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Malachi… last message before total silence
The name Malachi appropriately means, Messenger of God. which truly he was. Much like what we learned on Sunday (9/17/23 – Abiding… the roles our mind and the Spirit play) where we understood the teaching of Jesus regarding the Vine and the Branches represented the last teaching He gave His disciples before He left them in death, even so these were God’s last words God was leaving with Israel until Jesus came.
Malachi lived in Judah following the days of Ezra, Nehemiah & Zechariah for in his days the temple was already completed (Mal. 1:13; 3:1&10). He conducted his ministry under an unnamed governor rather than a king (Mal. 1:8).
Another indicator of the time, is one Guzik points out and that is the direct connection between the sins Malachi addresses and the ones Nehemiah issued prophetic warnings about.
- The priesthood was defiled (Nehemiah 13:29, Malachi 1:6-2:9)
- Marriage was corrupt in Israel (Nehemiah 13:23-25, Malachi 2:14-15)
- The tithe that should go to the Levites was kept from them (Nehemiah 13:10-11, Malachi 3:8-12)
However, this is no certain indicator of which period in history Malachi ministered because these same and specific sins plagued Israel throughout their history.
So far as we know, Malachi was the last of the prophets of Israel until John the Baptist – a time spanning around 400 years. That is why from around 400B.C. until Jesus is considered the intertestamental time of silence.
Greece would not rise to power for some time yet, and so it is likely that Malachi lived under the rule of both Artaxerxes I whom Nehemiah was under as well as his predecessor Darius II sometimes after 424B.C..
Some feel as if the reason for God’s silence was because in these last few prophets, God had revealed all He was going to reveal and said all He needed and intended to say until Messiah came.
While this is of course in part true, it is also patently true that God has ALWAYS communicated to and with His people through His prophets until times of judgment and anger. In these times God seems to fall silent for a time. Even in the Babylonian captivity, they had prophetic words going in and prophetic words after they had been in exile for a while, but there seemed to be a brief time when no revelation was forthcoming at all.
It is almost without doubt that it was in referring to this time in history that the prophet Amos who towards the end of his prophet warnings spoke of a future famine for hearing the word of the Lord. [See – Amos… for three crimes, even four].
“(1) The Lord GOD showed me this: A basket of summer fruit.
(2) He asked me, “What do you see, Amos?”
I replied, “A basket of summer fruit.”
The LORD said to me, “The end has come for My people Israel; I will no longer spare them.
(3) In that day the temple songs will become wailing”–the Lord GOD’s declaration.
“Many dead bodies, thrown everywhere! Silence!”
(4) Hear this, you who trample on the needy and do away with the poor of the land, (5) asking, “When will the New Moon be over so we may sell grain, and the Sabbath, so we may market wheat? We can reduce the measure while increasing the price and cheat with dishonest scales.
(6) We can buy the poor with silver and the needy for a pair of sandals and even sell the wheat husks!”
(7) The LORD has sworn by the Pride of Jacob: I will never forget all their deeds. (8) Because of this, won’t the land quake and all who dwell in it mourn? All of it will rise like the Nile; it will surge and then subside like the Nile in Egypt. (9) And in that day–this is the declaration of the Lord GOD–I will make the sun go down at noon; I will darken the land in the daytime. (10) I will turn your feasts into mourning and all your songs into lamentation; I will cause everyone to wear sackcloth and every head to be shaved. I will make that grief like mourning for an only son and its outcome like a bitter day.
(11) Hear this! The days are coming–this is the declaration of the Lord GOD–when I will send a famine through the land: not a famine of bread or a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD.
(12) People will stagger from sea to sea and roam from north to east, seeking the word of the LORD, but they will not find it.
(13) In that day the beautiful young women, the young men also, will faint from thirst. (14) Those who swear by the guilt of Samaria and say, “As your god lives, Dan,” or “As the way of Beer-sheba lives”–they will fall, never to rise again.”
