MALACHI June 11, 2018
Today we finish our study of the minor prophets of the Old Testament. They are minor in length, not in importance. We have skipped two of the prophets. Jonah was one. Almost everyone is familiar with him. He was a prophet to Assyria, and not Israel, but he brought a message from the God of Israel. The people responded to the message, but sometime later they returned to their evil way, and in 721 BC they attacked the Northern Kingdom and carried away the 10 northern tribes. In retribution God destroyed the kingdom in 705 BC.
The second prophet was Joel. His words are universal for all time. The theologians cannot firmly identify the time of his ministry. He may have preceded the other Minor Prophets. He issues this call to repentance and gives these words of reassurance.
Joel 1:1-4 Hear this, you elders;
Give ear, all inhabitants of the land!
Has such a thing happened in your days?
Or in the days of your fathers?
Tell your children of it,
and let your children tell their children,
and their children to another generation.
What the cutting locust left,
the swarming locust has eaten.
What the swarming locust left,
the hopping locust has eaten,
and what the hopping locust left,
the destroying locust has eaten.
1:13-15 Put on sackcloth and lament, O priests;
wail, O ministers of the altar.
Go in, pass the night in sackcloth,
O ministers of my God!
Because grain offering and drink offering
are withheld from the house of your God.
Consecrate a fast;
call a solemn assembly.
Gather the elders
and all the inhabitants of the land
to the house of the LORD your God,
and cry out to the LORD.
Alas for the day!
For the day of the LORD is near,
and as destruction from the Almighty it comes.
2:1-2 Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble,
for the day of the LORD is coming; it is near,
a day of darkness and gloom,
a day of clouds and thick darkness!
2:12-13 “Yet even now,” declares the LORD,
“return to me with all your heart,
with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning;
and rend your hearts and not your garments.”
Return to the LORD your God,
for he is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love;
and he relents over disaster.
2:28 “And it shall come to pass afterward,
that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh;
your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
your old men shall dream dreams,
and your young men shall see visions.
3:14 Multitudes, multitudes,
in the valley of decision!
For the day of the LORD is near
in the valley of decision.
3:17 “So you shall know that I am the LORD your God,
who dwells in Zion, my holy mountain.
And Jerusalem shall be holy,
and strangers shall never again pass through it.
Today we finish our study with the Book of Malachi. This is the last book in the Old Testament and Malachi is most likely the last of the prophets. He may have been contemporary with Haggai and Zechariah, but he probably came later. The revivals under Haggai (520 BC) and possibly Nehemiah (444 BC) are passed and the people are back to their old ways. Once again they must be called to account. But God in his grace promises a bright future for those who will return to him. This book describes six disputations between God and the people.
1. A dispute about God’s love
2. A dispute about God’s honor and fear
3. A dispute about faithlessness
4. A dispute about God’s justice
5. A dispute about repentance
6. A dispute about speaking against God
1:1 The oracle of the word of the LORD to Israel by Malachi.
We have looked at the word ‘oracle’ in the past. It is used only three times in the Old Testament. It can mean a word from a person of importance or a revelation from a deity. Malachi is assigned to bring forth this word.
Jewish tradition says that Malachi lived a blameless life even in childhood. His name means ‘Angel”. He was fair to look upon. Whatever things he uttered in prophecy were repeated in the same day by an angel of God who appeared.
The title Malachi means ‘my messenger’. Angels were always messengers from God.
The Lord's Love for Israel
1:2-5 “I have loved you,” says the LORD. But you say, “How have you loved us?” “Is not Esau Jacob's brother?” declares the LORD. “Yet I have loved Jacob but Esau I have hated. I have laid waste his hill country and left his heritage to jackals of the desert.” If Edom says, “We are shattered but we will rebuild the ruins,” the LORD of hosts says, “They may build, but I will tear down, and they will be called ‘the wicked country,’ and ‘the people with whom the LORD is angry forever.’” Your own eyes shall see this, and you shall say, “Great is the LORD beyond the border of Israel!”
