests. If you will not listen, and if you will not lay it to heart to give glory to my name,’ Jehovah of armies has said, ‘I shall also certainly send upon you the curse, and I will curse your blessings.’” Had the priests taught the people God’s laws and kept them, they would have been blessed. But because of ignoring God’s will, a curse, a malediction, would come instead. Even the blessings the priests uttered would turn out to be a curse.
5, 6. (a) Why were the priests especially reprehensible? (b) How did Jehovah voice contempt for the priests?
5 Why were the priests especially reprehensible? Mal 2 Verse 7 gives a clear indication: “The lips of a priest are the ones that should keep knowledge, and the law is what people should seek from his mouth; for he is the messenger of Jehovah of armies.” More than a thousand years earlier, God’s laws that were given to Israel through Moses said that the priests had the duty “to teach the sons of Israel all the regulations that Jehovah [had] spoken.” (Leviticus 10:11) Sadly, at a later point, the writer of 2 Chronicles 15:3 reported: “Many were the days that Israel had been without a true God and without a priest teaching and without Law.”
6 In the time of Malachi, in the fifth century B.C.E., the situation with the priesthood was the same. They were failing to teach God’s Law to the people. So those priests deserved to be called to account. Note the strong words that Jehovah directs against them. Malachi 2:3 declares: “I will scatter dung upon your faces, the dung of your festivals.” What a rebuke! The dung of sacrificial animals was supposed to be carried outside the camp and burned. (Leviticus 16:27) But when Jehovah tells them that the dung would instead be scattered on their faces, it clearly shows that he held in contempt and rejected their sacrifices and those offering them.
7. Why was Jehovah angry with the teachers of the Law?
7 Centuries before Malachi’s time, Jehovah had assigned the Levites to care for the tabernacle and later the temple and the sacred ministry. They were the teachers in the nation of Israel. Fulfilling their assignment would have meant life and peace for them and the nation. (Numbers 3:5-8) Yet, the Levites lost the fear of God that they initially had. Thus, Jehovah told them: “You have turned aside from the way. You have caused many to stumble in the law. You have ruined the covenant of Levi . . . You were not keeping my ways.” (Malachi 2:8, 9) By their failure to teach the truth and by their poor example, the priests misled many Israelites, so Jehovah was rightly angry with them.
Keeping God’s Standards
8. Is it too much to expect humans to keep God’s standards? Explain.
8 Let us not think that those priests merited sympathy and should have been pardoned because they were mere imperfect humans and could not have been expected to keep God’s standards. The fact is that humans can keep God’s commands, for Jehovah does not expect of them what they cannot produce. Likely, some individual priests back then did keep God’s standards, and there is no doubt about one who later did—Jesus, the great “high priest.” (Hebrews 3:1) Of him it could truly be said: “The very law of truth proved to be in his mouth, and there was no unrighteousness to be found on his lips. In peace and in uprightness he walked with me, and many were those whom he turned back from error.”—Malachi 2:6.
9. Who have faithfully dispensed the truth in our time?
9 Comparably, for more than a century now, the anointed brothers of Christ, those with the heavenly hope, have served as “a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God.” (1 Peter 2:5) They have taken the lead in dispensing Bible truths to others. As you have learned truths that they teach, have you not found from experience that the very law of truth has proved to be in their mouths? They have helped to turn many back from religious error, so that now there are millions throughout the world who have learned Bible truths and who have the hope of everlasting life. These, in turn, have the privilege of teaching the law of truth to yet other millions.—John 10:16; Revelation 7:9.
Reason for Caution
10. Why do we have reason to be cautious?
10 However, we have reason for caution. We could miss the lessons that are implicit in Malachi 2:1-9. Are we personally alert, so that no unrighteousness is found on our lips? For example, can our family members really trust what we say? Can our spiritual brothers and sisters in the congregation do the same? It would be easy to develop the habit of couching one’s words in terms that are technically accurate but misleading. Or one might exaggerate or hide details in a business matter. Would Jehovah not see that? And if we followed such practices, would he accept sacrifices of praise from our lips?
11. Who especially need to be cautious?
11 As to those who have the privilege of teaching God’s Word in the congregations today, Malachi 2:7 should serve as a caution. It says that their lips “should keep knowledge, and the law is what people should seek” from their mouths. Heavy responsibility comes upon such teachers, for James 3:1 indicates that they “shall receive heavier judgment.” While they should teach with vigor and enthusiasm, their teaching must be soundly based on God’s written Word and the instruction that comes through Jehovah’s organization. In that way they will be “adequately qualified to teach others.” Thus, they are counseled: “Do your utmost to present yourself approved to God, a workman with nothing to be ashamed of, handling the word of the truth aright.”—2 Timothy 2:2, 15.
12. Those who teach need to exercise what care?
12 If we are not careful, we could be tempted to weave personal preferences or opinions in with our teaching. That would especially be a risk for a person tending to be confident in his own conclusions even when these contradict what Jehovah’s organization is teaching. But Malachi chapter 2 shows that we should expect congregation teachers to hold to knowledge from God and not to personal ideas, which could stumble the sheep. Jesus said: “Whoever stumbles one of these little ones who put faith in me, it is more beneficial for him to have hung around his neck a millstone such as is turned by an ass and to be sunk in the wide, open sea.”—Matthew 18:6.
Marrying an Unbeliever
13, 14. What was one treacherous course that Malachi highlighted?
