We rebelled against just about everything in the 1960s. We learned to question everything. Authority figures were not right simply because they were authority figures. “The Man” was our enemy. The “Establishment” was a force for tyranny that we had to stand against. I remember the song “Signs.” It was about rebellion against authority and ownership of private property. I expect that the socialistic influence of the day influenced a lot of this mentality. It says, “Sign, sign Everywhere a sign
Blockin’ out the scenery, Breakin’ my mind Do this, don’t do that, Can’t you read the sign? And the sign said Anybody caught trespassin’ Will be shot on sight. So I jumped on the fence, and I yelled at the house. Hey! What gives you the right To put up a fence to keep me out But to keep Mother Nature in? If God was here, he’d tell you to your face, Man, you’re some kind of sinner.” The Bible is fairly clear on property rights and supports those who work for and earn what they have and deserve to own it. But the point in this verse in Malachi seems to be more concerned with rebellion in a general way. Malachi 1:6 says, “A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am a father, where is my honor? And if I am a master, where is my fear? Says the Lord of hosts to you, O priests, who despise my name. But you say, ‘How have we despised your name?’” It’s a general condemnation of parental authority as well as economic authority. The exciting closing phrase of this verse tells us that even the priests of Israel have rebelled against God’s authority. Malachi says that rebellion consists of despising the name of the authority, whether parent, employer or God himself. The sin of rebellion reached all the way up the ladder in Israel to its King.

Samuel confronted King Saul with this sin and explained what rebellion was like. In 1 Samuel 15:23, Samuel says to Saul, “For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, And stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, He also has rejected you from being king.” Geisler comments, “Samuel forthrightly affirmed, ‘Rebellion [is as] the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness [is as] iniquity and idolatry’ (1 Sam. 15:23). Solomon added, ‘An evil man is bent only on rebellion’ (Prov. 17:11). Nehemiah described Israel in these words: ‘They became stiff-necked and, in their rebellion, appointed a leader in order to return to their slavery’ (Neh. 9:17). God is King, and we, his subjects, have rebelled against His rule in our lives.”[1]

The Prophet, Samuel, speaking for God, confronts the religious leaders for their failure to honor, respect, and obey God’s instructions. Their minds and ministries have gone so wrong that they don’t even recognize what they have done. They enter into a dispute with God. “We have not done anything wrong,” they argue! The culture in Malachi’s day had evolved from a strict belief in God’s right to direct the behavior of humans to the idea that each man’s opinion was as valid as anyone else’s. Anyone can question the parent, the boss, or the priest about what is right and wrong. When one is confronted with sinful behavior, they challenge the confrontation. Unfortunately, in Malachi’s day, as well as our own, the abandonment of authority has become commonplace. Wiersbe observed, “Thanks to worldwide media coverage and the constant pressure for higher program ratings, sin has become an important part of international entertainment. Evil activities that we ought to be weeping over are now sources of entertainment; they are vividly displayed on movie and TV screens and discussed in depth in newspapers and magazines. The all-seeing camera moves into the bedroom, the barroom, and the courtroom and enables excited viewers to enjoy sin vicariously. Movies and TV are instructing generation after generation of children how to ridicule virginity, laugh at sobriety, challenge authority, and reject honesty. Actors, actresses, and advertisers have convinced them that ‘having fun,’ ‘feeling good,’ and ‘getting away with it’ are now the main goals in life.”[2]

[1] Geisler, Norman L. 2004. Systematic Theology, Volume Three: Sin, Salvation. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers.

[2] Wiersbe, Warren W. 1996. Be Skillful. “Be” Commentary Series. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.