Malachi Lesson Eight

Malachi Lesson Eight – The Day of the Lord

“For indeed, the day is coming, burning like a furnace, when all the arrogant and everyone who commits wickedness will become stubble. The coming day will consume them,” says the Lord of Hosts, “not leaving them root or branches. But for you who fear My name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings, and you will go out and playfully jump like calves from the stall. You will trample the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day I am preparing,” says the Lord of Hosts. “Remember the instruction of Moses My servant, the statutes and ordinances I commanded him at Horeb for all Israel. Look, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome Day of the Lord comes. 6 And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers. Otherwise, I will come and strike the land with a curse.” (HCSB)

With this lesson, we’ll bring the study of Malachi to a close. There is both judgment and hope contained in this passage, with a final encouragement that those who hold fast to the Lord will be blessed.

Verse 1

The imagery here is referring to the day of judgment when all will be judged. There are two possible eternal paths for each person.

  • Hell for the unrighteous and unrepentant.
    • They will become like stubble – a reference to chaff that is discarded in the harvest process. Chaff is also easily burned.
    • Burning like a furnace. Those who are “discarded” during the harvest process will face a fire that will torment and consume them. 
    • Joel 2:1-3 – Blow the horn in Zion; sound the alarm on My holy mountain! Let all the residents of the land tremble, for the Day of the Lord is coming; in fact, it is near— a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and dense overcast, like the dawn spreading over the mountains; a great and strong people appears, such as never existed in ages past and never will again in all the generations to come. A fire destroys  in front of them, and behind them a flame devours. The land in front of them is like the Garden of Eden, but behind them, it is like a desert wasteland; there is no escape from them. 
    • They will have no hope, no future, no brighter day.
    • There will be no escape for those who live in disobedience to Yahweh.
    • Jesus warns that we shouldn’t fear the death of our body but what happens next.
    • We don’t know everything about hell, but there are some things we do know.
      • It is a real place.
      • It is a place of separation from God and all that is good.
      • It is a place of just punishment.
      • It is a place where there is memory.
      • It is a place of hopelessness. 

Verses 2-3

The first verse highlighted the judgment on the wicked. Here in the following two verses, we see what will happen to those that fear the Lord. 

  • The sun will rise over them. There are two interpretations of this illustration, and both are correct.
    • In the ancient Near East, it was common to describe the sun as the wings of a bird, as well as the healing that came with the protection found under the wings of a bird.
      • Psalm 84:11 For the Lord God is a sun and shield. The Lord gives grace and glory; He does not withhold the good from those who live with integrity.
      • Psalm 104:1-3 My soul, praise Yahweh! Lord my God, You are very great; You are clothed with majesty and splendor. He wraps Himself in light as if it were a robe, spreading out the sky like a canopy, laying the beams of His palace on the waters above, making the clouds His chariot, walking on the wings of the wind.
    • A reference to the return of Jesus, the Son.
      • Isaiah 60:19-21 The sun will no longer be your light by day, and the brightness of the moon will not shine on you; but the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your splendor. 20 Your sun will no longer set, and your moon will not fade; for the Lord will be your everlasting light, and the days of your sorrow will be over. 21 Then all your people will be righteous; they will possess the land forever; they are the branch I planted, the work of My hands, so that I may be glorified.
  • They will have unbridled joy. This illustration points ahead to a time when there will be no more sickness, no more darkness, no more sorrow, no more death, no more persecution, and no more sin.

Those who once were persecuted now find themselves in the favored position. I think it is important not to misunderstand the phrase “trample the wicked” as depicting the righteousness stepping on the wicked in an arrogant or self-righteous manner. Instead, it is the reversal of fortunes. Those who once physically and emotionally trampled on the righteous are now the ones who are trampled on in judgment from an infinitely holy God. Those who fear the Lord are given a place of honor for eternity, while those who rejected the Lord are given a place of condemnation.

Verse 4

Now Malachi refers Israel back to the law of Moses. However, this is the only instance in the Old Testament that a person or group of people are called to remember God’s law. It was often used in prayers for God to remember the person petitioning God in prayer. It was also used by God as a command to remember, but those cases didn’t involve the law. There are several points to consider regarding the phrase “remember the instruction” and “Horeb.”

  • Horeb was another name for Mt Sinai, and it has a strong connection with Yahweh’s covenant with Israel, which Moses received. 
  • It would cause Israel to fear God.
  • It would cause them to honor His name.
  • Israel was always called to remember God’s commands. Numbers 15:38-40 – 38 Speak to the Israelites and tell them that throughout their generations they are to make tassels for the corners of their garments, and put a blue cord on the tassel at each corner. 39 These will serve as tassels for you to look at, so that you may remember all the Lord’s commands and obey them and not become unfaithful by following your own heart  and your own eyes. 40 This way you will remember and obey all My commands and be holy to your God.
  • Malachi was calling Israel to live a lifestyle that was directed by the application of God’s Word and not by human wisdom, ambition, or cultural norms.

Verse 5

Not only does Horeb have a connection with Moses in the previous verse, but here there is a connection between Horeb and the prophet Elijah.

  • Exodus 3:1 – Meanwhile, Moses was shepherding the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian. He led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God.
  • 1 Kings 19:8 – So he got up, ate, and drank. Then on the strength from that food, he walked 40 days and 40 nights to Horeb, the mountain of God.

It is also the location where Israel pleaded to “not to continue to hear the voice of the LORD our God or see this great fire any longer, so that we will not die!” (Deuteronomy 18:16). This plea is the reason Moses told the people, “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers. You must listen to him.” (Deuteronomy 18:15). The overwhelming position on this last verse is that Moses is pointing far into the future and identifying the Messiah. At the very least, it points to the succession of prophetic covenant mediators, of which Elijah is considered the greatest symbol.

Verse 6

The “Day of the LORD” referenced in verse five points not only to judgment but also to the ministry that must occur before that day.

Joel 2:28-31 – After this I will pour out My Spirit on all humanity; then your sons and your daughters will prophesy, your old men will have dreams, and your young men will see visions. 29 I will even pour out My Spirit on the male and female slaves in those days. 30 I will display wonders in the heavens and on the earth: blood, fire, and columns of smoke.31 The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the great and awe-inspiring Day of the Lord comes.

The prophet Joel is pointing to a future period of revival before Jesus’ return.

There is also an implied reference to Messiah with Moses and Elijah, which we read about in the transfiguration account. Luke 9:29-31 – As He was praying, the appearance of His face changed,  and His clothes became dazzling white. 30 Suddenly, two men were talking with Him—Moses and Elijah. 31 They appeared in glory and were speaking of His death, which He was about to accomplish in Jerusalem. 

When we look at these last three verses of Malachi in conjunction with the transfiguration account, there are a couple of points we need to remember.

  • Moses was a prophetic servant.
    • He was an agent of deliverance for Israel and their bondage in Egypt.
    • He “officiated” the marriage covenant between Yahweh and Israel when the Mosaic covenant was instituted.
    • He brought God’s instructions to Israel and taught them that these instructions were to shape their relationship to Yahweh.
  • Elijah was the classic model of a prophet of repentance.
    • He was God’s prophetic messenger. 
    • He announced a new divine intervention and called for people to repent.
    • Those who failed to heed the words he spoke on behalf of Yahweh would be held accountable.
    • Jesus was the suffering servant.
      • He was the agent of deliverance for all mankind.
      • His blood instituted the New Covenant.
      • He called for people to repent.
      • He taught what was contained in Scripture, i.e., The Sermon on the Mount.
      • Those who don’t submit to His lordship will be held accountable on the day of judgment.

The “curse” that will come is eternal separation from God. It will be final and irrevocable.

As we close this book, we see a picture where Malachi draws a contrast between those whose actions display obedience to God and those whose actions are disobedient to God. There are two eternal destinations here.

  • It will be a day of blessing for those who have submitted to the lordship of Jesus Christ.
  • It will be a day of pain and suffering for those who have rejected Jesus Christ.

Applications

  • The foremost question to ask yourself is, “am I follower of Jesus?” If the answer is no, then the day of judgment will be the start of eternal torment. If the answer is yes, then the day of judgment will be the start of eternal joy. We will all answer that question as we stand before the throne of Jesus. Submit your life and serve Him here and now.
  • For those who are followers of Jesus, do you share your faith with the understanding that the lost around you are on the path to eternal torment? Is there an urgency in your evangelism? If not, pray for courage and opportunities to share your faith.
  • If you once were a faithful follower of Jesus but have fallen away, repent and return. That is one of the overarching themes of Malachi. God is patiently waiting for the rebellious to return. However, there will be judgment for those who fail to come back.

Malachi Lesson Seven

Malachi Lesson Seven 3:13-18 – Righteous and Wicked

“Your words against Me are harsh,” says the Lord. Yet you ask: “What have we spoken against You?” 14 You have said: “It is useless to serve God. What have we gained by keeping His requirements and walking mournfully  before the Lord of Hosts? 15 So now we consider the arrogant  to be fortunate.  Not only do those who commit wickedness prosper, they even test God  and escape.” 16 At that time those who feared the Lord spoke to one another. The Lord took notice and listened. So a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who feared Yahweh and had high regard for His name. 17 “They will be Mine,” says the Lord of Hosts, “a special possession on the day I am preparing. I will have compassion on them as a man has compassion on his son who serves him. 18 So you will again see the difference between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve Him. (HCSB)

This passage introduces the final section of Malachi and provides more clarity with what was stated in the previous section. The weight of the discussion is focused on the fact that Israel had still not returned to Yahweh with all its heart. They were going through the motions and still failed to see their disobedience, leading them to believe that they were righteous but still being punished.