This is the worst type of famine imaginable. Without the voice and words of our God, life becomes a desert and our souls a crypt. We have to have His words spoken into our ears…into our hearts to live.
God had already taught Israel this truth early on in their journey with Him. It is found in Deut. 8:3,
“So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the LORD.”
Regarding judgment for God’s people He never makes a complete end of them. He judges them with the might and authority of an arbiter, He chastises them with the strong arm of a Father but only to redeem their hearts from pride and folly that He might be kind to them again.
There is little to help us tack down the specific time of this prophecy, but since no mention is made of bondage or exile and they seem to be still dwelling in their own land, it would seem to be during the reign of
So with this as our backdrop, we will open Malachi and begin to read.
In this first chapter God begins with a statement of His love, offering some proofs of it for their consideration.
“(1) An oracle: The word of the LORD to Israel through Malachi.
(2) “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, (3) but I hated Esau. I turned his mountains into a wasteland, and gave his inheritance to the desert jackals.”
(4) 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. (5) Your own eyes will see this, and you yourselves will say: The LORD is great, even beyond the borders of Israel.”
So God compares His love and provision for Jacob (Israel) against His disdain for Esau (Edom). He does this to illustrate the difference He has always made between Israel as a nation and even those of their immediate kin – beginning with their original fathers Jacob and Esau.
They all knew their history. They knew the sins and conflicts between God and these two brothers and their conflict between each other. They knew how Edom had opposed them as they entered the wilderness to possess the land of Canaan (Numbers 20:14-21) and God’s ensuing judgment of them (Obadiah).
In fact Edom often opposed Israel over the years…
- 2Chron. 20:1-27, record the infamous battle that was led with praise, during the administration of King Jehoshaphat of Judah. Edom had joined with Moab and Ammon to attack Judah in this battle.
- 2Kings 8:16-22 records when the Edomites rebelled against Jehoram King of Judah.
- 2Chron. 28:17 In the days of King Ahaz, the Edomites again attacked Judah.
So theirs was more than a passing dislike for Israel, they aggressively worked against them throughout their history. So God’s hatred of them was justified, not that we would have any reason to question God’s motives and responses.
In a forward to the book of Obadiah, F.B. Myers captured the obvious focus of this book and its primary surface lesson it teaches us by saying…
A vision was granted to Obadiah of the penalty to be meted out to Edom for his cruelty to his brother Israel. Instead of showing sympathy, the Edomites had feasted their eyes on the misery of their kinsfolk, eagerly watching for their destruction. See Numbers 20:14-21 and Psa. 137:7. But the very calamities which had befallen Jacob would visit them.
Now God begins to address Israel’s sins
“(6) “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 the LORD of Hosts to you priests, who despise My name.”
Yet you ask: “How have we despised Your name?”
(7) “By presenting defiled food on My altar.”
You ask: “How have we defiled You?”
When you say: “The LORD’s table is contemptible.”
(8) “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.
(9) “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 the LORD 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,” says the LORD of Hosts.
“You bring stolen, 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 the LORD of Hosts, “and My name will be feared among the nations.”
“(1) Therefore, this decree is for you priests:
(2) If you don’t listen, and if you don’t take it to heart to honor My name,” says the LORD 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.
(3) “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. (4) Then you will know that I sent you this decree so My covenant with Levi may continue,” says the LORD of Hosts.
(5) “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.
(6) 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.
(7) 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.
(8) “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. (9) “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.”
We learn a number of things here which also effect our understanding of the priest’s judgment.
God honored Levi in making of his tribe the Priests, the spiritual leaders of Israel. His says here that His stated intentions in doing do were for life and peace. (Malachi 2:5-7)
The priests of Malachi’s day had the lazy exercise of religion with no true relation with God in intimacy.
They had not sought nor encountered the God of Israel so they did all they did with less than half a heart.
