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Bible Commentaries
Malachi

Old & New Testament Restoration CommentaryRestoration Commentary

- Malachi

by Multiple Authors

MALACHI:
by John E. Waddey

THE MESSENGER OF JEHOVAH

Ringing across the centuries we hear the voices of God’s mighty men, the prophets of Israel. Though last in the book, not the least of them was Malachi, the messenger of Jehovah.

The Historical Background

Malachi’s ministry spanned the years of c.a. 460-425 B.C. Mighty Persia dominated the eastern world. Artaxerxes was monarch of the Fertile Crescent. In 536 B.C. a tiny remnant of Hebrews had returned from Babylonian captivity to rebuild their nation. Between 520 and 515 B.C. God’s temple had been rebuilt under the leadership of Zerubbabel the governor, and Joshua the high priest. The prophets Haggai and Zechariah had greatly encouraged that work. In 458 Ezra had come to help reorganize and reestablish the nation’s worship. Nehemiah came in 445 to lead the Hebrews in rebuilding the walls of their beloved Jerusalem. He returned to Persia and then made a second visit to Jerusalem in 432. Malachi’s messages seemed to have been delivered between Nehemiah’s two visits.

The situation in Jerusalem was pathetic. Religion had degenerated into a cold lifeless, formalism. Priests were corrupt and lax in their service. Unacceptable sacrifices were being offered to Jehovah. Skepticism pervaded society. Many Jews questioned if in fact they were God’s chosen people. They were disheartened, disillusioned and decaying spiritually. They blamed God for all their ills. Perhaps they had not found the temporal benefits they had anticipated in returning to the homeland. This left them embittered. They refused to bring their proper tithes to the Lord. The holy covenant was held in low esteem and trampled underfoot. Having sunk into a careless and sordid life style, they showed resentment and contempt towards their divine duties. Many had intermarried with heathen neighbors and divorce was common.

Nothing is known of Malachi save what is written in this book. His name is a shortened form of Malachiah. It means "messenger of Jehovah." From his special emphasis of the word "messenger," many have questioned if this was his given name or a description of his mission. He was a fearless reformer who spoke plainly to the sinners of his day. Fearing God as he did, he feared no man. His personality was strong and vigorous. He was keenly sensitive to the wickedness and negligence of his people. He was intensely patriotic. He faced and denounced the cold formalistic, external type of religion that was masquerading in the name of Jehovah’s worship.

His style of preaching is unique among the prophets. There was little of the poetic in him. Rather, he disputed with his audience as would a debater. Seven times he charges his people with error. Their objection is given with the introductory phrase "yet ye say." He then answers their quibbles. He has been called "the Hebrew Socrates." He possesses a vigor and force in his writing which few prophets surpass.

His Message

At least five purposes are perceived in his short book.

1. He sought to encourage his disheartened people to be faithful to their holy calling. "Return unto me, and I will return unto you, saith Jehovah of hosts" (Malachi 3:7).

2. He wrote to show the abundant proof of God’s love. Only their sins hindered their full enjoyment thereof. "I have loved you, saith Jehovah" (Malachi 1:2).

3. He reminded them of their ingratitude toward God. "A son honoreth his father, and a servant his master; if then I am a father, where is mine honor? And if I am a master, where is my fear saith Jehovah of hosts..." (Malachi 1:6).

4. He wanted to prepare them for Messiah’s coming. "Behold, I send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me; and the Lord, whom ye seek, will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant, when ye desire, behold he cometh, saith Jehovah of hosts" (Malachi 3:1).

5. He wished to correct their thinking about the coming day of the Lord and to prepare them for it. "For, behold, the day cometh, it burneth as a furnace; and all the proud, and all that work wickedness, shall be stubble; and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith Jehovah of hosts. . ...but unto you that fear my name shall the sun of righteousness arise with healing in its wings...in the day that I make, saith Jehovah of hosts" (Malachi 4:1-3).

Malachi is a valuable source of information on the political and religious history of the Hebrews in the 5th century, Persian period.

Keys to Proper Interpretation

In every section of scripture certain keys will be found that are essential to a proper interpretation. The key verses of Malachi are (Malachi 3:7), "Return unto me, and I will return with you, saith Jehovah of hosts." (Malachi 4:4-6), "Remember ye the law of Moses... Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and terrible day of Jehovah..." The key phrases are, "saith Jehovah" and similar expressions which are used some 25 times in his 55 verses and "yet ye say." This response of the people to his charges is seen ten times. The key thoughts are remember, repent, and return. With these keys the doors open and the mystery vanishes.

As we study the text, we should imagine the preacher in the gate of the city, preaching in the open air. He points the accusing finger and charges them with sin. The crowd questions him, objects to his charges and seeks to excuse themselves. As a skilled debater, Malachi takes each objection, gives it a penetrating analysis and answer and then moves to yet another point.

EXPOSITION OF MALACHI

Their Destructive Doubt

In Malachi 1:2-5 the prophet tackles the problem that was fundamental and the underlying cause of all their ills. Their hearts had grown hard and they actually doubted that they enjoyed a special relationship with Jehovah. First he proclaimed God’s love for Israel. "I have loved you, saith Jehovah..." (Malachi 1:2). Immediately, someone responded "wherein hast thou loved us?" Malachi retorts, "was not Esau Jacob’s brother? saith Jehovah; yet I loved Jacob; but Esau I hated and made his mountains a desolation..." He adds that Edom (the nation of Esau’s descendants) has been beaten down, never to rise to prominence again (Malachi 1:4). His Hebrew audience had endured the Babylonian defeat and seventy year exile and were back in their homeland. What more proof was needed of God’s abiding love!

Corrupt Priests Denounced

The second section of his message is a denunciation of the priests and Levites for their careless and corrupt leadership (Malachi 1:6 to Malachi 2:9).

He reminds them, "a son honoreth his father, and a servant his master: if the I am a father, where is mine honor..saith Jehovah..." (Malachi 1:6). As the spiritual leaders of the nation, they, of all people, should have shown honor and respect for God. But they had not done so. They had dishonored God by offering polluted bread upon his altar (Malachi 1:7). Defective and unacceptable animal sacrifices had been offered. "And when ye offer the blind for sacrifice, it is no evil, and when ye offer the lame and sick it is no evil!" (Malachi 1:8). To these compromising priests, he hurls a biting challenge: "Present it now to thy governor; will he be pleased with thee?" The answer was obvious. The governor, had they bought such sorry animals to him as part of the tax payments, would have rejected them.

Charge upon charge is heaped against them. "0 priests, that despise my name" (Malachi 1:6). "Ye say the table of Jehovah is contemptible" (Malachi 1:7). The priests received a portion of the sacrifices for their food. Those sorry priests had grown weary of eating the sacrificial food that was offered to God. They complained and grumbled. God took it as a personal offense (Malachi 1:12-13).

All the nation’s ills he lays at the feet of the spiritual leaders: "This hath been by your means" (Malachi 1:9), i.e., the woes you are enduring are the consequence of your spiritual failures!

In one of the most poignant rebukes of the Scriptures, God shows just how repugnant their corrupted worship had become: "Oh that there were one among you that would shut the doors, that ye might not kindle fire on mine altar in vain! I have no pleasure in you, saith Jehovah of hosts, neither will I accept an offering at your hand" (Malachi 1:10). The thinking soul wonders how many other times has the holy God of heaven been thus repulsed by the hypocrisy of those who come before him. How many worship services have been offered in vain. Jesus told the Pharisees of his day, "In vain do they worship me, teaching as their doctrines the precepts of men" (Matthew 15:9).

