I’m reading through the Bible in a year, and every month I post about what I’ve read. Other posts this month are on 1 Chronicles, 2 Chronicles, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai and Zechariah.
Malachi (which means ‘my messenger’) isn’t mentioned elsewhere in scripture, but his message is exceedingly relevant to the Bible storyline. The book’s precise dating is unknown, though it is clearly post-exilic: the temple had been rebuilt and the sacrifices re-instituted. The external forms of worship were all in place, but the peoples’ hearts had yet to be changed.
Malachi starts off with God reassuring His people of His love. Only then does He go on to present them with six disputes, court-case style, to challenge their disobedient behaviour. Numbers three and four, right in the middle, deal with how the people were treating each other. Numbers two and five deal with how the people were dealing with their own lives. Numbers one and six deal with how the people regarded God.
How you worship matters to God
1:6-2:9 is concerned with worship. The people were showing their lack of respect and honour for God in their presenting blemished sacrifices. God would rather have no sacrifices than such sacrifices (1:10). Not all is bleakness: the prophet speaks of a day when all would offer Yahweh pure sacrifices (1:11).
How you treat others matters to God
The refrain in 2:10-16 is that the people had been faithless, and this was demonstrated particularly in their family relationships. They had married ‘the daughter of a foreign god’, which is a poetic way of describing people who worship other gods. Religion, not race, was the issue. And when they married, they’d break that commitment by getting divorced. God wasn’t and isn’t pleased with either.
Where is the God of justice?
2:17-3:5 is kind of scary, if you think about it. The Lord will come as a refiner’s fire, and He will start with the Levites (3:3). He won’t start with some wicked people, but with His very own special possession. The apostle Peter echoed this in 1 Peter 4:17.
Is it worth it to serve God?
In 3:13-15, we read of the people’s complaining about God. Even though He seems inactive, He sees and takes note, as 3:16-18 says. But will He do anything about evil? Yes, says 4:1-3.The day of the Lord will be like a furnace, though not a refining fire as in chapter 3. This will be a destructive fire that will destroy God’s enemies. On the same day of the Lord, He will rescue His people. So, no, it isn’t futile to serve God, however hopeless things may look right now. One day He will set all things right.
The tone of Malachi 4:4-6 is different from what has gone before. Readers are exhorted to remember Moses and Elijah, those two great men of God. The implication is that they remember in order to act upon what Moses and Elijah said. Moses gave the nation of Israel God’s law; Elijah’s was a ministry of turning hearts back to God. The Elijah promised in 4:5-6 did indeed come and call the people to repentance. And that call still goes out today to all those who would hear and heed it.