This first dispute questions God’s love for his people. But the people do not respond to him with love. God’s love is a covenantal love. It means God has chosen Israel to be his people. He has not chosen Esau. In choosing the family of Jacob he has laid out stipulations of conduct by the people. They have repudiated the conditions. The people rebuilt the Temple and now awaited God’s promised blessing, as we learned last week in Haggai. The blessing has not come. There is famine, poverty, oppression, unfaithfulness to marriage vow and to covenant vows. Moral and spiritual laxity, pride, indifference, permissiveness, and skepticism were widespread. God could not bless such a people.
They Present Polluted Offerings
1:6-14 “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?’ By offering polluted food upon my altar. But you say, ‘How have we polluted you?’ By saying that the LORD's table may be despised. When you offer blind animals in sacrifice, is that not evil? And when you offer those that are lame or sick, is that not evil? Present that to your governor; will he accept you or show you favor? says the LORD of hosts. And now entreat the favor of God, that he may be gracious to us. With such a gift from your hand, will he show favor to any of you? says the LORD of hosts. Oh that there were one among you who would shut the doors, that you might not kindle fire on my altar in vain! I have no pleasure in you, says the LORD of hosts, and I will not accept an offering from your hand. For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name will be great among the nations, and in every place incense will be offered to my name, and a pure offering. For my name will be great among the nations, says the LORD of hosts. But you profane it when you say that the Lord's table is polluted, and its fruit, that is, its food may be despised. But you say, ‘What a weariness this is,’ and you snort at it, says the LORD of hosts. You bring what has been taken by violence or is lame or sick, and this you bring as your offering! Shall I accept that from your hand? says the LORD. Cursed be the cheat who has a male in his flock, and vows it, and yet sacrifices to the Lord what is blemished. For I am a great King, says the LORD of hosts, and my name will be feared among the nations.
The second dispute is that the people do not honor God as God. They offer polluted sacrifices. They weary of going to the Temple services. they have lost their evangelistic spirit that should be proclaiming to all the world the glory of Yahweh. They are sure God will forgive all, it is his job. They go to church, but reluctantly. They make their offerings, but with their left overs. They are happy with ‘cheap grace’.
The Lord Rebukes the Priests
2:1-9 “And now, O priests, this command is for you. If you will not listen, if you will not take it to heart to give honor to my name, says the LORD of hosts, then I will send the curse upon you and I will curse your blessings. Indeed, I have already cursed them, because you do not lay it to heart. Behold, I will rebuke your offspring, and spread dung on your faces, the dung of your offerings, and you shall be taken away with it. So shall you know that I have sent this command to you, that my covenant with Levi may stand, says the LORD of hosts. My covenant with him was one of life and peace, and I gave them to him. It was a covenant of fear, and he feared me. He stood in awe of my name. True instruction was in his mouth, and no wrong was found on his lips. He walked with me in peace and uprightness, and he turned many from iniquity. For the lips of a priest should guard knowledge, and people should seek instruction from his mouth, for he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts. But you have turned aside from the way. You have caused many to stumble by your instruction. You have corrupted the covenant of Levi, says the LORD of hosts, and so I make you despised and abased before all the people, inasmuch as you do not keep my ways but show partiality in your instruction.”
The priesthood has become rote. The priests get paid to run the Temple, but they have lost enthusiasm for the glory of God. They do what they have to do, but without regard for the spiritual lives of the people. The people recognize this, and they have drifted away from true faith and true worship. The primary role of the priest was to ‘guard,’ ‘treasure’, ‘conserve and keep’ the knowledge of God before the people. This should be done by teaching and by example.
Judah Profaned the Covenant
2:10-16 Have we not all one Father? Has not one God created us? Why then are we faithless to one another, profaning the covenant of our fathers? Judah has been faithless, and abomination has been committed in Israel and in Jerusalem. For Judah has profaned the sanctuary of the LORD, which he loves, and has married the daughter of a foreign god. May the LORD cut off from the tents of Jacob any descendant of the man who does this, who brings an offering to the LORD of hosts!
And this second thing you do. You cover the LORD's altar with tears, with weeping and groaning because he no longer regards the offering or accepts it with favor from your hand. But you say, “Why does he not?” Because the LORD was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth. “For the man who does not love his wife but divorces her, says the LORD, the God of Israel, covers his garment with violence, says the LORD of hosts. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless.”