Not comprehending that God’s choice of them was in order to bring Messiah into the world that all might be blest, the Jews vainly thought they were a superior people in God’s sight; that no others could be acceptable to Him. Malachi 1:11 demolishes that false illusion. "From furthest east to furthest west my name is great among the nations. Everywhere fragrant sacrifices and pure gifts are offered in my name; for my name is great among the nations, says the Lord of Hosts" (New English Bible). Dr. Jack Lewis notes that the King James translators supplied the verb "be" three times in this verse, but the Hebrew does not express it. It more likely means that the Jews of the dispersion were showing more zeal for Jehovah’s worship than were those in Palestine. Even among the Gentiles many proselytes to Jehovah were being made. Their worship was pure and true in contrast to that confronted by Malachi!

Chapter one closes with the awesome words; "cursed be the deceiver, who hath in his flock a male, and voweth, and sacrificeth unto the Lord a blemished thing..." (Malachi 1:14). Frail and sinful man dares not trifle with the sacred things of the great I Am!

Malachi 2:1-9 expands upon his initial rebuke to the priests. Penalties are promised for their malfeasance. "And now, 0 ye priests, this commandment is for you. If ye will not hear, and if ye will not lay it to heart, to give glory unto my name, saith Jehovah..." (Malachi 2:1-2). They are singled out as a major part of the nation’s problem.

1. "I will send the curse upon you, and I will curse your blessings" (Malachi 2:2). The very thought of God’s curse terrified every Jew (Deuteronomy 28:15-68).

2. "I will rebuke your seed" or offspring (Malachi 2:3).

3. "I will spread dung upon your faces" and thus humiliate you before the people (Malachi 2:3).

God then contrasts Aaron and his fellow Levites with the sorry priests of Malachi’s day. This he does to emphasize how far short they had fallen. God originally chose the Levites to be his priestly tribe because;

1. They "feared him and stood in awe of (his) name" (Malachi 2:5).

2. "The law of truth was in their mouths, and unrighteousness was not found in their lips."

3. They "walked with me in peace."

4. They "turned many away from iniquity" (Malachi 2:6).

5. Since a priest is a messenger of Jehovah, the people "should seek the law at his mouth" and be properly taught God’s will (Malachi 2:7).

Sadly, such was not the case in Malachi’s day. Rather than the above qualities:

1. They themselves had "Turned aside out of the way" of God.

2. They had "caused many to stumble in the law" by their poor example and perverse teaching.

3. They had "corrupted the covenant of Levi," i.e., they had failed to meet their priestly duties and responsibilities (Malachi 2:8).

4. They had shown "respect of persons in the law" and the administration thereof (Malachi 2:9). Such was strictly forbidden (Leviticus 19:15).

Because of their dismal failure to honor their sacred office, God said, "Therefore have I also made you contemptible and base before all the people, according as ye have not kept my ways..." (Malachi 2:9). They were not only despised by God but by the people they were supposed to represent.

They were now reaping what they had sown in their irresponsible conduct (Galatians 6:7). How serious a matter it is to be a teacher of God’s people! No wonder James said "Be not many of you teachers, my brethren, knowing that we shall receive heavier judgment" (James 3:1).

PROMISCUOUS DIVORCE AND

MARRIAGE TO HEATHEN REBUKED

The prophet then turned his attention to serious social evils of his people. They had "profaned the holiness of Jehovah....and hath married the daughter of a foreign god" (Malachi 2:11). They had acted treacherously against the wives of their youth by putting them away through divorce (Malachi 2:15-16). Some of them had been violent toward their mates. Such was inexcusable and demanded punishment. Marriage to the heathen was expressly forbidden by Moses’ law (Deuteronomy 7:3). The sin was exacerbated when they divorced their faithful Hebrew wives probably because they were aging and then married younger, heathen women. Such was wrong on many counts:

1. It was treachery against their original mate (Malachi 2:10).

2. It profaned the covenant of the fathers (Malachi 2:10).

3. It was an abomination before God (Malachi 2:11).

4. It profaned the holiness of Jehovah (Malachi 2:11).

5. It nullified and discredited their worship (Malachi 2:13). The tears of their broken-hearted women covered the altar of God thus discrediting their sacrifices (Malachi 2:13).

6. It threatened God’s plan to bring Messiah into the world through the Hebrew race (Malachi 2:15).

"No higher word on marriage was ever spoken, except by Christ himself’ (G. A. Smith). Their low views of marriage continued among some of the Jews even in Christ’s day. Rabbi Hillel taught that a man may divorce his wife "even if she spoiled a dish for him, for it is written, ’Because he hath found in her indecency in anything.’" Rabbi Kaibab wrote, "Even if he found another fairer than she, for it is written, ’and it shall be if she finds no favor in his eyes.’" Fortunately, many of the Hebrews followed the teaching of Rabbi Shammai who taught, "No one shall divorce his wife unless there shall have been found in her something unchaste." God’s declaration desperately needs to be heard in America today. "I hate putting away, saith Jehovah, the God of Israel" (Malachi 2:16 a).

Moral Skepticism Rebuked

Some had grown so skeptical that they said "Everyone that doeth evil is good in the sight of Jehovah, and he delighteth in them; or where is the God of justice?" (Malachi 2:17). To which God responded, if it’s justice you want, then justice you shall get. God’s messenger of justice will come but it will not be what they expected. "For he is like a refiner’s fire, and like fullers’ soap; and he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver and refine them as gold and silver" (Malachi 3:1-3). They would be scrubbed as the fuller or laundryman scrubs the soiled cloth. They would have to endure the fire of purification as the ore is subjected to fire to separate the precious metal from the worthless rock.

And he "will come near to (them) to judgment: and ...be a swift witness against the sorcerers,...the adulterers,...the false swearers,...and...those that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow, and the fatherless, and that turn aside the sojourner from his right, and fear not me, saith Jehovah" (Malachi 3:5-6). What a shameful catalogue of sins he cited. They were common among God’s people. They talked of a day of Jehovah when he would come with more prosperity and good things for them. The prophet clarifies their thinking; the day would be one of purging judgment on sinners like themselves. Only the righteous would see it as a day of gladness (Malachi 3:3-4).

This grand passage is also Messianic for Christ himself applied the words of Malachi 3:1 to John the Baptist, his forerunner (Matthew 11:10-11). Thus Jesus was the Lord who came to his temple, the messenger of the covenant who came to purify his people and restore a proper worship among the people (Malachi 3:1-4).

A Rebuke for Withholding Tithes

The prophet told them they needed to repent and return unto God (Malachi 3:7). They asked "what have we done?" His pointed reply pricked their hard hearts. "You have robbed God." "Wherein?" they demanded! "In tithes and offerings" he charged (Malachi 3:8).

From ancient times God had taught them "the tenth shall be holy unto Jehovah" (Leviticus 7:32 b). Because they had kept back part of God’s tithe, he had withheld his blessings. Now they were in a desperate condition, but it was their own doing. How many modern day Christians are struggling financially because they have withheld God’s portion. When will men learn that if we give unto him, God will give unto us, "good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over.....For with what measure ye mete it shall be measured to you again?" (Luke 6:38).

God’s messenger lays before them a challenge. "Bring ye the whole tithe into the store-house.....and prove me now herewith, saith Jehovah of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it" (Malachi 3:10). This is much more than a challenge, it is a wonderful promise from the giver of every good and perfect gift (James 1:17) that He will reward the worshiper who honors Him with his gifts and offerings.

Demoralizers Rebuked

Some stout words had been spoken against Jehovah. When challenged for specifics, Malachi named them. Some said:

1. "It is vain (or useless) to serve God."

2. "What profit is it that we have kept his charge?"

3. What profit is it "that we have walked mournfully before Jehovah....?” (i.e. denied themselves worldly pleasures or perhaps fasted.)

