Malachi's Unique Position
Malachi’s unique position as the final book of the Old Testament offers a glimpse into the hearts of Israelite men and women, members of a nation that had been specially chosen by God, descendants of Abraham, and inheritors of the rich tradition of the Jewish people. Their history told of glories like the exodus from Egypt and the faithfulness of God to King David. But they had also experienced the judgment of wandering in the desert and the shame of exile from the Promised Land.
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.
What's the big idea?
The people of Judah began to be exiled from the Promised Land in 605 BC, returning from Babylon seventy years later. By the time of Malachi, they had been back in the land for more than a hundred years and were looking for the blessings they expected to receive when they returned. Though the temple had been rebuilt, the fervor of those early returning Israelites gave way to a thorough apathy for the things of God. This led to rampant corruption among the priesthood and a spiritual lethargy among the people.
Malachi came along at a time when the people were struggling to believe that God loved them (Malachi 1:2). The people focused on their unfortunate circumstances and refused to account for their own sinful deeds. So God pointed the finger back at them, and through Malachi, God told the people where they had fallen short of their covenant with Him. If they hoped to see changes, they needed to take responsibility for their own actions and serve God faithfully according to the promise their fathers had made to God on Mount Sinai all those years before.
How do I apply this?
Throughout Israel’s history, the nation failed and God called His people back to Himself. Each time, Israel would fail again, prompting the cycle to begin again. God’s final word of the Old Testament concerns judgment for sin and testifies to our inability to love Him without the help of His grace.
Do you struggle to follow God consistently? Malachi’s call prompts us to live faithfully before God and offers hope that God is not yet through with extending mercy to His people (Malachi 3:1; 4:2, 5–6
I have been studying the book of Malachi. I love the Old Testament because there is a lot to be learned from others mistakes. Malachi is a tiny book at the end of the Old Testament. The book of Malachi was written to confront the people with their sins and to restore their broken relationship with God. Malachi would be the last of the Old Testament prophets. This book forms a bridge to the New Testament. For a little background the Temple had been rebuilt for about 100 years, so sacrificing and rituals had retuned to it. When one takes a glance at Malachi, they may think it is only about the priest’s sin. The Book however confronts the sin of the priest, followed by the sin of the people. For the next couple of weeks, I would like to look at a few scriptures at a time in the book of Malachi. These will be a little longer; because there are so many things, I wish I could convey in person, like in a sermon. (sorry I am Baptist, like a lecture)
As you will see in the following verses Malachi uses a dramatic style that uses questions asked by God to his people.
I want us to look at one statement, “I have always loved you.” In order for you to better understand this passage in Malachi let me explain the people’s mindset. Malachi inherited a restless generation. Isaiah as well as other prophets, Haggai and Zechariah, had prophesied about the coming of the messiah. Many years had passed with no Messiah. The Israelites were also experiencing a corrupt government along with economic difficulty. The people become exasperated with what they considered a lack of God’s provision, and slid back into their old sin pattern. Ironically, listen to the first words God speaks to this rebellious group of people, “I have always loved you”. He doesn’t start out with a list of all they have done wrong, or a lecture on their behavior, but simply a message of love. Let this one sentence sink deep into your mind and heart. God is saying No matter what your attitude, actions, or words have been “I have always loved you”. This is just another picture of sacrificial love. He is stating to the people regardless of their behavior he has never stopped loving them. When I sit back and think of all the things God has been to me in my life: Savoir, redeemer, healer, comforter, fortress, just to name a few; I am ashamed of what little I have been to him. In the areas that he has asked for faithfulness such as loving my neighbor, being his hands and feet, having no idols, I have failed miserably. God was sending a word through Malachi not to condemn the people, but because he loved his people. He grieved the fact their sin had broken their fellowship with him. He mourned the fact he could no longer have close intimacy with his children. We could think of it as a relationship between a rebellious child and their parent. If your child was wayward all you would long to do is wrap your arms around that child, pull them in close, and say,” no matter what you have done I love you, please come home.”
As God is pouring out his love for them, as a parent to a rebellious child, the people jab back with a forceful punch, “Really? How have you loved us?” Can you imagine this response? God had in their lifetime delivered them from exile; allowed them to be able to rebuild the temple, provided priest, and sacrifices. Not to mention the fact they had all studied how he had delivered and protected their ancestors from many enemies. Yet they look up to the heavens and renounce that God had loved them. They are so self-focused or as Martin Luther described his generation “curved in on themselves” that they no longer could see God. They were basing God’s love on how they were feeling, things they were or were not getting, health, wealth, but neglecting the biggest issue, which was their relationship with God. They failed to ask the question, “How are we with God?”