Verse 13

The words chosen for both sides in this discussion, Yahweh and Israel, set the tone of the exchange. Yahweh’s statement is very strong, as evidenced by the phrase, “says the LORD.” However, the Israelite’s response is even stronger and could be interpreted as arrogant or insulting. The phrase, “what have we spoken against you” is used in:

  • Divine judgment speeches.
    • 1 Kings 16:1 – Now the word of the Lord came to Jehu  son of Hanani  against Baasha:
    • 2 Kings 19:21a – This is the word the Lord has spoken against him: 
    • Ezekiel 36:5a – This is what the Lord God says:
  • It is also used to describe arrogant, slanderous, or insulting speech directed at other people or Yahweh.
    • Psalm 31:18 – Let lying lips be quieted; they speak arrogantly against the righteous with pride and contempt.
    • Psalm 109:2 – For wicked and deceitful mouths open against me; they speak against me with lying tongues.
    • 2 Chronicles 32:16-17 – His servants said more against the Lord God and against His servant Hezekiah. 17 He also wrote letters to mock Yahweh, the God of Israel, saying against Him: Just like the national gods of the lands that did not deliver their people from my power, so Hezekiah’s God will not deliver His people from my power.
    • Ezekiel 35:13 – You boasted against Me  with your mouth, and spoke many words against Me. I heard it Myself!

Verse 14

Here we find the warped reasoning behind the behavior and attitude of the Israelites and many Christians today. They don’t believe there is any satisfying or profitable in serving God. If they aren’t “rewarded” in some way, money/job/house/etc., there is only a shallow reverence for an infinitely holy God. They were putting on a facade of mourning and repentance, but their heart was nowhere near that.

But in a twisted way, they were right; their “service” to God was pointless.

  • Ritual carelessness.
  • Ritual faithlessness.
  • Treachery.
  • Sorcery.
  • Adultery.
  • Perjury.
  • Exploitation or neglect of the defenseless and needy.

Supposed good works that don’t flow from genuine faith and gratitude to God are the same as a check written from a bank account that doesn’t have any money in it. It may make the “giver” feel good for a short time, but the recipient, God, sees that there is no value in the offering. The people identified here were only interested in material gain and not in a relationship with God.

Verse 15

Here we see that the Israelites had joined the group who viewed God’s laws and instructions as something to be rejected. They gave two reasons for their decision and subsequent behavior.

  • The wicked prosper. 
  • The wicked test God and escape punishment.

However, the wicked will face a time of judgment and punishment, even if they (we) don’t see it.

  • Proverbs 11:21a – Be assured  that the wicked will not go unpunished.
  • Hebrews 12:25 – Make sure that you do not reject the One who speaks. For if they did not escape when they rejected Him who warned them on earth, even less will we if we turn away from Him who warns us from heaven.

As we reflect on these first three verses, we need to consider if we are just as guilty as the disobedient Israelites addressed in Malachi.

Verse 16

Even though there was a sizable portion of Israel that were disobedient to God’s instructions, we see here that there was at least a remnant who revered God and followed His instructions. Even though God was focused on the disobedient in the hope that they would repent and return, He hadn’t lost sight of those who were obedient from the motivation of right heart attitude. 

We may think that it makes little sense for the creator of the heavens and earth to need a book to remember these people, but this would resonate with the Israelites. An example of this is found in Esther 6:1-2 – That night sleep escaped the king, so he ordered the book recording daily events to be brought and read to the king. They found the written report of how Mordecai had informed on Bigthana and Teresh, two eunuchs who guarded the king’s entrance, when they planned to assassinate King Ahasuerus.

The idea of heavenly books is too widespread throughout Scripture to think they are just a metaphor.

  • Book of Life.
    • Exodus 32:32 – Now if You would only forgive their sin. But if not, please erase me from the book You have written.
    • Psalm 69:28 – Let them be erased from the book of life and not be recorded with the righteous.
    • Philippians 4:3 – Yes, I also ask you, true partner, to help these women who have contended for the gospel at my side, along with Clement and the rest of my coworkers whose names are in the book of life. 
  • The Book.
    • Daniel 12:1 – At that time Michael  the great prince who stands watch over your people will rise up. There will be a time of distress such as never has occurred since nations came into being until that time. But at that time all your people who are found written in the book  will escape.
    • Ezekiel 13:9 – My hand will be against the prophets who see false visions and speak lying divinations. They will not be present in the fellowship of My people or be recorded in the register of the house of Israel, and they will not enter the land of Israel. Then you will know that I am the Lord Yahweh.

The clear conclusion is that those who have submitted to God with a reverent and repentant heart, who desire to follow His instructions, who will stand against the evil in the world, and teach others what true worship looks like will not be forgotten. Instead, they have a sure reward waiting for them in eternal heaven.

Verse 17

Although the overwhelming thrust of Malachi is on pending judgment and destruction for the wicked, God is also merciful and has compassion for those who fear Him. The judgment will not be total or indiscriminate. God will spare those who are righteous and those who are wicked. This will happen on the eschatological day of the Lord when the righteous will be redeemed and the wicked punished.

This is God’s answer to the false understanding of the disobedient Israelites. Although they may think the wicked and arrogant are not being punished, God’s message is loud and clear. There will be a day of winnowing where the righteous will receive their reward, and the wicked receive their punishment; none will escape.

Verse 18

The “you” connects back to the speakers of the harsh words. Faithful servants of the King will be rewarded. Esther 6:9 – Put the garment and the horse under the charge of one of the king’s most noble officials.  Have them clothe the man the king wants to honor, parade him on the horse through the city square, and proclaim before him, ‘This is what is done for the man the king wants to honor.’ 

The “garden” of the earth will face a final pruning on the Day of Judgment. 

Matthew 13:41-43 – The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather from His kingdom everything that causes sin and those guilty of lawlessness. 42 They will throw them into the blazing furnace where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in their Father’s kingdom. Anyone who has ears should listen!

The wicked will no longer prosper, and the righteous will no longer suffer.

What is the difference between these two groups of people…integrity and character. 

  • Those who fear the Lord walk with Him, and their thoughts are of God.
  • Those who don’t fear the Lord are always looking out for…themselves.

A proper understanding of the final result should lead us not to be envious of those who are wicked but prosper. Instead, we should feel deep sympathy and sorrow for them. The enjoyment they experience in this life is the only enjoyment they will ever have. Their temporary prosperity will be followed by eternal torment.

Psalm 73:17-20 – until I entered God’s sanctuary. Then I understood their destiny. 18 Indeed, You put them in slippery places; You make them fall into ruin. 19 How suddenly they become a desolation! They come to an end, swept away by terrors. 20 Like one waking from a dream, Lord, when arising, You will despise their image.

 Applications

  • Do we envy or strive to be like those who are prosperous, even if those people are wicked? If that is the case, our focus is on the wrong thing. We need to focus and follow the Creator and not the created. 
  • Even if we are a persecuted minority in this world, we should always desire to part of the “remnant” that remains faithful to God no matter what is happening around us. No matter the circumstances we’re going through, God has not forgotten or forsaken us.
  • Do you consider yourself special? This is a tricky question. We are special and unique in God’s eyes, wonderfully made. Our identity and worth are found in Jesus, not in anything of the world. If the world tells you that you’re special, ignore them. Our “specialness” is found in Jesus.
  • Pray for the lost and wicked around you. There is an eternal destination for each of us, and judgment is very real. Do you have a passion for reaching those on the road to eternal destruction?

Malachi Lesson Six

Malachi Lesson Six 3:7-12 Robbing God

“Since the days of your fathers, you have turned from My statutes; you have not kept them. Return to Me, and I will return to you,” says the Lord of Hosts. But you ask: “How can we return?” “Will a man rob  God? Yet you are robbing Me!” You ask: “How do we rob You?” “By not making the payments of the tenth and the contributions. You are suffering under a curse, yet you—the whole nation—are still robbing Me. 10 Bring the full tenth into the storehouse so that there may be food in My house. Test Me in this way,” says the Lord of Hosts. “See if I will not open the floodgates of heaven and pour out a blessing for you without measure. 11 I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not ruin the produce of your land and your vine in your field will not fail to produce fruit,” says the Lord of Hosts. 12 “Then all the nations will consider you fortunate, for you will be a delightful land,” says the Lord of Hosts. (HCSB)

This passage introduces another dispute/rebuttal sequence between Yahweh and Israel. The topic is over tithing, although it is much deeper than just giving back to God. The real issue is obedience (faithfulness) versus disobedience (apostasy). 

Before beginning this passage, let’s have a quick reminder of how the previous lesson ended with verse six; the unchangeable nature of God. This theological doctrine is called immutability. Since God is perfect, He can’t and doesn’t change. Here are two important truths about this statement.

  • God can’t get better since that would mean He was less than perfect at some point, which would also indicate He is not God.
  • God can’t get worse because He would then be less than perfect, which He can’t be. 

God is and must remain perfect in all His attributes. Nevertheless, it is our unchangeable God who gives us a chance to change, which is something we all must do. The beginning of this passage will now reveal how that occurs.

Verse 7

This verse contains a three-fold exhortation.

  • Situation – Since the days of your fathers, you have turned from My statutes; you have not kept them.
  • Command – Return to Me.
  • Motivation – and I will return to you.

The statement “since the days of your fathers” covers a large period of time, approximately 1,000 years. Like all people, Israel had a long history of being disobedient to Yahweh. What may have contributed to the situation presented in Malachi is Old Testament teaching from the time of Moses before Israel entered the promised land. 

Deuteronomy 4:25-31 2“When you have children and grandchildren and have been in the land a long time, and if you act corruptly, make an idol in the form of anything, and do what is evil in the sight of the Lord your God, provoking Him to anger, 26 I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you today that you will quickly perish from the land you are about to cross the Jordan to possess. You will not live long there, but you will certainly be destroyed. 27 The Lord will scatter you among the peoples, and you will be reduced to a few survivors among the nations where the Lord your God will drive you. 28 There you will worship man-made gods of wood and stone, which cannot see, hear, eat, or smell. 29 But from there, you will search for the Lord your God, and you will find Him when you seek Him with all your heart and all your soul. 30 When you are in distress and all these things have happened to you, you will return to the Lord your God in later days and obey Him. 31 He will not leave you, destroy you, or forget the covenant with your fathers that He swore to them by oath, because the Lord your God is a compassionate God.

