Malachi 2:5
The covenant was made with the tribe of Levi; and the precise terms here referred to occur in the renewal of covenant with Phinehas, "Behold, I give unto him my covenant of peace: and he shall have it, and his seed after him, even the covenant of an everlasting priesthood" (Numbers 25:12, 13). A covenant is a mutual engagement entered into by two parties. Each party takes pledges; and each is exonerated from keeping his pledge if the other party breaks his. Too often the Divine covenant is treated as if it only involved God's putting himself under pledge of service to us. The truth needs to be emphasized that the covenant includes our pledge of faithful service to him. And this is true of the new covenant, sealed with the blood of Jesus Christ.

I. JEHOVAH'S PLEDGE TO LEVI. "My covenant was with him of life and peace," There is some reason for thinking that, before the Sinaitic revelation was made, the tribe of Levi provided the moral and religious teachers of the Israelites. They were designated for the special work of the priesthood, but the Divine covenant took a special shape in consequence of the loyalty and zeal of the Levites in the matter of the golden calf; and of Phinehas in vindicating the Divine claim to moral purity. God pledged two things:

(1) "life," or permanence; and

(2) "peace" or prosperity.

Security that the honour and usefulness of the position should be quietly maintained. There is a Divine side to every covenant. God condescends to pledge himself to men. He promises his providings, preservings, guidings, redeemings, sanctifyings. In the new covenant, in the hands of the Mediator, the Lord Jesus Christ, all the old terms of covenant are renewed, and the special pledge of salvation from sin is added. He who has begun a good work in us is pledged to perfect it unto the day of Jesus Christ.

II. LEVI'S PLEDGE TO JEHOVAH. This side of covenant seldom receives sufficient attention. The Levites gave themselves to Jehovah's service; they pledged themselves to devote their lives to the services of his sanctuary, the teaching of his truth, and the upholding of his honour. So far as the early Levites were typified in Phinehas, they kept their pledge. Their personal characters honoured the covenant (ver. 6). Their steadfastness in duty, their cherished sense of right, and their active ministry against all iniquity, maintained the pledge of the covenant. Then how striking is the contrast suggested between the Levites of the early times and the Levites of Malachi's days! Their broken pledge meant that God was relieved of all obligation to keep his pledge to them. - R.T.







My covenant was with him of life and peace.
The covenant which God made with Levi now belongs to all men. The benign purposes in every ancient covenant find their fulfilment and enlargement in Christ.

I. THE BLESSINGS HERE SPOKEN OF.

1. Life. Physical life is a great possession. Physical life should not be wasted nor abused, but used as the basis of a higher life. Man has a higher life — the intellectual and the spiritual, in which the moral faculties and the consciousness of God reside. The spiritual life must be —

(1)Quickened by the Holy Ghost.

(2)Stimulated to struggle against the body of sin and death.

(3)Grow in Christly beauty and symmetrical fulness.

(4)Find its sustenance and satisfaction in God.

(5)Untouched by physical decay and death, and perfected in heaven.

2. Peace. There is much that is called "peace" that does not come from God; as the apathy of religions indifference, the forced calmness of self-deceit, the spiritual death of absorbed sensuality. Divine peace is preceded by conviction, repentance, and prayer. True peace arises from —

(1)A consciousness of God's favour.

(2)An approving conscience.

(3)Firm reliance upon the promises of God.This peace "passeth understanding," for it comes from the depths of God's infinite love, is unshaken by the varied incidents of life, and is eternal.

II. HOW MEN MAY POSSESS THE BLESSINGS HERE SPOKEN OF. Men fall to obtain these blessings because of their wrong conceptions of them; or, if they have right conceptions, they seek them in wrong directions. They try to find them in carnal pleasures, secular pursuits, circumstantial creations, and delusive virtues. These blessings can only be found in God through Jesus Christ. He is "the life," and "our peace."

1. Men must accept the view which Christ gives of the folly of seeking "life and peace" in fleshly indulgence and worldly good. He discloses to men's visions those life-giving energies and solid resting-places which the natural eye does not perceive. He stands as the living fountain of invisible realities. The great facts in the universe are the soul and God.

2. Men must accept, of Christ as a living presence in their inner life. The Spirit of Christ was in God's ancient saints. He must dwell in men now if they are to be blessed in Him. He enters every willing heart, bringing "life and peace."

3. They must obey the voice of Christ's Spirit within them. Obedience will stimulate vitality and consolidate peace. Many suffer spiritual paralysis and unrest because they do not follow the leadings of Christ's Spirit. We must not only receive Christ, but live under the influence of His presence. To have a spiritual life glowing with energy, and a peace flowing like a river — broad and deep — through our souls, we must listen for the voice of Christ's Spirit and follow it.