Go back to the picture of the parent and imagine the rebellious child saying, “You have never loved me! What have you ever done for me?” If you are a parent, you know what sacrifices are made, what ends of the earth you would go to for your child. This statement would both grieve your heart, and ignite you all at the same time. You would be speechless to their hurtful and very untruthful remarks.
I think this one statement leads us to take inventory. What would our response be to God at this moment in our life? Do we truly believe God loves us no matter the circumstances? Sometimes Satan tries to create havoc in our mind and cause us to doubt the love of God. If he can get us to doubt even for a moment God does not love us; he has a foothold into our life. I believe God has compassion for us when in difficult times we ask questions out of sheer pain and grief, but he does not want us to linger there. For me the theme in Malachi is a picture of unconditional love. Psalm 86:5 expresses it by saying, “O Lord, you are so good, so ready to forgive, so full of unfailing love for all who ask for your help.6 Listen closely to my prayer, O Lord; hear my urgent cry….”
The message for today-- God has always loved you no matter what you have done, and he will continue to love you forever!
6 The Lord of Heaven’s Armies says to the priests: “A son honors his father, and a servant respects his master. If I am your father and master, where are the honor and respect I deserve? You have shown contempt for my name! “But you ask, ‘How have we ever shown contempt for your name?’7 “You have shown contempt by offering defiled sacrifices on my altar. “Then you ask, ‘How have we defiled the sacrifices?[c]’“You defile them by saying the altar of the Lord deserves no respect. 8 When you give blind animals as sacrifices, isn’t that wrong? And isn’t it wrong to offer animals that are crippled and diseased? Try giving gifts like that to your governor, and see how pleased he is!” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.9 “Go ahead, beg God to be merciful to you! But when you bring that kind of offering, why should he show you any favor at all?” asks the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.10 “How I wish one of you would shut the Temple doors so that these worthless sacrifices could not be offered! I am not pleased with you,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “and I will not accept your offerings.
The first question God is saying, “If I am indeed your father and master where is my respect”. By giving unhealthy sacrifices they were dishonoring God. By the priest excepting the blemished sacrifices they led the people to believe God would accept them. So, in these verses God reprimands the priests because they are offering blemished sacrifices. The correct method of sacrifice was to bring your most perfect animal, something that you could have sold for money, but instead sacrificed it to show your dependence on the Lord’s ability to provide. These priests were not doing this; they were sacrificing blind, sick, and all sorts of blemished animals. In the Tyndale life application bible, it said, “The worship of God was no longer a heartfelt adoration; it was instead simply a job for the priest”. In other words, the Priests were no longer in awe, and feared his presence in the Temple, it was just a routine of everyday life. Those words caught my eye, and drove a question my way. As a minister, has God become just a job that I plan and schedule things? Have we in fact as a people lost the awe of who God is, and the very power he holds? I think it is a question for us all. In the New Testament we are all considered messengers for God. So, has your worship just become a routine, or is it a true heartfelt desire to worship your Savior?
In verse 9 “Go ahead, beg God to be merciful to you! But when you bring that kind of offering, why should he show you any favor at all?” WOW now there is a tough statement. Have you ever been around someone who told you everything you wanted to hear, and you knew they were definitely not a person of their word? I imagine God feels the same here. Although these priests were talking about God’s love, and his laws they were turning around and breaking them. So, he was basically saying if you could not offer me a deserving sacrifice, why should I even give you a thought. If you cannot do what I have asked of you why do you deserve anything at all? Then he goes a step further and says, “How I wish one of you would shut the Temple doors so that these worthless sacrifices could not be offered! I am not pleased with you,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “and I will not accept your offerings. God is saying I had rather you board the doors up, go home, forget about the Temple rather than offer me worthless sacrifices. He is saying don’t give me your second best, don’t bring me what you can afford, don’t bring me your leftovers; I want the best you have.
Can I tell you today as New Testament believers Roman 12 says, “And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him”.
The book of Malachi applies to us because even today God is asking the question what kind of sacrifice are you giving? He is calling us to evaluate our commitment, the sincerity or our worship, and directions of our life. Would God rather us not come to church, than to bring him what we have been? Would he say to us I do not except your sacrifice because it is not the best you have to give. Oh, how our churches need a revival! If we would begin in our own lives and churches, not only asking these questions, but also fixing the problem then how could revival not follow! How could God’s great love not be poured out to his people because Jeremiah says, “Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. 13 You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you…
I tell you today that as I type this to you, I am filled with an overall brokenness that I have not felt in a long time. A brokenness over my own sacrifices to God. I have cheated him out of parts of my life that he deeply desires to have. I so desire a revival in my own life, my church, and my nation. I believe we are in the days Paul talks of when he says, “3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound[a] teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.” I ask you today is your sacrifice enough? Are you giving all you have? Would God say he finds it acceptable in his sight?