The very last of the twelve Minor Prophets is Malachi, who delivered his message about one hundred years after Haggai and Zechariah, the two prophets before him. You will recall that both Haggai and Zechariah delivered God’s message to the people of Judah, who had recently returned from a seventy year exile in Babylon. The people had been tasked with rebuilding God’s temple, but had met with opposition and become discouraged. They soon stopped working and succumbed to selfishness and sin. Haggai and Zechariah both delivered messages of reproof, encouragement, and hope, and as a result, the new temple was completed.
One hundred years later the people had again fallen into sin, and this time God raised up Malachi to confront them with their sins, call them to return to Him, and warn them of the coming day of the LORD.
“For behold, the day is coming, burning like a furnace; and all the arrogant and every evildoer will be chaff; and the day that is coming will set them ablaze, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch.
But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings; and you will go forth and skip about like calves from the stall….” (Malachi 4:1-2)
After God spoke His message through Malachi, there were four hundred years of silence -- four hundred years without one word from God. And then came John the Baptist, who preached repentance and preparing the way for LORD. Although he was silent for four hundred years, God was still working behind the scenes for the good of His people. Even when His people fail Him, God's love is stronger than our failure. His love never fails.
In reading Malachi’s prophecy, I found it interesting that the sins of God’s people today are not so different than the sins of the people in his day, four hundred years before Christ. The attitudes and actions of the Jewish people way back then are an ancient picture of many Christian attitudes and actions today.
In his commentary, The Minor Prophets, James Montgomery Boice points out that Jewish religiosity in Malachi’s day perfectly pictures modern Christian attitudes that attempt to “bring God down to earth and measure Him by the yardstick of human morality.” Seven times in Malachi, God confronts the people with a statement of what He has done for them and seven times their response is an arrogant “How?” They show no honor or respect for God. Here are God’s seven statements and the responses by the people.
(1:2) “I have loved you” -- “How have you loved us?”
(1:6) “You, O priests, have despised my name” -- “How have we despised Your name?”
(2:7 “You are presenting defiled food upon my altar” -- “How have we defiled You?”
(2:17) “You have wearied the LORD with your words” -- “How have we wearied Him?”
(3:7) “Return to me and I will return to you” -- “How shall we return?”
(3:8) “You are robbing me…in tithes and offerings” -- “How have we robbed You?”
(3:13) “Your words have been arrogant against me” -- “What have we spoken against You?”
It’s easy for us to look at this list and say that none of these things apply to us, but that is arrogance on our part. Stop and think for a minute. Have you never questioned God’s love by complaining that you want or need more than He has given you? Have you ever coveted more in the way of material things, or have you compared yourself to someone who has a more important position in the church? If so, you have doubted God’s love for you.
The priests despised God’s name by offering imperfect sacrifices of lame and sick animals they would surely never offer to a secular leader. Have you ever despised God’s name by giving Him only what is leftover instead of what you know would be your best? This can apply to both your material wealth and your time.
The people of Malachi’s day wearied God by calling good evil and questioning His justice. Have you ever done that? Have you ever looked upon God’s views in the Bible as being outdated? Do you do things your own way just because everyone else does? Has your church veered away from following practices that are plainly Biblical? Have you ever questioned why God allows “natural disasters” or other painful occurrences? Have you ever wearied God with arrogant words in trying to twist His words to suit your own situation or point of view? Have you robbed Him of tithes and offerings? Are you ever so arrogant that you think you don’t need to take stock of your life and turn around and follow God completely instead of putting yourself first?
If you can see yourself in any of these sins of the Jewish people, then God is calling you to return to Him. He’s calling us, from the pages of His Word and the Book of Malachi to face up to our individual and collective sins and return to Him. But the greatest thing is that He also calls us to the same hope to which He called His people in Malachi’s day, “For you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings; and you will go forth and skip about like calves from the stall (Malachi 4:2). This is the promise He made to the people of Judah, and four hundred years later Jesus Christ, the sun of righteousness, was born. He was the only person on earth who ever lived a perfectly righteous life. He endured the cross for our sins, but He rose again from the dead. And the promise for us is that He is coming again! The Day of the Lord is coming. It will be a day of judgment for those who do not honor God, but a day of salvation and joy and glory for those who love and obey Him. That is our hope as we live in this fallen world. God may call us to difficult times and tasks, He may hold us strictly accountable to His Word and discipline us when we go astray, but He always keeps His promises and His love never fails. May our love for Him prove unfailing as well.
I have been involved in Disciplers since 1987, as a discussion leader, teacher, writer, and now as director. I am profoundly committed to the stewardship of this ministry which God has entrusted to me for a time. God’s word is the chief joy of my life. I cherish my personal time in the word, and I am filled with gratitude to be able to share His word with you, my fellow disciples in Christ.