Jason Birkin continued our series in the Minor Prophets
Malachi – The messenger. Not much is known about him. But what is important is the message, not the messenger.
There is no definite information available telling us who he was or where he came from. There are traditional ideas. However, he was God’s mouthpiece to the nation of Israel
It has been pointed out that Malachi is well named "My messenger" or "messenger of Jehovah," because in these four short chapters, the prophet describes three messengers—the priest of the Lord (Mal_2:2); John the Baptist (Mal_3:1 a); and our Lord Himself (Mal_3:16).
Malachi paints a stunning picture of Israel's unfaithfulness that clearly shows the people to be worthy of punishment. But, woven throughout this message, is hope—the possibility of forgiveness.
As you read Malachi, we need to see ourselves as the recipient of this word of God to his people.
Evaluate the depth of our commitment, the sincerity of our worship, and the direction of our lives. Then allow God to restore your relationship with Him through His love and forgiveness.
Where in the Bible is the book of Malachi situated? The book of Malachi forms a bridge between the Old Testament and the New Testament. This book of the Bible is the last book of the Old Testament section. But Malachi is not the last of the Old Testament prophets. John the Baptist was the last.
We need to read and understand this book in light of the whole story. The Bible itself is laid out in a narrative, from Genesis through the book of Acts, telling one story but having a number of themes.
The different sections of the Old Testament are placed within that narrative and are to be interpreted within the context of the big story. The book of Malachi comes under the group of the 12 minor prophets: there are 5 major prophets, 5 books of poetry and wisdom, 12 Historical books and 5 books of the law.
Instead of trying to pull out of the Bible a message we can apply to our lives to give us some encouragement or something to do to make us better, let’s try and enter into the message of the whole Bible and be swallowed up by it, forgetting ourselves for the moment.
Malachi ministered in the fifth century B.C., about 100 years after the Persian King Cyrus had issued the decree in 538 B.C. which permitted Jews to return from exile to Judah. In response to the prophetic ministries of Haggai and Zechariah, the repatriated Jews had rebuilt the temple, completing it in 515 B.C. Houses had been reconstructed. Most likely in Malachi’s day the wall of Jerusalem was being rebuilt or had been completed (by Nehemiah’s crew).
Life was not easy. The Jews were under the political dominion of Persia (peḥâh, “governor,” Mal_1:8, was a Persian title, also used in Ezr_5:3, Ezr_5:6, Ezr_5:14; Ezr_6:6-7, Ezr_6:13; Dan_3:2-3, Dan_3:27; Dan_6:7).
Harvests were poor and subject to locust damage (Mal_3:11). By the time of Malachi, they had been back in the land for more than a hundred years and were looking for the blessings they expected to receive when they returned. The Kingdom. Though the temple had been rebuilt, the fervor of those early returning Israelites gave way to a thorough apathy for the things of God. This led to rampant corruption among the priesthood and a spiritual lethargy among the people.
Compared to 40 – 50 years ago, our own society, which was established on God’s Word, has greatly deteriorated. Society today is facing many issues which are a direct result of people not passing on to their children the truth they have. The churches in NZ and around the world have leaders who mirror the priests back in Malachi’s time.
The Jews had returned to Jerusalem from Babylon. They’d obeyed the messages of God from the prophets Haggai and Zechariah. They’d rebuilt the temple of God.
Their expectations had not been met. They were disappointed with God. They had done what they thought God wanted, but still God hadn’t come up with the goods. No Messiah, no great divine war against Israel’s enemies, no worldwide kingdom of God—none of the good things those prophets said would come about had happened.
Their expectations of God were selfish. There was not a personal deep relationship with God as God desired.
Our relationship with God is what is important. Not our doing church or behaving like Christians are expected to. God was not pleased with them. Our expectations of God are often selfish and when we can’t get from God what we want, we start doubting. We doubt His love for us. We don’t see things from God’s perspective.
Most hearts were indifferent or resentful toward God. Both the priests and the people were violating the stipulations of the Mosaic Law regarding sacrifices, tithes, and offerings. The people’s hope in God’s covenant promises had dimmed, as evidenced by their (a) intermarriages with pagans, (b) divorces, and (c)general moral ambivalence.