The next dispute is about the faithlessness of the people. They have a form of godliness, but there is nor reality to it. Marital vows have become meaningless. The true purpose of marriage and family, the raising of godly offspring, has been lost. For us it is our very low birthrate, supplemented by our high abortion rate. It is sad that Ireland voted last week against the church and approved abortion for the first time. Each child should be seen as a child of God and raised to fear him and worship him. We take Christian education lightly, and pay the price with children who leave the church and the faith under the atheistic and materialistic worldview of public education.
The Messenger of the Lord
2:17-3:5 You have wearied the LORD with your words. But you say, “How have we wearied him?” By saying, “Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the LORD, and he delights in them.” Or by asking, “Where is the God of justice?”
“Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner's fire and like fullers' soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the LORD. Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the LORD as in the days of old and as in former years.
“Then I will draw near to you for judgment. I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired worker in his wages, the widow and the fatherless, against those who thrust aside the sojourner, and do not fear me, says the LORD of hosts.
In this dispute about God’s justice the people ask where it could be. Yet they say everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the Lord. God’s response to the people is that a messenger is coming that is not Malachi. The new messenger will come to prepare the way for the promised Messiah. But his coming will not be gentle. He will come with refining fire. The end result will be good, but the price will be high.
We as a nation have fallen so far spiritually that we cannot any longer determine what is good and what is evil. Time Magazine asked last year ‘Is Truth Dead?’ Years earlier it asked ‘Is God Dead?’ Without God, we have no common criteria by which to judge Truth. There is no way to even judge ‘Fake News’. But there is trouble in River City. Our suicide rate is up 30% from the 1990’s. Without truth and without God life can quickly become meaningless. What kind of purification process will we have to go through to be restored as a Christian nation?
3:6-12 “For I the LORD do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed. From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from my statutes and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you, says the LORD of hosts. But you say, ‘How shall we return?’ Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you. Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need. I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of your soil, and your vine in the field shall not fail to bear, says the LORD of hosts. Then all nations will call you blessed, for you will be a land of delight, says the LORD of hosts.
This is a dispute about repentance. God does not need our tithes or any of our resources. The failure to bring in the tithes was a reflection of the spiritual condition of the people. God wants their hearts, not their things. But the bringing of the tithe does reflect the condition of the heart.
Speaking against God
3:13-15 “Your words have been hard against me, says the LORD. But you say, ‘How have we spoken against you?’ You have said, ‘It is vain to serve God. What is the profit of our keeping his charge or of walking as in mourning before the LORD of hosts? And now we call the arrogant blessed. Evildoers not only prosper but they put God to the test and they escape.’”
The final dispute is their speaking against God. It appears to the people that the arrogant and the evildoers seem to prosper. David complained about this in the Psalms. See Psalm 10 and 37. Shouldn’t God be doing something about this? What is the benefit for being faithful to Yahweh?
The Book of Remembrance
3:16-18 Then those who feared the LORD spoke with one another. The LORD paid attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who feared the LORD and esteemed his name. “They shall be mine, says the LORD of hosts, in the day when I make up my treasured possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him. Then once more you shall see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him.
There always was and still is a faithful remnant of God’s people. God had to remind Elijah he wasn’t alone. Elisha’s servant had to be shown the surrounding chariots of fire. David questioned the prosperity of the wicked in Psalm 73. But when he went into the sanctuary of God he discerned their end. Now, in Malachi’s day, there is a faithful remnant that is joined in fellowship and remembered by the Lord.
The Great Day of the Lord
4:1-6 “For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble. The day that is coming shall set them ablaze, says the LORD of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall. And you shall tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet, on the day when I act, says the LORD of hosts.
“Remember the law of my servant Moses, the statutes and rules that I commanded him at Horeb for all Israel.
“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.”
Our study ends with this glorious promise of our God who will bring all things to a spectacular conclusion with a new heaven and a new earth mediated by the long expected Messiah. In the meantime do not lose heart, but remember the teachings of the Torah and for us the New Testament as well.