4. The wicked have prospered as well as we (Malachi 3:13-15).

How soon their ungrateful souls had forgotten all of God’s blessings; chief of which was freedom from captivity and return to their homeland. As Jeremiah put it, how dare the clay to complain of the potter’s use of it? (Jeremiah 18:1-2).

Malachi 3:16-18 shows the blessed result of Malachi’s faithful preaching.

"Then they that feared Jehovah spoke one with another; and Jehovah hearkened, and heard, and a book of remembrance was written before him, for them that feared Jehovah....and they shall be mine saith Jehovah.....and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him..." (Malachi 3:16-17). He reproved, rebuked and exhorted his stumbling brethren (2 Timothy 4:2) and some of them received with meekness the implanted word which was able to save their souls (James 1:21).

"In the day" of judgment that God would send upon them, a separation would be made "between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not" (Malachi 3:18).

"For, behold, the day cometh, it burneth as a furnace; and all the proud, and all that work wickedness, shall be stubble; and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith Jehovah...that it shall leave them neither root nor branch" (Malachi 4:1-2). As we see today, some in the land of Judea were heard saying they hoped for the day of Lord. Some who uttered this wish were wicked in their personal lives and their religious profession. Malachi reminds that that when the day of the Lord comes, the wicked would be burned as stubble and only the righteous would "go forth, and gambol (jumping for joy) as calves (freed from) the stall" (Malachi 4:1-3). The wicked would be utterly consumed, root and branch. Thus for their own good they had better repent and turn back to God before that great and terrible day arrived.

For the faithful, "the sun of righteousness would arise with healing in its wings” (Malachi 4:2). Since the days of Miles Coverdale these words have been applied to Jesus. However, the Hebrew has the feminine pronoun, "her wings" to accompany the feminine "sun." The meaning is, the day of judgment would be a day of fiery destruction for the wicked but a new day of blessed hope for the righteous. Before Messiah would come, the Hebrews had yet again to pass through the fiery furnace of affliction.

His Closing Exhortation

In his final words God’s messenger exhorts his fellow Hebrews to "remember...The law of Moses." The word of God was a lamp to their feet and a light to their pathway to guide the nation safely through the troublous times to come (Psalms 119:105). By laying His word up in their hearts, and following its sacred precepts, they would overcome sin (Psalms 119:11). So long as Israel honored the Holy Scripture, she prospered. Whenever she turned away from it, disaster swiftly came. While we are not subject to the Mosaic law, we Christians must remember and keep the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2), who will judge and reward us in the great and terrible day of the Lord that is yet to come (Acts 17:30-31).

The last word is a divine promise to send "Elijah the prophet" to them "before the great and terrible day of Jehovah come" (Malachi 4:5). Jesus tells us that John the Baptist fulfilled this prophecy (Matthew 17:10-13). He came in the spirit and power of Elijah (Luke 1:17). Like Elijah, John lived an acetic life. He both dressed like the Elijah and preached as did the great prophet from the past. It is remarkable that some folks think that Elijah must personally reappear on earth before the day of final judgment.

The great and terrible day of which Malachi writes would almost certainly be the awful judgment sent upon the Jews when God destroyed their nation, the holy city and even his temple by the ruthless Romans. Thus would end a stormy and rebellious relationship God had endured for 1500 long years. He tolerated the sinful Hebrews because of the faithful remnant that was among them. It was from that remnant his Son was born and to them he brought salvation. From them he gleaned the handful of righteous souls to whom all yet to be saved were added (Acts 1:15; Acts 2:41; Acts 2:47).

"Lest I come and smite the earth with a curse" (Malachi 4:6). All Jews knew the meaning of God smiting the earth with a curse. He had done so in the days of Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:17). The many miseries of life, their struggle for survival and sickness and death were daily reminders of the curse God had pronounced on the earth. It is interesting that in their synagogues, Jews still read verse 5 again after reading chapter 4:6, lest they end the reading of God’s word with a curse. We can rejoice that our new covenant ends with a blessing (Revelation 22:21).

Final Thoughts

With these words, the curtain falls on inspired prophecy and 400 years of silence settles upon the covenant people. It was finally lifted with the coming of John the Baptist who called on all to repent and be baptized for the kingdom of heaven was at hand (Matthew 3:2; Luke 3:3), "to make ready the way of the Lord" (Luke 3:4).

Rather than the end of the Old Testament, we should think of Malachi as a bridge uniting God’s two covenants. G. Campbell Morgan well said, Malachi "is a picture of a people who imagine that they are all right when they are all wrong."

LESSONS TO REMEMBER

1. An inadequate view of God will result in unacceptable worship.

2. When worship is a wearisome thing to be snuffed at, spiritual paralysis will follow (Malachi 1:13).

3. Insincerity in worship insults God (Malachi 1:8-10). Empty worship is worse than no worship at all. It would be better to close the house of worship than to offer such to the Almighty!

4. Those who live in willful sin need not expect to please God with costly sacrifices and elaborate ritual.

5. When God’s ministers compromise the faith, it has a corrupting effect on the worshipers (Malachi 2:8).

6. When teachers fail to study and faithfully teach God’s truth and morality, the people suffer accordingly.

7. God supplies our material blessings according to our standard of giving to him (Malachi 3:10-11).

8. Our spiritual health can be assessed by the way we give to God.

9. Cheap religion avails nothing and sacrifices grudgingly given are rejected by heaven.

10. Each of us determines whether the day of the Lord will be a blessing or a curse for us (Malachi 4:1-2).

11. God wants stable homes. He hates divorce (Malachi 2:16).

12. Disregard for marriage vows is disastrous for the individual, society and the nation

Book Overview - Malachi

The Prophet. His name means "Messenger of the Lord." or "My Messenger". He was connected with the reform movement of Nehemiah and Ezra and condemned the same sins which they condemned. He must, therefore, have lived about 100 years after Haggai and Zechariah, or about 430-420 B. C. He was the last of the Old Testament inspired prophets.

The Condition of the Time. The people had been restored to Jerusalem and the temple and walls rebuilt. They had become sensual and selfish and had grown careless and neglectful of their duty. Their interpretation of the glowing prophecies of the exilic and pre-exilic prophets had led them to expect to realize the Messianic kingdom immediately upon their return. They were, therefore, discouraged and grew skeptical (Malachi 2:17) because of the inequalities of life seen everywhere. This doubt of divine justice had caused them to neglect vital religion and true piety had given place to mere formality. They had not relapsed into idolatry but a spirit of worldliness had crept in and they were guilty of many vices such as we see today in professedly Christian communities.

The Prophecy. The purpose of this prophecy was to rebuke the people for departing from the worship of the law of God, to call the people back to Jehovah and to revive their national spirit. There are in it: (1) Unsparing denunciations of social evils and of the people of Israel. (2) Severe rebukes for the indifference and hypocrisy of the priests. (3) Prophecies of the coming of the Messiah and the characteristics and manner of his coming. (4) Prophecies concerning the forerunner of the Messiah.

Analysis.

Introduction: Jehovah’s love of Israel. Malachi 1:1-5.

This is seen in the contrast between Israeli and Egypt.

I. Israel’s Lack of Love of God, Malachi 1:6 to Malachi 2:16. It is proved.

1. By their polluted offerings, Malachi 1:6-14.

2. By the sins of the priests. Malachi 2:1-9.

3. By their heathen marriages and by their divorces, Malachi 2:10-16.

II. God Will Come and Judge His People, Malachi 2:17 to Malachi 4:6 end.

4. His messenger will separate the righteous from the wicked, Malachi 2:17 to Malachi 4:6.

5. This is seen in the effect of their withholding or paying tithes. Malachi 3:7-12.

6. Faithful services will be rewarded. Malachi 3:13 to Malachi 4:6 end.

Malachi - My Messenger (Malachi 1:1 to Malachi 2:16)

INTRODUCTION

1. With the aid of the prophetic ministries of Haggai and Zechariah...

a. The temple was rebuilt - Ezra 5:1-2 Ezra 6:14-16

b. What had begun in 536 B.C. was finally finished in 516 B.C.

