Archive for the ‘Malachi’ Category

Last Words

Posted: December 14, 2017 in Malachi, Uncategorized

Malachi 3-4, “Last Words”

Last words can carry huge significance. When they are uttered on someone’s deathbed, they can communicate final wishes, or speak of their faith (or lack thereof) regarding their eternal destiny. Some people leave this earth well; others, not so much. The atheist philosopher and founder of communism, Karl Marx said, “Last words are for fools who haven’t said enough.” Comedian and actor Groucho Marx said, “This is no way to live!” Of course last words aren’t always uttered on deathbeds – they can be final warnings or final exhortations. The last words the Lord Jesus said to the apostles was exactly that: Acts 1:8, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” There was a mission that awaited the disciples, one for which God would fully equip them – and they needed to go about doing it.

The final words spoken by the Lord Jesus to the Church overall are not so much words of exhortation, but words of comfort: Revelation 22:20, “He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming quickly.” Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!” There is a day in which the mission will be complete, and we will see our Lord Jesus. We want to be prepared for that day!

In a very real sense, that is exactly the message of the final words of the Old Testament. When the book of Malachi comes to a close, the revelation of YHWH God to His covenant people of Israel goes silent for 400 years. These were His last words to His nation before a massive change would take place. Although all of God’s word is important, surely the last words of God ought to carry huge weight. And what did He say? Simply this: the Messiah was coming soon, bringing the judgment of God. Heed the message, and be ready!

The entirety of this short prophetic book has led up to this point. Although the Jewish people were back in their land and had renewed their practices of worship at their newly-built temple, the nation was falling back into old habits. God loved His people, but He was not blind to their sin. Their worship was mere ritual, comprised of defiled left-over sacrifices. Their priests were corrupt, neither handling God’s word correctly for themselves, nor able to teach the Scriptures correctly. The people themselves were unfaithful to their national covenant with God, demonstrating this through their unfaithfulness in marriage. The men rampantly divorced their Jewish wives, taking pagan Gentiles to themselves instead. It’s this sort of rampant disregard for God that got them thrown into Babylonian captivity, and they were doing the same things all over again.

Thus, God called them to repentance. This was His message through all of His prophets, but especially through one messenger yet to come. That messenger would point the way to the Messiah, who was prophesied to come in true judgment, discerning the righteous from the wicked. The people needed to be ready, and they could be…but only if they listened to the message.

Malachi 3

  • The coming of the Lord & His judgment (3:1-7)

1 “Behold, I send My messenger, And he will prepare the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, Will suddenly come to His temple, Even the Messenger of the covenant, In whom you delight. Behold, He is coming,” Says the LORD of hosts.

  1. Right off the bat, we have a potential interpretative issue: the messenger. Is there one messenger, or two? Although NKJV capitalizes one & not the other, the original Hebrew doesn’t have any capital letters at all. The root word used for both is identical; the only difference being the conjugation within the context. Yet it’s that same context that makes it clear that two different messengers are in view. 1a speaks of “My messenger” who prepares the way for the personal God (“Me”), whereas the Messenger of 1c is parallel with the Lord who comes suddenly to His temple. In addition, the people would not necessarily delight in a prophet nearly as much as in the Lord Himself. Thus, these are two messengers.
  2. Messenger #1: the messenger of the Lord. Literally: “Malachi.” Is this a reference to the writer of the book? Not likely. This other “malachi” has a ministry of preparing the way for the personal arrival of God. This is a future “malachi,” most likely being a reference to John the Baptist. Isaiah 40:3–5, “(3) The voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the LORD; Make straight in the desert A highway for our God. (4) Every valley shall be exalted And every mountain and hill brought low; The crooked places shall be made straight And the rough places smooth; (5) The glory of the LORD shall be revealed, And all flesh shall see it together; For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”” Virtually the exact same wording used in the two prophecies – both of which were used to describe John the Baptist. John was to clear a path for Jesus, like a royal herald preparing the way for an approaching king. 
  3. Messenger #2: the Messenger of the Covenant. Can we be certain this is a reference to Jesus? Almost definitely. The word translated “messenger” can just as easily be translated “angel,” and “angel of the covenant” is a very parallel idea to the Angel of the Lord. Additionally, the whole idea of this Messenger/Angel of the covenant is grammatically parallel to the Lord (Adonai) who has come suddenly to His temple. Even though it might have seemed a bit weird for God to speak of Himself in 1st person and then switch to 3rd person in speaking of the Angel of the Covenant, it makes perfect sense in light of the Trinity. This would have been one of the many things that was mysterious in the Old Testament that would have been made clear in the revelation of Christ in the New Testament.
  4. The bottom line is that God speaks of the sure, sudden arrival of the Messiah. A messenger clears a path for His arrival, and then He will be presented to Israel. The One whom they longed to see through the ages will be right in their midst. And He was!
    1. This is what we celebrate at Christmas. The One who was prophesied to come, has come! God in our midst, God with us!
  5. The Messenger/Messiah appeared once, but although He appeared in the temple, He did not bring a judgment upon sin. Instead, He bore the judgment of God on sin. (Praise God!) Yet we know that Jesus’ 1st Advent will not be His only Jesus is coming again, and when He comes, He will judge all the sin of all the world…especially the sin found among Israel. Vs. 2…

2 “But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner’s fire And like launderers’ soap. 3 He will sit as a refiner and a purifier of silver; He will purify the sons of Levi, And purge them as gold and silver, That they may offer to the LORD An offering in righteousness.

  1. Who can stand as righteous in the presence of God? Who, in his/her own righteous, can truly “endure the day of His coming”? It is impossible!
  2. Though we cannot stand on our own, God can make us to stand. As for the Israelites who sincerely and devotedly awaited the arrival of the ultimate Messenger of God (the Messiah), God would refine them. God will make them righteous. He cleanses and purifies.
    1. This is the promise we have in Christ. (1 Jn 1:9)

4 “Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem Will be pleasant to the LORD, As in the days of old, As in former years.

  1. Cleansed people = pleasing offering. Just as the sacrifices of old were a sweet-smelling offering in the nostrils of God, so would the sacrifices of Israel be once more. Yet, it was impossible without the grace of God. As they were, the people (even those with faith) were in their sin, defiled by their actions and insincere worship. It was only when they experienced God’s cleansing grace that their sacrifices of praise would be pleasant to God & received by Him.
    1. God receives the praises of cleansed people. Unless we are in Christ, God has no reason to receive our worship.
  2. What for those who remain in their rebellion, they will be judged for their sins. What sins will be judged? All of them. 5…

5 And I will come near you for judgment; I will be a swift witness Against sorcerers, Against adulterers, Against perjurers, Against those who exploit wage earners and widows and orphans, And against those who turn away an alien— Because they do not fear Me,” Says the LORD of hosts.

  1. There is no distinction in the “minor” and “major” sins. ALL sin is rebellion against God, and He will witness against all who engage in them. Exploitation of the poor is judged on the same level as sorcery. Sin against our neighbors is still sin against God. A lack of love is no less rebellion than a lack of integrity or faithfulness.
  2. How was it that the people of Israel felt free to engage in this kind of sin? They lost their fear of God. “Because they do not fear Me…” Although God had worked miracles on their behalf, they did not revere Him. He worked in tremendous visible ways, yet it all went unnoticed by the people, and they took Him for granted. When they took God lightly, they took their sin lightly. They lost sight of the sinfulness of their sin, and they simply didn’t care anymore.
    1. This can happen with us. Don’t think that as born-again Christians that we are immune. Remember that this happened to a people who had witnessed God’s visible intervention on their behalf. They could look to God’s freedom from Babylon (and from Egypt, etc.) just like we can look to the cross and empty tomb. If they could take God for granted, so can we.
    2. Beware! Don’t lose the fear of God! We love God, but we still fear Him – we still revere Him as
  3. How was it that God could speak of cleansing in vs. 4, and judgment in vs. 5? Because that is His perfect character. 6…

6 “For I am the LORD, I do not change; Therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob.

  1. God never changes! This is a foundational verse regarding the doctrine of immutability. God doesn’t “mutate” – He doesn’t change. He doesn’t ebb & flow with the times & culture. He neither changes in His character, nor does He change in His passions (theological term = “impassibility”). He doesn’t base His actions upon poll numbers or surveys. He isn’t affected by the whims and will of men. We change; God does not. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
  2. Consider what that means regarding His word. If God never changes, His word & promises never change! There is no promise that He will not fulfill. There is no Scripture that God will declare null & void. Thus, when God declares you to be saved, you’re saved! When God declares you to be forgiven, and that you are His child, that is exactly what you are! No Christian never fear that God’s promises will fail. Why? Because God does not change and God does not lie. What He has declared, He will do.
  3. This isn’t just a wonderful promise for us; it’s one for Israel. Why was Israel not utterly consumed & cast aside? Because God had made unshakeable promises to them. Back with Abraham, God promised that all the earth would be blessed through him. Back with Adam & Eve, God promised that the seed of the woman would crush the head of the serpent. God does not back down from His promises! Israel was necessary in order to bring forth the Messiah, and Israel would be necessary in order to institute the Messianic kingdom. That’s why Israel/Jacob was “not consumed.” As Paul later wrote to the Romans, “the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable,” (Rom 11:29). God made promises to Israel, and He would see them through.
  4. Yet the people acted as if He did change. 7…

7 Yet from the days of your fathers You have gone away from My ordinances And have not kept them. Return to Me, and I will return to you,” Says the LORD of hosts. “But you said, ‘In what way shall we return?’