In the mind of at least some of the Israelites, maybe most of them, they believed that since they had been restored from their exile. However, a quick review of Ezra, Nehemiah, and Malachi shows that the prophecies regarding Israel’s repentance and spiritual restoration and blessings had not yet been completed.

Verse 8

Up until this point in Malachi, Yahweh had levied charges against Israel in the following areas.

  • Insulting worship – 1:4
  • Treachery against one another – 2:10
  • Intermarriage with pagan idolators – 2:11 
  • Treachery against their wives – 2:14
  • Toleration of sorcery, adultery, perjury, and exploitation of the weak – 3:5

Now, Yahweh draws their attention to the fact that they were not tithing as required. The Old Testament references “the land” more than 1,000 times, with the vast majority connected to Canaan. Canaan was the land that God promised patriarchs, the land given to Israel, the land where the people would be blessed. The way Israel treated the land and its produce was a key component of their responsibility under the covenant. Ownership of land was understood to mean participation in the covenant community to whom God had given the land. But that ownership was validated by an attitude of faith and thankfulness toward Yahweh. The land was given as an inheritance to Israel, but it was, in reality, stewardship and not ownership. The reason for stewardship and not ownership is because of the habit of humans to sin and forget who gave the gift.

  • Leviticus 25:23 – The land is not to be permanently sold because it is Mine, and you are only foreigners and temporary residents on My land.
  • Deuteronomy 6:10-12 – 10 “When the Lord your God brings you into the land He swore to your fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that He would give you—a land with large and beautiful cities that you did not build, 11 houses full of every good thing that you did not fill them with, wells dug that you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves that you did not plant—and when you eat and are satisfied, 12 be careful not to forget the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the place of slavery.

In addition, every third year, the tithe was supposed to be distributed in the giver’s hometown to benefit the Levites, foreign residents, orphans, and widows.

Deuteronomy 14:28-29 – 28 “At the end of every three years, bring a tenth of all your produce for that year and store it within your gates. 29 Then the Levite, who has no portion or inheritance among you, the foreigner, the fatherless, and the widow within your gates may come, eat, and be satisfied. And the Lord your God will bless you in all the work of your hands that you do.

Just like the Sabbath year, the tithe would benefit the poor and those who couldn’t own land (Levites), demonstrating love to God and their neighbors.

Let’s look at this concept from a New Testament perspective. Nowhere in the New Testament is the believer instructed to give a specific amount, tithe, or other. However, weekly offerings are described.

1 Corinthians 16:2 – On the first day of the week, each of you is to set something aside and save in keeping with how he prospers, so that no collections will need to be made when I come.

Also, in a general sense, the New Testament obligations of Old Testament legislation are increased rather than reduced. Understanding this, the moral conclusion is that Christians, being blessed with the fullness of life under the sacrifice of Jesus, should give more than a tithe since everything we have comes from and belongs to God.

Verse 9

The idea that Israel was robbing God is given two more pieces of evidence. 

  • They were suffering under a curse. Looking ahead to verse 11, the curse could have been in several different circumstances.
    • It could have been a plague on the harvest – locust or drought.
    • It could also refer to an enemy.
  • It was the entire nation that was guilty.

Verse 10

This verse is effectively split into two parts.

  • Bring the full tithe into the storehouse. The word “full” could be understood in two ways, both relevant and accurate.
    • Israel was not bringing the full tithe. Instead, they were withholding part, or all, of the requirement in the Law.
    • The whole (full) nation was guilty of this charge.
    • Because the Levites were dependent on the tithes for sustenance (since they couldn’t own land), if they were neglected, it was more than a simple sign of disobedience. It signified a deeper problem of falling away from their relationship with Yahweh that the Levites modeled (complete dependence on Yahweh).
  • Test Yahweh and see if He will bless and sustain you.
    • If the people would return to God and be obedient, they would receive an abundant blessing.
    • First, we need to understand what this is not. 
      • It is not support for or an endorsement of a prosperity gospel.
      • It doesn’t mean we’ll get a promotion, new house, new car, etc.
      • Those who promote the prosperity gospel are actually saying that human activity can force God into doing what they want. This is the same as implying that God is not sovereign.
      • Instead of a false “name it and claim it” theology, it would be more appropriate to promote a “live it” theology. Act like a child of God, and we’ll be treated as one.
    • It does mean.
      • God’s provision will match our needs.
      • It won’t lead to waste or overindulgence.

Verse 11

As mentioned under the discussion of verse nine, the word “devourer” can have more than one meaning. In general terms, it indicates something that eats. However, it is often found in expressions of destruction.

  • Fire: Hosea 8:14b – I will send fire on their cities, and it will consume their citadels.
  • Human armies: Jeremiah 30:16a – Nevertheless, all who devoured you will be devoured, and all your adversaries-all of them-will go off into exile.

Even though Israel was hanging under a curse, Yahweh was prepared to reverse that to a blessing if they would repent and turn back to Him. 

Amos 9:14 – I will restore the fortunes of My people Israel. They will rebuild and occupy ruined cities, plant vineyards and drink their wine, make gardens and eat their produce.

Jeremiah 31:5 – You will plant vineyards again on the mountains of Samaria; the planters will plant and will enjoy the fruit.

Verse 12

In this verse, Israel is described as a symbol of blessing and the recipient of God’s grace and favor. However, this does not occur apart from obedience and faithfulness. But it does point to a future time when Israel will undergo a national repentance the will precede the earthly reign of Jesus and be characterized by Yahweh’s protection, provision, prosperity, and presence.

  • Romans 11:26
  • Joel 2:18-32

Applications

  • If you have strayed from your relationship with God, cling to the promise He makes. Return to Him, and He will return to you.
  • Understand what it means to rob God. Are you giving back to God what He has blessed you with? Are you cheerful in your giving? 
  • Ask yourself if you truly believe that God will meet your needs (not wants). If the answer is no, then pray for more faith and opportunities to display that faith through action.

Malachi Lesson Five

Malachi Lesson Five 2:17-3:6 Judgment at the LORD’s Coming

17 You have wearied the Lord with your words. Yet you ask, “How have we wearied Him?” 

When you say, “Everyone who does what is evil is good in the Lord’s sight, and He is pleased with them,” or “Where is the God of justice?” 

3 “See, I am going to send My messenger, and he will clear the way before Me. Then the Lord you seek will suddenly come to His temple, the Messenger of the covenant you desire—see, He is coming,” says the Lord of Hosts. But who can endure the day of His coming? And who will be able to stand when He appears? For He will be like a refiner’s fire and like cleansing lye. He will be like a refiner and purifier of silver; He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver. Then they will present offerings to the Lord in righteousness. And the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will please the Lord as in days of old and years gone by. 

“I will come to you in judgment, and I will be ready to witness against sorcerers and adulterers; against those who swear falsely; against those who oppress the widow and the fatherless, and cheat the wage earner; and against those who deny justice to the foreigner.  They do not fear Me,”  says the Lord of Hosts. “Because I, Yahweh, have not changed, you descendants of Jacob have not been destroyed.

This passage concludes the second address in Malachi. Judah’s sin of unfaithfulness was widespread in the community and was primarily associated with injustice. However, Judah was unable or unwilling to recognize their corruption and instead viewed their economic and social issues as an indicator of God’s unfairness or unfaithfulness. God’s response to their grumbling was to announce the coming of a messianic messenger, who would purge and purify God’s people, including the priests.

Verse 2:17

Looking back at verse 16, we see that that injustice was widespread throughout Judah. It was because of this pervasive injustice that God didn’t bless the works of their hands. In the minds of the people, they felt they deserved divine blessings, but instead, they believed they received divine injustice. Israel believed that those involved in evil (but not them) were perceived as good in the eyes of God while they received mistreatment.

  • Deuteronomy 18:12 Everyone who does these things is detestable to the LORD, and the LORD your God is driving out the nations before you because of these detestable things.
  • Deuteronomy 25:16 For everyone who does such things and acts unfairly is detestable to the LORD your God.
  • Isaiah 5:20 Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness, who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.

Verses 3:1-6

This section contains four predictions, with the first three being followed by the result and the last by an antithesis. 

  • First prediction/result.
    • God is sending His messenger.
    • The path is cleared.
  • Second prediction/result.
    • The LORD will go to His temple.
    • Who will be able to endure that day?
  • Third prediction/result.
    • He will refine and purify the people.
    • The righteous will be cleansed, and the unrighteous cast aside.
  • Fourth prediction/antithesis.
    • He is coming to judge.
    • God never changes; His promises are true and endure.

Verse 1

The divine messenger spoken about here would administer the covenant in two ways.

  • In a narrow sense, it would be the covenant made with Israel in the Sinai desert that promised judgment for unbelief.
  • In a broad and ultimate sense, the messenger would be sealing the covenant God made with Abraham that promised vindication to God’s chosen people and a blessing to all the nations of the earth.

Verse 2

This presents a rhetorical question as no one can endure His coming. The tense in the original Hebrew is a future tense, “who will endure…?”

The twin statement about refining and washing (cleansing lye) illustrates of a constant reminder found in the Old Testament of the separation between sinful man and an infinitely holy God. Thus, physical washing became linked to the need for cleansing a sinful soul.

  • Exodus 19:10 And the LORD told Moses, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, They must wash their clothes.
  • Psalm 51:2 Wash away my guilt and cleanse me from my sin.
  • Isaiah 1:16 Wash yourselves. Cleanse yourselves. Remove your evil deeds from My sight. Stop doing evil.
  • Jeremiah 2:22 Even though you wash with lye and use a great amount of soap, the stain of your sin is still in front of Me. This is the Lord GOD’s declaration.

However, cleansing can only be received through the sacrifice of Jesus.

  • 1 Corinthians 6:11 And some of you used to be like this. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
  • Titus 3:5 He saved us – not by works of righteousness that we had done, but according to His mercy – through the washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit.
  • Revelation 7:14 I said to Him, “Sir, you know.” Then he told me: These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

Verse 3

Now we see an illustration of God as a metalworker creating a masterpiece. In contrast to the previous verse where God was depicted as fire, and the process is unpleasant, here He is depicted as an artisan who will remove all of the dross, leaving only the finest components behind. This refining will lead to a priesthood that is focused and obedient to God. Thus, throughout Scripture, we read about God “refining” people with the ultimate goal being cleansing and purification for holy work.