2. In 458 B.C., another group of exiles returned to Jerusalem, led by Ezra...

a. A priest

b. His work was to teach the people the word of God - Ezra 7:10

3. About 444 B.C., a third group of exiles returned led by Nehemiah...

a. Who became governor

b. Under his leadership, the walls of Jerusalem were rebuilt (Nehemiah 1-6)

c. Together with Ezra, he led the people to a great revival (Nehemiah 7-13)

4. Contemporary with Ezra and Nehemiah was another prophet, Malachi...

a. His name means "My Messenger"

1) Certainly Malachi was a messenger of God

2) But he also spoke of God’s messengers to come - Malachi 3:1

b. Like Ezra the priest...

1) Malachi attacked the spiritual and moral decay that was

prevalent

2) Among both priests and people

c. In so doing, he resorted to a new style of teaching

1) Known as the didactic-dialectic method of speaking

2) I.e., making a charge, raising potential objections, and then

refuting them

3) Which later became common in Jewish schools and synagogues

[In this study, we shall consider several examples of this style of

teaching as we survey the first two chapters. In these chapters we

find Malachi addressing several problems...]

I. THEY WERE DOUBTING GOD’S LOVE

A. EVIDENTLY THEY WERE QUESTIONING GOD’S LOVE FOR THEM...

1. After years of captivity, one might understand why they felt this way

2. Their return from Babylonian captivity was not without difficulty

B. GOD REASSERTS HIS LOVE FOR ISRAEL...

1. Note the didactic-dialectic style - Malachi 1:2

a. "I have loved you"

b. "In what way have You loved us?"

c. "Was not Esau Jacob’s brother? Yet Jacob I have loved; but Esau I have

hated"

2. God is speaking of Jacob and Esau as the representative of their descendant

nations; God did not hate Esau personally, but did hate what Edom as a nation

had become

3. He goes on to illustrate what He means

a. Edom (the descendants of Esau) had become desolate; despite their claims

to the country, it would remain desolate - Malachi 1:3-4

b. But Israel would one day see the Lord magnified beyond its border - Malachi 1:5

[If the people only observed how Israel was being restored while Edom

remained desolate, they would know God still loved them as a nation.

But perhaps their doubting of God’s love had led to another problem

that was prevalent at that time...]

II. THEY WERE DISHONORING GOD’S NAME

A. BY OFFERING BLEMISHED SACRIFICES - Malachi 1:6-11

1. Sons honor their fathers, and servants their masters; but they were despising

God

2. When asked in what way, they are told of their defiled sacrifices

3. They were offering to God what they would be embarrassed to offer men

4. The Lord would even wish that someone shut the doors so they could not

sacrifice

5. Despite their dishonor, one day God’s name would be great even among the

Gentiles

B. BY OFFERING HALF-HEARTED WORSHIP - Malachi 1:12-14

1. They also were profaning God’s name by saying His service is contemptible

and a weariness

2. Those who continued to bring blemished sacrifices would fall under God’s

curse, for He is "a great King"

C. SUCH CORRUPTION WOULD NOT GO UNANSWERED - Malachi 2:1-9

1. Addressing the priests directly, the nature of God’s curse is graphically

depicted

2. Because they had failed to live up to what was expected of God’s priests,

He will make them base and contemptible

[As Malachi continues, we also learn...]

III. THEY WERE PROFANING GOD’S COVENANT

A. BY MARRYING HEATHEN WOMEN - Malachi 2:10-12

1. They were dealing treacherously and profaning the covenant made with

their fathers by marrying pagan women ("the daughter of a foreign God")

2. This nature of this problem is described in Ezra 9-10; Nehemiah 13:23-24

3. Malachi prays that the Lord will cut off from Jacob those who do this

- Malachi 2:12; cf. Ezra 10:7-8; Nehemiah 13:23-28

B. BY DIVORCING THEIR JEWISH WIVES - Malachi 2:13-16

1. Despite their weeping, God was no longer regarding their sacrifices

- cf. 1 Peter 3:7

2. For they had dealt treacherously with the wives of the their youth

(i.e., Jewish wives) by divorcing them

a. Even though they had entered into a covenant

(e.g., "Till death do us part")

b. Even though God had made them one (cf. Genesis 2:24)

3. Therefore God hates divorce - Malachi 2:16

a. For it covers one’s garment with violence (e.g., against the wife

and children)

b. It is treacherous to so deal with one’s spouse in that way!

CONCLUSION

1. Israel was showing signs of spiritual and moral decay...

a. Failing to appreciate God’s love for them

b. Dishonoring God by offering second-best and half-hearted worship

c. Profaning God’s covenant by disregarding it and their wives

2. It is easy for Christians to make application with such verses...

a. As spiritual priests we are to offer spiritual sacrifices

(1 Peter 2:9; Romans 12:1-2)

b. Is our service honoring God? Or do we:

1) Dishonor God by offering less than our best and with half-hearted service?

2) Profane God’s covenant by disregarding the covenant we made with Him

and our wives when we married them?

3) Hinder our worship to God by our treatment of our wives?

c. Are we any better than the priests of Malachi’s day?

Let the book of Malachi be a guide as to when one’s religion is showing

signs of spiritual and moral decay! Certainly God is worthy of our

best, and we should do what we can to make sure these words prove true:

For from the rising of the sun, even to its going down,

My name shall be great among the Gentiles;

In every place incense shall be offered to My name,

And a pure offering;

For My name shall be great among the nations,"

Says the LORD of hosts.

- Malachi 1:11

Malachi - My Messenger (Malachi 2:17 to Malachi 4:6)

INTRODUCTION

1. In our previous lesson we introduced the last of "The Minor Prophets"...

a. Malachi, whose name means "My Messenger"

b. A prophet of God during the time of Ezra and Nehemiah (ca. 444 B.C.)

c. A prophet who like Ezra the priest...

1) Attacked the spiritual and moral decay at that time

2) Especially among the priests

d. A prophet who used the didactic-dialectic style of teaching

1) Making a charge, raising potential objections, and then refuting them

2) Which later became common in Jewish schools and synagogues

2. We have already seen how Malachi addressed three problems affecting

Israel at that time...

a. They were doubting God’s love - Malachi 1:1-5

b. They were dishonoring God’s name - Malachi 1:6 to Malachi 2:9

1) By offering blemished sacrifices

2) By offering half-hearted worship

c. They were profaning God’s covenant - Malachi 2:10-16

1) By marrying heathen women

2) By divorcing their Jewish wives

3. In the last section of the book of Malachi, we find...

a. More indications of their spiritual and moral decay

b. Promises concerning the coming Messiah!

[We begin with the last verse of the second chapter, noting how...]

I. THEY WERE TRYING GOD’S PATIENCE

A. BY QUESTIONING THE JUSTICE OF GOD - Malachi 2:17

1. They had wearied God with their words

2. Especially regarding His justice:

a. For they said that those who do evil is good in God’s sight, that He even

delights in them

b. For they asked, "Where is the God of justice?"

