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Malachi

June 3, 2009

Background

I. You Are Loved Malachi 1:1-5

II. But You Don’t Love Me Malachi 1:6-3:16

  1. You Don’t Honor My Name   Mal. 1:6-14
  2. Your Priests Have Strayed     Mal. 2:1-9
  3. You Are Unfaithful                     Mal. 2:10-16
  4. You Call Evil Good                      Mal. 2:17-3:5
  5. You Rob Me                                    Mal. 3:6-12
  6. You Speak Against Me                Mal. 3:13-15

III. You Are Mine Malachi 3:16-18

IV. My Day Is Coming Malachi 4:1-6

Background

Malachi means “my messenger”, an appropriate name for the author
of this “oracle”. He is charged with the responsibility of addressing
Israel’s apathy toward worshipping God. It is a personal message from God and
so the outline above is written as if God were the speaker, which He is. God
makes a statement; repeats that statement as a question coming from the mouths
of Israel, and then proceeds to answer their question with examples and specifics.
Israel turned away from God before and spent 39 additional years wandering in
the desert before being allowed to enter into the Promised Land. Israel turned
away from God again and was scattered throughout Assyria [northern kingdom]
and later Judah [southern kingdom] was exiled for 70 years in Babylon.

Judah/Israel has returned to their land and Jerusalem. Their temple has been
rebuilt and worship begun under Ezra’s leadership. Most likely the walls of
Jerusalem have been rebuilt and life has settled into a normal routine. The
date of this writing is unknown but most scholars believe it was written sometime
during Nehemiah’s governorship. I favor a time between Nehemiah’s two terms
or during the last term in that the sins Malachi addresses are very similar
to that observed by Nehemiah upon arriving for his second term as governor of
Judah. The date then is approximately 440-430 BC.

Most consider Malachi as the last prophet prior to the arrival of Jesus Christ.
I have also placed Joel at the end but only because the historical timeline
I chose to use put it there. There is strong evidence that Malachi is the last
prophet because he is the only prophet to foretell the arrival of John the Baptist.

You Are Loved                                               Malachi 1:1-5

God loves His remnant Judah but Judah is questioning God’s love. God says
that He had a choice between Esau and Jacob or both but He chose Jacob. Esau
rejected his birthright and eventually rejected God. Jacob practiced deception
but eventually chose God. Edom [Esau] by this time in history, no longer exists.
This is another clue to validate its’ late dating. Those remaining in Edom may
want to rebuild but they no longer fit into God’s plans. The Lord’s wrath will
always be upon them.

The Love of God is verified by His sustenance of Judah/Israel throughout history.
God’s wrath against Israel has been lifted and He has forgiven them. Recognition
that God loves them will cause them to proclaim “Great is the Lord”
even beyond their borders [vs. 5]. Israel is God’s witness to the other nations.
God is not just the God of Israel but He is the God of all.

But You Don’t Love Me                                  Malachi 1:6-3:16

God loves Israel but there is a problem. Israel doesn’t act like they love
God. They must change their ways and demonstrate their love for God if God is
to be known beyond Israel’s borders. Therefore, Malachi addresses their sinfulness.

You Don’t Honor My Name                                     Mal. 1:6-14

First God points out that they do not honor His Name. They do not respect
His statutes or His holiness. God says a son and a servant respectively honor
their father and master but they refuse to honor Him in like manner. Israel
is God’s child. Israel is God’s servant on earth. Therefore, He deserves their
respect and honor; their obedience and their worship. God deserves their love.

They are ignoring God’s statutes by refusing to sacrifice unblemished animals.
In other words, they are not respecting or acknowledging God’s holiness and
righteousness. The quality of their sacrifices was so low that they would not
even be accepted by the governor as payment for taxes. Instead of offering their
best to God they were offering their worst. They would be better off not sacrificing
or worshipping [vs. 10]. God refuses to accept their current worship [vs. 11].

