Peace & Blessings Beloved,
TGBTG for allowing us to see another day. I pray all is well with you and yours, and that your week has been fruitful & blessed thus far.
Today we are going to visit our Getting to Know the Bible Series. In this series, our goal is to come to a comprehensive understanding of each book of the bible. At this point of the series we're going to focus on Malachi. But before we get to Malachi 1, I want to ensure we have a baseline understanding of the book of Malachi. This way we can have a full appreciation for the exquisiteness of the entire book, as well as each individual chapter.
And so, in that spirit, see below for a comprehensive overview of the book of Malachi, as we prepare to behold and discern Malachi, beginning with Malachi 1 in our next installment of this series.
Book Type: Prophecy; 39th book of the Old Testament
Date of Writing: ~430 B.C.
Audience: The postexilic Jews living in Judah.
Original Language: Hebrew
Setting: Malachi, Haggai, and Zechariah were post-exile prophets to Judah. Haggai and Zechariah rebuked the people for their failure to rebuild the temple. Malachi confronted them with their neglect of the temple, along with their false and profane worship.
Background: As God's prophet in Jerusalem, Malachi reminded the Jews of their willful disobedience, beginning with the priests, and then everyone else. They had shown contempt for God's name, offered false worship, led others into sin, broken God's laws, called evil good, kept God's tithes and offerings for themselves, and became arrogant. The relationship was broken, and judgment and punishment would soon follow. In the midst of this wickedness there were a few who remained faithful- the remnant- who loved and honored God. God richly blessed those men and women.
Malachi rebuked the people and the priests for neglecting the worship of God and failing to live according to God's will. If the priests were unfaithful, how could they lead the people? They had become stumbling blocks instead of spiritual leaders. If the people were divorcing their wives and marrying pagan women, how could they lead their children? Their relationship to God had become inconsequential. When our relationship with God becomes less important than it should be, we can strengthen it by setting aside our sinful habits, thinking often of our Lord, and giving God our best each day.
God's Love - God loves his people even when they ignore or disobey Him. He has great blessings for those who remain faithful to Him.
Because God loves us so much, He hates hypocrisy and careless living. This type of living denies us the relationship with Him that He desires. What we give and how we live reflects our sincerity and love for our LORD.
The Sin of the Priests - Malachi singled out the priests for condemnation. They knew what God required, yet their sacrifices were unworthy and their service was insincere; they were lazy, arrogant, and insensitive. They had a casual attitude toward the worship of God and observance of His standards.
We are all called to be leaders in some capacity, within the body of Christ. Let us not be neglectful in our service, but rather operate faithfully and sincerely.
The Sin of the People - The people had not learned the lesson of the exile, nor had they listened to the prophets. Men were callously divorcing their faithful wives to marry younger pagan women. This was against God's law because it disobeyed His commands regarding marriage and threatened the religious training and upbringing of the children. Pride had truly hardened the hearts of the people.
Let us not fall victim to the temptation of pride and hardness of heart, but rather endeavor to give God our absolute best, and honor Him by being devoted to our family, and obeying Hs commands.
The Lord's Coming - God's love for His faithful people is demonstrated by the Messiah's coming. The Messiah will lead the people to the realization of all their fondest hopes. The day of the Lord's coming will be a day of comfort and healing for a faithful few, and a day of judgment for those who reject Him.
Christ's first coming refined and purified all those who believe in Him. His return will expose and condemn those who are proud, insensitive, and/or unprepared. Yet God can heal and mend. Forgiveness is available to all who come to Him.
Purpose of Writing:
The Book of Malachi is an oracle: The word of the Lord to Israel through Malachi (1:1). This was God’s warning through Malachi to tell the people to turn back to God. As the final book of the Old Testament closes, the pronouncement of God’s justice and the promise of His restoration through the coming Messiah is ringing in the ears of the Israelites. Four hundred years of silence ensues, ending with a similar message from God’s next prophet, John the Baptist, proclaiming, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near” (Matthew 3:2).
Malachi wrote the words of the Lord to God’s chosen people who had gone astray, especially the priests who had turned from the Lord. Priests were not treating the sacrifices they were to make to God seriously. Animals with blemishes were being sacrificed even though the law demanded animals without defect (Deuteronomy 15:21). The men of Judah were dealing with the wives of their youth treacherously and wondering why God would not accept their sacrifices. Also, people were not tithing as they should have been (Leviticus 27:30, 32). But despite the people’s sin and turning away from God, Malachi reiterates God’s love for His people (Malachi 1:1-5) and His promises of a coming Messenger (Malachi 2:17–3:5).
