“But ye are departed out of the way; ye have caused many to stumble at the law; ye have corrupted the covenant of Levi, saith the LORD of hosts.” (Malachi 2:8)
In contrast to the God-fearing Levites of days gone by, these priests had left the ways of God. Their departure resulted in the destruction of others. Instead of upholding the law in the lives of the people, they had caused others to neglect and despise God's commands. Eli's sons were guilty of this same crime. Their unjust and vile behavior caused men to “[abhor] the offering of the LORD (I Samuel 2:17)” rather than appreciate it. By disobedience and carnal behavior, the believer priest can have the same affect on those around him. Through observation of hypocrisy and carnality in a believer's life, others are often moved to have a more negative view of God than they otherwise may have had.
“Therefore have I also made you contemptible and base before all the people, according as ye have not kept my ways, but have been partial in the law.” (Malachi 2:9)
The punishment that God had begun to inflict upon these men mirrored the effect of their behavior. They were corrupting God's covenant with God-fearing Levi; therefore, God was corrupting them and their influence on others. People are not completely blind. Most people have a sense of who is legitimate and who is not. Men can demand respect, but true respect can only be earned. Proverbs 16:7 says, “When a man's ways please the LORD, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him.” A man can be respected without being liked. The very presence of godly fear and righteousness in a person's life demands some acknowledgment. However, when a man is corrupt, compromising, and cheap, he is likely to be held in contempt by all. This principle is relevant in any dispensation. Many a pastor, teacher, evangelist and Christian leader has attempted to demand respect and recognition while engaging in unethical conduct only to find that even the world with all of its wickedness can see right through the facade. A man can say one thing and live another if he chooses, but people will see through it, and God Himself will see to it that “...whatsoever ye have spoken in darkness shall be heard in the light; and that which ye have spoken in the ear in closets shall be proclaimed upon the housetops (Luke 12:3).”
So much for the spiritual leadership of the nation. They were offending God through unworthy sacrifices, profaning His name by unholy services, and disgracing His law through unjust judgments. Let the believer priest beware lest he be found guilty of practicing the very principles of the sins found here.