13 From Mal 2 verse 10 onward, Malachi chapter 2 highlights treachery even more directly. Malachi focuses on two related courses about which he repeatedly uses the word “treacherously.” First, observe that Malachi prefaces his counsel with these questions: “Is it not one father that all of us have? Is it not one God that has created us? Why is it that we deal treacherously with one another, in profaning the covenant of our forefathers?” Then Mal 2 verse 11 adds that Israel’s treacherous course amounts to profaning “the holiness of Jehovah.” What were they doing that was so serious? That verse identifies one of the wrong practices: They had “taken possession of the daughter of a foreign god as a bride.”
14 In other words, some Israelites, who were part of a nation dedicated to Jehovah, had married those who did not worship him. The context helps us to see why that was so serious. Mal 2 Verse 10 says that they had one common father. This did not mean Jacob (renamed Israel) or Abraham or even Adam. Malachi 1:6 shows that Jehovah was the “one father.” The nation of Israel was in a relationship with him, party to the covenant made with their forefathers. One of the laws in that covenant was: “You must form no marriage alliance with them. Your daughter you must not give to his son, and his daughter you must not take for your son.”—Deuteronomy 7:3.
15. (a) How might some try to justify marrying an unbeliever? (b) How does Jehovah express himself on the matter of marriage?
15 Some today might reason: ‘The person I’m attracted to is very nice. In time, he (or she) will likely accept true worship.’ Such thinking confirms the inspired warning: “The heart is more treacherous than anything else and is desperate.” (Jeremiah 17:9) God’s view of marrying an unbeliever is expressed at Malachi 2:12: “Jehovah will cut off each one that does it.” Thus, Christians are urged to marry “only in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 7:39) Under the Christian system of things, a believer is not “cut off” for marrying an unbeliever. Still, if the unbeliever stays in his or her unbelief, what will happen to that one when God shortly brings this system to an end?—Psalm 37:37, 38.
Mistreating One’s Mate
16, 17. What was a treacherous course that some took?
16 Malachi then considers a second treachery: mistreating one’s mate, especially by unjust divorcing. Verse 14 of Mal chapter 2 states: “Jehovah himself has borne witness between you and the wife of your youth, with whom you yourself have dealt treacherously, although she is your partner and the wife of your covenant.” By dealing treacherously with their wives, Jewish husbands caused Jehovah’s altar to become ‘covered with tears.’ (Malachi 2:13) Those men were obtaining divorces on illegitimate grounds, wrongly leaving the wives of their youth, likely to marry younger or pagan women. And the corrupt priests allowed that! Yet, Malachi 2:16 declares: “‘He has hated a divorcing,’ Jehovah the God of Israel has said.” Later, Jesus showed that immorality is the only ground for a divorce that would free the innocent mate to remarry.—Matthew 19:9.
17 Reflect on Malachi’s words, and see how they appeal to hearts and to feelings of basic kindness. He refers to “your partner and the wife of your covenant.” Each man involved had married a fellow worshiper, an Israelite woman, choosing her as a dear companion, a life partner. While that marriage probably took place when he and she were young, the passing of time and the onset of older age did not invalidate the covenant they had entered into, that is, the marriage contract.
18. In what ways does Malachi’s counsel regarding treachery apply today?
18 The counsel regarding those issues applies with equal force today. It is a shame that some disregard God’s direction on marrying only in the Lord. And it is also regrettable that some do not continue working at keeping their marriage strong. Instead, they make excuses and pursue a course that God hates by getting an unscriptural divorce so as to marry someone else. In doing such things, they “have made Jehovah weary.” Back in Malachi’s time, those who ignored divine counsel even had the audacity to feel that Jehovah was unjustified in his views. They, in effect, said: “Where is the God of justice?” What perverse thinking! Let us not fall into that trap.—Malachi 2:17.
19. How can husbands and wives receive God’s spirit?
19 On the positive side, Malachi shows that some husbands were not dealing treacherously with their wives. They ‘had what was remaining of God’s holy spirit.’ (Mal 2 Verse 15) Happily, God’s organization today abounds with such men who ‘assign honor to their wives.’ (1 Peter 3:7) They do not abuse their wives physically or verbally, do not insist on degrading sexual practices, and do not dishonor their wives by flirting with other women or by viewing pornography. Jehovah’s organization is also blessed by having an abundance of faithful Christian wives who are loyal to God and his laws. All such men and women know what God hates, and they think and act accordingly. Continue to be like them, ‘obeying God as ruler’ and being blessed by his holy spirit.—Acts 5:29.
20. What time is nearing for all mankind?
20 Soon, Jehovah will bring this entire world into judgment. Every individual will have to answer to him for his or her beliefs and actions. “Each of us will render an account for himself to God.” (Romans 14:12) So an intriguing question at this point is: Who will survive the day of Jehovah? The third and final article in this series will take up that theme.
Can You Explain?
• For what basic reason did Jehovah censure the priests in Israel?
• Why are God’s standards not too high for humans to keep?
• Why should we exercise care in our teaching today?
• What two practices did Jehovah especially condemn?
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In Malachi’s time the priests were censured for not keeping Jehovah’s ways
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We must be careful to teach Jehovah’s ways, not promoting personal preferences
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Jehovah condemned Israelites who divorced their wives on frivolous grounds and married pagan women
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Christians today honor their marriage covenant