So the people grew indifferent. They offered faulty sacrifices (Mal 1:8,13), married pagan women (Mal 2:11), were unfaithful to their wives (Mal 2:14), and withheld tithes and offerings (Mal 3:8). Furthermore, the priests of God were misleading the people and disrespecting the God who had called them to ministry (Mal 2:8). Spiritual decline.
When people seem to live according to Christian customs and behaviour, but then abandon them, it is obvious that they never lived by conviction, but more by fleeting religious beliefs.
They stop listening to the Lord and listen to the evil one and listen to the world and their own selfish desires. Signs of a lacking relationship with God. Same as in a marriage. No love, quarrels and hatefulness, broken marriage vows.
The Jews had been redeemed from 70 years of captivity and miraculously restored to their own land. How could they doubt the love of God? Satan’s plan from the beginning has been to get us to doubt God’s love for us.
As long as the mind holds to God’s truth, Satan cannot win; but once the mind doubts God’s Word, there is room for the devil’s lies to move in. Satan questioned God’s Word (Gen 3:1), denied God’s Word (Gen_3:4), and then substituted his own lies (Gen_3:5).
Note that Satan seeks to undermine our faith in the goodness of God — he suggested to Eve that God was “holding out on them” by keeping them from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. When we question God’s goodness and doubt His love, we are playing right into the hands of Satan.
But that’s exactly how the Jews in Malachi’s day, and the church today, treat the love of God all the time. We want Him to continually prove His love for us by giving us more stuff or by spoiling us more. “Come on God, if You really loved me You would do this or give me that or change this situation.” Such was the state of Israel when Malachi arrives on the scene with the message from God
Malachi’s message is similar to that of the other prophets: covenant blessing requires covenant faithfulness. As people in each generation obeyed the requirements of the Mosaic Covenant, they participated in the blessings founded in the unconditional Abrahamic Covenant.
Obedience to the Law was rewarded with blessing in the land of promise. Disobedience, on the other hand, brought a curse on the people and eventually exile. This covenant regulated Israel’s relationship with God throughout the old dispensation. The blessings and the curses in Deuteronomy 28.
Since the fall of Adam our ancestor, mankind all the way down through history is shown to be sinners who have no thought for God.
Even today, as believers, we still struggle with temptation and struggle to maintain our relationship with God. We get taken up with the things of the world, our job, our entertainment, pursuing the things of this life. We have a bent towards ignoring God. God knows this and that is why there is so many reminders through the Epistles to keep focused on Him and all that He has prepared for us.
Faith is the Art of Holding on to Things in spite of your Changing Moods and Circumstances
God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts in our pains. Pain is God’s megaphone to rouse a deaf world.
Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you will get neither.
Like the Israelites who thought they were okay because they thought they fulfilled God’s laws and that was enough, we too can do church and talk Christian and yet our hearts are far from Him.
God’s plan from the beginning is to have a Kingdom of people who love Him and because they love Him they honor Him as their King and Lord and obey Him. These people will be the people of the Kingdom.
The people focused on their unfortunate circumstances and refused to account for their own sinful deeds. So God pointed the finger back at them, and through Malachi, God told the people where they had fallen short of their covenant with Him.
If they hoped to see changes, they needed to take responsibility for their own actions and serve God faithfully, according to the promise their fathers had made to God on Mount Sinai all those years before.
One of the key messages or themes of the Bible is our sinfulness and inability to be able to please God. To be acceptable to God we must be able to fulfil all His laws all the time. Because God no longer dwells within us and we are born that way, there is no hope for us, unless God steps in.
But we humans, in our arrogance, think we can somehow act in a way that might make God accept us. We think that God owes us and when He doesn’t come up with the goods we begin to complain.
This is how the Israelites acted. They began by doubting God’s love for them.
"In what way have You loved us?" This is the kind of question rarely spoken, but often harboured in the heart. It asks, “God, if you really love me, why are things the way they are?”
The prophecy of Malachi is built around seven questions the people asked God. These questions revealed their doubting, discouraged, sinful heart.