  1. The people left the worship of God and the word (ordinances) of God because they lost their fear of God. It was as if they believed God no longer upheld His word – an idea which is expanded in vss. 13-15. 
  2. Departing from God’s word was like departing from God Himself. In His word, God’s nature is revealed. In His word, God’s promises are made known. The righteousness of God is demonstrated in the law and ordinances of God. The love of God is demonstrated in the sacrifices and supernatural miracles of God. When the people left behind the Scriptures, they left behind the God of the Scriptures.
  3. What did they need to do? Repent! They needed to turn around in their hearts & in their actions. What God spoke through this post-exilic prophet, He had spoken through an earlier post-exilic prophet: Zechariah 1:3, “Therefore say to them, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts: “Return to Me,” says the LORD of hosts, “and I will return to you,” says the LORD of hosts.” The offer was still good…they just needed to follow through.
    1. What do we need to do regarding sin? Repent! Turn around – turn back to God. If we do, we will find that He turns back to us. Do you find it difficult to pray? To worship? If as a born-again Christian you have unconfessed sin in your life, this could be the reason why. Confess those things & repent, and find your fellowship with Jesus renewed.
  4. Yet the people feigned ignorance regarding their sin. “In what way shall we return?” I.e., “In what ways have we left you?” God has already detailed much through the book of Malachi; He provides two further examples through the rest of Chapter 3.
  • The sins of Israel (3:8-15) Sin #1: robbery of the tithe (8-12)

8 “Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings. 9 You are cursed with a curse, For you have robbed Me, Even this whole nation.

  1. Theft is always sinful, being a violation of the 8th What makes is worse is when it is committed against the Lord God Almighty. The people of Israel plundered/robbed God when they robbed Him of the “tithes and offerings.” Tithe = tenth, in reference to any source of income or wealth. Israel was commanded to provide several tithes: there was a tithe to be given for the Levites (Num 18:24), a tithe to be eaten with the Levites/priests (Dt 14:22-23), and a tithe every third year to be given as benevolence for widows, orphans, and strangers (Dt 14:28-29). Basically, it served as the national tax upon the Hebrew people, funding both religious and civil institutions. Prior to the Hebrew nation, there was a different tithe, as exampled by Abraham when he gave a tenth of all the spoils of war to Melchizedek, the priest of the Most High God (Gen 14). That was done out of an act of worship; not legal obligation.
  2. The issue here for Malachi’s readers is that they violated their legal obligation based upon their covenant with God. This was a national sin in regards to a national statute. The tithe was something owed unto God, and by withholding it they incurred national punishment (the “curse”).
  3. This is crucial to understand when looking at these verses in a New Testament context. Many Bible teachers quote Malachi 3:8-9 as proof that the tithe is legally obligatory upon Christians, but to do so is to take the teaching out of context. Although Jesus never speaks ill of the tithe, nowhere is the Hebrew national tithe commanded upon the Church in the New Testament. The tithe that is upheld is Abraham’s act of worship (Heb 7:4-10), given to Melchizedek as a priest in thankfulness to God. Thus the Christian motivation for giving is not obligation; it’s worship.
    1. Paul affirms the same thing when writing to the Corinthians. 2 Corinthians 9:7–8, “(7) So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver. (8) And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.” When we have our full trust and worship in the Lord for our eternal things, how can we not have our full trust and worship in the Lord for physical things?
    2. Is it “robbery” of God if we don’t give cheerfully and abundantly? No – again, this is a different covenant with different stipulations. That said, we rob ourselves of the opportunity to worship. We rob ourselves of the experience of walking in abundant faith. Why let anything as minor as money hold us back in our trust of God?
  4. What’s the solution to problems of the heart regarding tithes and offerings? Give them! 10…

10 Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, That there may be food in My house, And try Me now in this,” Says the LORD of hosts, “If I will not open for you the windows of heaven And pour out for you such blessing That there will not be room enough to receive it.

  1. Israel was invited by God to test the promise. If they brought the tithe, God would bring the blessing.
  2. Again, this is a specific promise to a specific people at a specific time. We do harm to the text if we force this national promise to Israel to literally apply to the Church. That said, the principle is true. God will provide for His people…of that, there can be no doubt!

11 “And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, So that he will not destroy the fruit of your ground, Nor shall the vine fail to bear fruit for you in the field,” Says the LORD of hosts; 12 And all nations will call you blessed, For you will be a delightful land,” Says the LORD of hosts.

  1. These were the national curses for withholding the tithe. Locusts, famines, droughts, etc.
  2. Yet the curse could (and would) turn to a blessing, if the people but trusted their Lord to act according to His word and promise. Again, God does not change. If He was faithful to their forefathers regarding His covenant promises, He would be faithful to them regarding those same promises. They simply needed to walk by faith and trust Him.
    1. So do we! Trust the Lord!
  • Sin #2: Complaints against God (13-15)

13 “Your words have been harsh against Me,” Says the LORD, Yet you say, ‘What have we spoken against You?’ 14 You have said, ‘It is useless to serve God; What profit is it that we have kept His ordinance, And that we have walked as mourners Before the LORD of hosts? 15 So now we call the proud blessed, For those who do wickedness are raised up; They even tempt God and go free.’ ”

  1. Not only had the people withheld their tithes and offerings, they withheld their praise. Worse yet, they spoke blasphemies against God, speaking strong words of arrogance against Him. Like their forefathers, they groaned and complained against God – but the current generation took it to a new level when they gave false witness against God. Thus not only had they violated the 8th Commandment (“do not steal”), they broke the 9th Commandment (“do not lie/bear false witness”).
  2. What was their lie? They claimed that it was “useless to serve God” – that it was vanity & emptiness to do so. They believed that worship was a waste, and that God was lazy and ineffective.
    1. Before we point too many fingers, how many Christians today make the same claim?
  3. The overriding point of Chapters 3-4 is that God will judge! God does act, because God never changes. The fact that His judgment seems to be delayed is not a matter of laziness; it’s a matter of mercy! The full judgment of God will be known when He returns in power & glory, and there will not be a single sin which will escape His sight. The depths of hell will be fully populated with those who have sinned against God & rejected the sacrifice of Jesus on their behalf, and there will be an eternity in which the fullness of God’s wrath is poured out upon sin. God’s judgment is severe and certain. And because it is, the delay of His coming should not cause us to question His commitment or ability to judge; it should cause us to praise Him for His mercy! 2 Peter 3:8–9, “(8) But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. (9) The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” The reason for the delay is that God is giving time for people to be saved!
  • The remnant of Israel (3:16-18)

16 Then those who feared the LORD spoke to one another, And the LORD listened and heard them; So a book of remembrance was written before Him For those who fear the LORD And who meditate on His name. 17 “They shall be Mine,” says the LORD of hosts, “On the day that I make them My jewels. And I will spare them As a man spares his own son who serves him.”

  1. Many spoke ill of the Lord, but others feared Him rightly. Not everyone in Israel had lost their fear of Him. There was a remnant.
  2. God heard them & knew them. He knows the name of those who know His name. The idea of a “book of remembrance” is somewhat like the book King Ahasuerus of Persia used to record the name of Mordecai the Jew, when Mordecai unveiled a conspiracy against the king. (Esther 2:22-23) Whether or not this particular book of remembrance is literal or figurative is unknown, but it wouldn’t be unusual for God to have a book of names. After all, He has the book of life! God knows the names of those who believe upon Jesus, and God knew the names of those who truly feared Him in reverent worship.
  3. Were these people perfect? Of course not – but that’s where grace comes in. God makes them precious, and takes them to Himself.

18 Then you shall again discern Between the righteous and the wicked, Between one who serves God And one who does not serve Him.

  1. God’s not the only one who knows who worships Him. In the future day of the Lord, the difference between those who fear God & those who don’t will be obvious. Israel themselves would “again discern” these things.
  2. It ought not be difficult to discern those who follow the Lord, serving Him & fearing Him. Christians are known by our love for one another – Christians are known by our fruit. Of course, what might not be so obvious today will one day be revealed to all. (Better to settle any doubts today!)

Malachi 4 – the Day of the Lord

Interestingly, the Hebrew text does not have the division of Chapter 4, but rather continues on with Chapter 3 (4:1 = 3:19, 4:2 = 3:20, etc.). For good reason: the subject doesn’t change. Chapter 3 ends with the discernment between the righteous & the wicked, and Chapter 4 begins with the difference in judgment between the two.

  • Certainty of the Day (4:1-3)

1 “For behold, the day is coming, Burning like an oven, And all the proud, yes, all who do wickedly will be stubble. And the day which is coming shall burn them up,” Says the LORD of hosts, “That will leave them neither root nor branch.

  1. The day of judgment is coming! To Israel, it seemed to be delayed, but it was coming, no doubt!
  2. What happens to the proud & the wicked? It will be impossible to stand in the light of God’s righteousness and glory.
  3. Yet not everyone will be burned up. 2…

2 But to you who fear My name The Sun of Righteousness shall arise With healing in His wings; And you shall go out And grow fat like stall-fed calves. 3 You shall trample the wicked, For they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet On the day that I do this,” Says the LORD of hosts.