III. THE IMPORTANCE OF POSSESSING THE BLESSINGS HERE SPOKEN OF.

1. Because of their intrinsic value.

2. Of their adaptation to our condition and needs.

3. Because they are freely offered by a Being who understands our necessities, and who has made great sacrifices to bestow them upon us.

4. Because they have been eagerly sought for by the wise in all ages.

5. Because, without them, we shall wander in the realms of death and disquietude for ever.

(W. Osborne Lilley.)

Most commentators refer this statement to Levi, as the head of his tribe. I shall take the liberty of differing from them. It is our great and glorious High Priest, the true Melchisedek, with whom the covenant of life and peace was made.

I. THE HEAD OF THE COVENANT. "Him," the Lord Jesus Christ. Mark the station He occupies in this character. He stands as the representative of His people, to covenant with the Father on their behalf, in their name. In their law-place, Jesus stood before all the perfections of Deity, account able, responsible for them all, and holding all their interests dear as His own. Vain mortals are accustomed to talk about terms of salvation now; as if they were left to the creature to perform. But what were the terms of the covenant of salvation? Perfect obedience, infinite satisfaction. Where was the use of leaving these to a fallen creature? Our glorious Head alone is capable of rendering infinite satisfaction. Look at His affinity. For whom was He covenanting? His brethren, His "jewels." These were the persons; and why? Because they stood in everlasting affinity to Him — eternal relation to Him.

II. THE INTERESTS OF THIS COVENANT. What is it all about? What is it for? "Life and peace." "Sin entered into the world and death by sin." Death, the sentence of death, the first and second death, is pronounced upon the soul of the sinner. The covenant of life is with Christ, — life spiritual, life Divine, life eternal. " This is the record — this life is in His Son." All the terms of this "life" were in that covenant, which He entered into on behalf of His Church. "Peace," amity, concord, agreement, between God and the soul; terms adjusted in such wise, that the parties are perfectly agreed. Tranquillity of mind, a holy calmness. A settled, composed serenity of spirit, — a believing satisfaction that God and my soul have come to terms, and can never be separated any more.

III. THE SECURITIES OF THIS COVENANT. What is a deed worth without any seal or signature? Mark what the security of this covenant is. It ensures salvation entire and perfect. It is safely deposited, with Christ Himself. Mark the blessedness which pertains to this assurance.

(Joseph Irons.)

Doddridge, in his "Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul," suggested a solemn covenant being entered into with God. Samuel Pearce acted upon it by writing it with blood drawn from his own body. But he soon after wards fell into sin, and thus broke his covenant. Driven into more close examination of the question he was led to see that it was not his own blood that was needed, but that of Jesus. Carrying the blood-stained covenant to the top of his father's house, he tore it in pieces and scattered them to the winds, resolved henceforth to depend on the peace-making and peace-keeping blood of Jesus.

(W. Adamson.)

At first the tribe of Levi officiated in the tabernacle, afterwards in the temple, with purity and profit; but, in the days of Malachi, they had sadly degenerated.

I. THE COVENANT MADE BY GOD WITH LEVI. A covenant of life. It endured to the time when the Gospel-dispensation began.

2. A covenant of peace; of temporal prosperity and happiness. A due and fitting sustenance was provided for the Levites, without menial toil or care of theirs.

3. A covenant of spiritual life and peace. The Levites were distributed throughout the whole of the country to instruct and guide the people; they were to show in all their religious services that, without sacrifice, the sinner could never obtain pardon; that, without mediation, guilty man could never approach his God. It was their special business and care to show to the polluted and unclean how life and peace could be procured, how God could be pacified toward them, how holiness of heart could be secured, and eternal glory obtained. The Levitical priesthood, and the Levitical covenant, were typical of the eternal priesthood of Christ and the covenant of grace, and were introductory to them.

II. THE REASON OF HIS BEING SELECTED FOR THE SACRED OFFICE. "For the fear wherewith he feared Me."

1. He feared God in a salutary manner, and thus he was always ready to do His commands.

2. "The law of truth was in his mouth." Levi was pious and reverential. He had a rich acquaintance with the law given by Moses.

3. "Iniquity was not found in his lips." Levi was prudent and discreet in his speech as well as in his actions.

4. "He walked with Me in peace and equity." Like Enoch and Noah, he took God for his constant companion: he acted uprightly before men.