B. THE LORD’S RESPONSE WILL BE TO SEND HIS MESSENGER

- Malachi 3:1-5

1. First, the "messenger" who will prepare His way for Him - Malachi 3:1 a

a. A clear reference to John the Baptist

b. Compare Isaiah 40:3; Matthew 3:1-3 Matthew 11:7-10

2. Then will appear the "Messenger of the covenant" - Malachi 3:1 b

a. Here the reference is to Christ, the Messiah for which they had longed

b. Who certainly came to His temple - Matthew 21:12 ff

c. And was a messenger of a new covenant - Matthew 26:26-28

3. His coming will be one to purge His people - Malachi 3:2-5

a. Like a refiner’s fire and a fuller’s soap

b. The sons of Levi (i.e., priests) especially, that their offerings may be

acceptable

c. He will come near to judge those who do not fear the Lord

- cf. Matthew 3:11-12

[With the coming of the "Messenger of the covenant", they would have

their answer to the question "Where is the God of justice?"

As we continue, we see yet another complaint God had against the

Israelites in Malachi’s day...]

II. THEY WERE FORSAKING GOD’S ORDINANCES

A. GOD CHARGES THEM WITH INCONSISTENCY - Malachi 3:6-7

1. Unlike God Himself, whose unchanging nature has kept Him from totally

consuming Israel! - Malachi 3:6

2. Yet their history showed a practice of apostasy - Malachi 3:7 a

3. Even when called to return, they ask "In what way shall we return?"

- Malachi 3:7 b

4. No answer is given directly

a. Perhaps because the answer is so obvious it does not deserve a response

b. Or the answer is given by the example which follows...

B. THEIR TITHES AS A CASE IN POINT - Malachi 3:8-12

1. They had robbed God by their failure to offer their tithes - Malachi 3:8

2. For this reason the whole nation had been accursed - Malachi 3:9

3. They are challenged to bring the tithes, and to see the blessings that would

follow - Malachi 3:10-12

[The sixth and final complaint that God had against them is now presented...]

III. THEY WERE DESPISING GOD’S SERVICE

A. BY SAYING IT WAS VAIN TO SERVE GOD - Malachi 3:13-15

1. Their words were harsh against God - Malachi 3:13

2. Questioning what profit there was in keeping His ordinances - Malachi 3:14

3. Calling the proud blessed, saying the wicked are raised up, and those who

tempt God go free - Malachi 3:15

B. YET SOME BEGAN TO HEED MALACHI’S MESSAGE

- Malachi 3:16 to Malachi 4:6

1. Those who feared the Lord, as they spoke to one another - Malachi 3:16 a

2. Whom the Lord noticed, and a "book of remembrance" was written

- Malachi 3:16 b

3. Whom the Lord promised to make His "jewels" and spare them - Malachi 3:17

a. It will be easy to discern the righteous - Malachi 3:18

b. For the day was coming when the wicked will be burned liked stubble

- Malachi 4:1

c. But those who fear His name will be blessed by "the Sun of Righteousness"

(i.e., Jesus) - Malachi 4:2-3

4. Until then...

a. The faithful are exhorted to heed the Law of Moses - Malachi 4:4

b. And await the coming of "Elijah the prophet" (i.e., John the Baptist)

who will come to prepare people for the coming of the Lord

- Malachi 4:5-6; Luke 1:16-17

CONCLUSION

1. As with most prophets, Malachi had a message for both the present and

the future...

a. Exhorting the people to look at themselves, how they were guilty of:

1) Doubting God’s love

2) Dishonoring God’s name

3) Profaning God’s covenant

4) Trying God’s patience

5) Forsaking God’s ordinances

6) Despising God’s service

-- Note: These points were adapted from Wiersbe’s "Be Amazed" commentary

b. Encouraging the people to look forward to the coming of:

1) God’s Messenger (John), who would come in the spirit of Elijah and prepare

people for the coming of the Lord

2) The Messenger of the covenant (Jesus), who come to refine and purify those

willing to repent, and bring judgment on those who do not fear the Lord

2. It is encouraging to note that some evidently took Malachi’s message to heart

- Malachi 3:16-18

a. Whom the Lord would claim as His

b. Whom the Lord would make His "jewels"

c. Whom the Lord would spare as a man spares His own son who serves him

As we come to the close of this survey of "The Minor Prophets", perhaps

it is appropriate to ask: Are we willing to take the prophets’ messages

to heart?

* They were written for our learning and admonition - cf. Romans 15:4;

1 Corinthians 10:11

* They help make us wise for the salvation which by faith in Christ

- cf. 2 Timothy 3:14-15

* They are certainly profitable for instruction in righteousness

- cf. 2 Timothy 3:16-17

Dishonoring God’s Name
Malachi 1:1 to Malachi 2:3
Brent Kercheville

The prophecies of Malachi are the final words of God until the arrival of John the Baptist who prepared the way for Jesus. In these prophecies God is calling upon the people to think about their actions and realize that they were not doing as well as they thought. The prophecies are written as a dialogue between the people and the Lord. God will state the charge against people. The people will ask how they are committing that sin and the Lord will explain the problem. In the first five verses God describes His love for the people, though they question His love for them.

What Are You Giving To God? (Malachi 1:6-11)

“A son honors his father, and servants their master. If then I am a father, where is the honor due me? And if I am a master, where is the respect due me? says the LORD of hosts to you, O priests, who despise my name.” (Malachi 1:6; NRSV). The Lord begins by presenting a very simple argument. Does not a son honor his father? Does not a servant honor his master? Since a son gives honor to a father and a servant gives honor to his master, the Lord wants to know why he does not receive honor as the master and father of Israel. The Lord charges the people with despising the name of the Lord. Of course, they ask, “How have we despised your name?” The Lord says that they have been offering polluted food on the altar. Again, the people ask how they have polluted it. The Lord’s response is that the people think the Lord’s table may be despised.

The people were not bringing the best to the Lord for sacrifice. God commanded what condition the animals must be in when being offered: “You are not to present anything that has a defect, because it will not be accepted on your behalf” (Leviticus 20:22; HCSB). Also, God said, “But if there is a defect in the animal, if it is lame or blind or has any serious defect, you must not sacrifice it to the LORD your God” (Deuteronomy 15:21; HCSB). Yet look at what the people were offering and the priests were accepting! Blind, lame, and sick animals were being offered as sacrifices rather than the best. The Lord asks if their governor would accept such a sacrifice. Of course, no dignitary would accept such an offering. Yet the people feel comfortable making such an offering to God and the priests feel comfortable accepting that offering.

Because the people were offering these blemished animals and the priests were accepting these animals, the Lord asks a rhetorical question if the people really think that God is going to show favor toward them with such offerings. How can the people implore for the favor of the Lord when they are offering the leftovers to God?

What we offer the Lord is an indication of what is in hearts. The people offering the first of their fruits showed that their love for the Lord was first, and they did not love themselves first. When the people offered blemished animals, the offering showed that God was second-rate. The people did not care what would be offered to the Lord. Yet they would still make their prayers and petitions to God for favor. But these requests were in vain. In fact, God says in verse 10 that he wishes that someone would shut the temple doors so that people would no longer waste their time with their offerings. The sacrifices were pointless because they were bringing the leftovers rather than the best.

What we are reading about is God’s command for excellence in our activities for the Lord. We need to do our very best in our worship and service to the Lord. Too often leftovers are exactly what we give the Lord. Because we wanted to watch television, go to the movies, or do something else, we did not read or study our Bibles. We did not prepare ourselves for Bible class. We are simply giving God the leftovers. Rather than praying, preparing for class, studying, preparing for singing, preparing for the Lord’s Supper, or any other activity, we do other things, simply showing God that we will give him our tired leftovers. God has called us to do things in excellence because we are reflecting the glory of God. When I serve another person, I need to do it well, to the best of my ability because this is my act of worship to the Lord. I dare say that we rarely are giving our best to the Lord. I believe we think it is acceptable to God just to give something, regardless of whether or not it is our best effort.