God’s Name will be glorified among the nations. He is a great God and He will
be feared [vs. 14]. His holiness and righteousness will reign. That is the divine
and sovereign plan of God. Israel has a choice. They can change their ways and
be a participant in fulfilling God’s plan or they can continue to do as they
please and be cursed. God is holy and deserves our best. We honor His Name when
we give Him our best in the worship of Him. God honors those who Honor Him [I
Sam. 2:30].

Your Priests Have Strayed                                            Mal. 2:1-9

This section contains strong words against the priests. In fact, verses 1-2
are threatening. If they do not change the way they administer their office,
God is going to curse them. In fact, He already has because they, like the people
they serve, do not honor God either. They are no different than the people they
serve. The people brought blemished animals to sacrifice and the priests accepted
them refusing to instruct the people in the proper way to worship per God’s
statutes [vs. 7-8].

God rebukes the priests now and he will continue to rebuke their descendants.
God’s covenant with Levi awarded them with a high level of respect but it also
required them to have a high level of responsibility and discipline. They were
given a peaceful life and security for maintaining the required reverence and
honor toward God for all the people. The priests were the appointed instructors
to the people regarding God’s Word, God’s Law, and God’s Ways. But the priests
were not fulfilling their God-ordained responsibilities. The priests led the
people astray before their exile and they are going down that same road once
again. They are neglecting their duty as guardian of Israel’s faith in and worship
of the Lord God Almighty.

Because of their actions or lack thereof, the priests have lost the respect
of the people [and God] and are creating stumbling blocks for Israel’s faith.
They have become self-centered instead of God-centered, showing partiality or
giving favors [accepting bribes] for their own benefit. Anything goes. They
are making their own rules for worship.

The application of these verses is critical to us Christians today. We struggle
with what we call “traditional” versus “contemporary” worship.
True, we are free to worship differently than Israel because Christ came and
died in complete fulfillment of His Law. But do we honor the Name of God in
the way we worship? Is our motivation and priority to get people to come and
worship [good] and ignore the quality of our worship [bad]? Is instruction in
the Word of God downplayed in favor of good feelings? Is God’s Word revered?
Is God revered through the reading of His Word, through prayer, through confession
of sin, through the music etc? Are we more interested in a “quality performance”
and entertainment or coming to worship and revere God with humble hearts? Some
churches can make it work and others fail. We just left one church for another
because they jettisoned a “call to worship”, corporate prayer and
thanksgiving, and a “benediction”. A sense of worshiping together
was lost in “who’s on stage now”. Personal feelings and opinion? Yes!
But it wasn’t worship to me. It was important for me to find another congregation
to join in worship who had not jettisoned some of the critical elements necessary
to show reverence and honor to God’s Name. To understand what God requires in
our worship of Him, study the book of Leviticus. Study it for its meaning and
not its activity, for what God wants to see in our hearts as we worship Him compared to the mechanics of worhip. Then evaluate your own worship against His standard. Don’t make the same mistake Israel was making.

You Are Unfaithful                                                            Mal. 2:10-16

Malachi begins by asking two questions concerning their unity with God their
Father who created them. If they are truly unified in God then why doesn’t that
unity translate among them? The answer is simple; they have broken faith with
God and His covenant. They were commanded by God not to intermarry with the
ungodly [Ex. 34:15-16]. To do so would open themselves to worshipping idols
such that they would no longer be considered God’s chosen people whom He sanctified
unto Himself and made holy. They were to have, love, and serve only one God,
the Lord God Almighty. Judah has failed to keep theses commandments yet they
complain openly and cry that God does not hear them or bless them. The root
cause is their disobedience, marrying foreign women and/or divorcing the one
they did marry. God wants Israel to be an example of unity but they have become
an example of disunity. God wants them to bear children who will honor Him,
not dishonor Him. The life we lead is a powerful example in the lives of our
children. Therefore, it is important for our marriages to be strong and unified
in the Lord God and in one another. Violence has no place in the life between
husband and wife.

