The Priest’s Lips

“And now, O priests, this commandment is for you. If you will not hear, and if you will not take it to heart, to give glory to My name,” says the Lord of hosts, “I will send a curse upon you, and I will curse your blessings. Yes, I have cursed them already, because you do not take it to heart. “Behold, I will rebuke your descendants And spread refuse on your faces, the refuse of your solemn feasts; and one will take you away with it. Then you shall know that I have sent this commandment to you, that My covenant with Levi may continue,” says the Lord of hosts. “My covenant was with him, one of life and peace, and I gave them to him that he might fear Me; so he feared Me and was reverent before My name. The law of truth was in his mouth, and injustice was not found on his lips. He walked with Me in peace and equity, and turned many away from iniquity. “For the lips of a priest should keep knowledge, and people should seek the law from his mouth; for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts. But you have departed from the way; you have caused many to stumble at the law. You have corrupted the covenant of Levi,” says the Lord of hosts. “Therefore, I also have made you contemptible and base before all the people, because you have not kept My ways but have shown partiality in the law.”

Malachi 2:1-9 NKJV

Jesus commanded, “Receive the Holy Spirit” and continued to say, “If you forgive anyone his sins, they’ll be forgiven him.” This means He has called us to be priests. Therefore, we have all become priests in Jesus Christ. He has made us priests – a mediator between God and countless people. This is not only for us; God promised this when He chose Israel. He said, “If you hear my words and keep them, you will be a kingdom of priests.”

When He chose Abraham, He said, “I will bless you. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” In other words, God will make him a priest. He would become the priest for mankind. But finally, the Holy Spirit came to dwell in us, and thus we became priests.

On Saturdays which is the Sabbath, we go out, do work and other things. The reason it does not become a sin is because we became priests. For the priests in Jesus Christ to do work in the temple on the Sabbath does not become a sin, it says. Therefore, we are fine even if we go out or work on the Sabbath. However, anyone who thinks he is not a priest will have to face judgment for the breaking of the Sabbath.

This applies also to those who do not know they have become priests. If they disregard the Sabbath because of their ignorance, they are also breaking it. For all of us, we have become priests in Jesus Christ, which is actually what God wanted.

God chose the tribe of Levi and made a covenant with them. It was a covenant of life. The Levites were given a special duty. They were to be priests and were not given any land. Every other tribe was given land but not the Levites. Instead, they were given the name of God. Their duty as God’s priests itself became their precious inheritance. So, they did not go out to the fields to work the land but served God. What was it that God expected of them? To revere the name of God, and if we look at verse 7, it says,

“For the lips of a priest should keep knowledge, and people should seek the law from his mouth; for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts.” Above all things, a priest’s lips were to keep knowledge. From his mouth should come the word of God always, people should seek God’s law from his mouth and understand God’s word.

In verse 6 says, “The law of truth was in his mouth, and injustice was not found on his lips. He walked with Me in peace and equity, and turned many away from iniquity.”

Similarly, we ought to understand the truth deeply and be filled with the power and knowledge to teach that. Hence, whoever meets us should be liberated from sins, and to whatever questions they have regarding their faith life, we should be able to give a wise answer. A wise answer means an answer in accordance with God’s will. We have to help souls so that they do not fall into the wrong path but be led by God.

We do a lot of counselling. We counsel many people. Even within Korea, many people come seeking counselling. But when we do not provide them with a sound advice, they listen to what we said and go down the wrong path. How woeful is it for that person, but also we would be accountable for leading them that way.

For this reason, the word of God should become a set of values in me so that I can lead others according to God’s will. For that, it is imperative that we understand the Picture of God’s Will. We should not be superstitious where we just give whichever verse first comes to mind. There are in fact many people who practice that. They say, “Suddenly I received this Scripture” and give advice based on that. Of course, those verses are important. I have perpetuated many experiences of being reminded of particular scripture verses. However, if we do that without having the complete understanding of God’s will, it is easy for us to head in the wrong direction. Thus we first need to thoroughly understand the Picture of God’s Will and have complete picture of the Bible. After that, we should be led by God’s word for the finer details. If we do not even know if it is east or west we should be heading, ultimately we will follow the thoughts of our own minds. So, how important is this duty? The word of God should always be found on our lips.

If that’s so, the Bible should never depart from our hands. When God spoke to Joshua, He commanded that the Book of the Law should not depart from his mouth, as He promised to lead Joshua. When He spoke to the kings, He commanded that the Book of the Law should not depart from them.

What is the common factor among the kings that failed? They did not have the Book of the Law close to them. But the kings who were successful, who achieved reform of faith, found and read the Book of the Law. One king found the Book of the Law while repairing the temple, which he started to read, and ultimately brought about a reformation. God deemed him highly. In the end, we have to be led by God’s word.