Malachi is the last word of prophecy delivered to Israel prior to 400 years of silence. The next prophet of God will not come until John the Baptist begins proclaiming the arrival of the Messiah.
At this point in history, Israel is at the bottom of a long, slow spiritual decline. Earlier books of prophecy, such as Hosea, depict Israel as an unfaithful, but repentant wife. Later, in Ezekiel, Israel's sins have become blatant, and they show no signs of repentance. By the time of Malachi, God's chosen people are spiritually numb. Not only are they faithless and disobedient, they are bitter towards God for their difficult circumstances.
Malachi was written while Israel was still under the control of Babylon. They had been allowed to return to Jerusalem and to rebuild the temple. And yet, they were still dominated by a pagan nation. This was also a hard time economically. Rather than seeking God's promises, as given in the Law, Israel is disobedient, bitter, and faithless. And yet, they blame God for their troubles, rather than their own mistakes.
Malachi uses a nuanced structure, formed like a series of waves. Modern chapter and verse divisions do not show this arrangement. There are three primary messages, each directed at a particular group. The first is aimed at the priesthood. The second is directed to the men of Israel. The third is for the nation as a whole. Each of these messages is composed of two oracles, for a total of six. Each pair of oracles is a mirror image of the other, so that themes flow to a major point, then reverse back through those same themes.
Each of Malachi's oracles is accompanied by specific accusations. In a unique, conversational style, God charges Israel with some error. Israel, in almost every case, responds with disbelief and doubt. Major allegations include improper sacrifices, rampant divorce, pagan intermarriage, and spiritual irreverence.
Malachi's three-fold message focuses on God's faithfulness to Israel, despite their failures. The people cannot disobey God, then rationally blame Him for the consequences of their sins. Regardless of human failure, God promises to send messengers preparing the way for Messiah. The priesthood will be purified, all nations will glorify God, and the wicked will be forever defeated.
Malachi 3:1-6 is a prophecy concerning John the Baptist. He was the Messenger of the Lord sent to prepare the way (Matthew 11:10) for the Messiah, Jesus Christ. John preached repentance and baptized in the name of the Lord, thus preparing the way for Jesus’ first advent. But the Messenger who comes suddenly to the Temple is Christ Himself in His second advent when He comes in power and might (Matthew 24). At that time, He will purify the sons of Levi (v. 3), meaning that those who exemplified the Mosaic Law would themselves need purification from sin through the blood of the Savior. Only then will they be able to offer an offering in righteousness because it will be the righteousness of Christ imputed to them through faith (2 Corinthians 5:21).
God is not pleased when we do not obey His commands. He will repay those who disregard Him. As for God hating divorce (2:16), God takes the covenant of marriage seriously and He does not want it broken. We are to stay true to the spouse of our youth for a lifetime. God sees our hearts, so He knows what our intentions are; nothing can be hidden from Him. He will return and He will be the judge. But if we return to Him, He will return to us (Malachi 3:6).
Key Verses (ESV):
Malachi 1:2–3: "'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.'” Malachi 1:8: "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." Malachi 1:10–11: "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." Malachi 1:13: "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." Malachi 2:11: "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." Malachi 2:16: "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." Malachi 3:1: "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." Malachi 3:6: "For I the LORD do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed." Malachi 4:1: "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." Malachi 4:5–6: "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."
*Note: Malachi, literally Mal'akiy, meaning My Messenger. In addition to the people of Judah, Malachi also wrote about the corruption of the temple sacrifices, meaning that he likely delivered his message many years after the Israelites rebuilt the temple in 515 BC. The prophet’s concerns mirror those of Nehemiah’s, suggesting that Malachi prophesied to the people while Nehemiah left the city for several years, beginning in 432 BC (Nehemiah 13:6).
At the time of Malachi, well over a thousand years after Abraham’s era, the Israelites had the advantage and weight of history on their side; they could see the shining rewards of faithfulness and the punishments associated with judgment, even to the point of being uprooted from their land. But even then, with all that perspective, the book of Malachi teaches us that they still strayed from the Lord’s path. They needed God’s intervention as much as ever, so this book, as a final statement of judgment in the Old Testament, anticipates God’s saving work through the Messiah, Jesus Christ.
I pray you receive this with the love intended, and apply it to wisdom.
May the joy of the Lord continue to be your strength.
Love you much.
Stay Safe, Stay Healthy, Stay Blessed!
P.S- If you have not given your life to Jesus Christ, I implore you to take the time to do so right now. Use John 3:16 & Romans 10:9-10 as a foundation for making your confession of faith. And use Ephesians 2:1-10 to provide proper context for your salvation.