A second point to this verse is that the cleansing when the Lord comes must begin with the temple and the priesthood. For us today, that cleansing must begin in the church and with all of Jesus’ followers (we are all priests), but especially with those in leadership positions within the church.

Verse 4

This verse describes the result of the third prediction, contained in verse three. Since the verse contains the phrase “Judah and Jerusalem,” it should be understood that the cleansing that took place in verse three extends beyond just the official priests. 

In contrast to the beginning of this passage, where God was “wearied” by their disobedience, those who have been refined and cleansed now bring offerings that please God.

Verse 5

This verse is the last prediction contained in this passage. After the purification identified in verse three, God will exercise judgment against the wicked. There are six sins listed in this verse.

  • Sorcery: Attempting to control the physical and spiritual world through incantations, charms, and rituals. These practices were why the Canaanites were under God’s judgment. 
  • Adultery: Sexual activity outside of marriage.
  • False swearing: Making an oath but not keeping it, particular oaths that defraud or harm others.
  • Those who oppress widows and orphans: Defrauding, robbing, or oppressing widows and orphans.
  • Those who cheat their employees: Practicing extortion on employees.
  • Those who don’t give justice to foreigners: Just as the lack of fear of the Lord has resulted in religious practices that insult Him (1:6-14), this has also resulted in injustice towards the helpless. 

In the post-exilic Judah that Malachi was addressing, some members of the community had returned to the greed and corruption that had resulted in their exile. What is astounding is that although they had recently returned from this disaster, they were now speeding down the same path once again.

In this letter, Malachi has three main topics that he addresses.

  • Vain offerings (1:2-2:9).
  • Treachery in relationships (2:10-3:6).
  • Withholding of tithes (3:7-4:6).

A person’s spiritual health and completeness as a child of God can often be determined by three main indicators.

  • Attitude toward and relationship with God – the theological aspect.
  • Attitude toward and relationship with others – the social aspect.
  • Attitude toward and use of possessions – the economic aspect.

These three aspects form an ethical triangle and are woven together in our actions. Throughout this letter, Malachi is condemning the ethical state of post-exilic Judah (Israel). They are sliding quickly back into ethical bankruptcy. 

Verse 6

This verse is a direct and stinging rebuke of the peoples’ charge that Yahweh was treating them unfairly and was being unfaithful to their covenant relationship. If, in fact, Yahweh was being unfair and not remaining faithful to their covenant relationship, He would have already erased them from the face of the earth. Instead, Yahweh showed extreme patience and extended unmerited grace and mercy to them because of His faithfulness. Although God had punished them for their disobedience, He didn’t, and couldn’t, cut them off permanently. 

  • Isaiah 46:3-4 Listen to Me, house of Jacob, all the remnant of the house of Israel, who have been sustained from the womb, carried along since birth. I will be the same until your old age, and I will bear you up when you turn gray. I have made you, and I will carry you; I will bear and save you.
  • Romans 11:1 I ask then, has God rejected His people? Absolutely not! For I too am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin.

Applications

  • Evaluate your Christian walk. Is it possible that you are “wearying” God with your words and actions? If so, repent and live in a way that will be pleasing to God.
  • What would be the outcome for you if the “Day of the Lord” came today? Are you secure in your relationship with God, or will you not be able to endure His coming? Each of us is one breath away from eternity. When you leave this earth, will your next breath be in the coolness and peace of heaven or the agony and flames of hell?
  • If you are walking in righteousness, embrace the refining that God is putting you through. He is preparing you for future and greater works.
  • Evaluate your ethical triangle and see if you need to improve in any of the three areas. None of us are perfect; it is very likely that at least one area will be identified as needing improvement.

Malachi Lesson Four

Malachi Lesson Four – Judah’s Unfaithfulness

10 Don’t all of us have one Father? Didn’t one God create us? Why then do we act treacherously against one another, profaning the covenant of our fathers? 11 Judah has acted treacherously, and a detestable thing has been done in Israel and in Jerusalem. For Judah has profaned  the Lord’s sanctuary, which He loves, and has married the daughter of a foreign god. 12 To the man who does this, may the Lord cut off  any descendants from the tents of Jacob, even if they present an offering to the Lord of Hosts. 

13 And this is another thing you do: you cover the Lord’s altar with tears, with weeping and groaning, because He no longer respects your offerings or receives them gladly from your hands. 

14 Yet you ask, “For what reason?” Because the Lord has been a witness between you and the wife of your youth. You have acted treacherously against her, though she was your marriage partner and your wife by covenant. 15 Didn’t the one God make us with a remnant of His life-breath? And what does the One seek? A godly offspring. So watch yourselves carefully, and do not act treacherously against the wife of your youth. 

16 “If he hates and divorces his wife,” says the Lord God of Israel, “he covers his garment with injustice,” says the Lord of Hosts. Therefore, watch yourselves carefully, and do not act treacherously. (HCSB)

This passage begins with a rhetorical question about Judah’s lineage. In contrast to the beginning of Malachi, which addresses a physical bloodline lineage (Jacob), here the focus is on the spiritual lineage of Judah.

Verse 10

The first two questions in verse ten lead into the passage’s focus; why do we act wrongly against each other, trampling on the covenant of their ancestors?

The terms “Father” and “creator” both refer to God in a complementary manner. In addition, the terms “us” and “we” refer to all of mankind, while the “one another” is referencing those who are in a covenant relationship with Yahweh, the people of Israel. Therefore, let’s look at the idea of God’s fatherhood from both an Old and New Testament perspective.

  • Old Testament – A unique and exclusive relationship Yahweh established with Israel by His grace in choosing them through Abraham, redeeming them from Egypt, and forming the covenant with them at Mt. Sinai.
  • New Testament – Those in Christ are sons of God. However, one significant difference is that Christians are God’s child by adoption. In contrast, Israel is God’s son because He brought them into existence as a nation. 

In this passage, the context is the proper treatment of fellow Jews as spiritual siblings. The phrase “one another” literally means “a man with his brother.” Correctly understanding the original meaning adds weight to the statement as the Bible repeatedly views the ill-treatment of a brother as a serious offense. Judah pleaded for Joseph’s life in Genesis 37:27b “For he is our brother, our own flesh.” If Israel grasped the idea that God brought them as a group into a covenant relationship with Him, they should have understood that faithfulness was not only required to Yahweh but to each other, too.

The last part of verse ten refers not only to breaking a marriage covenant, referred to in verse fourteen, but also the covenant with Yahweh, the “covenant of our fathers.” Since the charge is against the entire nation of Israel and not just the priests, it points to the Mosaic covenant, which applied to Israel as a nation. 

Verse 11

The term “detestable” actually softens the meaning of the original Hebrew, which is better understood as an “abomination.” The root for abomination is “hate” or “abhor,” often referred to as actions resulting in the most serious form of defilement, which would require destruction or death as a penalty. It was applied to various immoralities such as homosexuality, prostitution, child sacrifice, witchcraft, dishonesty, violence, and perversion of justice. It was also used to describe reprehensible religious behavior such as idolatry. 

Ezekiel rebuked the priests for committing an abomination, “When you brought in foreigners, uncircumcised in both heart and flesh, to occupy My sanctuary, you defiled My temple.” (Ezekiel 44:7a). It was also recorded in 2 Chronicles 36:14, “All the leaders of the priests and people multiplied their unfaithful deeds, imitating  all the detestable practices of the nations, and they defiled the LORD’s temple that He had consecrated in Jerusalem.

Malachi’s charges were very serious. The same abominations that condemned the Canaanites to extinction recorded in Ezra 9:1-14 and resulted in death, destruction, and exile on a treasonous and apostate Israel were now being practiced by the covenant community that had been brought back from exile.

The Israelite men were marrying women who worshipped pagan gods, which resulted in the introduction of destructive forces to the covenant family of Israel. Marriage outside the covenant community, specifically the Canaanites, was forbidden by Moses because of the danger of turning the people away from God. 

  • Deuteronomy 7:3-4 Do not intermarry with them. Do not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons, because they will turn your sons away from Me to worship other gods. Then the LORD’s anger will burn against you, and He will swiftly destroy you.
  • Exodus 34:16 Then you will take some of their daughters as brides for your sons. Their daughters will prostitute themselves with their gods and cause your sons to prostitute themselves with their gods.

Israel’s pre-exilic history in the Bible records numerous examples of the spiritual dangers associated with entering into relationships with pagans. However, it is clear to see that post-exilic Israel struggled with the same issue, as recorded in Ezra 9 and Nehemiah 13:23-30. Malachi also records the continued struggles with disobedience, even among the priests.

Verse 12

This is a difficult verse, especially when looking at the original Hebrew text. However, it is linked back to the previous verses and the term “cut off” denotes a radical removal or eradication. The same term was used in the following passages.

  • Genesis 9:11a I confirm My covenant with you that never again will every creature be wiped out (cut off) by the waters of a flood.
  • Joshua 11:21a At that time Joshua proceeded to exterminate (cut off) the Anakim from the hill country.

Being “cut off” should be viewed as a divine sentence of condemnation, with the eventual result of one’s name being cut off from the family of Israel.

Verses 13-16 deal with violations of the marriage covenant and an implied breach of Israel’s covenant with Yahweh.

Verse 13

The context of this verse is that the people failed to understand why Yahweh didn’t accept their offerings or respond to their weeping and groaning. The people were pouring out their hearts from a position of selfishness and a hardened heart, but their pleas were useless as long as their actions didn’t line up with God’s instructions. 

Verse 14

Here we find the answer as to why the weeping, groaning, and offerings referenced in the previous verse were not being accepted. The men in question had betrayed and broken the covenant relationship with their wives. However, it’s even more heinous than just breaking the marriage covenant. They had divorced their Jewish wives and married pagan wives. There are three main points to consider in this verse and the charge against the men.