5. "I gave them to him," says God. Levi taught the way of righteousness most diligently, by his significant services and typical ceremonies; and many became obedient to the Lord their God. Such should be our clergy. How exemplary should be the conduct, how pure the morals, how disinterested the acts, how heavenly the motives, of those who have to watch for souls and to win them for Christ.

III. THE RECIPROCAL DUTIES OF MINISTER AND PEOPLE.

1. "The priest's lips should keep knowledge." The priests were the guardians of the sacred deposit; this was one chief cause of their influence. It was their duty to instruct the people in the moral laws, the judicial precepts, and the ceremonial rites, in all that Israel was bound to know and believe.

2. "They (the people) should seek the law at his (the priest's) mouth." He was the living witness to the power of Divine truth in his own soul, and the authorised expounder of God's Word to the assembled congregation.

3. "He is the messenger of the Lord of hosts," and as such should be attended to and obeyed. A combination of many excellences was requisite for the due execution of the "priest's office"; and so it is now with regard to the Christian minister. He needs a double portion of the Spirit. Happy is that country where the clergy minister for the glory of the Lord their God, and where they strive in all things to be examples to their flocks.

(Emanuel Strickland, M. A.)

A parishioner asked a clergyman why the congregation had filled up, and why the church was now so prosperous above what it had ever been before. "Well," said the clergyman, "I will tell you the secret. I met a tragedian some time ago, and I said to him, 'How is it you get along so well in your profession?' The tragedian replied, 'The secret is, I always do my best; when stormy days come, and the theatre is not more than half or a fourth occupied, I always do my best, and that has been the secret of my getting on.'" And the clergyman reciting it, said, "I have remembered that, and ever since then I have always done my best." And I say to you, in whatever occupation or profession God has put you, do your best; whether the world appreciates it or not, do your best; always do your best.

(T. De Witt Talmage.)

1. It concerns those who stand under any particular obligation to God to be much in studying the encouragements allowed upon them, that they faint not in His service, and of their duty, that they delude not themselves, expecting privileges when they mind not their work, for this end is the covenant of Levi so clearly laid before the priests.

2. Faithful priests have especial need of a covenant of preservation from God, being exposed to much hazard many times; and of the hope of eternal life, being often exercised with sad times here; and in outward things to have the Lord securing their portion to them. And for all these may faithful ministers trust God, for "My covenant was with him of life" (that is, preservation here, and hope of a better life hereafter), "and peace and prosperity."

3. It is a special qualification of faithful ministers, and an evidence that they are to receive a blessing, when much familiarity with holy things doth not breed contempt, but their heart is filled with awe and reverence of God, and they go about His worship with holy reverence and trembling, and do testify much tenderness and zeal against any wrong done to God.

4. The practice of those who have gone before, and by walking in the ways of God, have inherited the promised blessing, will be a ditty against them who decline, and look upon their duty as intolerable, or their encouragements as hopeless; for, the practice and blessing on former priests are recorded, to condemn the present unfaithful ones.

5. It is incumbent to faithful ministers, that they be neither dumb nor liars, that they oppose themselves faithfully against error, and be faithful publishers of truth, for "the law of truth was in his mouth."

6. Albeit no mortal man can be so faithful, but that if God search him, he will not be able to stand; yet it is not sufficient for a minister, that he do not greatly debord in his calling, but he ought to carry himself so as he may abide a trial, for endeavoured holiness, singleness, and integrity, in revealing the counsel of God; for, "Iniquity was not found in his lips."

7. Albeit people are to look to the word carried by ministers, and obey God speaking it, whatever the messenger be; yet it is the duty of faithful ministers, to take heed that their carriage do not belie their doctrine, or minister occasion to bring it into contempt; but that their practice may prove their own believing in the doctrine, and that they shine in their private conversation, as well as in their public station; for therefore is the "walking" of honest priests marked as well as their doctrine.

8. As it is the duty of all Christians, so especially of ministers, to be constant in the ways of godliness, and walk in them, to be sincere in them, as in the sight of God, and to be on His side in all the controversies of their time, which is to "walk with Him," to make peace with God their great aim, and for that end to be humble in their obedience, and not rebellious to occasion quarrels, which is "to walk with Him in peace" and to follow the rule of righteousness, and "walk in equity." or "righteousness" In all their ways.

9. Albeit the Lord s most faithful servants may often see cause to complain of the ill success of their labours (Isaiah 49:4); partly, in that they are sometimes sent out to harden the generality of a people against God's justice (Isaiah 6:9); partly, while they see not the fruit that is, as it was with Elijah (1 Kings 19:14, 18); and partly, because the seasons of the appearing of fruits are in God's hands, yet honest and faithful ministers will not want such fruit of their labours, as may testify God's approbation of them; for, "They turned many away from iniquity."