  1. Though the wicked will be burned, the righteous God-fearers will be warmed. The glory of God, though an oven of incineration to the wicked will be a sun of righteousness to those who love God.
  2. Depending on your translation, “sun of righteousness” is personal (like KJV & NKJV); others are impersonal (NASB, ESV, NIV). The impersonal translation is probably best. A truly literal translation would be “And they will arise for you, those who fear My name, the sun of righteousness with healing in her wings,” as “wings” is a feminine noun. Additionally, the poetic contrast of oven & sun seems to be the point, with the rhyming of “sun/Son” being purely coincidental in English.
    1. That said, the Son of God does offer healing to those who belong to Him in faith!
  3. The bottom line is that God gives the victory. Those who fear Him today will not only be saved in the day of judgment, but will have eternal victory over their enemies in the future.

All of that begs the question: how could Malachi’s readers ensure that they would be those who feared the Lord? How could they be ready to see the Messenger of the Covenant (the Messiah) when He eventually came among them? That’s how the book comes to a close…

  • Preparation for the Day (4:4-6)

4 “Remember the Law of Moses, My servant, Which I commanded him in Horeb for all Israel, With the statutes and judgments.

  1. Remember the Law” = stay in the word! Israel (by and large) had abandoned the ordinances of God (3:7). What they needed to do was remember it. They needed to go back to the old paths & foundations of their relationship with God, and that would only be found in His word. The things that God had revealed to Moses had been written down…all they needed to do was read & remember.
    1. Stay in the word! Don’t leave the Scriptures – don’t leave the gospel. Stay grounded in what was written, so that we keep our eyes upon Jesus.
  2. Stay on the watch! 5…

5 Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet Before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD. 6 And he will turn The hearts of the fathers to the children, And the hearts of the children to their fathers, Lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.”

  1. Elijah the prophet had lived several generations in the past, but there was another Elijah yet to come. This future Elijah would seem to be the future Malachi, the one foretold in 3:1.
  2. What would this Elijah do? (1) He would prepare the way, as seen in 3:1, clearing the path for the Messiah “before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD.” (2) He would preach repentance, turning “the hearts of the fathers to the children, And the hearts of the children to their fathers,” (3) He would preach judgment: “Lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.”
  3. With whom was this prophecy fulfilled? In part, with John the Baptist. Although he specifically said he was not Elijah (Jn 1:21), he simply denied that he was the reincarnation of the historical Elijah. The New Testament is replete with references of John partially fulfilling the prophetic role of this future Elijah.
    1. The angel Gabriel quoted Malachi 3:6 to John’s father Zacharias, illustrating how John would go “in the spirit and power of Elijah.” (Lk 1:17).
    2. Jesus personally referenced John as the Elijah who is to come (Mt 11:14, 17:22-23).
  4. Is John the Baptist the only fulfillment of this prophecy? Jesus was personally accompanied by the historical Elijah on the Mount of Transfiguration (Mt 17:3), and Jesus spoke of a future day and ministry of Elijah (Mt 17:11). When will that be? Most likely during the Great Tribulation as Elijah prophesies in the streets of Jerusalem as one of the two witnesses sent by God (Rev 11). Just as John the Baptist prepared the way for the 1st Advent of Jesus, Elijah will prepare the way for the 2nd Advent of Jesus.
    1. Don’t ignore their message!

Conclusion:

God had sent a messenger, who in turn spoke of another messenger, who in turn would prepare the way for the ultimate Messenger: the Messenger of the Covenant, the Messiah. Israel needed to listen up & take heed. If they didn’t listen, they wouldn’t be ready.

For Israel, they had 400 years until they actually saw the Messiah with their own eyes. They would witness Him in Judea, Galilee, and at the temple – they would hear His words, and see His actions. Yet their time with Him was limited…a mere 33 years. If they didn’t heed the message while they had the chance, they wouldn’t see Him again for millennia.

As for us, we can see Him at any moment! We want to be ready! What John the Baptist proclaimed 2000 years ago is even more true today: repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Pay attention, and take advantage of the opportunity you have. If you’ve never truly feared the Lord & surrendered your life to Jesus to be your King & Savior, God has given you the chance now. His will is that you not perish, but you have to turn to Jesus in repentance and faith. Respond to Him while you have the chance.

For those who know Jesus as Lord, the message is still the same: be ready! He has come once, and He is coming again. We want to be ready on that day!

In the process, we want to help others be ready on that day. We too, have a ministry of Malachi & John, as we pass on the message of the King. What are you doing to participate?

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Despising God’s Ways

Posted: December 7, 2017 in Malachi, Uncategorized

Malachi 2, “Despising God’s Ways”

Trail running can be a lot of fun. There’s softer ground on which to step, prettier scenery to see (when you actually stop to look around), and a quieter general environment than the normal urban/suburban streets. It can be a lot of fun, that is, as long as (1) you can see what you’re doing, and (2) you stay upright. In my experience, the moment I let my mind wander and stop paying close attention to the ground in front of me is the moment I go down. 

Something similar can happen on a spiritual level. As born-again Christians, things are generally great for us as long as we keep our eyes upon Jesus and His word. As long as we’re following His paths according to His way, we’re fine. But the moment we get away from His word (thus get our eyes off of Him), that’s when we stumble.

It’s bad enough for us when it happens by accident, or just in the course of being human – but what happens when it comes as a result of purposeful neglect? What happens when God’s people intentionally shut their eyes to God’s commands, turning away from His will? A fall is sure to come, and that fall is going to be hard.

Such was the case for the newly repatriated Jews living in their homeland. Having returned from Babylonian captivity, the Jews may not have had an independent kingdom, but at least they had a home. They even had a temple, despite all kinds of troubles they experienced when getting started with the construction. God had sent two previous prophets to help out during those trials (Haggai and Zechariah), but now there was something newly corrupt in Israel, and God sent His current messenger (Malachi) to address it. Malachi would be the final messenger of God before the ultimate messenger would be sent: the one who prepared the way for the Messiah. (John the Baptist prior to Jesus.)

So what was the message? God first established His love for the Jews, specifically stating how He had chosen them over & above the other nations of the world (such as Esau/Edom). God’s clear proclamation of His love for Israel was necessary, for there was some stern correction that needed to come. Though Israel was barely back in the land, they had already begun to despise God by despising their worship of Him. Instead of bringing their best unto the Lord, they brought their worst: third-rate leftovers – offerings of animals not even good enough to be used on the farm, much less as a gift to God. The Jews had no appreciation for the God who had brought them back to their homeland, delivering them from Babylon. Israel had lost their fear of the Lord, thus they lost their true worship of Him.

How had it all come about? Seemingly by the neglect of the priests. The priests had departed from their duty to teach the word of God, and as a result the people departed from the command of God. Everyone in Israel had lost sight of God’s ways, despising them, and they had fallen hard.

When we depart from the word & ways of God, we always end up in sin. Don’t despise God’s ways; abide in them!

Malachi 2

  • Defiled priests (1-9)

1 “And now, O priests, this commandment is for you. 2 If you will not hear, And if you will not take it to heart, To give glory to My name,” Says the LORD of hosts, “I will send a curse upon you, And I will curse your blessings. Yes, I have cursed them already, Because you do not take it to heart.

  1. God begins with a specific word to the priests. Of course, God had already been addressing the priests in Ch. 1 regarding the defiled offerings place on the altar, but that was indirect. The priests were the ones placing the sick animals on the altar, but the people as a whole were the ones who brought them for an offering. Here, God makes it clear that the priests were in view. They personally despised the name of God (1:6), which was demonstrated by the way they despised His word.
  2. Interestingly, this is a conditional statement. IF they ignored God, THEN they would be cursed. No one forced the priests to act the way they did; this was their choice. But choose it, they did. The statement may have been conditional, but it was true.
  3. As a result, they would receive God’s curse instead of His blessing. Think about that for a moment: the priests should have been blessed simply from the privilege of serving the Lord – they were blessed because they were back in the land – they were blessed because they had a functioning temple in which they could worship. Things were better for the priests (and for all of Israel) than they had been in generations – yet instead of living in God’s blessings, they received God’s curse. They turned away from their privileges, and lived in the consequences of their sin.
    1. Was it a foolish choice? Of course – but it’s one that we make all the time. How often do we choose to engage in sin, knowing that it’s sin? Perhaps we figure we can deal with the consequences later, or maybe there won’t be any consequences at all. Be assured of this: God will not be mocked. (Gal 6:7) As born-again believers, we may not be cursed by God, but God certainly loves us enough to allow us to experience the consequences of our sin. That is His holy discipline towards us, though totally unnecessary if we would but choose to take His word to heart.

3 “Behold, I will rebuke your descendants And spread refuse on your faces, The refuse of your solemn feasts; And one will take you away with it.