  • The men had acted treacherously against their wives. 
  • The treachery is that the men had broken the marriage covenant that their wives had entered into with them.
  • The men were casting aside their marriage partners, the ones they had made a vow to love and protect within the marriage covenant.

Israel’s behavior was an insult to Yahweh before who they had sworn their covenants. Their breaking of the marriage covenant oaths and their mistreatment of their wives was another way Israel was slandering Yahweh, just like the insulting sacrifices described in 1:6-14.

Verse 15

This verse contains two main parts – the first deals with children, and the second deals with the marriage covenant.

Even though the men had divorced their wives, there still existed a remnant of the spiritual bond found in the marriage covenant. Moreover, the “oneness” of the marriage covenant has as its purpose of producing godly children with the assistance of God. Thus, it is now appropriate to review biblical marriage, which often is in at least contrast if not outright conflict with our modern view of marriage.

  • To Israelite families, the concept that having children was an option would have been offensive or ridiculous. 
    • Modern families often view their personal happiness or fulfilling life goals as the primary reason to get married. Children are an option.
    • This position is in direct conflict with the Bible, which instructed mankind to be fruitful and multiply. Genesis 1:28a God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it.
    • Not having children would be ignoring God’s command to be “fruitful.”  
  • God’s intended purpose for a man and woman to enter into a marriage covenant was fruitfulness. As a side note, this is also a condemnation against same-sex marriage. Same-sex marriage is not able to fulfill the biblical mandate by being fruitful and having children.

The last part of the verse once again deals with the marriage covenant and the unfaithfulness that the men showed. We (husbands) must always be on guard that we don’t act treacherously against our wives. In the context of the passage, the treachery was divorce. However, treachery, in our modern world, can take on many other practices. Here are a few of them.

  • Adultery
  • Pornography
  • Mistreatment
  • Abuse
  • Neglect

The list could be much longer, but the idea is that any action on the husband’s part that in some way negatively impacts the marriage covenant could be viewed as “treachery.”

Verse 16

There has been some disagreement about the “scope” of divorce in this verse. Many translations portray it as a general condemnation against divorce. However, that viewpoint would be in conflict with several passages in the Law that permitted or referred to divorce.

  • Deuteronomy 24:1-4
  • Leviticus 22:13
  • Numbers 30:9
  • Deuteronomy 22:13-19
  • Deuteronomy 22:28-29
  • Matthew 19:9
  • Even God had “divorced” the northern kingdom of Israel for her unfaithfulness and spiritual adultery – Jeremiah 3:8.

It appears from the context of the passage that the issue of divorce in this passage is the treacherous actions of the husbands, which violated the marriage covenant. The men had engaged in unjustifiable divorce for their own personal reasons or convenience. Any man who divorces his wife simply on the grounds that he no longer likes her is committing violence against her. These men had divorced their wives out of hate or greedy desires. They had forgotten the responsibilities that, as husbands, they were to pursue on behalf of their wives.

  • Blessings
  • Goodness
  • Praise
  • Peace
  • Justice

The husbands were robbing their wives of these and other things.

Applications

  • If we bring our requests before God in prayer and none are getting answered, even after significant periods of time, we need to examine the situation. It could be that our prayers are not aligned with God’s will. Or it could be, as in this passage, that we are living in disobedience or have committed some grave offense against God and/or others. If it is the latter case, we need to repent both to God and the individual(s) we have sinned against. They may or may not accept our apology, but we still need to do it. Some situations/relationships may never be restored. However, as the offender, we still need to make an attempt.
  • Entering into a covenant should not be taken lightly. In this passage, we see the seriousness of a covenant and the consequences of breaking a covenant. We sin not only against the person(s) in the covenant, but we also dishonor God by our actions.
  • There is a warning here about entering into a marriage covenant with an unbeliever. At the same time, that is not a biblical reason for divorcing a spouse. 
  • Although God hates divorce and it is never the first choice in a broken relationship, there are allowances for it in Scripture. If you were the offender, refer back to the first application. If you were the victim, know that God can heal all of our hurts, even though it may not feel that way as you are going through the situation or shortly thereafter. Just because a person has been the victim in a divorce doesn’t mean they should be made to feel dirty or shameful; they are not a lesser Christian for what happened. As fellow brothers or sisters in Christ, we should never judge or look down upon them, and neither should the church. As Jesus said in John 8:11b, “‘Neither do I condemn you,’ said Jesus. ‘Go, and from now on do not sin anymore.’”

Malachi Lesson Three

Malachi Lesson Three 2:1-9 – Yahweh Warns the Priests

“Therefore, this decree  is for you priests: If you don’t listen, and if you don’t take it to heart  to honor My name,” says Yahweh of Hosts, “I will send a curse among you, and I will curse your blessings.  In fact, I have already begun to curse them because you are not taking it to heart. 

“Look, I am going to rebuke your descendants,  and I will spread animal waste  over your faces, the waste from your festival sacrifices,  and you will be taken away with it. Then you will know that I sent you this decree so My covenant with Levi  may continue,” says the Lord of Hosts. “My covenant with him was one of life and peace,  and I gave these to him; it called for reverence, and he revered Me and stood in awe of My name.  True instruction was in his mouth, and nothing wrong was found on his lips. He walked with Me  in peace and fairness and turned many from sin.  For the lips of a priest should guard knowledge, and people should seek instruction from his mouth, because he is the messenger of the Lord of Hosts. 

“You, on the other hand, have turned from the way.  You have caused many to stumble  by your instruction. You have violated  the covenant of Levi,” says the Lord of Hosts. “So I in turn have made you despised  and humiliated before all the people because you are not keeping My ways but are showing partiality in your instruction.” (HCSB)

In this passage, we see Yahweh giving a warning to the disobedient priests, telling them what will happen if they continue and reminding them of how He rewards faithful service. Their behavior wasn’t only disobedience to God; they also led the people away from true worship by their negligent behavior.

Verse 1

The beginning of chapter two links back to chapter one with the word “therefore.” God is warning the priests that if they continue with the disobedience described in chapter one, they will face the punishment described in this passage. 

Verse 2

Verse 1 gives a conditional choice to the priests. Nevertheless, God was still willing to grant mercy and forgiveness if they repented and began to act as priests. 

However, this will require a heart change on the part of the priests. The phrase “take it to heart” has a deeper meaning in the original Hebrew. It denotes the “command center” of a person’s life. A place where knowledge is collected and considered. A place where decisions and plans are made that determine the direction of a person’s life. It is not an emotional response. The phrase occurs a dozen times in the Old Testament, and in each case, it refers to determining a course of action in response to knowledge. If the priests responded to God’s call for repentance and giving Him the honor He deserved, they would be restored. Up until this point, they had demonstrated a superficial faith. God was calling on them to display genuine faith.

The term “curse” doesn’t have a hidden meaning; it is literally a curse. Deuteronomy 28:15-68 warns of the covenant curses that would befall Israel if they disobeyed God. The curses are identified in three stages in this verse.

  • Sending a curse.
  • Turning blessings into a curse.
  • The curses had already started.

Verse 3

Not only will the priests be cursed if they don’t correct their behavior, but their descendants will also be cursed. The word “look,” some translations have “see” or “behold,” adds urgency to the coming curse. The original Hebrew phrase indicates an event that will occur in the imminent future. Thus, we see in the Bible where descendants share in the blessings.

  • Numbers 25:13 – It will be a covenant of perpetual priesthood for him and his future descendants, because he was zealous for his God and made atonement for the Israelites.

Then an illustration is given on how God will humiliate and remove the unrepentant priests from their position. The picture of animal excrement being spread on the priest’s face and then being thrown in the same trash heap like the rest of the excrement shouldn’t be taken literally. However, it does mean that the priests would be removed from their position in such a way that would bring the greatest amount of disgrace on them. This strong imagery indicates the degree to which God was repulsed by the priest’s behavior. Just as they had treated God with contempt (verse 1:6) and defiled His altar with corrupt and useless sacrifices (verse 1:7), God would treat them with contempt and defile them, making them worthless for future service. The priests felt it was a burden to faithfully serve God (verse 1:13), so now they and their descendants would be free from the burden of service.

Verse 4

Yahweh desires to honor His covenant with Levi, that his descendants will continue to serve the role as priests for Israel. An important point to remember regarding covenants made with groups. Although the group will be blessed by God, it does not ensure that each individual in the group will receive the blessing. It still requires adherence to the requirements of the covenant, and failing to do that, as the priests here were failing, leads to being removed from the covenant relationship.

  • Matthew 8:11-12 – I tell you that many will come from the east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
  • Luke 13:28 – There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth in that place, when you see Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but yourselves thrown out.
  • Romans 9:6-8 – But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. Neither are they all children because they are Abraham’s descendants. On the contrary, your offspring will be traced through Isaac. That is, it is not the children by physical descent who are God’s children, but the children of the promise are considered to be the offspring.

In the same way, today, we are not Christians because our parents were Christians. Those who believe and place their trust in Jesus are Christians, regardless of their ethnicity, race, socio-economic status, or any other demographic delineation. 

Malachi considered the “covenant of peace” to apply not just to Phinehas (son of Eleazar) and his descendants or the descendants of Aaron but to the entire tribe of Levi. This understanding is likely based upon Deuteronomy 10:8 – At that time the LORD set apart the tribe of Levi to carry the ark of the LORD’s covenant, to stand before Yahweh to serve Him, and to pronounce blessings in His name, as it is today.

Verses 5-7 – This section describes how the priests were expected to conduct themselves.

Verse 5

Yahweh had blessed the priestly tribe of Levi with a full and happy life filled with shalom. Shalom should be understood to mean peace and wholeness. The twin concepts of life and peace are present in:

  • 1 Samuel 15:6 – Then say this: “Long life to you, and peace to you, to your family, and to all that is yours.”
  • Proverbs 3:2 – For they will bring you many days, a full life, and well-being.
  • Numbers 25:12 – Therefore declare: I grant him My covenant of peace.
  • Joshua 9:15 – So Joshua established peace with them and made a treaty to let them live, and the leaders of the community swore an oath to them.