(George Hutcheson.)

The law of truth was in his mouth, and iniquity was not found in his lips
Homiletic Magazine.
I. A GOOD MAN'S CONVERSATION IS MARKED BY A STRICT REGARD FOR THE TRUTH. "The law of truth was in his mouth."

1. Slander is a violation of the law of truth.

2. Exaggeration is a violation of the law of truth. Some never speak but in the superlative. Exaggeration may spring from

(1)an enthusiastic temperament; or

(2)a morbid desire to say startling things" or

(3)wilful wanton ness.

3. Flattery is a violation of the law of truth.

4. The habit of making excuses is often a violation of the law of truth.

5. Equivocation and dissimulation are violations of the law of truth.

II. A GOOD MAN'S CONVERSATION IS MARKED BY THE ABSENCE OF EVERY FORM OF EVIL. "Iniquity was not found in his lips."

1. Idle conversation is a form of evil condemned by the text.

2. Profane conversation is a form of evil condemned by the text.

3. Censorious conversation is a form of evil condemned by the text.

4. Impure conversation is a form of evil condemned by the text.

III. A GOOD MAN'S LIFE IS MARKED BY CLOSE AND PEACEFUL COMMUNION WITH HIS MAKER. "He walked with Me in peace and equity."

1. There is intimate fellowship. "He walked with Me." This figure always implies close friendship. Enoch, Abraham, Noah, etc., walked with God.

(1)This walk implies reconciliation.

(2)This walk indicates progress.

(3)This walk suggests constant intercourse.

2. This fellowship is productive of peace. "He walked with Me in peace."

(1)Subjectively, peacefulness. The inward disposition of peace.

(2)Objectively, peaceableness. The outward manifestation of peace.If there were more peace in human hearts there would be more in the home, the Church, and the world.

3. This fellowship is productive of moral integrity. "He walked with Me in peace and equity." There can be no sustained communion with the Holy One if there be moral obliquity in the heart, or dissimulation or dishonesty in the life. "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me." This moral equity is very searching and comprehensive.

(1)It governs the relation between master and servant (Colossians 4:1).

(2)It governs the relation between buyer and seller (Proverbs 20:14).

IV. THE GOOD MAN'S LIFE AND CONVERSATION WILL EXERT A SAVING INFLUENCE ON OTHERS. "And did turn many away from iniquity."

1. It will act as a restraint upon evil-doers. This is the leaven which preserves the whole from corruption.

2. It will act as an incentive to the well-disposed. Union is strength. The view of unfaltering piety will encourage the Nicodemuses to avow their principles.

3. It will prove to the world the genuineness of religion.

(Homiletic Magazine.)

He walked with Me
Here the degenerate ministers of Malachi's time are reminded of the bright ideal of the priesthood in an older time. They had left the path of Divine communion. But Levi had walked with God. The whole passage refers to the teaching side of the Jewish priest's office. We may therefore safely use it with reference to the Christian ministry. In Bunyans allegory, this passage is nobly adapted to form the portrait of a minister of the Gospel. In the House of the Interpreter, the pilgrim sees a picture hung against the wall; "and this was the fashion of it. It had eyes lifted up to heaven; the best of books was in its hands, the law of truth was upon its lips, and it stood as if it pleaded with men." "He walked with Me." Here is a gift that can never come amiss. No circumstances, no temperament, no path of duty or trial, in the case of a Christian pastor, can ever dispense with this — the personal walk with God. None will forget the other side of the pastor's call — that he must walk with men. Times there have been in the history of the Christian Church when it was needful to enforce it; but, it is hardly so now. The danger is, that the pastor should mistake his commonplace activities for the main power, as well as the main work, of his ministry. It is a grievous danger. God connects two things: "He walked with Me"; "He did turn many from iniquity." As I read these words, a fair and beautiful ideal rises up before me, a vision at once delightful and saddening. It is an ideal blent of the elements of real lives. Saints and servants of the Lord, in the ministry of our Church, pastors whom I have seen and known, combine to form it. Men in whose shelves and surroundings there were countless differences, but who were all alike in carrying with them this indefinable impression, that they walked with God. Men I mean of very various ages at the time of observation, some crowned with blessed old age, that evening with no night to follow; some in the full vigour of ripe experience; others young, and in the first efforts of their life. But all were alike in a pure and chastened cheerfulness, most open and natural, yet never out of time with the peace of God. And all were alike in this, that it needed no long acquaintance to make it known that their dearest friend was their Master; their truest happiness, His work; and their deepest study, His Word. Surely, if we will to walk with God, the Lord will not be absent from our right hand. Point out two ways in which such a walk will tell on a pastor's work, apart from its duty and joy for himself.