  1. The curse given by God to the priests was to be generational. Their “descendants” would live in the same rebuke given by God to their fathers. Why generational? Because that’s just the way it works. Patterns are passed from parents to children, for good or evil. The priestly line of Israel was no different. Fathers who ignored the word of God would teach their sons to do so as well, and thus they’d have the same consequences given them by God.
    1. Can this sort of generational curse be broken? Yes! This is part of the grace of the gospel! In Christ, we are new creations – thus, we don’t live the same way we did before. We have a new start in Jesus, and we can set new patterns for our own children.
  2. Of course, the priests of Israel weren’t living in the grace of the gospel; they were still involved in the filth of their sin. And God declared that this filth would be put back upon them. His curse upon the priests is one of disgusting defilement. The “refuse” speaks of the waste left in the digestive tracts of animals (what is sometimes referred to as “offal”). Normally, this was taken outside the camp & disposed of, never offered to God on the altar. Instead, this is what God declared would be smeared on their faces. These priests were disgraceful, and this what the extent of the disgrace that God declared upon them.
    1. Disgusting? But that’s all of us in our sin. Praise God for the cleansing we have in Jesus!
  3. The one good thing about it is that it would get their attention. 4…

4 Then you shall know that I have sent this commandment to you, That My covenant with Levi may continue,” Says the LORD of hosts.

  1. What would be the proof God had sent the commandment? His judgment. The priests may have ignored God in the past, despising His word, but as soon as God acted upon it, no doubt they would pay attention! It would be a hard lesson to learn, but if that’s what it took for the priests to repent, then so be it. (Easy way or hard way? Your choice!)
  2. What God desired was His “covenant with Levi.” Why Levi? This was the priestly tribe, Aaron being the chief descendant. The current priests had departed from this ancient covenant that God had with the tribe of Levi. And they missed out! 5…

5 “My covenant was with him, one of life and peace, And I gave them to him that he might fear Me; So he feared Me And was reverent before My name. 6 The law of truth was in his mouth, And injustice was not found on his lips. He walked with Me in peace and equity, And turned many away from iniquity.

  1. What had Levi done? Aside being sovereignly chosen by God (Aaron being the brother of Moses & the spokesman for Moses to Pharaoh), the tribe of Levi had taken God’s side at Mt. Sinai. The people had sinned at the foot of the mountain, not only worshipping the golden calf (which Aaron had built!), but by engaging in all kinds of pagan gross immorality as they worshipped it. In response, Moses came down, calling whoever was on the Lord’s side to stand with him and take judgment upon the people. (Exo 32:25-26) This act was rewarded by God giving them the priestly service. More to the point of the covenant, this came as the result of one of the grandsons of Aaron: Phinehas, in response to the idolatrous acts of the people on the cusp of their entry into the Promised Land. The Moabites sent in women who engaged in harlotry with the men of Israel, and just as God was sending a plague among the people, Phinehas defended the zeal of the Lord. Numbers 25:10–13, “(10) Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: (11) “Phinehas the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, has turned back My wrath from the children of Israel, because he was zealous with My zeal among them, so that I did not consume the children of Israel in My zeal. (12) Therefore say, ‘Behold, I give to him My covenant of peace; (13) and it shall be to him and his descendants after him a covenant of an everlasting priesthood, because he was zealous for his God, and made atonement for the children of Israel.’ ”” Phinehas was zealous for the Lord, and generations of people benefited! As a result, God had a wonderful covenant with the tribe of Levi: “one of life and peace.
    1. This is what we have in Jesus! He is supremely zealous for the glory of God, and the result of His actions confer eternal life and the peace of God upon all those who believe.
  2. Obviously not everyone in the tribe of Levi had acted so righteously, but this was the zeal that God desired from His priests. 5-6 describe the ideal priestly character.
    1. He fears God, being reverent toward Him. He has the right attitude of worship. This was lacking among the people as a whole (1:6,14), but not with Phinehas or the other faithful priests of the tribe of Levi.
    2. The “law of truth” is in his mouth. Technically, this is a reference to Torah (and the specific word for Torah is used throughout the chapter). IOW, he taught the word of God. It was always on his lips, thus always in his heart.
    3. Injustice” is abhorrent to him. Sin is not something that is flirted with; it’s something to stay away from. Via Hebrew parallelism, the injustice is the opposite of the Torah of truth. When Levi spoke of one, he stayed away from the other.
    4. He walks with God “in peace and equity.” Or in shalom (wholeness) and uprightness. The idea of “equity” actually speaks of a “level place” – something that is to be remembered in light of how the corrupt priests demonstrated partiality with God’s law.
    5. He helps others walk in repentance, “turning many away from iniquity.” His teaching and example of zeal and reverence for God helped others do the same thing.
  3. Keep in mind that we as born-again believers are a kingdom of priests. What God desired from the ancient priests of Israel is what He desires from us today. God wants us to worship Him rightly – to dwell in His word – to abhor sin – to walk in the abundance of life in Christ – to set the example of godly living for others. (Is this the witness of your life? Is this what others could/would say of you?)

7 “For the lips of a priest should keep knowledge, And people should seek the law from his mouth; For he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts.

  1. If vss. 5-6 describe the ideal priestly character, vs. 7 describes the ideal priestly work. Ultimately, it comes down to this: the priest keeps and values God’s word. Like the godly person in Psalm 1:2, the righteous priest delights in God’s law & meditates in it day & night. The word of God drives the righteous priest in everything he does, because the righteous priest understands that “he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts.” He is the מַלְאַ֥ךְ (~ Malachi) “messenger” of the Ever-existent Commander of the Heavenly Armies. IOW, he is a Godly herald with a divine message.
    1. Again, we are a kingdom of priests, and we too carry forth the word of God. When we proclaim the gospel (or any part of the Scripture), it is not our word to twist and turn to whatever meaning we desire; it is God’s It is His message, His knowledge, His law. Thus we are to treasure it and pass it on faithfully to others.
    2. Keep His word! Be faithful with the gospel! Don’t dilute it – don’t change it. Proclaim it as it is, so that when you speak it, people know that you are speaking forth the very word of God.
  2. This wasn’t what the current priests of Israel did. 8…

8 But you have departed from the way; You have caused many to stumble at the law. You have corrupted the covenant of Levi,” Says the LORD of hosts.

  1. The current priests did exactly the opposite of God’s desire for them! They didn’t keep the knowledge of God – they didn’t seek God’s law; they “departed from the way.” They left the true path of God to follow paths of their own devising. And because they were priests, they caused others to follow in their wandering.
  2. Instead of keeping the law, they corrupted it. They polluted it, making it something it was not. As a result, they “caused many to stumble.” Like blind leading the blind, the priests led the people in their corruption and stumbling away from the righteousness of God.
    1. Staying in the word keeps us from stumbling! Staying in the gospel keeps us from stumbling! The more we remain focused upon Christ and His work for us, the more aware we will be of our own sin – the less desire we will have to engage in sin – the less danger we will be to others as to them following us into sin.
    2. Beware becoming a stumbling block! How sobering a thought it is, that we might cause someone else to miss out on the grace of Jesus because of the way we choose to live our lives! Paul was so careful about this, that he was willing even to curb his own liberties, in order that others might be safeguarded. 1 Corinthians 8:9–13, “(9) But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak. (10) For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will not the conscience of him who is weak be emboldened to eat those things offered to idols? (11) And because of your knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? (12) But when you thus sin against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. (13) Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.” Salvation is too important! What is your liberty on any minor issue compared to someone’s eternity?
  3. This act of leading God’s people into sin is something that God would judge. 9…

9 “Therefore I also have made you contemptible and base Before all the people, Because you have not kept My ways But have shown partiality in the law.”

  1. The priests had defiled the covenant, so God would defile them. This is the curse mentioned in vs. 2 & the refuse/offal mentioned in vs. 3. These men may have had the title of “priest,” but they were anything but holy men of God. They were defiled, unworthy to serve in their calling.
    1. Many men have titles proclaiming holiness; many of the same are also contemptible and defiled. Titles do not determine one’s place in the kingdom of God; that only comes via the grace of God through Jesus.
  2. The priests had defiled the things of God in two ways: (1) they didn’t keep God’s ways, and (2) showed partiality with God’s law. Instead of walking in equity, exactly according to what God’s word proclaimed, they twisted their interpretation of the law to suit their own favor. Keep in mind that few people other than the priests even had access to the written word of God – the Jews were totally reliant upon people like the priests to teach it to them correctly. The priests, in all their corruption, failed.
    1. What’s the big deal? Abandoning God’s word was bad enough, but misrepresenting God’s word leads to misrepresenting God. 
    2. Be true to the word! It’s too important!

In all of this, there was a specific sin that rose to the top of the filth in Israel – one that came as a direct result of the priests’ neglect of teaching the Scripture: marriage in Israel was defiled…

  • Defiled people (10-17)

10 Have we not all one Father? Has not one God created us? Why do we deal treacherously with one another By profaning the covenant of the fathers? 11 Judah has dealt treacherously, And an abomination has been committed in Israel and in Jerusalem, For Judah has profaned The LORD’s holy institution which He loves: He has married the daughter of a foreign god.