God’s covenant of peace with the tribe of Levi would be an assurance of a lasting relationship and a promise to secure and protect their welfare by His grace, wisdom, and power. In return, Yahweh expected and received reverence (fear), demonstrating that the early priests, in contrast to those being addressed here, wisely feared only God. 

Verse 6

Fear of the Lord shouldn’t motivate only the priests’ moral obedience but also their responsibility to teach and uphold the commands contained within Scripture. Thus, not only were the priests responsible for conducting the sacrifices (correctly) on behalf of the people, they were also teachers of the Law.

  • Leviticus 10:11 – and teach the Israelites all the statutes that the LORD has given to them through Moses.
  • Deuteronomy 33:10a – They will teach Your ordinances to Jacob and your instructions to Israel.
  • 2 Chronicles 15:3 – For many years Israel had been without the true God, without a teaching priest, and without instruction.
  • Ezekiel 7:26 – Disaster after disaster will come, and there will be rumor after rumor. Then they will seek a vision from a prophet, but instruction will perish from the priests and counsel from the elders.
  • Hosea 4:6 – My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I will reject you from serving as My priest. Since you have forgotten the law of your God, I will also forget your sons.

Authentic instruction should be understood to mean “instruction of truth.” The priests were responsible for teaching truth to Israel, and this was done through teaching and obeying the Law. This instruction would teach Israel how they were to live in God’s covenant community and how to avoid defiling the tabernacle. In addition, obedience to the Law would determine Israel’s faithfulness to the covenant Yahweh had established with them. Because of this, the health of this covenant relationship was highly dependent on the priests faithfully performing their responsibilities. However, it is not defined just by how faithfully the priests taught the people; it also included the faithfulness of their lives. 

  • 1 Thessalonians 2:10 – You are witnesses, and so is God, of how devoutly, righteously, and blamelessly we conducted ourselves with you believers.

Verse 7

Since verse 6 focused on the responsibility of the priest’s teaching, this verse explains that the priests are messengers of Yahweh. In contrast to angels or prophets who would convey new instructions from God, the priests were messengers in the context of teaching the people what was already revealed in the Law and how it applied to their lives. A key point here, and still applicable today, is the relevance of God’s instructions to us through Scripture and the role of the priests (pastors/elders today) of faithfully and correctly teaching what is contained in Scripture and how that applies to us. That is what is meant by the term “guard knowledge” in this verse. Those today who preach/teach a false or altered understanding of Scripture are the same as the priests being condemned in Malachi. They may get away with it for a period of time, but they will be judged. 

  • James 3:1 – Not many should become teachers, my brothers, knowing that we will receive a stricter judgment.

Verse 8

Here Malachi returns to address the sinning priests, accusing them in three different areas.

  • They had turned from the way. Their failure started with themselves; they were solely responsible for their actions.
    • Judges 2:17 – But they did not listen to their judges. Instead, they prostituted themselves with other gods, bowing down to them. They quickly turned from the way of their fathers, who had walked in obedience to the LORD’s commands. They did not do as their fathers did.
    • Exodus 32:8 – They have quickly turned from the way that I commanded them; they have made for themselves an image of a calf. They have bowed down to it, sacrificed to it, and said, “Israel, this is your God, who brought you up from the land of Egypt.”
    • Deuteronomy 9:12 – The LORD said to me, “Get up and go down immediately from here. For your people whom you brought out of Egypt have acted corruptly. They have quickly turned from the way that I commanded them; they have made a cast image for themselves.”
  • Instead of turning from sin, they had caused others to fall into sin. The word “stumble” is often used in Scripture to identify sin and its consequences.
    • Isaiah 3:8 – For Jerusalem has stumbled and Judah has fallen because they have spoken and acted against the LORD, defying His glorious presence.
    • Isaiah 8:14-15 – He will be a sanctuary, but for the two houses of Israel, He will be a stone to stumble over and a rock to trip over, and a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. Many will stumble over these; they will fall and be broken; they will be snared and captured.
    • Hosea 14:1 – Israel, return to Yahweh your God, for you have stumbled in your sin.
    • Proverbs 4:19 – But the way of the wicked is like the darkest gloom; they don’t know what makes them stumble.
    • Leviticus 26:37 – They will stumble over one another as if fleeing from a sword though no one is pursuing them. You will not be able to stand against your enemies.
    • Luke 17:1-2 – He said to His disciples, “Offenses will certainly come, but woe to the one they come through! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea than for him to cause one of these little ones to stumble.
  • The third and most prominent charge was that the priests had violated the covenant with Levi. As we consider the seriousness of this, we need to remember that a covenant was a relationship between two parties and made effective by an oath of obligation. If one side failed to live up to the agreement, the covenant was considered to have been broken (violated). The offended party could forgive the offender and restore or renew the covenant. This is the situation here. The covenant was broken but not destroyed. Yahweh is showing mercy by allowing the priests to repent and return if they will follow the Law.

Verse 9

Divine judgment had already begun, but it was not irreversible. The original Hebrew word for “despised” used here is the same one that describes the priest’s despising Yahweh in 1:6. Yahweh doesn’t tolerate pride and will overturn those who are prideful and lack humility.

  • 1 Samual 2:1-10.
  • Isaiah 2:11-17.
  • Isaiah 57:15.
  • Ezekiel 17:24

The reason for their humiliation is that they failed to be loyal and obedient servants to Yahweh. This is a timeless message and warning for today’s church and church leaders. Whenever those who teach God’s Word sacrifice the truth of the message, change it, alter it for their benefit, try to “soften” the message, so they don’t offend anyone, or try to be politically correct, they have betrayed the position that they are filling and the flock entrusted to their care. At the least, this could involve the loss of respect from the flock entrusted to their care. At the worst, it could be the type of punishment Jesus mentioned in Luke 17:1-2, where the offender is thrown into a sea attached to a millstone.

In reviewing this passage, there are four characteristics of a pastor/elder/shepherd leader.

  • The first is a proper relationship to God, which is referred to in Malachi as reverence. True knowledge begins with a reverential awe of God. Spiritual leaders need to cultivate reverence more than anything else.
  • A faithful shepherd will stand true even when confronted by false teachers and heretics. When shepherd leaders faithfully preach God’s Word, we speak absolute truth that applies to any point in history. Teaching God’s Word is a heavy responsibility.
  • They are marked with a godlike character and holiness. The key requirement here is godliness. Church leaders should pray for godliness and ask their congregation to pray for godliness in their leader and faithful teaching from Scripture
  • Knowledge of God, which is salvation through Jesus and living a life of obedience to God and His Word. When church leaders do this, the sheep are fed, and they look to the leader for instruction.

Applications – Although this passage was directed towards the Levitical priests, there are application points for all of us in the passage.

  • If we are in a church leadership position, are we faithful and obedient to what God’s Word requires of us? We need to make an honest assessment of this question, and if we aren’t following God’s Word, we need to repent and get back on the right path. God will extend mercy and grace if we are genuinely repentant about our disobedience.
  • If we teach and preach, do we hold true to what Scripture says, or do we put our own spin on it or twist Scripture to advance our personal agenda? This is a dangerous practice and will ultimately result in judgment against us. Just as in application point one above, we need to repent and be faithful as we teach God’s Word.
  • If we have been involved in false teaching and we have caused others to stumble, we need to repent of that and go to that person(s) or congregation and correct the mistake, as well as ask for forgiveness. Doing just the first part is not enough.
  • Teaching God’s Word is a great responsibility. We can’t do it on our own or through our “head knowledge.” We need guidance from the Holy Spirit. At the same time, it is a wonderful experience to preach God’s Word and see lives changed and souls added to the spiritual family of God.

Malachi Lesson Two

Malachi Lesson Two 1:6-14 – Disobedience of the Priests

“A son honors his father, and a servant his master. But if I am a father, where is My honor? And if I am a master, where is your fear of Me?  says Yahweh of Hosts to you priests, who despise My name.” Yet you ask: “How have we despised Your name?” “By presenting defiled food on My altar.” You ask: “How have we defiled You?” When you say: “The Lord’s table is contemptible.” “When you present a blind animal for sacrifice, is it not wrong? And when you present a lame or sick animal, is it not wrong?  Bring it to your governor! Would he be pleased with you or show you favor?” asks the Lord of Hosts. “And now ask for God’s favor. Will He be gracious to us?  Since this has come from your hands, will He show any of you favor?”  asks the Lord of Hosts. 10 “I wish one of you would shut the temple doors,  so you would no longer kindle a useless fire on My altar!  I am not pleased with you,” says the Lord of Hosts, “and I will accept  no offering from your hands. 

11 “For My name will be great among the nations,  from the rising of the sun to its setting. Incense  and pure offerings will be presented in My name in every place because My name will be great among the nations,”  says Yahweh of Hosts. 

12 But you are profaning it  when you say: “The Lord’s table is defiled, and its product, its food, is contemptible.” 13 You also say: “Look, what a nuisance!” “And you scorn  it,”  e says the Lord of Hosts. “You bring stolen,  g lame, or sick animals. You bring this as an offering! Am I to accept that from your hands?” asks the Lord. 

14 “The deceiver is cursed who has an acceptable male in his flock and makes a vow but sacrifices a defective animal to the Lord.  For I am a great King,” says Yahweh of Hosts, “and My name  will be feared among the nations. 

In this passage, Yahweh is addressing the priests and their disobedient and disrespectful behavior towards Him. The address will continue into the next lesson, which begins with chapter two. The reason Yahweh doesn’t specifically address the priests until the beginning of chapter two is that this paragraph applies not only to the priests but to all of Israel and the book as a whole. This passage and the first part of chapter two form a contrast between Yahweh’s love and Israel’s failure to honor Him in response. Displaying love towards God is exhibited by obedience from the heart. In this passage, the first explicit revelation of the problem the prophet was addressing; the failure of Judah, lead by the priests, honor and fear Yahweh.

