B. Malachi preaches to us:
There are two principle messages that Malachi delivered to the people that are applicable to God’s people throughout history: (1) Malachi speaks of the sin of insincere worship whereby the people failed to comply with the spirit of obedience to the law of God (Ml 1,2). (2) Judgment comes upon those who backslide from the will of God, but the faithful will enjoy the promises of God (Ml 3,4).
1. The sin of insincere worship: Before God pronounced His judgment on their forefathers who lived before the captivities, He wanted to remind them that they were a chosen nation. What their forefathers had given up was not simply obedience to commandments, but the forsaking of a covenant of love. “I have loved you,” the Lord reminded them (Ml 1:2). He loved them long before the making of the Sinai covenant, for He loved them through the choosing of Jacob over Esau (Ml 1:2). And as history was played out in the nation of Edom, Esau’s descendants, Edom was judged to terminate as a nation of people. However, Edom’s brother, Israel (Jacob), remained alive in the remnant that returned to Palestine (Ml 1:3).
Regardless of any efforts on the part of the remnant of the Edomites to rebuild their nation, God said, “I will throw down” (Ml 1:4). They would be as God said, “The people against whom the Lord has indignation forever” (Ml 1:4). But the remnant of Israel would live on. Nevertheless, God had some things against the remnant at the time Malachi ministered God’s judgments.
God’s first judgment was against the religious leaders. They allowed the people to offer blemished animals as sacrifices (Ml 1:7). In doing so, they were saying to God, “The table of the Lord is contemptible” (Ml 1:7). If they offered such animals to the Persian governor who was over the land, he would be displeased (Ml 1:8).
In 1:11 it seems that Malachi moves into the future in reference to the name of God being glorified among the nations:
For from the rising of the sun even to the going down of the same My name will be great among the Gentiles. And in every place incense will be offered to My name and a pure offering. For My name will be great among the nations.
By spurring them to jealousy, and taking their minds beyond their Jewish heritage, God spoke of a time when His name would be great among the Gentiles. “In every place,” as opposed to the location of the temple in Jerusalem, there will be offerings to God (See Jn 4:20,21). The name of the Father would be praised with sincerity among the nations, for all who would come into a covenant relationship with the Father would come on a voluntary basis as an individual.
The offerings of Malachi’s audience were given grudgingly. Of their offerings, they said, “Behold, what a weariness it is” (Ml 1:13). Because their offering at the table was weariness, God said, “And you bring the stolen, the lame and the sick” (Ml 1:13). The priests who were given the responsibility to make sure the offerings were without blemish, were held accountable for the unholy offerings.
If you [priest] will not hear, and if you will not take it to heart to give glory to My name … I will even send a curse on you, and I will curse your blessings. Yes, I have cursed them already because you do not take it to heart (Ml 2:2).
The problem was that the religious leaders did not follow the example of Levi. God said of Levi, “… he feared Me and was afraid before My name” (Ml 2:5). When religious leaders have no fear of violating the law of God, they will allow the people to establish their own laws. God exhorted the religious leaders, “For the priest’s lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek the law from his mouth. For he is the messenger of the Lord of armies” (Ml 2:7). The leaders should know the law of God in order that the people have a source of knowledge from God. But when the religious leaders do not know the law of God, they are under the following indictment from God:
But you have departed out of the way. You have caused many to stumble at the law. You have corrupted the covenant … (Ml 2:8).
2. Emotional worship without obedience to the law is worthless. God judged the insincere with the following words:
And another thing you do: you cover the altar of the Lord with tears, with weeping and with crying out, inasmuch that He does not regard the offering anymore, nor receive it with goodwill from your hand (Ml 2:13).
No matter how many emotional tears one may pour out before God in worship, the worship is in vain if one is not obedient to the word of God. Their worship was in vain because they had brought before the Lord blemished offerings that were contrary to the law. They had created an offering of worship after their own desires, and not according to the word of God.
This concept of worship carried on unto the time of Jesus, for Jesus judged the religious leaders of His day with the words, “In vain they worship, teaching as doctrines the commandment of men” (Mk 7:7). If one would offer worship to God today according to his own desires, his worship is vain if it is not according to the word of God. Human emotionality is no replacement for obedience to God’s word.
Jesus said that many will cry out …
… Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and performed many wonderful works in Your name? (Mt 7:22).
And indeed, there are many religious people today who pose as Christians by doing many mighty works in the name of Jesus. But Jesus’ answer to self-justified religionists, as indicated in the preceding cry of some worshipers, is judgment: “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you. Depart from Me you who practice lawlessness’” (Mt 2:23).
Such was the scenario of the vain worship that was administered by the religious leaders of Malachi’s day. The people could claim that they did the offerings. However, the offerings were not according to the law. They offered animals that were blemished, and thus, not acceptable to God. Their tears, with the offering of blemished animals, did not validate before God that they were sincere worshipers. Sincere worshipers are validated as such because they offer worship according to the word of God.
The same principle still holds true in reference to worship of God today. One may plead his case that he has performed many wonderful works, but if his works (worship) are not according to the word of God, then they are lawless works in reference to pleasing God. One cannot do lawless works with tears and expect the works to be accepted by God.
Those who do not know the word of God cannot offer worship that is according to the word of God. This truth is embedded in the statement of Jesus in John 4:24: “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.”
The lesson is that we do not come to God on our own terms. We come to Him on His terms, and the only way to know His terms is through His word. Worship and service is not a one-way street. It cannot be our way to Him. It is a two-way street. He first comes to us through His word, and then we go to Him according to His desires.
3. God hates divorce: The remnant of Jews was still in a covenant relationship with God (Ml 2:10). However, some of those of the remnant were doing something that violated the covenant of the fathers. Malachi explained. “For Judah has profaned the holiness of the Lord that he loved and has married the daughter of a foreign god” (Ml 2:11).