• In what way have You loved us? (Mal_1:2)
• In what way have we despised Your name? (Mal_1:6)
• In what way have we defiled You? (Mal_1:7)
• How have we wearied Him? (Mal_2:17)
• In what way shall we return? (Mal_3:7)
• In what way have we robbed You? (Mal_3:8)
• In what way have we spoken against You? (Mal_3:13)
Israel was looking at their current situation, what they have and didn’t have. We do that all the time:
“God, if You loved me, You would let me get this job.”
“God, if You loved me, You would let her say yes!”
“God, if You loved me, You would allow me to buy that, wear that, drive that, watch that, eat that, think that, have that, and on and on.”
Remember what God told Paul when he asked the Lord, three times, to take some “thorn in the flesh” away from him? God said, “No.” And His reason? “My grace is sufficient for you” (1 Cor. 12:9). In other words, what you have is already enough. Salvation, Communion with God, Eternal life, The promises of Scripture, The Holy Spirit, etc
Does it get any better that this?
So God’s answer to the Jews was simply this: My sovereign election in choosing you to be My people shows, beyond anything else, that I love you. It is the greatest of all acts of divine love.
The example He used to illustrate His love was the story of Jacob and Esau, and it is, by the way, the same passage quoted by Paul in Romans 9. In that section of Romans, Paul is demonstrating that Israel has not been cast aside, but that God has chosen them in the past, and they are still His chosen, even though they are currently rejecting their Messiah. Paul shows that God demonstrated His love for them by His sovereign choice of them and that any other demonstration of love is built on that original choice. It’s God’s grace in motion, the foundation for all God has and is doing for His people.
Consider the words of Paul: And not only this, but when Rebecca also had conceived by one man, even by our father Isaac (for the children not yet being born, nor having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of Him who calls), it was said to her, “The older shall serve the younger.” As it is written, “Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated” (Rom. 9:10-13).
Note the following , Rebecca had two children in her womb and God, before the children had proven themselves worthy of God’s choice in them, chose Jacob and did not choose Esau. And the text says that God’s choice was “that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of Him who calls” (Rom. 9:11). In other words, God chose to love Jacob and not love Esau simply because He wanted to display His right of sovereign choice or election in bestowing His love and favor on those He wills and not based on their good or bad deeds or inherent worth. God is just exercising His rights to be God.
God chose Jacob because He loved Jacob. And He loved Jacob not because Jacob was more worthy or lovable than Esau, but simply because God is God and He can do what He pleases (Psalm 115:3).
Our fallen sense of morality and fairness screams out saying, “That’s not fair!”
So Paul addresses that very question: “Is there unrighteousness with God?” we ask. “Certainly not!” (Rom. 9:14).
Paul then goes on to give two examples to show the carnality of our human wisdom and sentiment. One example is God’s words to Moses that basically say, “Look, I am God and I will choose whom I want. I will show mercy to whom I choose and compassion on whom I choose. It’s not up to you, mere mortal, to tell Me how to be God.”
From Romans 9:15-18: For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.” So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy.
God chose them “from the foundation of the earth” to be His children, just like He also chose each of us who have placed our faith in His Son (Eph. 1:4-5).
Future – But the day is coming, God is telling Israel, that you will see all the promises I have for you and the blessings I want to give you. It’s almost like the final doxology at the close of chapter three in Ephesians: Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen (Eph. 3:20-21).
All of God’s promises are true and His love for Jacob, for Israel, is shown in His faithful fulfilment of those promises. Yes, times may be rough right now. And yes, you may not understand all that is happening to you. But look up, for the Messiah is coming and “your redemption draws near.” (Luke 21:28).
“Your eyes shall see, and you shall say, ‘The Lord is magnified beyond the border of Israel.'” Malachi 1:5
Malachi reminds the Israelites of their condition as sinful people who need to recognise their true state before God.
They need to repent or agree with God that He is right and they are wrong. Even though they cannot attain to the righteousness required by God, all is not lost for the Savoir is coming. God Himself is coming.
Malachi would be God’s final message for four hundred years and then John the Baptist would appear as the last message for the Old Testament era. His message would be the same “Repent for the Kingdom of God near.”