  • Nehemiah 9:16-17 – But our ancestors acted arrogantly; they became stiff-necked and did not listen to Your commands. They refused to listen and did not remember Your wonders You performed among them. They became stiff-necked and appointed a leader to return to their slavery in Egypt. But You are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in faithful love, and You did not abandon them.
  • Nehemiah 9:26, 29 – But they were disobedient and rebelled against You. They flung Your law behind their backs and killed Your prophets who warned them in order to turn them back to You. They committed terrible blasphemies…You warned them to turn back to Your law, but they acted arrogantly and would not obey Your commands. They sinned against Your ordinances, which a person will live by if he does them. They stubbornly resisted, stiffened their necks, and would not obey. 

A second theme appears in verses 11-14, pagan nations who have been hostile to Yahweh will someday submit and give Him the honor and fear that He deserves and desires.

As we go through this passage, there are four personal failures of the priests identified.

  • They were offering defiled sacrifices on God’s altar. 
  • They were harming the people by accepting defiled sacrifices.
  • They showed contempt for the office of the priest.
  • They were defying God.

Verse 6

The prophet’s point here is that even if Judah was blind to God’s love, they should have viewed God as their father and Lord and given the honor expected of that relationship.

  • Exodus 20:12 – Honor your father and your mother so that you may have a long life in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.
  • Deuteronomy 5:16 – Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God has commanded you, so that you may live long and so that you may prosper in the land the LORD your God is giving you.
  • Isaiah 66:19 – I will establish a sign among them, and I will send survivors from them to the nations – to Tarshish, Put, Lud (who are archers), Tubal, Javan, and the islands far away – who have not heard of My fame or seen My glory. And they will proclaim My glory among the nations.

Let’s also address the concept of “fear” towards God to ensure that we correctly understand what a “fearful attitude” towards God means. No single English word conveys every aspect of the word “fear” in this phrase. The meaning includes worshipful submission, reverential awe, and obedient respect to the covenant-keeping God of Israel. Proper fear of Yahweh can also be understood as “wisdom.” This would result in covenant loyalty and restraint from sin. 

  • Psalm 111:10 – The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow His instructions have good insight. His praise endures forever.
  • Proverbs 1:7 – The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and discipline.

However, the priests were displaying an attitude that lacked honor, fear, and love. Instead, they “despised” God as insignificant or worthless, not taking God seriously.

Verse 7

By presenting a defiled sacrifice, the altar was also defiled. The priests showed how they “despised” God by offering sacrifices that defiled the sanctuary’s holiness that was their responsibility to maintain, as presented in Numbers 18:1-7. The table was also symbolic of hospitality and the relationship between those who shared the table. By having a lax and irreverent attitude towards the table, the priests exhibited their contempt towards God.

Verse 8

The priests were responsible for determining whether a sacrifice meet the requirements as stated in the Law. 

  • Leviticus 22:19-20 – Must offer an unblemished male from the cattle, sheep, or goats in order for you to be accepted. You are not to present anything that has a defect, because it will not be accepted.
  • Deuteronomy 15:21 – 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.

The worship that the priests were allowing was false worship filled with lies and unrighteousness, profaning God’s name. If such gifts/sacrifices wouldn’t be acceptable to earthly kings/rulers, why would we think they’ll be acceptable to an infinitely holy God?

Verse 9

Why should we expect God to be gracious to us or answer our prayers when we act in such a disrespectful and irreverent manner towards God? We are kidding ourselves if we think we will find favor with God by acting in this way.

Verse 10

Here we find the first directive in the book, “shut the temple doors.” However, this is not what God really wants. Instead, what He desires is contained in this passage; fear and honor displayed by proper sacrifices coming from pure hearts. It is amazing but not surprising that after the punishment of the exile and their restoration to Israel, they quickly fell back into practices of empty worship. 

  • Proverbs 15:8 – The sacrifice of the wicked is detestable to the LORD, but the prayer of the upright is His delight.
  • Isaiah 1:13 – Stop bringing useless offerings. Your incense is detestable to Me. New Moon and Sabbaths, and the calling of solemn assemblies – I cannot stand iniquity with a festival.

God doesn’t need our offerings or service. Instead, they serve as a way for us to testify to His greatness and magnify His name. God is pleased when He receives sincere praise and worship. In addition, worship benefits us by nourishing our relationship with God and enabling us to interact and encourage each other in our faith. However, being “religious” without genuine love and gratitude towards God is both useless and repulsive to Him as it degrades His character.

Verse 11

Here the prophet is contrasting how the priests of God’s temple were treating Him, with contempt, with how the pagan nations would one day treat Him. This points to a future time when God’s name will be great among the nations (pagans), and they will offer pleasing sacrifices to Him. Thus, the prophecy contained in this book can be understood as being fulfilled in the present age (New Covenant/New Testament church).

  • Hebrews 13:15-16 – Therefore, through Him let us continually offer up to God a sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of our lips that confess His name. Don’t neglect to do what is good and to share, for God is pleased with such sacrifices.
  • 1 Peter 2:4-5 – Coming to Him, a living stone – rejected by men but chosen and valuable to God – you yourselves, as living stones, are being built into a spiritual house for a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

It also includes complete fulfillment when Jesus returns.

Verse 12

To accuse someone of profaning the name of God is a very strong and serious charge. To profane something is to desanctify it, to treat it as unholy, insignificant, or worthless. A person’s name is what makes them unique, different from everyone else. To profane Yahweh’s name is the ultimate humiliation. Profane could also project the idea of bringing dishonor or disgrace to someone by associating their name with something shameful.

  • Ezekiel 36:20-23 – When they came to the nations where they went, they profaned My holy name, because it was said about them, “These are the people of Yahweh, yet they had to leave His land in exile.” Then I had concern for My holy name, which the house of Israel profaned among the nations where they went. “Therefore, say to the house of Israel: This is what the Lord GOD says: It is not for your sake that I will act, house of Israel, but for My holy name, which you profaned among the nations where you went. I will honor the holiness of My great name, which has been profaned among the nations – the name you profaned among them. The nations will know that I am Yahweh,” – the declaration of the Lord GOD – “when I demonstrate My holiness through you in their sight.”

God’s name is holy because He is holy, perfect in every way.

Verse 13

Here we have further evidence of the disrespect the priests were showing to God. The priests considered their duty to be “a nuisance.” The original Hebrew words could be translated as a “hardship” or a “burden.” Some translations use the phrase “you sniff at it in contempt.” The contempt mentioned here could apply to either the sacrifices on the altar or the name of God. Either one fits, and either one is a serious charge. The “worship” that priests were engaged in was an insincere religious activity that heaped insult upon God. 

  • Hosea 6:6 – For I desire loyalty and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.
  • Micah 6:6-8 – What should I bring before the LORD when I come to bow before God on high? Should I come before Him with burnt offerings, with year-old calves? Would the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams or with ten thousand streams of oil? Should I give my firstborn for my transgression, the child of my body for my own sin? Mankind, He has told you what is good and what it is the LORD requires of you: to act justly, to love faithfulness, and to walk humbly with your God.

The failure of Israel to respond to the trials of their lives with wisdom and faith led to them losing their delight in God. Each of us must be careful that we don’t head down the same path and develop a cold heart towards God. A quote from Mallone is appropriate here, “A man must respond to the One who has given him everything. Not to do so is the highest form of ingratitude and self-sufficiency.” It is not an understatement to state that losing our gratitude towards God and delight in worshipping Him are warning signs of spiritual decay that could result in a shipwrecked life.

Verse 14 – split into two parts.

Verse 14a. 

The accusation is now directed against those bringing the sacrifice and not the priests. Although the priests were the final decision point on whether the offering was acceptable or not (something they utterly failed at), the people should also have known that such an offering was unacceptable. 

Those that brought the unacceptable sacrifices were “cursed” in God’s eyes. In the context of this passage and book, it means separation from God. It also means being expelled from a community relationship and from the security that was found in such a community. Being cursed by God meant to be “delivered over to misfortune.”

Verse 14b

The priests and people of Judah showed more honor to their earthly leaders than they showed to God (verse 8). The focus of the second part of verse 14 points to future events. It points to the time of the Messiah. God will be feared (revered) in the future when all tribes and nations will be welcomed into the spiritual family of God.

As we reflect on this passage, we need to remember through our faith in Jesus, we have a “priestly identity,” and we are to bring spiritual sacrifices to Him.

  • 1 Peter 2:5 – You yourselves, as living stones, are being built into a spiritual house for a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
  • What are these “spiritual sacrifices?”
    • Our bodies. Romans 12:1 Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship.
    • Our offerings. Philippians 4:14-18 Still, you did well by sharing with me in my hardship. And you Philippians know that in the early days of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving except you alone. For even in Thessalonica you sent gifts for my need several times. Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the profit that is increasing to your account. But I have received everything in full, and I have an abundance. I am fully supplied, having received from Epaphroditus what you provided—a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God.
    • Our praise. Hebrews 13:15 Therefore, through Him let us continually offer up to God a sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of our lips that confess His name. 
    • Our good works. Hebrews 13:16 Don’t neglect to do what is good and to share, for God is pleased with such sacrifices.
    • Our evangelism. Romans 15:16 to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles, serving as a priest of God’s good news. My purpose is that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.

Are we bringing God our best, or only what is convenient for us?

Applications

  • Do we honor and obey God in the way Scripture calls us to as our heavenly Father?
  • Do we bring our best in our spiritual sacrifices? Do we sacrifice in the ways presented above? Or do we think that second best, or worse, is good enough and keep the best for ourselves?
  • Are we careful to make sure that the church we attend doesn’t preach a watered-down message, compromise Scripture, or ignore those who disobey Scripture? We need to pay attention to what our church teaches and, if the message doesn’t line up with Scripture, find a church that is faithful to God’s Word.  