If one married another who was not in a covenant relationship with God, Malachi judged, “May the Lord cut off from the tents of Jacob the man who does this …” (Ml 2:12). They were putting away the Jewish wife of their youth in order to marry a Gentile woman (Ml 2:14). They were thus dealing treacherously with the brides of their first marriage. God was continuing the development of the identity of Israel through the marriage of one Israelite to another, but they worked against this purpose by marrying foreign women (Ml 2:15).
The people were in the process of annihilating the existence of Israel through their marriage of women who were not in a covenant relationship with God. It is interesting to note that if a Jew married a Gentile, such did not automatically sanction the Gentile to be a Jew. It was the marriage of a Jew to a Jew by heritage and genealogy that validated the continuation of the offspring as Jews in a covenant relationship with God. But their divorce and marriage to foreign women was becoming so common, that the identity of Israel was again on the brink of obscurity.
Influenced by the local people of the land who had intermarried, the returnees were adopting the local culture of intermarriage. If such continued, there would be no national Israel four hundred years later that could be identified as Israel. And if there was no Israel at the time of the coming of the Messiah, then there would be no proof that the promises made to the fathers were fulfilled. So the solution to the problem was clear: “I hate divorce,” God said. Stop the divorce of the wives of their youth and the problem of destroying the identity of Israel would be solved.
4. Justice will not be detoured. Some complained, “Where is the God of justice?” (Ml 3:17). There was a day of purification coming. We are not told in the context exactly who this messenger of justice is, but we are told that when He comes, He will rectify the problems that are described in the first two chapters. Since He is coming to His temple (Ml 3:1), we thus assume that reference here is to Jesus who would come as a refiner’s fire. When He comes, it will be a time of great purging.
Then I will come near to you for judgment. And I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers and against the adulterers and against perjurers and against those who exploit wage earners, the widow and the fatherless, and those who turn aside the foreigner and do not fear Me (Ml 3:5).
The purpose for the purging of sin was to restore the people again to the will and work of God. The purging, therefore, was a means to identify again the nation in preparation for the establishment of the new spiritual Israel. Out of the purging would come a new Israel that would be purified by the fire of judgment.
5. Cessation of God robbers: “Will a man rob God? You have robbed Me” (Ml 3:6). The sin of their robbery is based on the fact that they had within their power the opportunity to hold back that which actually belonged to God. While the tithe was under their control, it still belonged to God. The robbery took place when they used the tithe that belonged to God for something that satisfied their own desires. The robbery, therefore, was not simply in the fact that they did not give the tithe. It was also in the fact that they used what belonged to God for their own selfish means.
They robbed God of two things: (1) tithes and (2) offerings. Tithes would refer to the ten percent that they were obligated to give in support of the Levitical priesthood. Offerings were in reference to the animals without blemish from their flocks, and grain, that they were also commanded to give to the priests. They held back on their tithes, and offered blemished animals as offerings.
Their robbery was in not giving the ten percent as they should, but also in giving the blemished animals to God. They offered animals that not even the Persian governor of the land would accept. Therefore, when one would consider giving his junk to the Lord, he should think twice. Can you imagine the Philippian disciples sending with the things they offered to Paul in prison, old coats full of holes and sandals with worn soles? (See Ph 4:18).
If Malachi’s audience rectified their tithes, animal and grain offerings according to the law, then God would make it known among the nations that they were truly His people.
Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this, says the Lord of armies, if I will not open to you the windows of heaven and pour out a blessing on you so that there will not be room enough to receive it (Ml 3:10).
We must note in this context that the priests were not doing their job in making sure that the people made their offerings according to the law. Nevertheless, the people were still obligated to keep the law in reference to tithes and offerings, regardless of the neglect of the priests. Simply because the priests failed in their duties did not justify the people to rob God by not giving what they were obligated to give.
The problem may have been more with the stingy people, than with the priests. The priests, who received the insufficient grain and blemished animals, simply succumbed to the selfishness of the people. In this scenario, Malachi wrote to the priests to stop accepting insufficient offerings from the people. The people were rebuked for not giving the required tithes in support of the priests. In reference to bringing the worst animals to be offered to the priests, the priests were commanded never to receive blemished animals again.
6. The promise of deliverance through consummation: Chapter 4 is indeed a prophetic picture of rectification. There was a day coming that would burn as an oven (Ml 4:1). We see in these words the termination of those who would in their pride reject the “Sun of Righteousness.” The generation about which Malachi speaks is identified by the words of Jesus in reference to the religious leaders of His day:
You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not abide in the truth because there is no truth in him (Jn 8:44).
These were the proud and arrogant religious leaders which Jesus brought down by the example of those who humbly submitted to Him. The religiously proud of Jesus’ day simply could not do what the Holy Spirit required:
Yes, all of you be submissive to one another and be clothed with humility, for God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble (1 Pt 5:5).
Malachi 4:3 surely spoke of the time when God would bring down the wicked among His people. At the time of the fulfillment of this statement, the Israel that existed was filled with a wicked religious leadership that would eventually crucify the Messiah.
The proud eventually led the nation of Israel to extermination in A.D. 70 at the hand of the Roman Empire. Malachi stated concerning the coming Messenger:
And you will tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I will do this, says the Lord of armies (Ml 4:3).
Until that time came, Malachi encouraged his readers to “remember the law of Moses” (Ml 4:4). It would be that law that would carry them through to the time when God would do the following:
Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord (Ml 4:5).
And Elijah came as the voice of one crying in the wilderness.
In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Mt 3:1,2; see Is 40:1-3).
And so, it was now time for the dead prophets of Israel to preach their faith to the new spiritual Israel of God.
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