1. It will give him width and calmness of view, and reach of hope, better than any other means. The pastor who walks with God will, on the one side, be as keenly alive as possible to the reality of evil in himself and those around him; on the other side, he will be able to trust mystery and failure in the eternal hand, in a way that otherwise could not be — without moral laxity.

2. This walk with God will give the pastor a power to influence others which he cannot otherwise have. Such a ministry, whether in the pulpit or in the study, in the cottage or in the mansion, in the room of sickness or of death, or in the scene of health, will surely be the likeliest to be the means of turning many from this present evil world to serve the living God, and to wait for His Son from heaven. May our brethren have this bright characteristic written on their ministry to the end.

(H. C. G. Moule, M. A.)

And did turn many away from iniquity
"Turn many away from iniquity." Believers are a spiritual priesthood, separated and sanctified, and placed among the unregenerate for their salvation. The saved are to save others.

I. THE NATURE OF THIS WORK. Men naturally live in iniquity. Moral crookedness is innate. Salvation alone brings uprightness. This is confirmed by human consciousness, human confessions, human history, and Divine declarations. This makes the work of the Church difficult. It seeks to deliver men —

1. By the Persuasive power of holy living.

2. By the preaching of the Gospel.

3. By its philanthropic enterprises.

4. By its power to bring down the Holy Spirit upon men through prayer.

5. By all its institutions and ordinances. In this work the Church will need

(1)Much Divine power and wisdom.

(2)Great self-denying zeal.

(3)The attracting energy of Christian love.

(4)Much persevering activity.Those who turn most away from iniquity give the surest proof that they are called to the Divine order of the priesthood.

II. THIS WORK STILL NEEDS TO BE DONE. Iniquity abounds. The duty of the Church is imperative.

III. THIS WORK MAY BE SUCCESSFULLY ACCOMPLISHED. Wonderful is the influence which one man can exert upon another for good. God works with those that work for Him. Before the emotions awakened by the love of the cross iniquity appears in its true light, and the sinner turns away from it with loathing.

IV. THIS WORD IS GLORIOUS IN ITS RESULTS.

1. It saves men from the misery of eternal ruin.

2. It furthers the sublimest purposes of God in the redemption of mankind.

3. It brings to those who engage in it the sweetest satisfaction and delight.

4. It increases the joy of Christ, angels, and men.

5. It ensures to the workers themselves an eternal reward.Those whom they have blessed by the deliverance of the Gospel will bless them for ever.

(W. Osborne Lilley.)

What a criticism upon moral influence do we find in these words, namely, "And did turn many away from iniquity." There is no historic pomp about the act: but who can tell what moral beauty there is in it? Prophets and priests and preachers and leaders work in different ways. Some have what may be called, from a public point of view, a negative or obscure function, but their record in heaven is that they turned many away from iniquity, by private expostulation, by unknown prayer — that is, fellowship together with the sinner — in communion that is never published; by influence, by example, by tender words, many are turned away from iniquity, from selfishness, from drunkenness, from baseness, from evil pursuits of every kind. Not by the thunder of eloquence, not by the lightning of logic or high reasoning, not by the mystery of metaphysics, but by calm, quiet, loving, tutorial interest in private life,-who knows what triumphs have been wrought within the sanctuary of the house? God is not unrighteous to forget our work of faith and labour of love: God knows how many lambs we have tended, how many straying sheep we have brought back to the fold, how many hopeless hearts we have reinspired, to how many we have given of the oil of grace. Let no man, therefore, fail of heart and courage because he does not speak from a public pedestal. His name may not be known far away from his own fireside; there are private priests, there are household evangelists, there are ordained missionaries, whose names are not published; there are womenshepherds who are seeking the very worst sheep; the sheep that the shepherds would not look after, the shepherdesses are following still: all the service is written down, and attached to it is the commendation of God. The Lord now urges against the priesthood —

"Ye have caused many to stumble at the law." There is the most malign influence which man can exert on man. No longer is the mere priest condemned, no longer is the laugh expended on the priest himself; the people have got beyond that, they say, If this is the priest, what must the law be? If the law were good, surely it would save the priest from such debasement as he embodies: if the priest can be so bad, so selfish, so worldly, so devil-loving, what must the law be? So we go from the personal to the moral, from the concrete individual instance to the written and eternal law: we begin by mocking the messenger, we end by trampling under foot the message. This has been woefully true in the history of Christianity.

(Joseph Parker, D. D.)

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