Malachi Lesson One

Malachi 1:1-5 – God’s Covenant Love

Malachi Lesson One 1:1-5 – God’s Covenant Love

An oracle:  The word of the Lord  to Israel through  Malachi. “I have loved you,” says the Lord. But you ask: “How have You loved us?” “Wasn’t Esau Jacob’s brother?” This is the Lord’s declaration. “Even so, I loved Jacob, but I hated Esau. I turned his mountains into a wasteland, and gave his inheritance to the desert jackals.” Though Edom says: “We have been devastated, but we will rebuild  the ruins,” the Lord of Hosts says this: “They may build, but I will demolish. They will be called a wicked country and the people the Lord has cursed  forever. Your own eyes will see this, and you yourselves will say, ‘The Lord is great, even beyond  the borders of Israel.’ (HCSB)

Author: There is widespread disagreement on who the author is. The word “malachi” in Hebrew means “my messenger.” In the Septuagint, the name is translated as angelou autou, or “his angel/messenger.” If “Malachi” is used to designate a function and not a person, then the book is anonymous, an easy position to support as there is no information given about the writer. On the other hand, some scholars believe the writer may have been a priest or Temple prophet and witnessed the corruption of the priesthood from a first-person vantage point.

There is an early Jewish tradition recorded in the Talmud that the book was written by Ezra, and there are many similarities in the content of the two books. In addition, one Aramaic Targum manuscript adds after “Malachi” the words “whose name is Ezra the Scribe.” In contrast, Jewish tradition has personalized the name and considers it a proper name just like the other prophetic works. However, we shouldn’t let that distract us from the message of the book, where forty-seven out of fifty-five verses are personal addresses of the Lord.

Date: The book contains no specific facts that allow accurate dating; the contents of the book and its position in the canon argues for a date during the Persian empire but after the rebuilding of the temple in 515 B.C. The majority of scholars prefer a date prior to the writings of Ezra and Nehemiah.

Form: The book is in the form of speeches by Yahweh to His people through the prophet. 

Message: The book is an indictment against the religious leaders of the period and chastises God’s people for their spiritual apathy and their cynicism about God’s plan for their future. It calls for the people to correct their wrong attitude concerning worship by trusting God as the living Lord. It also warns the people of their sinful behavior toward each other and calls repentance so they won’t be fearful of the coming of the Lord. The message weaves together three main ideas.

  • Situation: The failure of the priests of Judah to fear the Lord and serve the people faithfully. This ushered in, again, a period of apathy toward Yahweh by the Israelites.
  • Command: Malachi commands them to return to Yahweh by following His instructions and restoring worship that honors Him.
  • Motivation: Yahweh’s love (verse 1:2), spiritual and covenant unity with God and each other (verse 2:10), assurance of the coming of the Lord that brings final redemption and judgment, blessing those who fear God and casting out the wicked (3:1-6 and 3:16-4:3).

Verse 1

The phrase “to Israel” may seem somewhat unusual as the letter is dated around the beginning of the post-exilic period, and one could argue that “Israel” no longer existed as a nation. However, Judah’s leaders knew that God still recognized them as the remnant of His covenant people, as well as the continuation of God’s redemptive plan. Therefore, the remnant of the Israelites to whom Malachi wrote were still recipients of God’s promise to Israel and was obligated to obey the regulations of the covenant.

Verses 2-5

These verses contain the first exchange between Yahweh and Judah focused on the issue of God’s love for His people. However, Judah does not grasp the truth of the statement. In both pre and post-exilic Israel, the people had turned from God but for different reasons.

  • Pre-exilic – The abundance that Israel experienced resulted in forgetting that they depended on God for their blessings. 
    • Deuteronomy 8:12-14 – When you eat and are full, and build beautiful houses to live in, and your herds and flocks grow large, and your silver and gold multiply, and everything else you have increases, be careful that your heart doesn’t become proud and you forget the LORD your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the place of slavery.
    • Hosea 13:4-6 – I have been Yahweh your God ever since the land of Egypt; you know no God but Me, and no Savior exists besides Me. I knew you in the wilderness, in the land of drought. When they had to pasture, they became satisfied; they were satisfied, and their hearts became proud. Therefore they forgot Me.
  • Post-exilic – The people allowed their difficulties to rob them of God’s loving presence.

Verse 2

Starting in this verse and following in other places through the book, the Israelites display an “attitude” with Yahweh by repeating His statements or questions and countering with their own questions. Malachi reminds the people of God’s love for them as a rebuke against those who were questioning whether God loved Israel. It would appear that the people had a short memory regarding God’s love and faithfulness.

  • The remnant who returned from exile in Babylon must have been awestruck by God’s faithfulness to the Abrahamic covenant. 
    • Nehemiah 9:8 – You found his heart faithful in Your sight, and made a covenant with him to give the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Jebusites, and Girgashites – to give it to his descendants. You have kept Your promise, for You are righteous.
    • Nehemiah 9:17 – They refused to listen and did not remember Your wonders You performed among them. They became stiff-necked and appointed a leader to return to their slavery in Egypt. But You are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in faithful love, and You did not abandon them.
  • But the sense of being awestruck didn’t last long, and they soon returned to their pattern of sinful behavior. 
    • Like self-centered children, they started to take Yahweh’s love for granted and became blind to it.
    • They responded to discipline with an attitude of, “you don’t love us anymore.”
    • Their misunderstanding of Scripture had skewed their understanding of the experience of the exile.
      • God hates evil.
      • God hates idolatry.
      • God hates hypocritical worship.
      • God will, sooner or later, reject the wicked.
      • God loves righteousness.
      • God welcomes the upright.

Yahweh now goes on to prove His love by referencing Esau, which is expanded on in the following two verses.

Verses 3-4

The contrasting concepts of love and hate attached to Jacob and Esau need some explaining to properly understand how the original hearers of the message would view these two words. The words “love” and “hate” are not referring to emotions in the context of this message. Those emotional words would have been understood by the Israelites as actually referring to a covenant relationship. In the context of the passage, it refers to the covenant relationship that Yahweh had with Jacob (love) and the lack of a covenant relationship with Esau (hate). Jacob and his family line were chosen by Yahweh, while Esau and his family line were not, becoming a side note to the story of God’s activity in the Bible.

The contrast between the two is the fruition of what Yahweh had told Rebekah.

  • Genesis 25:23 – And the LORD said to her: Two nations are in your womb; two people will come from you and be separated. One people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger.

The same idea was used in the context of marriage.

  • Genesis 29:31 – When the LORD says that Leah was unloved, He opened her womb; but Rachel was unable to conceive.
  • Genesis 29:33 – She conceived again, gave birth to a son, and said, “The LORD heard that I am unloved and has given me this son also.”
  • Deuteronomy 21:15a – If a man has two wives, one loved and the other unloved.

As we reflect on this concept, we need to remember that Yahweh was not imparting complete abandonment on all of Esau’s line (Edomites). Therefore, it was possible for individual Edomites to enter into a covenant relationship with Yahweh.

  • Deuteronomy 23:7-8 – Do not despise an Edomite, because he is your brother. Do not despise an Egyptian, because you were a foreign resident in his land. The children born to them in the third generation may enter the LORD’s assembly.
  • Amos 9:12a – So that they may possess the remnant of Edom and all the nations that are called by My name.

We also need to remember that Ruth, a Moabite, was not prevented from entering into a covenant relationship by swearing allegiance to Yahweh, as well as Rahab.

Although God is troubled by the sinful nature of people regardless of them being in or out of the covenant relationship, His response is different.

  • Those inside the covenant relationship face discipline. Judah’s devastation by Babylon was temporary.
  • Those outside the covenant relationship face wrath. As a nation, Edom faced complete and permanent destruction.

The message here is more than an example between Jacob and Eau. The judgment that Edom received is a message that evil will face justice. The passage in Isaiah 34:5-17, although it references Edom, is actually a message against all the arrogant nations who oppose Yahweh, clearly stating that they will receive divine judgment and destruction.

  • Isaiah 63:1-6 – Who is this coming from Edom in crimson-stained garments from Bozrah – this One who is splendid in His apparel, rising up proudly in His great might? It is I, proclaiming vindication, powerful to save. Why are Your clothes red, and Your garments like one who treads a winepress? I trampled the winepress alone, and no one from the nations was with Me. I trampled them in My anger and ground them underfoot in My fury; their blood spattered My garments, and all My clothes were stained. For I planned the day of vengeance, and the year of My redemption came. I looked, but there was no one to help, and I was amazed that no one assisted; so My arm accomplished victory for Me, and My wrath assisted Me. I crushed nations in My anger; I made them drunk with My wrath and poured out their blood on the ground.
  • Ezekiel 36:5 – This is what the Lord GOD says: Certainly in My burning zeal I speak against the rest of the nations and all of Edom, who took My land as their own possession with wholehearted rejoicing and utter contempt so that its pastureland became plunder.

When Esau despised his birthright and sold it for one meal, it was the equivalent to despising Yahweh’s promises.

Hebrews 12:16-17 – And make sure that there isn’t any immoral or irreverent person like Esau, who sold his birthright in exchange for one meal. For you know later, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected because he didn’t find any opportunity for repentance, though he sought it with tears.

Covenantal, committed love serves as a model to the church today. Jesus calls on us to love one another.

  • John 13:34 – I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you must also love one another.
  • 1 John 4:7 – Dear friends, let us love one another, because love is from God, and everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.

As fellow members of the body of Christ, we don’t exist in a sentimental and fleeting type of love. On the contrary, the love that believers have for each other is based on the mutual need and benefit of all participating parties. At the same time, this type of love must be subject to discipline when necessary. This is true even if the discipline removes the offender from the relationship for a period of time, just as Israel was removed from the promised land, only to return later.

Verse 5

The point of this verse is that someday a repentant Israel will witness God’s judgment on all of His enemies, and they will praise God for His greatness and His covenant faithfulness and power. Yahweh is the God of all creation and the one to whom everyone must answer. Unlike other books of the Bible, Malachi is not one of universal acceptance of all people (which is true) but of  universal lordship over all creation.

Applications

  • Do we fear God in a way that acknowledges that He is the creator of everything?
  • Do we understand that if we are in a covenant relationship with God (faith in Jesus), we will face discipline for our sinful behavior, but we won’t face eternal destruction? In contrast, those outside a covenant relationship with God (no faith in Jesus) will face eternal destruction?
  • We are called to be in a loving covenant relationship with fellow believers in the church. Do you pursue these relationships, or are you lukewarm to fellow believers?
  • Don’t worry over the supposed lack of judgment against evil or evil people. God will judge them in His time.