  1. Israel was breaking their covenant with God by breaking their covenants of marriage. Instead of keeping pure the institution made holy by God, they despised it, and treated it according to their own preferences rather than according to God’s command for them. (Sounds sadly familiar!)
  2. We also need to remember the current events at the time. This was a definite struggle among the newly repatriated Jews. [Ezra 9-10]. No sooner had the people repented of their sin did they engage in exactly the same practice, as Nehemiah the governor discovered on one of his return trips to Jerusalem: Nehemiah 13:23–26, “(23) In those days I also saw Jews who had married women of Ashdod, Ammon, and Moab. (24) And half of their children spoke the language of Ashdod, and could not speak the language of Judah, but spoke according to the language of one or the other people. (25) So I contended with them and cursed them, struck some of them and pulled out their hair, and made them swear by God, saying, “You shall not give your daughters as wives to their sons, nor take their daughters for your sons or yourselves. (26) Did not Solomon king of Israel sin by these things? Yet among many nations there was no king like him, who was beloved of his God; and God made him king over all Israel. Nevertheless pagan women caused even him to sin.” If the wisest man on earth could not avoid sin due to intermarriage, how could anyone else avoid it?
  3. OK, so that’s Israel. Does this have any repercussions for Christians? 2 Corinthians 6:14–15, “(14) Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? (15) And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever?” Objection: “Marriage is not mentioned in that verse!” True, but the principle certainly applies. What closer relationship can we have with a person, apart from marriage? If we are to beware business relationships with non-Christians, how much more the closest covenant relationship possible?
  4. Question: Why is this such a big deal? What did it matter if a Jew of ancient Israel married a Gentile? Because who you marry in a large way determines who you worship…especially in an ancient culture. It’s not much different today. Two people who have the same goals will naturally end up at the same place. Yet if they’re walking different directions, something is going to give. Two people who both love the Lord Jesus will love worshipping Jesus together, but in interfaith marriage, someone is going to compromise. (Newsflash: it’s generally the Christian…)
  5. We may not take these things seriously, but God does. 12…

12 May the LORD cut off from the tents of Jacob The man who does this, being awake and aware, Yet who brings an offering to the LORD of hosts!

  1. Malachi goes so far as to proclaim a curse upon the Jews who would engage in this sin. Of course, the key is that they engage in it knowingly & willingly. Someone who knows they are violating the commands of God, yet still attempts to bring an offering to God in worship (pretending as if nothing is wrong), is someone to be cursed, “cut off from the tents of Jacob.” IOW, they would be cast out of the nation and covenant promises as a whole.
  2. What is this talking about? How many times have we seen Christians knowingly engage in sin, and then walk into church with hands lifted in praise as if nothing is wrong? Sin needs to be addressed, through church discipline if necessary…
  3. God cares about the purity of His people. Remember that the Greatest Commandment is to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. He wants all of us at all times…that calls for hearts that are purely set apart for Him. 

13 And this is the second thing you do: You cover the altar of the LORD with tears, With weeping and crying; So He does not regard the offering anymore, Nor receive it with goodwill from your hands.

  1. The hypocrisy of the people carried over in another way. Not only did they bring an offering out of pretense, if they did bring an offering supposedly sorrowful over their sin, they still weren’t truly repentant. The whole picture described by Malachi is one of insincere weeping. The Jews would cry & wail, but not change anything in their lives. Why would God receive such an offering?
  2. Sorrow without repentance is worthless. Otherwise, it’s mere emotionalism, temporary and fleeting. True sorrow is godly sorrow, and that’s something that leads to repentance. (2 Cor 7:10)

14 Yet you say, “For what reason?” Because the LORD has been witness Between you and the wife of your youth, With whom you have dealt treacherously; Yet she is your companion And your wife by covenant. 15 But did He not make them one, Having a remnant of the Spirit? And why one? He seeks godly offspring. “Therefore take heed to your spirit, And let none deal treacherously with the wife of his youth.

  1. Once again, what seems to be one sin is made even worse by the actions of the people. Intermarriage with pagans was bad enough, but to divorce a Jewish wife in order to marry a Gentile was even worse. Apparently, that was exactly what was going on. The Jews “dealt treacherously” & deceitfully with the “wives of their youth,” in order to make way for their pagan Gentile women.
  2. This wasn’t lost upon the Lord. As the all-knowing, all-seeing God, He was “” God knew the infidelity of His people, and they would be judged on account of it.
  3. This perversion of marriage was a total disregard for God’s intent for marriage. The wives of the Jews were supposed to their companions – their covenant partners, having been made “one” with the other, in order to help perpetuate the nation with “godly offspring.” This was God’s intent for marriage from the very beginning… [Gen 2:18-24]
  4. Marriage to be valued & cherished; not to be treated lightly & thrown away. Marriage that is discarded always causes harm. 16…

16 “For the LORD God of Israel says That He hates divorce, For it covers one’s garment with violence,” Says the LORD of hosts. Therefore take heed to your spirit, That you do not deal treacherously.”

  1. Although scholars debate the right interpretation, Malachi doesn’t really mince words. God hates This is a different “hate” than in 1:3, when God said He hated Esau. This is true hatred & revulsion.
    1. Question: if God hates divorce, why does He allow it? Jesus was asked almost exactly the same question… Matthew 19:8–9, “(8) He said to them, “Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. (9) And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery.”” Allowance <> blessing/command.
  2. Divorce does violence to covenants. Divorce does violence to people.
  3. So what do we do about it? Be careful! Be true & remain faithful!

17 You have wearied the LORD with your words; “Yet you say, “In what way have we wearied Him?” In that you say, “Everyone who does evil Is good in the sight of the LORD, And He delights in them,” Or, “Where is the God of justice?”

  1. Although many scholars believe vs. 17 goes better as the beginning to Ch. 3, it also provides a great end to Ch. 2. God tires of our excuses and our false reasonings.
  2. There is no excuse for throwing away the word of God!

Conclusion:

Beloved, stay in the ways & word of God! When we abandon God’s word, then we abandon God’s will for our lives. Marriages become disposable, and purity is ignored. As a result, then God’s people become irrelevant to the rest of the world. Why should they pay any attention to what we have to say about Jesus, if our lives never give any evidence of His transforming power? When all our worship is religious hypocrisy, what reason would anyone else have to take our words seriously?

The priests and people of Israel had destroyed their own witness because of their disdain for the word and ways of God.

The good news is that God wasn’t going to leave them in that state! The very reason Malachi was sent to them was so that they would know the message of God for them at that time. They would know God’s will for them in the present, and they would be prepared for God’s Messiah soon to come. This message of judgment was actually a message of mercy, in that God gave them the opportunity to repent.

He does the same with us. Any person who experiences the conviction of God is a person with an opportunity to repent.

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Despising God

Posted: December 3, 2017 in Malachi, Uncategorized

Malachi 1, “Despising God”

The story is told of a rancher who expected one of his cows to give birth. He knew she was pregnant with twins, and although it was to be a very expensive gift, his desire was to give one to the Lord in an act of gratitude and worship. He didn’t know which one it would be, but was sure he would know when the time came. Eventually, the mother cow gave birth, and two calves soon stayed with her in the barn. His wife asked him about which calf he’d give to the Lord, and he replied that he didn’t know which would it would be, but was sure he would know when the time came. Things were going well, until one night one of the calves grew terribly sick. The next day, the rancher came in, and his wife asked him why he was so sad. He replied, “The time came, and last night, the Lord’s calf died.”

It’s funny, but it’s not. Sadly, this is exactly how some people treat their worship of the Lord. It’s second-hand & second-rate. They give Him their leftovers, rather than their best. They claim their love for the Lord who saved them from sin, but treat Him as if He was the one who caused them to sin.

Such was the case with the newly restored people of Israel. Time has passed since their restoration to the land from Babylonian captivity. As a people, they were small & still under the rule of foreigners, but they had been able to see the miraculous provision of God with their own eyes. They ought to have been incredibly grateful, and careful to walk in holy reverence with the God who had shown them such great mercy. Instead, they quickly took God’s grace for granted, and started giving Him second-best, or worse: their leftovers. It’s a sad commentary on how quickly a people can forget the gift of God’s grace. At the same time, it’s a wonderful book of prophecy that looks forward to the only One who can truly keep the law of God: the Son of God, the Messiah, Jesus Christ. He would soon come bringing cleansing and salvation. And just like there was a messenger in Malachi now proclaiming the word of God to Israel, so would there be a future messenger preparing the way for Messiah (i.e., John the Baptist).

The book of Malachi is not only the last of the prophetic books of the Hebrew Bible (Old/First Testament), but also the last of the post-exilic books. Although no date is directly stated in the book, Malachi gives a couple of clues as to when he wrote. (1) He makes frequent mention of sacrifices that are currently being offered at the time, meaning there must have been a functioning temple at the time of his writing. (2) He refers to a governor (1:8); not a king. Prior to the Babylonian exile, only kings ruled over Jerusalem when sacrifices could be offered; it was only after the exile that governors were in charge with a working temple. This tells us that Malachi not only wrote after the exile, but he wrote at some point after Haggai and Zechariah, the two prophets whom God used to help spur the Jews to actually rebuild the temple.

Beyond that, we cannot say with specificity as to a date, although some scholars attempt to do so. It does seem quite possible that Malachi was a contemporary with Ezra and Nehemiah, considering that some of the sins he addresses were sins that Ezra and Nehemiah had to deal with as well. Other than that, we simply have no information. Malachi’s name is not mentioned anywhere else in the Bible, and some have even suggested that his name is less of a proper name & more of a title. (A title seems unlikely, as this book would be the only place the Bible uses it. It seems far more likely to be a proper name, although it does have a specific translation of “My messenger.”)