Can you imagine if the Lord stood at the door of our building today? If we walked up, would he tell us that we should not waste our time coming in because we are not going to give our best today? Would the Lord tell us that we have not been giving our best toward our neighbors? Would God tell us that we have not been giving our best on the job? Would the Lord ask for the doors to be shut because our worship consists of the thoughtless, tired leftovers?

How Are You Giving To God? (Malachi 1:13-14)

There is another problem that the Lord identifies along the same lines. It was bad enough that the people were bringing blemished animals and the priests were accepting these animals. But the manner in which the people brought the animals is also called into question. “‘What a weariness this is,’” you say, and you sniff at me, says the LORD of hosts” (Malachi 1:13). They were saying what a misery it was to have to worship the Lord and offer these sacrifices. In fact, they were trying to come up with excuses to get out of making the offering required of them. In Malachi 1:14 the Lord describes how the people would vow an animal for offering but then weasel out the offering, and give a blemished animal instead.

The Lord identifies a heart problem with the people and the priests. I don’t think any one in a marriage would like to hear from their spouse that it is such a weariness to be a husband or a wife. No one would be happy to hear that his or her spouse is trying to get out of his or her responsibilities. That is simply not what we want out of the other person. Why would we think this kind of attitude would work with God? Does God want to hear about how we are trying to get out worshipping God? Is God pleased when we skip Bible class because it is such a weariness? We use the exact same words as the people of Israel toward our worship and service. We are too tired to come on Wednesday night. It is too hard to come on Sunday night. It is such a pain to be here at 9:30am. Am I missing something, or are we saying the exact same thing that God condemned Israel for saying? I believe we are. We come up with excuses why we should not serve our neighbor and teach our friends. We talk about it being hard to serve and hard to worship the Lord. Is this the attitude that God wants from us? “What a weariness this is.” How often we act the exact same way. When we think that God is such a weariness and such a pain, then we truly our wasting our time and doors of the building ought to be shut. How are you giving your worship and service to God? How we make our offerings matter to God.

Cursed Instead of Blessed (Malachi 2:1-3)

We do not give our best and what we do give we do not give from zeal or desire but out of compulsion. Yet we think that God ought to listen to our prayers and bless our lives. “If you do not listen, and if you do not take it to heart to give honor to My name,” says the LORD of hosts, “then I will send the curse upon you and I will curse your blessings; and indeed, I have cursed them already, because you are not taking it to heart” (2:2; NASU). God says that he is taking their requests for blessings and turning them into curses because they are not glorifying the name of the Lord and are not taking the Lord’s instructions to heart. We cannot think that God is going to bless our lives and listen to our prayers when we are giving worship that violates God’s law, worship that is without excellence, or worship that lacks zeal and love for God.

Applications:

What are you giving to God? God is to receive the firstfruits of our labors and efforts. We need to do things with excellence, not as our tired leftovers. The activities of the Lord need to take precedence over the things in our lives and the things of the world.

How are you giving your worship and service to God? When you are giving and serving, how are you doing it? Is your worship a weariness? Do you come, but you do not want to be here? Do you serve, but you do not want to be serving? These things matter to God, and these things should matter to us. God will not bless us with such attitudes. Consider your ways for you may find that we are cursed because we are not giving God our best.

Acting Treacherously
Malachi 2:13 to Malachi 3:6
Brent Kercheville

We are looking at the words of the prophet Malachi who was calling upon the people to consider their ways. In verse 13 of chapter 2 the Lord begins to describe another problem during that time.

“This is another thing you do: you cover the altar of the LORD with tears, with weeping and with groaning, because He no longer regards the offering or accepts it with favor from your hand” (Malachi 2:13; NASU). We mentioned last week a number of charges listed against the people of Israel. We saw that the people were offering blind and lame animals for sacrifice and the priests were accepting those offerings. Further, they complained about it being a weariness to serve and worship the Lord. In verse 13 we see the people are weeping because God is not accepting their worship, yet the people do not seem to understand that it is because of their own actions. God had not rejected the people for no reason. The people had turned their backs upon God. Therefore God rejected their offerings, and the people are upset. The people wanted to live their lives how they want to live and have God accept their worship. But they should know that this is not how we serve God. But this is the worship we want to have. We want to be able to do whatever we want to do, and still call it worship to God. This is how we have churches having Super Bowl parties, ping pong tournaments, and a number of other entertainment functions. But the Lord is going to explain some more reasons why God no longer accepts the offerings of the people.

The Seriousness of Marriage (Malachi 2:14-16)

“Yet you say, ‘For what reason?’ Because the LORD has been a witness between you and the wife of your youth, against whom you have dealt treacherously, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant” (Malachi 2:14; NASU).

Is this a surprising answer from the Lord? The Lord declares that he is not accepting their worship anymore. What sins did you expect him to list as an explanation? I doubt that we expected God to point out how the men of Israel were treating their wives. The Hebrew word for “treacherously” literally means “to cover” and is used figuratively “to act covertly,” according to Strong’s. They were acting deceitfully in the marriage. Malachi does not explain the exact details of how they were acting covertly and treacherously. But part of this treachery was the divorcing the wives of their youth. God calls marriage a covenant in this verse and also in Proverbs 2:17. It was treacherous and deceitful to enter into the covenant of marriage, that was not to be broken, and then divorce the wife. The people viewed marriage as something that they could get out of and Malachi is calling upon them to consider their ways. The Lord was a witness between the husband and wife. God was a witness of the covenant that had been made, and the people had no concern about breaking that covenant. Just as we saw last week where the people were making vows to offer certain animals for sacrifice, but then breaking the vow, so also the people entering the covenant of marriage only to break that vow. Further, God is telling the people that he was no longer accepting their worship because of these acts.

“For I hate divorce,” says the LORD, the God of Israel, “and him who covers his garment with wrong,” says the LORD of hosts. “So take heed to your spirit, that you do not deal treacherously” (Malachi 2:16; NASU). I do not think the Lord could be any more clear about how he feels about marriage and divorce. Marriages are not broken or violated. God hates divorce. Our society could use to see these words. I wonder what the reaction of the people would be if there were those black and white billboards with this verse: “I hate divorce –God.” Divorce has become far too acceptable. But we will talk more about this at the end of the lesson.

Calling Evil Good (Malachi 2:17)

The second problem the Lord deals with is the teaching that a person can do evil and be considered good in the sight of the Lord. God cannot believe that people would say that the Lord delights in these kinds of activities. God seems to be rather incredulous at this point. The worshippers are bringing blemished animals and the priests are accepting those animals. No one wants to serve God, walking around declaring their worship to be a weariness. The people have married people that God had commanded them to not marry. They were divorce the wives they were supposed to keep and had made a covenant. They had treated their spouses deceitfully. In all of these actions, the people say that God delights in their actions and their evil is good in the sight of God.

We see this same thing happening today. Many in the religious world will say that God tolerates and allows the sins we are committing. This is especially true when it comes to sexual sins. Churches are now tolerating sexual activity outside of marriage. Churches are even overlooking adultery, accepting the very thing that God was condemning in this text: people putting away their spouse and going and getting another spouse, breaking the covenant they made to one another before God. Unfortunately, homosexuality is now being tolerated by churches, even though the scriptures are very clear that this activity is against God’s law. We are simply doing the exact same thing. We are seeing more and more people committing evil but declaring that it is good in the sight of the Lord. Yet, in the midst of committing these sins, the people have the audacity to ask, “Where is God’s justice?” The people’s hands are stained with sins, but they look out at other’s and clamor for God to act in judgment.

