Malachi 1:6-14

Malachi 1

Taking up nearly one third of Malachi, this is the longest section in the book. The priests are the target of this section. God asks the priests why they do not honor him as father or reverence him as master. The Lord says that they have despised his name. (vs. 6) But the priests seem to be in the dark. They think they are innocent and therefore ask God to bring proof. God brings proof by bringing two pieces of evidence into the courtroom.
The first piece of evidence is the lame offerings the priests give to God. (1:7-14) The priests think they are holy. They do not see how they have despised God’s name. But God points a finger at their mockery of his law to show how they drag his name through the mud. The priests, who are supposed to carefully obey God’s commands, offer to God lame, blind, and sick sacrifices (1:7-8). Leviticus 22:18-25 and Deuteronomy 15:21 forbid this type of offering. God says even the Persian governor would not accept this offering. Why does Israel think God will accept it? (vs. 8) Israel wants God’s favor (vs. 9), but does not want to obey God. Therefore God tells them they should shut up the doors of the temple. (vs. 10) Their offerings are in vain. Continue reading

Malachi 1:1-5


538 B.C. Cyrus, King of Persia, issues a decree allowing Israel to return to the land. (II Chron. 36:22-23, Ezra 1)
538 B.C. First return to Israel takes place under Zerubbabel. (Ezra 1-6)
536 B.C. Restoration of the temple begins, but stalls.
520 B.C. Haggai and Zechariah are sent by God to encourage Israel to finish building the temple. (Ezra 5:1-2)
515 B.C. The temple is finished.
460 B.C. God sends Malachi to prepare the people for the ministry of Ezra and Nehemiah.
458 B.C. Ezra returns to the land. (Ezra 7-10)
445 B.C. Nehemiah returns to help rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.

The general dating of Malachi is pretty clear. He prophesied during the time of Ezra and Nehemiah. This can be seen from the following facts. First, he prophesied during a time when the temple and priesthood were established and things had become routine. Thus he had to prophesy following the rebuilding of the temple under Zerubbabel, Haggai, and Zechariah. Second, he uses the term “governor” in 1:8. This is a Persian term, again indicating a period when Israel was under Persian rule. Persia ruled from 550 B.C. until around 360 B.C. Finally, Malachi addresses many of the same issues found in Ezra and Nehemiah. For example, the issue of marriage to foreign wives is addressed in Ezra 9-10, Nehemiah 13:23-27 and Malachi 2:11-16. Also both Nehemiah and Malachi address the misuse of the tithe. (Nehemiah 13:10-13 and Malachi 3:8-10) All of this is to say that Malachi probably prophesied during the time of Ezra and Nehemiah. Continue reading

Violence and Divorce

Here is short post from the archives.

I was reading Malachi this morning and it struck me how the Lord says that He hates divorce because it covers one’s garment with violence. (Malachi 2:16) Today it is fashionable, especially among younger Christians, to discuss the issue of violence, especially as it relates to social justice. Many pastors and scholars call upon Christians to be people of peace, to resist violent solutions to problems around the world. America’s military exploits are placed under the microscope to determine if they line up with God’s Word or not. Exploitation of workers in both America and abroad are deplored by socially conscious Christians. Some of this is a move in the right direction. For too long, the conservative church has merely cheered on the American state instead of challenging it Biblically.

However, as I read this passage in Malachi it occurred to me that most of these socially conscious Christians would not take a strong stand against divorce. Which is odd, because the Scriptures explicitly say that divorce is an act of violence. If we are against violence, then we should be against divorce because divorce is violence. However, divorce is rarely if ever preached against. It makes one wonder whether those socially conscious Christians are making biblical arguments against violence or whether they are simply interested in going along with current fads in American secular society?

The Law and the New Elijah

Here is my last blog post on Malachi. It covers 4:4-6. You can read the passage here.

            Malachi closes with an odd set of three verses.  But they serve as a fitting reminder of what Christians of all times have been called upon to do.  First, Malachi tells Israel to remember the Law of Moses. (vs. 4) This word “remember” is used thirteen times in Deuteronomy.  It is a call to remember the covenant that God instituted at Mount Sinai and to obey.  True prophets, like Malachi, do not reject the Law of Moses or add to the Law of Moses. They expound or preach the Law of Moses.  Just like the great prophet Jesus, they do not destroy the law. (Matthew 5:17-20) Here at the end of the history of Israel, over a thousand years after Moses was on Mt. Sinai the command remains; remember the law.  It is worth noting that following Malachi there was four-hundred years of silence. However, during this time, Israel still had God’s word.  She still had the law.
            Second, Malachi says that a new Elijah will come who will help Israel obey the law. (vs. 5-6)  Elijah was one of the greatest prophets of the Old Testament. He changed the course of Israel’s history by his ministry. But his change was temporary. Malachi, like many of the prophets, saw a coming day, when God would judge and save his people; the day when Elijah would come. This Elijah will help God’s people fulfill the fifth commandment, “honor your father and mother.”  He will restore broken relationships, especially in the home.  He will do this so that Israel will not become a curse. The word “curse” is the same term used for the nations in Canaan that God drove out by Joshua.  Elijah will come so Israel will not become like the nations.  These last verses began to be fulfilled in the ministry of John the Baptist. (Luke 1:17, Matthew 11:10, 11:14)
Do not forget the law of God. The Mosaic Law has change and been adjusted in the New Covenant, but it has not been discarded.  A study of the first five books of the Bible are worth your time and energy (Exodus 20-25 and Deuteronomy 19-25).
Christ came to restore broken relationships, especially those in the home.  Therefore one of the fundamental jobs of the church is to preach the word of Christ so that it builds and strengthens marriages and the bond between parents and children.  It is unfortunate that often the church tears apart the relationship between parents and children, thus undermining God’s law and the gospel.  This principle of reconciliation also extends to other relationships as well. With the coming of Christ true unity in families and communities became possible. Without Christ all we have is brokenness, separation, and war. 