They sought to fulfill only their most clearly stated and most noticed obligations with as little effort or cost as possible. This reveals that they really questioned if God was real or if He was really paying attention.
This isn’t the first time God has spoken like this. In Amos 5:21-23; Jeremiah 6:20 & Isaiah 1:11-20 God expresses disgust and disdain at Israel’s observance of Feast days and sacrifices since their hearts were far from Him in the doing of it.
Amos 5:21-27, “(21) I hate, I despise your feasts! I can’t stand the stench of your solemn assemblies. (22) Even if you offer Me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; I will have no regard for your fellowship offerings of fattened cattle.
(23) Take away from Me the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps. (24) But let justice flow like water, and righteousness, like an unfailing stream.
(25) “House of Israel, was it sacrifices and grain offerings that you presented to Me during the 40 years in the wilderness? (26) But you have taken up Sakkuth your king and Kaiwan your star god, images you have made for yourselves.
(27) So I will send you into exile beyond Damascus.” Yahweh, the God of Hosts, is His name. He has spoken.”
Isaiah 1:11-20,“(11) What are all your sacrifices to Me?” asks the LORD. “I have had enough of burnt offerings and rams and the fat of well-fed cattle; I have no desire for the blood of bulls, lambs, or male goats.
(12) When you come to appear before Me, who requires this from you–this trampling of My courts?
(13) Stop bringing useless offerings. I despise your incense. New Moons and Sabbaths, and the calling of solemn assemblies–I cannot stand iniquity with a festival. (14) I hate your New Moons and prescribed festivals. They have become a burden to Me; I am tired of putting up with them.
(15) When you lift up your hands in prayer, I will refuse to look at you; even if you offer countless prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are covered with blood.
(16) “Wash yourselves. Cleanse yourselves. Remove your evil deeds from My sight. Stop doing evil. (17) Learn to do what is good. Seek justice. Correct the oppressor. Defend the rights of the fatherless. Plead the widow’s cause.
(18) “Come, let us discuss this,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they will be as white as snow; though they are as red as crimson, they will be like wool.
(19) If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the good things of the land. (20) But if you refuse and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword.” For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”
David understood this. It came as a revelation to him which he captured in song.
Psalm 51:15-19, “(15) Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare Your praise. (16) You do not want a sacrifice, or I would give it; You are not pleased with a burnt offering. (17) The sacrifice pleasing to God is a broken spirit. God, You will not despise a broken and humbled heart. (18) In Your good pleasure, cause Zion to prosper; build the walls of Jerusalem. (19) Then You will delight in righteous sacrifices, whole burnt offerings; then bulls will be offered on Your altar.”
Malachi 2:10 “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?”
This single verse appears to begin with a question evoked from Malachi himself, for it is spoken from the perspective of an Israelite and not God, but if Judah had been asking these kind of questions, this prophetic word of judgment would have been unnecessary.
God addresses Judah whose sins mirrored that of their spiritual leaders the priests.
Judah had turned to idolatry once again and treated as common the holy things God loves.
Malachi 2:11-17, “(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.
(17) You have wearied the LORD with your words. Yet you ask, “How have we wearied Him?”
When you say, “Everyone who does evil is good in the LORD’s sight, and He is pleased with them,” or “Where is the God of justice?”
Israel had fallen into the same pattern of all God’s people over the years – regardless of the time period or covenant.
They sought God’s hand but not His face.
They wanted His favor and blessing, but only offered superficial worship in return.
They would soak the altar with tears over not being heard, but would not trouble themselves to offer the proper sacrifices God required.
They wanted God’s intervention, but served pagan idols.
Also the men were not faithful to their wives.
Their wives are here called their companions. Another word is consort.
Both words imply that much time is spent together, but companion also includes the idea of the wife being one half of a pair which were designed to compliment each other.
This was a fitting sin for Israel – especially Judah. As God’s people they were one half of a pair with God their Maker and Creator and husband by covenant. Only Judah was the unfaithful wife.