If man’s thoughts and God’s were the same or even similar, we could predict what God’s will might be. However, the Bible says man’s thoughts and God’s are very different. Just as east is different to the west and heaven is high up from the earth, His thoughts are so different from ours. Unless we draw closer to God’s word, we can never fathom the mind of God through our own understanding and thoughts. We need to know God.

God said, “My people perish because of the lack of knowledge.” Those people do not understand even if they read the Bible. So, leaders have to first read it and understand it to the point that they can explain it to others. In this way, we have to remain close to the word of God so that the word of God can govern us and be active within us. The Bible says, “Give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.” Exert yourself in teaching. It means to be obsessed with teaching. Be obsessed with reading.

Nowadays people are obsessed with their smartphones. They should be obsessed with the Bible. The Bible says, “Restore the deeds you had at first. You have forsaken your first love.” After that what does it say? “Repent!” To the Church of Ephesus, He said, “You forsook your first love. Repent.” What do they do after repenting? Have the deeds you had at first. In other words, if you want to have your first love again, you should not have the feelings you had at first but the deeds. It is very difficult to have the same feeling you had at first.

In my case, I went to serve in the army soon after accepting Jesus. And the Bible which I did not think was valuable before became very important. Of course, I did read the Bible a lot since having faith in Jesus because I was in the army 3 months after being saved. Hence I was very hungry for the Bible. I had a real hunger for the Bible. I read it any time I had the chance. There was no watching television or anything else for me. I was just determined to read the Bible. In the army, they give you a little Bible containing the New Testament and Psalms. When I was in the recruit training camp for 2 weeks I set my heart to read through the whole New Testament and Psalms and I did. After that, I was assigned to my unit. I took my Bible with me. But I did not get to read it for a whole year. It is not like that nowadays is it? Until you become a corporal, you could not even dream of reading a book in the army. What did I do then? When I was on sentry duties, I took it with me. I tore every page out of the Bible and folded each page several times. Nobody could notice it if I held it on my rifle. Then, I unfolded the pages and read them, and finally read the whole book again.

So, while I was in the army, I read it twice from cover to cover. The New Testament I read several times. After that, there was a guy who was from the Navigators. He had been the college leader. He taught me to memorize scripture verses starting with 69 verses. And then 180 verses. After that 240 verses. And what I memorized back then really became useful when I evangelized. The guy who taught me to do that memorized thousands of verses. So, when he opens his mouth, scripture would pour out. But he did not know the Picture of God’s Will. He was also against healing the sick and forbid me from speaking in tongues. He told me not to come to their prayer meetings too. But I really loved that guy. I followed him everywhere. He said he did not like me and called me a heretic, but wherever he went to teach, I sat beside him pretending to do something else while listening to everything he said.

So, later when we sat for a test, I had a higher score than the other guys who actually learned from him. Because he had the word and scripture poured out of his mouth, he was influential even though he did not know the Picture of God’s Will. When he spoke, my heart was moved and many people respected him and followed him. He looked beautiful like an angel. It is the power of the word.

We have the Picture of God’s Will. Now we have God’s word proceeding from our mouths like that, how will it be? It would be incredible. The way you memorize scripture is this. Memorize one verse today. Then, memorize another verse the next day. Each day memorize one verse. But always remember the previous verses while memorizing a new verse. So, on the third day, you recite verses from the past three days. On the seventh day memorize a new verse for that day while reciting all the other verses you memorized for the past six days. A year later you would have 365 verses. On the 31st of December, you would recite a whole year’s worth of verses. Since you do that every day, even at the end of the year it is hard to forget. The 39 verses I remembered back then I still cannot forget. I can remember them still. We do not do a lot of memorizing verses but how good is it to recite a verse from memory during your sermon? Yesterday in my sermon I could not remember Deuteronomy 19:23 and had to ask you. We need to have the word flow out of us. I am not telling you to memorize and recite verses. I am saying that we need God’s wisdom and His will within us all the time so that the word can flow out of us and be able to guide others according to the word. For that, we have to draw closer to the word so that we can perform our duties as priests. Let’s really be watchful in the New Year, not getting caught up in anything else but give our attention to the reading of the word and teaching. Let’s pray for that.

Father God, help us not to be obsessed with the corruptible and perishable things but be obsessed with God’s word. Help us to give our attention to the reading of the Bible and the work of teaching. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Sermon by Pastor Ki-Taek Lee
The Director of Sungrak Mission Center
Sermon on December 24, 2012
Translated by Sungrak Mission Center English Team