The book of Malachi is the last in our Bibles before what is called the Intertestamental Gap which spans about four hundred years before the events of the Gospel unfold, however we will be following a slightly different order during our Bible in One Year calendar.
Malachi has four chapters but is conveniently divided into three parts. The first part spans from 1:1-2:9, and begins by God declaring His special love for Israel over that of Esau, yet Israel does not return this love. The Lord continues drawing attention to the priests who are neglecting the temple and offering inadequate, often polluted sacrifice. “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.” (1:8).
These priests have been marked as the chief offenders as they deliberately profane temple worship, so the Lord rebukes them, comparing them to their chief model whom they look nothing like: the example set by Levi as an upright and righteous man before God.
Part two is shorter, going from 2:10-16 and is a condemnation against Judah who has committed abomination and injustice countless times. A special point is made to acknowledge the evil of those men who have been unfaithful to their companion Israelite wives and going after women of other nations, both breaking the God-given bond that existed between them and profaning the commandments of the Lord. It is said that the man who does not love his wife but divorces her covers his garment in violence.
The third part, 2:17-4:6, points ahead to Jesus and John the Baptist. Malachi speaks of the Great Day of the Lord which is to come, during which time He will reveal His providence, purify and refine His people, and vindicate those who had held fast to Him in love when all others fell away and committed great and terrible sins. Elijah is said to be coming and an admonition follows to remember the Law of Moses and return to God, so they may be healed and prosper. “For behold the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble … But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings.” (4:1,3).
Well it looks like we have come full circle. The people of the house of Israel had gone into exile for their great sin, were led back home by the merciful hand of God, and basically jumped right back into whatever evil they were doing before. Worse yet was the fact that they seemed to blame God and question Him and His goodness, never mind that they were profaning His very temple!
They did the things they knew would incur the right and proper wrath of God and accused Him of not being loving. They offered pitiful, sick animals on the altar in direct disobedience to their covenant and wept when He wouldn’t look with pleasure upon what they had done. They grumbled and complained at the weariness of their occupation yet couldn’t see how they had spoked against God.
If it wasn’t clear so far, Malachi shows us today and Israel then that it wasn’t the possession of a city or temple that made them right with God, but the condition of their hearts. Indeed, depending on walls for safety and meager offerings for divine favour only led them to complacency and corruption. Judah did not fear God. A great and terrible day is prophesied when the Lord Himself would come to His temple and begin refining His people – a day when scarce few could stand before Him.
It is only after this purifying and refining that the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord. The faithful few that continued to fear the Lord and set their hearts on Him would be called His treasured possession in those coming days. We can see through our knowledge of the Gospel that Jesus is the one prophesied here, and that He would not only come to His temple and preach the Kingdom of God, but also make right those who come to Him and enable them to please God. A sharp distinction is drawn in chapter three saying “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.”
This Old Testament period drew constant distinctions between those who loved and obeyed God and those who followed their own sinful hearts, corrupting and profaning His covenant. Between those who served God and those who did not. It couldn’t be expressed more plainly in Malachi that, after all this time and warning, enough is enough – God Himself is going to come and refine His people; to burn away that which is evil and purify that which is good. A conviction settles over the people of Judah at these words to either choose life or death. To serve God or not to serve Him. To act righteously or act wickedly. There are no punches pulled here, it is said plain as day. Yet this reality is not confined to the past.
We are faced with the exact same choice today that Israel faced then. Each of us have the option to choose between following Jesus or following our own sinful hearts, and the stakes couldn’t be higher. We can choose to be one with Christ and take on His righteousness or we can choose to make our own way and perish in our sins. The most beautiful news is that Christ died in your stead so that anyone who comes to Him can have His life!
Let us not only read the book of Malachi as some sort of historical account, but as one who pointed to the means by which we can be made right with God this very day. Take hold of the reality that the God of the universe knows your name and has cleared the way for you to come to Him forever!
Have you accepted this free gift of salvation and relationship with God through Jesus Christ? If so, do you actually live as if you have? Do you give God the place He deserves in your life?
Father God, I thank you for being so patient with us throughout ages past and also this very hour. Please guide me to true repentance this day that I might lay my life down at the foot of the cross and begin to live my life in and through your perfect Son. I pray that you refine me, wash and clean me from all unrighteousness, that I might be a pleasing offering to you all the days of my life. Thank you for calling me and holding me. Amen!
Song: But For You Who Fear My Name - the Welcome Wagon
In 2023, each week's blog is a follow-up reflection written by the preceding Sunday’s preacher to dig deeper into the sermon topic and explore engaging discussion questions.