Impending Judgment (Malachi 3:1-6)

But God says that judgment is coming upon the nation. The Lord says he is coming with fire to purify and refine the people so that they can be pleasing to God again. But the coming in fire was a symbol of God’s wrath as he would destroy the wicked when his messengers came. Thus, Malachi says, “But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears?” (Malachi 3:2). This prophecy explains why both John the Baptist and Jesus spoke about the nation of Israel’s impending doom and judgment in terms of fire. “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire” (Matthew 3:11-12).

Applications:

1. Proper Treatment of Our Marriages. One of the important lessons we learn from Malachi is the need to have proper treatment of our marriages. Marriage is a serious commitment. In fact, marriage is a covenant, not a convenience. Marriage cannot be treated so flippantly, as our society treats. Marriage is not something that we can decide to dissolve. God intended our marriages to be permanent. Jesus himself taught this very fact. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, man must not separate” (Mark 10:7-9; HCSB). Because of this fact, we must carefully choose our spouse. The marriage covenant is life long. What this means is that we cannot deal treacherously with one another. Marriages would probably not be broken as often if we truly had in our minds that we would not divorce no matter what. Therefore, I need to treat my spouse well so that we will have a good relationship for the rest of our lives. We can either work together and treat one another properly to have a good marriage. Or we can treat each other badly and be miserable in our marriage. But divorce is not a given option. God hates divorces and, according Malachi, those who commit such an act.

Proper treatment of our marriages goes beyond having a good life now. It also allows us to have a relationship with God. Remember, God said he was no longer accepting the people’s worship because they were dealing treacherously in their marriages. This fits the teaching of the New Testament also. “Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered” (1 Peter 3:7; ESV). God is not listening to our prayers or accepting our worship when we mistreat our spouses. We are married for life. Rather than thinking about a way out, we need to spend our energies trying to improve the marriage.

2. Do Not Call Evil Good. Unfortunately our society has done a wondrous job glorifying divorce as something good. We are told that it will be better for the children if the parents are divorced. Somehow it is better for children to only see one parent 50% of the time or less than being with both parents 100% of the time? I still have not figured out this logic. Divorce is not good. God hates divorce. Do not call divorce good.

Further, we cannot call sexual sins “good” either. God condemned fornication, adultery, homosexuality, and bestiality. We are very shortsighted in seeing where we are going with our acceptance of sexual sins. Fornication has now become acceptable. In fact, we are told that it is simply impossible to tell people to not engage in sexual relations. But adultery was wrong. But now adultery is glorified in our society. Adultery is portrayed as a just act against an ogre spouse. But homosexuality was wrong. But now homosexuality is not only tolerable, but glorified. We are told that we are born this way and it is just wonderful to see two people of the same gender in true love. But bestiality is wrong. But that line will be crossed. We will be born that way also, just give it time. We will be told about how some animals do not stay in their own species. The point is that every time we erase a line of sin and call it “good,” we move into the next level of deeper depravity.

3. Upon These Things, Judgment Will Come. God brought a judgment of fire against Israel for their sinful actions. God has promised the same today. “And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:12; Revelation 20:15; NASU). It is time for us to consider our ways so that we can be found righteous in the sight of God on the day of judgment.

Robbing God
Malachi 3
Brent Kercheville

We have seen in the past two lessons the prophet Malachi preaching to the people to consider their ways because what they are doing in their lives is unacceptable to God. We have seen the people declaring that worshiping God was a weariness and were not offering the fruit fruits to God. We saw last week that they were mistreating their spouses, divorcing for any reason. Worse, they were calling evil good, and good evil. There are two more charges that God lays against the people in Malachi 3. We pick up the explanation of these charges in verse 7 of chapter 3.

Robbing God

In Malachi 3:7 God gives the decree, “Return to Me, and I will return to you.” But people respond with, “How shall we return?” From the perspective of the people, they have not left God. They do not think there is a need to return to God. How shall we return? Are we not with you and worshiping you? We saw this problem from the beginning as the people think that God is please with their worship. They are still offering sacrifices. The people think they are doing what God wants. But God is telling them that they are not doing things according to His commands. Therefore, the people need to return. Malachi must explain further what the people are doing wrong.

God declares that the people are robbing God. The people rightly question how they are robbing God. I don’t know that we think about the fact that there are things we can do to rob God. God explains that the people are robbing God through their tithes and offerings. Remember that God began his condemnation of the people because they were not offering the first fruits of their labors. Rather than bringing an unblemished lame, the people were bringing the blind, lame, and sickly lambs to be offered as sacrifices. Not only were the people shorting God in their sacrifices, but they are also shorting God in their tithing and in their contributions. There are a number of problems with the people not giving to the Lord as they ought.

Reflects Spiritual Defection. The first problem is that the people not giving to the Lord as God has asked simply reflects that the hearts have defected from God. The people are making two statements by refusing to tithe. First, they do not want to do what God says. It is a matter of rebellion. Second, the people are declaring a lack of trust in God. They see their money as their own, not the Lord’s. Further, they wanted to keep their money rather than trust in God to give what they need.

God removes blessings from us. God tells the people that they are only hurting themselves when they choose to rob God. In verse 9 God says the whole nation has been cursed because they have robbed God. This is an interesting principle that God defines for the people. When we short God, God will short us. When we rob God, God will rob His blessings from us. Verse 11 seems to describe the shortage in their crops and a lack of fruitfulness in their labors because they were not giving to God as they ought.

Lost God’s workers. Nehemiah was a contemporary of the prophet Malachi. Nehemiah finds that the priests and Levites are no longer serving the Lord in sacrifices and performing the tasks of the temple because the people were not bringing in the full tithe. Remember that one of the primary purposes of the tithe was that the contribution of money and animals would be given to the priests and Levites, who lived off of that contribution. The priests and the Levites had returned to the fields for work because they would not live on what the people were giving (Nehemiah 13:10 ff). God was angry that this situation had come about.

God’s Challenge. In verse 10 God offers a challenge to the people to test the Lord in regards to His blessings. God says to bring the whole tithe into the temple storehouse. If they will do this, God will open for the people the windows of heaven and pour out blessings until it overflows. God is asking the people to put their trust in Him and He will take care of them.

Our Giving:

I think there are a number of things that we need to think about in regards to our giving from the message of Malachi. First, I believe it is important to know that the law of Christ did not command the tithe. The tithe was a command under the Law of Moses, which was given to the Israelites. But that does not mean we are exempt from giving because we are not commanded to tithe.

Weekly and In Proportion To Our Prosperity. 1 Corinthians 16:1-2 shows us that all the churches in the first century were commanded by the apostles to set money aside and save it till the first day of every week when the Christians would give. In the command to “set aside” is the picture of knowing what our offering will be each week. Then, we are too given in proportion to what we have prospered.

Purposefully and Cheerfully. According to 2 Corinthians 9:7 God wants us to give “as he has purposed in his heart” (NASU). Again, we are to make a conscious decision as to what our giving to the Lord will be on a regular basis, according to our prosperity. Second, we need to give with the proper motive. God does not want giving that is under compulsion or that is grudgingly. Rather, God wants a cheerful offering.

I would also like us to consider that our offering goes beyond our weekly contribution. We are commanded to help one another. We are commanded to use our money to further the borders of the kingdom and to bring glory to God. Remember the parable of the talents. Each of us has been given a different amount of prosperity. What we do with our wealth will be judged by the Lord. I want us to think about how we treat our money is regards to God and spiritual things. Forty dollars is no big deal when we talk about taking our family out to eat. But we are often unwilling to give forty dollars to God. We are unwilling to buy ourselves a Bible or study materials. Forty dollars seems to be no big deal when we are talking about our hobbies or recreational activities. But suddenly, forty dollars seems like a fortune when we talk about giving to the Lord, giving to those of our needy brethren, or toward our own spiritual strength. We need to consider our ways.