Unity is one of God’s greatest gifts to His children. God hates divorce and
so should we. Unity within the family is one of the most powerful examples of
loving Christian faith that we can express. Yet today Christians divorce at
the same rate as non-Christians. Unity honors God. Divorce does not.

You Call Evil Good                                                      Mal. 2:17-3:5

Malachi accuses the Israelites of wearying the Lord because they question
God’s justice system and promote false teaching. Essentially they call evil
good and acceptable, even pleasing to God.

God is preparing another messenger to prepare the way of the Lord. The Lord,
the one they desire, their Messiah, will suddenly appear in the temple. John
the Baptist was this messenger according to Jesus in Matthew 11:10, calling
people to repentance.

When Christ comes everything will change. He came to fulfill the Law, to be
an example of what is right and wrong, what is good and evil, what is holy and
not holy, what is righteous and unrighteous, and what is just and unjust. Those
in power did not welcome His authority or His interpretation of God’s Law. Jesus
Christ came to set things right by dying for our sin. Jesus is God incarnate
and we are to worship Him as Lord.

Although verses 2-5 speak of Christ’s ministry during His first advent, it
also speaks of His second advent, the one we await. First, Christ comes as our
Savior and next He will come as King of Kings. First He came to make salvation
available to all men. Next He will come to save those who honor Him and to destroy
those who do not honor Him. First He came and showed us how to live righteously.
Next He will come to judge in righteousness and with justice. We who honor Him
do not fear Him but anticipate His coming and welcome Him. We welcome Him into
our hearts and into our lives. Let us honor Him by calling evil “evil”
and good “good” through the indwelling of His Holy Spirit.

You Rob Me                                                   Mal. 3:6-12

Fact; the Lord does not change. He is faithful, loving, just, righteous, holy,
and sovereign etc. Because God does not change and because God keeps His promises,
Israel as a people will never be destroyed. Israel has led a life of unfaithfulness
and required the discipline of a father to get them to return to their Father.
God tells Israel they are slipping into unfaithfulness again. He will return
to them and bless them when they return to Him and honor His Name.

Malachi reminds Judah of another flaw; they are robbing God of His tithes
and offerings. As a result, they are lacking in food. This is the first stage
in God’s discipline [Lev. 26:14-17]. God has a pent up desire to bless His people
if they will only obey Him and put Him first in their lives. They will be blessed
such that other nations will recognize it.

It is easy to take these verses and put forth a doctrine of prosperity for
giving our tithes to God. In one sense this is true. America was founded on
Christian/Biblical principles and we have been greatly blessed. Now we are slowly
but surely moving away from God just like Israel. We think our blessing has
come from our own efforts alone. True, our forefathers worked and fought hard
for what we now have but God blessed their efforts. God promises to honor those
who honor Him by blessing them with protection and security while meeting their
daily needs [not desires or wants]. He, God, is the source of all that we have.
Therefore, we must acknowledge Him with our thanksgiving and our tithes in worship
of Him. He is the source of our strength and wisdom. His blessings will be removed
as we move away from seeking Him. Our greatest blessings are not wealth and
power but peace, joy, love, hope and faith by His grace. We live in a fallen
world and, therefore, bad stuff happens. But God promises to be with we who
are faithful, to comfort us, and to provide for us as we travel through tough
and uncertain times. Look for Him, talk with Him, obey Him, thank Him, and do
not forsake the giving of His tithe in your worship of Him. Do not rob God of
your humble obedient genuine worship. Receive His peace now and forever.

You Speak Against Me                                             Mal. 3:13-15

Probably as a result of God’s discipline [lack of food], Israel has said harsh
things against God. They believe it is God’s fault, not their fault, that they
are suffering. They refuse to own up to their responsibility in keeping God’s
covenant with them. Israel sees no value in serving God because they are looking
for the wrong blessings. They see the arrogant as being blessed instead of the
humble. They see the evildoers prosper at the expense of the good and God-fearing
people.