God desired godly offspring out of the unions He ratified by His Spirit, in order to continue His covenant people in perpetuity.
This is both a real desire and a symbolic lesson of our union with Him.
Just as He desires the fruit of the womb to continue the covenant through heirs, God desires approved character out of the life of His people who are in union with Him.
Theologically verse 15 carries some significance on many levels. If read straight forward in English it conveys the idea that God made us with a remnant of His life-breath in order to procreate.
Other scriptures indicate that each child receives their spirit directly from God, rather than indirectly through the union of the father and the mother.
Either possibility is intriguing.
Another possible translation is set forth by the New English translation and I am not certain if I see truth in it or not. I will give you both the translation and their reasons for translating it this way.
Malachi 2:15 (NET), “No one who has even a small portion of the Spirit in him does this. What did our ancestor do when seeking a child from God? Be attentive, then, to your own spirit, for one should not be disloyal to the wife he took in his youth.”
NET Notes: The very elliptical nature of the statement suggests it is proverbial. The present translation represents an attempt to clarify the meaning of the statement (cf. NASB).
In any case, God hates divorce. This is a passionate subject for me on many levels. Not because I have walked the perfect line in regard to my marriage as I (and no doubt nearly all others) would love to claim, but because of what marriage is.
God, in His infinite love provided for the man a companion so that he would NOT be alone in life or in His God given work.
This was to bless the man, to honor him and make his life much more fulfilling and a joy. He made the woman beautiful and placed within the man a burning desire for that beauty – thus initiating a life of pursuing her which should never have ended. He gifted the woman with a mind and with abilities which would compliment His. Her ability to see ways in which things interconnect with each other and relationally would broaden his perspective and enrich it. Her ability to mentally juggle multiple thoughts and tasks at once would bless him and amaze him. Her ability to work hard and yet still retain a soft, feminine quality and beauty in tasks which would have him disheveled and a mess. Even the grace in which she walked would inspire poetry and song, yet for all of this man simply grows tired of what he has and wants something newer, younger, fresher and less worn.
THIS was Israel’s sin! In the same way the earthly marriage grows cold and distant, dispassionate and overfamiliar, humdrum and no longer compelling is the same way it happens with God.
In both cases it is a lack of single-mindedly setting one’s attention towards the object of their love. SPENDING TIME together, which is central to the core of both meanings of the word “companion”. Deliberately seeking the other’s face and not just what they can accomplish FOR you. Valuing and treasuring them. Placing them first as the scripture implies we should.
- “Love the Lord your God with ALL….etc.”
- “Those who are married are concerned with the things of the world, how they may please their spouse.”
When we fail to do these things our relations and connection with God and mate become more obligatory than passionate and so lose a great deal, if not all, of the life and blessings they were designed to give.
The words treachery and treason are very closely related and looking up the full meaning of the words reveals why. It is a terrible breach of trust to betray a mate. It reveals a relationship which was never truly mature to begin with OR an infectious sickness which has compromised the relationship from within for some time.
The last verse of chapter 2 reveals just how deep and pervasive their sin was.
They were people of superficial religion and treacherous idolatry and yet they looked at others whose sines they clearly saw as worse and called them evil.
They then went on to “claim” that God was honoring those who did evil and did not bring justice.
More than likely the people they were labeling as “evil” were rich and/or politically powerful.
Truth is these people did not truly desire justice for it would have buried them just as surely as it would have the rich and politically powerful.
So just like we learned early on in our Trek Thru the Bible, God desires NOT just obedience, but our hearts. That was the lesson of the WHOLE BURNT OFFERING. It represented passion! No wonder David, the man after God’s Own heart, issued a new command that at the giving of the whole burnt offerings at the beginning and end of every day songs of praise should be given to God.
This happened at a turning point in David’s life which I believe mirrors what God is addressing here in Malachi and that is where we will begin next week.