God had already shown His people much grace, and He does so again through this final messenger before the Messiah. It would be 400 years until God’s people heard a prophetic voice again, so they needed to pay attention now. They were hardly back in the land, and already falling into familiar sinful patterns. They were giving God their worst, rather than giving God their best. He was loving them, and they were despising Him.

Be careful not to take the grace of God for granted! Don’t despise Him; worship Him in spirit & truth!

Malachi 1

1 The burden of the word of the LORD to Israel by Malachi.

  1. It begins with the briefest of introductions, declaring that what follows is the burden/oracle of the Covenant God of Israel (the LORD) lifted up unto Israel by the prophet Malachi (“My messenger”). It’s basic enough: a message – a messenger – an Author – an audience. It may be brief, but this by itself says much.
    1. There was one nation: Israel (as opposed to two kingdoms warring against one another).
    2. There was a covenant God in relationship with His people: the LORD.
    3. This covenant God still spoke to His people through His chosen prophet: Malachi.
  2. Bottom line: God wasn’t done! Israel may have settled into a rut, but God hadn’t. His word was about to go quiet for several centuries, but He had one more thing to say to them before He would send His Son to personally see them. God was still active among His people, and they needed to pay attention. (So do we!)
  • God’s love for Israel (2-5)

2 “I have loved you,” says the LORD. “Yet you say, ‘In what way have You loved us?’ Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?” Says the LORD. “Yet Jacob I have loved; 3 But Esau I have hated, And laid waste his mountains and his heritage For the jackals of the wilderness.”

  1. Love affirmed. Among the prophets sent by God, it is truly unusual for a burden to begin with such a clear statement of God’s love for His people. Normally, we would expect a message of judgment (which is coming!), but what is given is a message of love. God loved God cared for them and provided for them. All they needed to do was to look around at where they now lived, and they had tangible proof of God’s love for them.
    1. Same with us. Where do we look? The cross! It is the demonstration of His love for us. (Rom 5:8)
  2. Yet this love was questioned. This sort of back-and-forth dialogue is a literary feature of Malachi, as God anticipates the questions of Israel and answers them before they are asked. In this case, Israel foolishly questioned “in what way” God loved them. How could they be so blind? Of course God loved them – it was evident to all! Yet, apparently not to Israel. They were so blinded by their relapse into self & sin that they missed what should have been as obvious as the noses on their faces.
    1. It’s always amazing that some Christians question the love of God for them. As if the sacrifice of Jesus & His resurrection from the dead on their account was insufficient proof! Don’t misunderstand – it’s natural for us to question our circumstances from time to time. We all encounter things we can’t handle, so we ask God why He allowed them into our lives. (I.e., Job) But never in any of those doubts ought any born-again Christian question God’s love for us. The Christian who gets to that point is consumed in self-pity to the point of sin, and that’s something of which to repent. It is to spit at the sacrifice of the cross, and it ought to be abhorrent to us.
  3. Even with this blasphemous sort of attitude, God still graciously responded to His people. His love for them was demonstrated. How? God had chosen them. God loved Israel, while He hated Esau. This goes back to the history of the Hebrew patriarchs, when Isaac (son of Abraham) begot Esau & Jacob. The two sons were twins, thus born on the same day – yet, as with all twins, one son would be born slightly before the other as they exited the womb. Even so, God chose that the older would serve the younger (Gen 25:23). Esau, the older twin, would serve Jacob, the younger. Jacob would receive the covenant blessing & later be known as “Israel,” whereas Esau and his descendants (the Edomites) would always be in Israel’s shadow. God, in His sovereignty, chose Thus He says that He loved Israel, while hating Esau. IOW, God preferred Jacob over Esau (Israel over Edom) – a clear act of the willful choice of God to love Israel.
    1. This very text is quoted by Paul to the Romans in regard to God’s right to extend His salvation to anyone He so chooses. Romans 9:10–13, “(10) And not only this, but when Rebecca also had conceived by one man, even by our father Isaac (11) (for the children not yet being born, nor having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of Him who calls), (12) it was said to her, “The older shall serve the younger.” (13) As it is written, “Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated.”” The broader context of Romans 9 shows that God had still chosen to extend His salvation to Israel, only that they are now blinded in order that the gospel might go out to the Gentiles (us). Even so, the basic idea is that God chooses to love people, and He chosen to love Israel – just as He has chosen to love us.
    2. God chose to love you! That idea ought to captivate you from the moment you wake every day until the time you lay down on your pillow at night. There is nothing in us that would warrant God’s choice to love us, but He does. That is the grandeur of His grace! (And anyone can experience this loving choice of God. All you need do is ask!)
  4. God’s choice resulted not only in blessing upon Israel, but in judgment upon Edom. The earlier prophet Obadiah had proclaimed God’s judgment for Edom in great detail. Not only were they guilty of their own national sins against God, but they had laughed at Israel when God’s people experienced their own discipline. The proud nation of the Edomites would be humbled, and they were. God allowed them to experience the same conquest by the Babylonians as what came to the Jews.
  5. Not that this judgment of God was easily accepted by Edom. 4…

4 Even though Edom has said, “We have been impoverished, But we will return and build the desolate places,” Thus says the LORD of hosts: “They may build, but I will throw down; They shall be called the Territory of Wickedness, And the people against whom the LORD will have indignation forever.

  1. Edom desired to rebuild their land after the conquests of Babylon. The Jews did it, so why not them? Because that wasn’t God’s sovereign will for them. Again, God chose to love Israel, and to hate Esau. God showed preference to His covenant people because they were His covenant people. Edom had no covenant relationship to God, thus no true access to God apart from what individual Edomites might have found if they converted to worship the God of Israel. Thus Edom may have had a desire to rebuild their nation, but they were denied by the Lord. Instead of rebuilding, they would experience perpetual judgment by God.
    1. Historically, this is exactly what happened. [MAP] The Edomites attempted to repopulate their land, but they were pushed out by the Nabatean people (who later built the famous rock-city of Petra). The Edomites relocated west to an area south of the Jews, and they became known as Idumeans. Unlike Israel who kept their national identity and was promised a homeland forever, the Edomites eventually lost their identity and their homeland…also forever.
  2. Question: Was this fair? (1) It’s unreasonable for humans to judge the actions of God as being fair. If we were truly interested in “fair,” then all of us would be doomed to hell. That’s fair! We don’t want fair; we want mercy & grace…and that’s up to God to give. (Per Romans 9) (2) Everlasting judgment is fair when we consider that sin is sin against an everlasting God. Sin has an infinite scope, because it is committed against an infinite God. This is why hell lasts for eternity. The people who reject the love of God found in Jesus Christ end up suffering the indignation of God forever. They have committed an infinite act of rebellion against the Infinite God. That’s fair…thankfully, we don’t receive fair; we receive grace!
  3. God’s judgment upon Edom would have a profound effect upon Israel. 5…

5 Your eyes shall see, And you shall say, ‘The LORD is magnified beyond the border of Israel.’

  1. When the judgment of God is witnessed, the glory of God is known. The judgment received by Edom would drastically contrast with the love experienced by Israel, and they would glorify God. How could it be otherwise? (Even in eternity…)
  2. At that point, what is it that Israel would know? That the LORD is God over all the earth! The Lord their God is God, period. There is none like Him – none that compares to Him. He is sovereign over every nation of the world, and thus every nation ought to give Him praise & glory…especially the people who have tangibly experienced His love & grace!

One would think all of this would lead to wonderful praise and worship, as Israel glorified the God who chose to love them, despite their historic sin. Not so. They took the love and grace of God for granted, and ended up dishonoring and despising Him…

  • Israel’s despising of God (6-14)

6 “A son honors his father, And a servant his master. If then I am the Father, Where is My honor? And if I am a Master, Where is My reverence? Says the LORD of hosts To you priests who despise My name. …

  1. It is common sense for children to honor their parents, and for servants to honor their masters. If that happens in earthly relationships, shouldn’t it also happen with God? God was the Father of Israel and their ultimate Master, yet they didn’t treat Him as He deserved. They didn’t honor Him = they didn’t glorify Him. (כָּבֵד) They didn’t revere/fear Him.
    1. God is worthy of our fear, respect, worship, and honor! We love Him as our Abba Father – we enjoy life with Him, grateful that Jesus calls us His friends – we look forward to eternity with Him, promised to be the Bride of Christ – all of that speaks of wonderful close personal relationship with God. But none of that takes away from our reverent respect of Him. May we never take Him for granted! If we truly love God the Father, God the Son, God the Spirit, then we will honor and fear Him as He deserves.
  2. All the nation was guilty of this (as is seen in Chapter 2), but the priests were the first mentioned. Of all people among Israel, the priests ought to have been the first to fear and honor the Lord their God. Instead, they despised His name – thus, they despised God Himself. These were the ones that ought to have set the example, and taught people what it was to glorify God. Instead, they abdicated their responsibility, and hated Him in their derision of Him.
    1. Keep in mind this isn’t limited to the priests of ancient post-exilic Israel. WE are priests unto God, being a royal, holy priesthood. (1 Pt 2:5-9) If we don’t honor Almighty God in our worship, who will? If we don’t fear Him, how will anyone else know how to fear Him? Beware that we don’t fall into a similar trap of derision!

…Yet you say, ‘In what way have we despised Your name?’ 7 “You offer defiled food on My altar, But say, ‘In what way have we defiled You?’ By saying, ‘The table of the LORD is contemptible.’