This is a common fault among us humans. We judge, we find fault, we criticize,
and we become the victim. We rely on man’s wisdom in the world’s value system.
We will never change until we consistently seek God in prayer, through His Word,
and by His Spirit. We need His wisdom and knowledge of His eternal and unchanging
way to have the proper perspective in this temporary life of ours on earth.
We live in the present but our hope is in the future. Our abundant life comes
from the knowledge of Him who created us, who redeemed us, and from knowledge
of where our real home is. Return to God. Place your faith in His Son, Jesus
Christ. And look forward to living with Him eternally. Speak for the Lord, not
against Him.

You Are Mine                                               Malachi 3:16-18

I have already introduced this section in the previous one. I decided to make
it a main point in the outline because it is so important. As a result of Malachi’s
ministry, those who feared the Lord met together to discuss, pray, and encourage
one another. These were Israelites who were intent on returning to the Lord,
who wanted to obey God, and who wanted to recommit their lives in service to
God. God honored them because they honored Him. God loved them and they loved
God. These were the true children of God, the real Israel.

The Lord also encouraged them saying “You will be mine”. When the
time comes to gather up the Kingdom of God, they are assured of being included
in it. That day is in the future. They will be spared eternal punishment in
favor of eternal life [see Matt. 25:31-46; Rev. 20:11-14]. Thus, those who fear
the Lord experience the Lord’s greatest blessing, eternal life with Him.

Love God, fear the Lord, and live assured in the Hope of Heaven today, tomorrow,
and forever.

In summary, go back to the outline of Malachi’s oracle. Fact; God loves us.
Question; Do we love God? Review Section II, taking inventory of your life.
Confess your shortcomings and turn back to God. Seek out and fellowship with
others who love and fear God. Participate in genuine worship of the Lord God
and be assured you belong to Him. Blessed are we who belong to the Lord.

My Day Is Coming                                          Malachi 4:1-6

Malachi closes God’s message to Israel by telling of a hot, fiery, and explosive
day coming. It is a day when all evildoers will perish and all those who revere
God’s Name see Jesus Christ “rise up” and return to earth to set them
free and give them healing. We who believe will have authority over any of the
remaining wicked [vs. 3]. These first three verses parallel that of Revelation 19 upon the consummation of the Bowl Judgments of Revelation 16-18.  This “sun of righteousness” is none other than Jesus Christ coming as King of Kings to set free His faithful people from the power of the anti-Christ.  This is Christ’s Second Advent, the one we as His children anticipate.

Throughout this oracle, Malachi has been exhorting the people to return to
God. Verse 4 does just that once again. It is through God’s Law given to Moses
that we understand right from wrong, good from evil, righteousness from unrighteousness, godliness from ungodliness, saints from sinners, justice from injustice, consecration from desecration, and honoring God from dishonoring God. The Law instructs us in our need for a Savior, prophesied in Chapter 3. Just as John the Baptist
prepared the people for Christ’s First Advent, God sends the prophet Elijah
[either a “type” or the prophet returns] ahead of Christ’ Second Advent
to prepare hearts to receive Him. This particular passage validates those who
believe Elijah will return as one of the Two Witnesses described in Revelation
11. Theses clear and simple words in verse 5 make it very difficult to think
differently. Moses is thought to be the other Witness because these two appeared
with Jesus at His transfiguration. The work of “Elijah” is the same
as that of John the Baptist, to preach repentance from sin and restore “family
values”. Respect between parents and children leads to respect between
God and His children. Failure to repent brings a curse to the land.

Although the principles outlined in Chapter 4 are valid for all people [revering
God’s Name and remembering God’s Law], it seems to speak specifically to His
chosen people, Israel. Four times the word “you” is used in these
6 verses exhorting that the Lord’s Day is coming. Death and evil were defeated
spiritually with Christ’s death and resurrection. Evil is defeated physically
on the day when Christ returns to rule as King of Kings.

                                  Rejoice; your Savior comes.

Repent and love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.

Repent and honor God’s Name through obedient and faithful service.

Repent and Rejoice because the Day of the Lord is coming.

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