Vanity to Serve God

In verse 13 God identifies another sin the people have committed against the Lord. God charges the people with being arrogant or harsh in their words against Him. The people ask how they have been harsh. It seems pretty easy to determine how the people’s words have been harsh. Look at what the people have been saying: “It is vain to serve God; and what profit is it that we have kept His charge, and that we have walked in mourning before the Lord of hosts?” The people do not see the point in serving God. Verse 15 explains why. The people have gone about calling the arrogant blessed because the doers of wickedness prosper. The evildoers test God and escape. Two thousand four hundred years ago people asked the same question that we ask today. The righteous often cannot understand how it seems the wicked continue to prosper while the righteous suffer. God’s response to their harsh words is interesting. I would suppose that God could have said that they are suffering because they are not righteous. They lives are full of iniquities such that the Lord sent Malachi to get the people to consider their ways.

But God gives a different answer in verses 16-18. God says that the righteous are written down in the book of remembrance. Why are their names written down? Because judgment is coming against the wicked and God knows who are His. God’s response throughout the scriptures about injustices is simply to wait. God will take care of all the unjust in due time. God does not strike down the wicked immediately, but allows them the time to repent. But, because of this, we are left with time where we must deal with their evil actions.

We need to be thankful that God allows these injustices to continue. Would any of be alive if God immediately struck down the person who sinned? Would any of us be sitting in these pews today if God wiped us out the first time we did something wrong against another person? This building would be empty! Swift judgment sounds great when we are talking about anyone else but ourselves. But we want God to overlook our wickedness and injustices, but not other people’s.

We need to remember that there is a book of remembrance. The righteous and wicked will be separated. Each person will be repaid according to his or her deeds. Sin will not go unpunished. Evil works will not be forgotten. Our acts of service are before the eyes of the Lord. Let us not grow weary and not lose heart in serving the Lord. Chapter 4 goes on to describe the coming judgment that will take place against those wicked people.

Conclusion:

Do not rob God. God wants our hearts. God wants our best. God wants our offerings. We should not sneer at the opportunity to give money for spiritual things. We should look forward to giving of our means each week. We should want to spend money on things that will help us spiritually, like a nice new Bible that will encourage us to read more regularly. We should want to use our money to help out our brethren. We will be judged by how we use the wealth God has given to us.

Never think it is a waste of time to serve God. Judgment is coming. We quickly forget how God has judged many nations in the past. All of us will die at some point. What will happen next? We must be ready to stand before the judgment seat of Christ and give an account of our lives. The wicked will pay for their deeds. They will not go unpunished.

The Sinful Priests - Malachi 1:1 to Malachi 2:9

Open It

1. What unique relationship do you treasure?

2. When you are displeased about something, how do you express yourself?

3. When have you felt taken for granted or treated with disrespect?

Explore It

4. To whom was the word of the Lord given? (Malachi 1:1)

5. What did God claim for Israel? (Malachi 1:2)

6.What was the judgment of Edom? (Malachi 1:3-5)

7. What was God’s complaint against Israel? (Malachi 1:6-14)

8. How were the priests implicated in contemptible worship practices? (Malachi 1:8-10)

9. What worship would honor the Lord Almighty? (Malachi 1:11)

10. What was the attitude of the priests in Malachi’s day? (Malachi 1:12-13)

11. How were the people cheating the Lord? (Malachi 1:14)

12. What was the warning to the priests? (Malachi 2:1-4)

13. What covenant were the priests expected to keep? (Malachi 2:5-9)

14. How had the priests failed in keeping and applying the law? (Malachi 2:5-9)

Get It

15. What is unique about your relationship with the Lord?

16. When have you doubted God’s love for you?

17. Israel was guilty of giving God leftovers. In what way do we sometimes give God leftovers in our worship? in our finances? in our time?

18. How does God deal with you when you give Him less than your best?

19. How are your church leaders like or unlike the priests in Malachi’s day?

20. In your view, what areas might be temptations for your church to be unfaithful to God?

21. When have you been misled by false teaching?

22. When, if ever, do you feel you have passed along inaccurate biblical teaching?

23. What does it mean to follow in the Lord’s ways?

Apply It

24. What attitudes or actions can you change to show honor to the Lord?

25. What would it take for you to start giving God your best in your worship, your finances, and your time?

The Sinful People - Malachi 2:10 to Malachi 3:15

Open It

1. How would your closest friend describe the kind of friend you are?

2. In conversations do you tend to be a talker or a listener?

3. When do you feel most thankful for your blessings?

Explore It

4. How had God’s people broken faith with Him? (Malachi 2:10-12)

5. What was the consequence of Israel’s sin? (Malachi 2:12)

6. What was additional evidence of a broken covenant? (Malachi 2:13-16)

7. What was God’s view of divorce? (Malachi 2:16)

8. What charge did God give His people? (Malachi 2:16)

9. How had Israel wearied God? (Malachi 2:17)

10. How were the people oblivious to their sin? (Malachi 2:17)

11. What warning did God give? (Malachi 3:1-5)

12. What was the basis for hope in God? (Malachi 3:6)

13. What did God require of Israel? (Malachi 3:7-12)

14. How had Israel sinned against God in the past? (Malachi 3:7)

15. What was the nature of the curse on the nation? (Malachi 3:9)

16. What did God promise? (Malachi 3:10-12)

17. How had Israel challenged God? (Malachi 3:13-15)

Get It

18. What is the extent of the price we pay, and possibly cause others to pay, when we knowingly disobey God?

19. Why is it wrong for a Christian to marry an unbeliever?

20. When have you clearly sensed that your fellowship with God was disrupted because of your sin?

21. How would the prophet speak to the issue of divorce among Christians in our culture today?

22. In what ways do we try to rationalize our sins?

23. How have you been guilty of robbing God?

24. For what blessings from God are you most thankful?

Apply It

25. What personal unconfessed sin or negative attitude toward the Lord or others would you be willing to confront with a responsible Christian friend or small group?

26. Starting this week, when can you set aside a few minutes in prayer with another believer, asking the Lord to help you become more faithful, obedient, and trustworthy in each of your relationships?

The Faithful Few - Malachi 3:16 to Malachi 4:6

Open It

1. To whom are you most loyal?

2. What upcoming event are you eagerly anticipating?

3. What social events do you usually dread or not enjoy?

Explore It

4. How did the Lord respond to those who feared Him? (Malachi 3:16)

5. What assurance was given to those who were faithful to the Lord? (Malachi 3:16)

6. Why did the people of Malachi’s time need to repent? (Malachi 3:16 to Malachi 4:6)

7. What promise did God give to His people? (Malachi 3:17)

8. What distinction did God make? (Malachi 3:18)

9. What will happen to the wicked in the day of the Lord? (Malachi 4:1)

10. What would the day of the Lord hold for God’s remnant? (Malachi 4:2)

11. What will the righteous do to the wicked? (Malachi 4:3)

12. Why did the prophet tell the people to recall the law of Moses? (Malachi 4:4)

13. What did God promise through Malachi? (Malachi 4:5-6)

14. What major theme of the prophets did Malachi’s last words reflect? (Malachi 4:6)

Get It

15. In what ways do we deserve the Lord’s judgment?

16. How submissive to the Lord are you?

17. How careful are you about the quality of your walk with the Lord?

18. How do you feel like the Lord’s "treasured possession"?

19. In what ways are you disobedient to the Lord?

20. How are freedom and joy part of your spiritual experience?

21. To what blessings and promises of the Lord do you look forward?

Apply It

22. What can you do this week to demonstrate unswerving loyalty to the Lord?

23. Starting today, how can you encourage one other Christian to remain faithful to the Lord?

 
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