  1. God asks and answers the anticipated objection. How did the priests despise His name? By bringing unclean sacrifices, “defiled food.” Obviously God does not need to eat. (If He were hungry, He would not tell us. Ps 50:12) This is symbolic language referring to the sacrifices – something made clear in the following context. The sacrifices brought forth by the people & presented by the priests were defiled & unclean – unworthy for service of any kind, much less that of worship. Their defiled sacrifices demonstrated how they despised God’s name.
  2. Along the same lines, their careless actions & attitude towards worship demonstrated their contempt for the Lord God. They treated His “table” (the altar) as “contemptible” in that what they brought was worthless.
  3. The whole idea of “defiled” is interesting, when seen in the Hebrew. Hebrew has several words that can be translated “defiled,” but the one used here is rather uncommon. The word is actually a homograph, a word that has the same spelling, but different definitions depending on the context. In English, an example might be “bass” – either a low toned instrument/voice, or a type of fish. Here for “defiled,” the word is גָּאַל (ga’al), which can either mean “defile” or “redeem.” (Go’el is the participle referring to the “kinsman redeemer,” as with Boaz or Jesus.) What makes it an interesting word choice is the context. The very items that were supposed to be brought as pictures of their redemption were, in reality, defiled & polluted. The people may have brought sacrifices, but what they brought condemned them instead of redeeming them.

8 And when you offer the blind as a sacrifice, Is it not evil? And when you offer the lame and sick, Is it not evil? Offer it then to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you favorably?” Says the LORD of hosts.

  1. Not only was their worship careless, it was downright “evil”! It was more than thoughtless; it was sin. How so? Because they were recklessly offending God. The example is given of the governor. If a human would be offended by such a gift, how much more God? …
    1. Think about this for a moment. What would we bring to God in our worship or service that we would never consider bringing to another person. For a musician, would they put more effort and practice in for an outside gig than they would the worship of God? For our devotional times of prayer, would we pay more attention in a meeting with our boss than we would for a meeting with our Lord? Or maybe we put more thought into how we word our emails or Facebook posts than we do in what we say to Jesus in prayer? How is this any different than the priests of Israel?
    2. Obviously, we’re not to hamstring ourselves by turning acts of devotion into legalism – i.e., not doing anything at all, if we can’t do it according to perfection. But neither should we fall into the other extreme of apathy and carelessness. When we worship, we’re worshipping the Living We’re not to walk through the rut of a bunch of rituals; we’re actually praying to the God who hears us. We’re honoring the God who receives honor. That’s something to take seriously, and to engage with intention!
  2. The priests ended up giving worthless sacrifices to God. Livestock that is blind, lame, and sick does no good on the farm; why would it be any better in worship? They were bringing exactly what they were commanded not to bring. (Deut 15:21) They were bringing their leftovers; not what actually cost them something. What should the priests have done? Followed the example of David. [plague after the census; God relenting at the intercession of David] 1 Chronicles 21:22–24, “(22) Then David said to Ornan, “Grant me the place of this threshing floor, that I may build an altar on it to the LORD. You shall grant it to me at the full price, that the plague may be withdrawn from the people.” (23) But Ornan said to David, “Take it to yourself, and let my lord the king do what is good in his eyes. Look, I also give you the oxen for burnt offerings, the threshing implements for wood, and the wheat for the grain offering; I give it all.” (24) Then King David said to Ornan, “No, but I will surely buy it for the full price, for I will not take what is yours for the LORD, nor offer burnt offerings with that which costs me nothing.”” David didn’t give the worthless to God; he demanded that he have the opportunity to truly sacrifice something of value in his worship.
    1. The idea is to give something of worth. Thoughtful, intentional praise is worth something to God; thoughtless, second-rate praise is worthless.

9 “But now entreat God’s favor, That He may be gracious to us. While this is being done by your hands, Will He accept you favorably?” Says the LORD of hosts.

  1. The question asked in vs. 9 is ironic. How could the people ask for blessing, when they were currently in the process of despising and insulting the Lord?
  2. How often we do the same! We’ll bring second-rate worship, but then ask God for His blessing & provision. We’ll pray without thought when it comes to His honor, but we’ll be extra descriptive in our prayer requests for ourselves.
    1. It’s not about setting up a bunch of legalistic hoops for us to jump through in our worship; it’s about sincerity, intentionality, and love. God loves us, not because of anything we have done, but because we are in Christ Jesus. He looks upon us favorably because He sees us in Christ. It is because He does, that our worship ought to be sincere.

10 “Who is there even among you who would shut the doors, So that you would not kindle fire on My altar in vain? I have no pleasure in you,” Says the LORD of hosts, “Nor will I accept an offering from your hands.

  1. No one cared for holiness or for sincere worship, so why not just shut the doors? What purpose did it serve to have a restored temple and brazen altar, if it wasn’t being used for worship? God didn’t give those things to Israel so they could engage in a bunch of ritual. God doesn’t care about thoughtless routine, just like He doesn’t care about vain repetitions in prayer. God’s desire is that His people would worship Him in spirit and truth. For Israel, all the things of the sacrifices and temple were the tools used to help the people worship Him sincerely. Those were the things to help the people understand their sin & need for God’s grace & forgiveness. If they were just going do it by rote & go through the motions, then they were just wasting their time.
    1. The same thing happens with the Catholics and their various repetitions of the “Our Father.” The same thing happens with Protestants and our vain repetitions of “In Jesus’ name,” when we never consider the words, or when we mouth words to songs in which our hearts and minds aren’t engaged.
  2. For Israel, it went a step further, as all of this false worship hid what had become a false faith. That’s why it wasn’t worth keeping the doors open to the people. They didn’t believe the word of God, which is why they treated their worship of God so flippantly. As a result, God took “no pleasure” in His beloved people, and promised no acceptance of their worship.
    1. Could this be changed? Yes! But only through repentance and faith… Thankfully, this is exactly why the next prophetic voice after Malachi was to be John the Baptist pointing to Jesus.
  3. What’s most ironic of this is that as insincere and worthless the worship of Israel was, the rest of the world would do far better! 11…

11 For from the rising of the sun, even to its going down, My name shall be great among the Gentiles; In every place incense shall be offered to My name, And a pure offering; For My name shall be great among the nations,” Says the LORD of hosts.

  1. The Gentiles of the nations would do what Israel refused. Of course, this wasn’t happening during the days of Malachi; these were future events foretold by the prophet. One day, all over the world, God’s name would be made great. Every place the sun touched would be a place where God’s name was praised. In that day, the offering will be pure & holy. In that day, it will be everything that the praise & worship in the days of ancient Israel was not.
  2. God’s name will be honored, of that, we can be sure! Every knee will bow & every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord, to the glory of God the Father!

12 “But you profane it, In that you say, ‘The table of the LORD is defiled; And its fruit, its food, is contemptible.’ 13 You also say, ‘Oh, what a weariness!’ And you sneer at it,” Says the LORD of hosts. “And you bring the stolen, the lame, and the sick; Thus you bring an offering! Should I accept this from your hand?” Says the LORD.

  1. The profanity & worthless offerings of Israel are reiterated. Just as Israel repeated defiled sacrifices, so did God repeat His judgment of those sacrifices. They were worthless & defiled.
  2. What made it all the worse was their worthless attitude. As if it were laborious and a hardship to worship God! “Oh, poor me! I have to worship God today!” (And Christians fall into the same trap!)
  3. With all that in mind, why should God accept such unworthy offerings? Why should God give any thought to offerings that the people didn’t give any thought to when they offered?
    1. Sometimes it seems that we expect God to care more about our prayer requests than we do!

14 “But cursed be the deceiver Who has in his flock a male, And takes a vow, But sacrifices to the Lord what is blemished— For I am a great King,” Says the LORD of hosts, “And My name is to be feared among the nations.

  1. The old joke sadly was a true summary of the attitude of Israel in worship. They purposed to bring what was worthless to God, keeping the best for themselves. And for that, God declares such a one would be “” Bad enough to break a vow made unto the Lord; far worse to attempt to fulfill that vow with something that is defiled and despised.
    1. It’s not unlike someone claiming to love God, yet offer their praise in the name of Allah, or the “Great Architect of the Universe.” Such a person is cursed, because they have demonstrated that they do not truly know A person who worships God so wrongly doesn’t know that God they claim to worship.
    2. How can we know God? By looking to Jesus! He is the way, the truth, and the life, and no one comes to the Father except through Him. 
  2. God isn’t to be despised; He is to be feared! The idea isn’t one of terror, but one of worship… Proverbs 9:10, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” A proper reverence of God brings a right perspective of His holiness, which leads us to right worship. 
  3. Why fear Him? Because He is a great King! He is the grandest of the grand – He is the King of Kings & Lord of Lords!

Conclusion:

We have the wonderful privilege and opportunity to worship the Creator God of the Universe. We have been brought into real relationship with Him through the sacrifice of His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. How can we offer Him anything less than our best in our praise & service?

Israel gave God their second-best, their cast-offs. After everything God had done for them, they gave Him what was worthless, showing that their love for Him was worthless. They despised the God who loved them.

May we learn the lesson & heed the warning!

Listen Up!

Posted: August 3, 2017 in Malachi, Uncategorized

Micah 1-2, “Listen Up!”