There Will Be a Harvest

Here is my exegesis and application of Malachi 3:13-4:3. If you would like to read this passage, which I recommend, you can go here. 

Unquestionably, if the hope of reward is taken away and extinguished, alacrity [enthusiasm, willingness] in running will not merely grow cold, but will altogether be destroy. John Calvin


            One of the most discouraging things in life is when your work bears no fruit.  You go out and plant, water, and weed then a worm devours your plants. You work hard at your job putting in extra hours, trying to get the promotion and it does not come.  You work fixing up your basement only to have the water heater break and flood the new carpet. The Christian life can feel much the same way. We sacrifice our money, our time, our energy and in some cases our dreams to follow our Lord and the payback can seem meager. If we assume our labor will not bear fruit we will lose heart and become lazy in our work. However, the Bible is clear that all labor done in the Lord will eventually be harvested. We see this explicitly in these New Testament verses:

I Corinthians 15:58  Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.
Galatians 6:9  And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.
II Timothy 4:8  Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.
            As we come to the end of Malachi we see that fellow saints in the Old Testament also feared that their labor might be in vain.  They felt that it had been useless to serve the Lord. Like their New Testaments counterparts, God gives them reassurance that he has not forgotten them or their deeds. Those who fear God and obey his commands will be rewarded.
            Malachi 3:13-4:3 is the sixth and final disputation in Malachi. There are several key differences between this disputation and the previous ones. First, God debates not with the wicked, but rather with the righteous. These people in this section are described as those who have “kept His ordinance and walked as mourners.” (vs. 14)  The phrase “kept his ordinance” can mean generally obeying the commands of God or it can refer to priestly duties. It is possible these are priests whose lives are very hard because no tithe is being brought into the house of God. (c.f. 3:8-9) These priests mourn over the sin in the land and exaltation of the proud. These priests have honored God with their actions but are now dishonoring him with their words. They speak harshly against God.  Their service to him is unprofitable while the proud and wicked are blessed and raised up. Those who test God go free without feeling the divine wrath that they deserve. (vs. 15) This is similar to what we saw in 2:17.
            The second key difference in this passage is that for the first time in Malachi we see the people accept the rebuke and change. Verses 13-15 are a rebuke from God. God is telling the priests that their words have been out of line. The priests listen and turn from their wicked ways. Those who fear the Lord get together and talk with one another. (vs. 16) It would appear that these men encouraged one another to remain faithful to God.  While the exact words of the discussion are not recorded, Malachi does give us the result.  The result is that God hears, writes their names in a book of remembrance, promises to spare them, to be their father, and to come in judgment against the wicked. (vss. 17-18)
            Malachi then gives a more precise picture of this Day of Judgment.  On this day the wicked will be completely burned up like stubble. (4:1) Note the similar phrasing to 3:15 where words “wicked” and “proud” are also used. God is reminding the priests that even though the unrighteous appear to go free and be blessed, their end is destruction. (See Psalm 73:17-20) The fire of God’s presence, which burns up the wicked, will be a Sun of Righteousness for those who fear the name of the Lord. (4:2) God will heal his people and make them fat like cattle that have no want.  Finally, on this day God’s people will trample under the wicked. (4:3) It is an explicit teaching of both the Old and New Testaments that God’s people participate in the judgment of the wicked.  (c.f. Micah 5:5-6 and Revelation 2:26)

Those who are serving God faithfully are tempted to become discouraged when their service does not immediately profit them. God tells us in both the Old and New Testaments that our service to Him is not in vain. (I Cor. 15:58) However, we often think that God must fulfill his promises immediately.  We must be careful, as we faithfully serve the Lord, not to grumble when God’s promises are delayed.  Let us work to please God and let him reward us as he wishes and when he wishes. The harvest is as sure as our God’s promises. 
It is a great comfort and encouragement to have other Christians challenge us to turn back to God. We are not sure what was said in Malachi 3:16, but somehow the godly encouraged one another to remain faithful to the Lord and rebuked one another for their lack of faith. It is not enough just to be around each other. We must use our words to spur one another on to righteousness. (Hebrews 10:25)
We must remember that the difference between the righteous and the wicked is not always seen in this life, but will be clearly seen at the final judgment. (3:18-4:1-3) As we go through life, we should keep before our eyes the judgment day. This keeps us from losing heart and growing slack in our labor for God. We can say, “In this life I have trouble and tribulation as I strive to obey God. But in the next I shall be rewarded, while the wicked shall be paid back for all eternity.”
To love God is to fear God. Three times in this passage the priests are described as those who fear God. (3:16 twice, and 4:2) The fear of the Lord is not a popular subject in the modern church. But here those who fear God get a wonderful blessing; their names are written in the book of remembrance.  Joyce Baldwin says, “The thought is that not one believer will be forgotten by God.”  God knows those who fear him and belong to him. He is our Father and our names are stamped upon the pages of God’s book, from which they can never be erased.  Let us have courage, grace and strength to be faithful to the Lord. “Let us not grow weary,” Malachi says, “For our names are written by God in his book. Therefore our reward is sure.”