When it’s your last chance, there is no time to waste. That’s basically the message of the prophet Micah.  God had repeatedly warned Israel/Samaria about her sins, and they were finally at the point of their last chance.  The Assyrians were at their doorstep, about to conquer the entire northern Hebrew kingdom – there wasn’t a moment to lose!

Of course, the problem wasn’t only in the northern kingdom – the southern kingdom of Judah had its own share of sin, and would eventually receive its own share of judgment.  The Jews may have had a bit more time than the Samaritans, but the need for repentance was still urgent.  God graciously sent prophet after prophet to awaken the people to their need for repentance – the only question was whether or not they would listen & obey.

We need to understand that the righteous God will judge sin.  Be it among the pagans, or among His own people, God judges all sin.  His mercies are not to be despised – His warnings are not to be ignored.  When God speaks, we need to listen – and we need to listen well!

Micah 1

  • Introduction (1:1)

1 The word of the LORD that came to Micah of Moresheth in the days of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, which he saw concerning Samaria and Jerusalem.

  • Micah = possibly a shortened form of the name Micayah, “Who is like YAH?”  It is a fairly common name in the OT, though there is one undeniable mention of this prophet outside his book: when his words are quoted by Jeremiah prior to the final destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians (Jer 26:18).  This tells us a couple of things: (1) he was definitely seen by his people as a prophet, even if they ignored his message, and (2) his book (or at least parts of it) was already known & compiled by the time of Jeremiah.  God’s people recognized God’s voice speaking through God’s prophet, and they treated his book as the Scripture that it is.
    • FYI – that’s the basic story behind all of the books of the Bible, including the NT.  Despite popular mythology that imagines that the Biblical canon was established by the pre-Catholic Church, and forced upon the masses after the Nicene Council, the reality is that the books of the NT were already in use by Christians, who had long ago recognized the imprint of the Holy Spirit upon the words of the writers.  The official church council merely ratified what the Christian church had already received.
  • Where was “Moresheth”? About 30 miles southwest of Jerusalem.  This fits with the kings of Judah that are mentioned: Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah.  This tells us that Micah was a southern prophet living in Judah, even though many of his prophecies concern the northern kingdom of Israel/Samaria.  Micah will speak to both kingdoms (as vs. 1 shows), although the timeframe for Israel/Samaria is far more pressing.  Samaria fell to the Assyrian empire in the 9th year of King Hoshea (2 Kings 17:6), which was only 6 years after Hezekiah ascended to the throne in Jerusalem (2 Kings 18:1).  Thus, Micah was truly one of the last prophetic voices to speak to the north, being a contemporary with Isaiah, Amos, and Hosea.
    • A final opportunity (a last chance) was being extended to Israel.  And the lessons that Israel refused to learn were being offered to Judah as well.  Sadly, they would respond much the same way.  May we learn the lessons they did not!  When God speaks to our hearts about sin, we need to pay attention!  When the Lord convicts, listen!
  • God against Samaria/Israel (1:2-7)

2 Hear, all you peoples! Listen, O earth, and all that is in it! Let the Lord GOD be a witness against you, The Lord from His holy temple.

  • Right out of the gate, Micah calls the entire earth to attention, as the Lord GOD Himself is going to state His personal testimony against His own people.  Considering that the vast majority of Micah’s prophecies have to do with Israel & Judah, why is the rest of the planet supposed to listen?  Because if God has this to say about His people, how much more does He have to say against the Gentiles!  If God’s own people not exempt from judgment, no one is.
  • That said, as much as this is a call to all the nations, the two nations that would pay the most attention were Israel & Judah.  They needed to know what God Almighty was saying against them.  Their covenant God had charges with which to indict them, and they needed to know.
    • God still lays out charges against His people today.  Not from the standpoint of condemnation to judgment (that is something that has been placed upon Jesus at the cross), but from the standpoint of conviction.  We, as the people of God, have the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit within us, and when we sin, He brings conviction to our hearts.  That twinge of guilt you experience when making a choice to sin?  That’s the work of the Holy Spirit calling to back to a place of obedience.  That’s God’s own testimony in your life.  And know this: it’s a good thing!  We need the conviction of the Holy Spirit.  We need His gentle, yet firm nudging like sheep need the staff of their shepherd.  That’s a sign that we belong to Him & that He loves us.  When a Christian sins & knows the conviction of the Spirit, that’s not a bad thing; it’s when no conviction comes…that’s bad!
    • What is the proper response to that conviction?  Repentance – obedience.

3 For behold, the LORD is coming out of His place; He will come down And tread on the high places of the earth. 4 The mountains will melt under Him, And the valleys will split Like wax before the fire, Like waters poured down a steep place.

  • Figurative description of God’s use of the Assyrians (and Babylonians) to conquer His people.  It will be like creation splitting wide open.  Creation melts away before its Creator, unable to maintain its structure in the presence of the infinitely glorious God.  From the perspective of Micah in regards to the northern kingdom, this is all symbolic & a bit extreme, but it certainly gets the point across.  The Assyrian conquest would not be easy, by any stretch of the imagination.  It would be brutal to experience.
  • What was figurative for Israel, will be literal for the world at the end of the age!  The NT also speaks of Creation melting away in the presence of its Creator:  2 Peter 3:10–12, "(10) But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. (11) Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, (12) looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat?"  We have reason to live rightly: we’re looking forward to seeing Jesus!  We need not fear that day; we will already be with the Lord.  Yet that will not be the case for untold multitudes of unbelievers. 

5 All this is for the transgression of Jacob And for the sins of the house of Israel. What is the transgression of Jacob? Is it not Samaria? And what are the high places of Judah? Are they not Jerusalem?

  • Both cities had been idolatrous.  Both were guilty of sin.  For as much as we think of the ancient Israelites as the people of God (which, officially, they were), their history is far more reflective of pagan idolatry than faithful Hebrew worship.  Their times of faithfulness were few & scattered through the centuries.  By & large, they walked in disobedience, worshipping the false gods of the Gentiles all around them. 
    • The fact that God waited so long to bring His judgment is itself a demonstration of His mercy!  He had every right to exterminate the nation before He ever gave them the Promised Land!
    • Our God is merciful!  I wonder how often we experience His mercies & we simply aren’t aware of it at the time?  Our sin is so subtle, and so frequent – it all underscores our utter need for Jesus.  Without His all-sufficient sacrifice, we would have no hope!
  • Samaria is first to be singled out. Vs. 6…

6 “Therefore I will make Samaria a heap of ruins in the field, Places for planting a vineyard; I will pour down her stones into the valley, And I will uncover her foundations. 7 All her carved images shall be beaten to pieces, And all her pay as a harlot shall be burned with the fire; All her idols I will lay desolate, For she gathered it from the pay of a harlot, And they shall return to the pay of a harlot.”

  • The book of Hosea showed the prophet taking an adulterous wife to himself, as a picture of Israel’s adultery against God.  In his later writing, Ezekiel described both the northern and southern kingdoms as harlots. (Eze 23)  This is how God sees idolatry.
  • How would God deal with the idolatry of His people?  As the culture of its day dealt with harlots and prostitutes: utter humiliation.  The nation would be “uncovered,” her possessions would be publicly “burned.”  The once-proud nation would be brought to its knees, humiliated in the sight of the world.
  • Interestingly enough, since Israel wouldn’t rid itself of its idolatry, then God would remove their idols by force. All of those “carved images” would be turned into rubble, and made “desolate.”  The Assyrian army would enter the land, destroying everything in its wake – including all of the golden idolatrous images of Israel.
    • If we don’t deal with our sin, God will.  Far better to surrender it to Him, than to have those things exposed!
  • The right reaction to sin (1:8-9)

8 Therefore I will wail and howl, I will go stripped and naked; I will make a wailing like the jackals And a mourning like the ostriches, 9 For her wounds are incurable. …

  • How does Micah respond to what was to come?  He howls in grief.  He humiliates himself on behalf of his people.  For him to “go stripped and naked” is not a sign of perversion; it’s one of utter mourning & grief.  He’s so broken over what is to come that he cannot contain himself.
    • This was one prophet living in the southern kingdom, but this is what everyone in the northern kingdom ought to have been doing all along!  They had lost sight of how sinful their sin actually was.  They didn’t grieve their sin; they dove into it, relishing it.
    • We might not need to be as extreme as Micah, but we ought to have the same attitude regarding sin.  It is indeed horrible, and ought to be mourned.  When we allow sin in our life, it ought to cut us to the quick, and send us to our knees.  When it doesn’t, that itself ought to be a red warning flag!
      • Yet never forget the good news: for the Christian, the price for your sin has been paid!  Yes, sin cuts us to the core…it should.  But confess it & be done with it.  We have the promise of cleansing & forgiveness; hold fast to the grace you have been given!
  • It’s not simply the punishment; it’s the sin itself that is so grievous.  The wrath of God is simply the right response to the sin of the people.  If there had been no sin, there would be no “wounds.” Yet, now there are, and they are “incurable.”  Worse yet, it was something that spread.

…For it has come to Judah; It has come to the gate of My people— To Jerusalem.

  • Sin is contagious.  What was in Israel came to Judah.  This was true in regards to both the sin and the consequence.  The idolatry in the north was practiced almost as frequently in the south, and the Assyrians that conquered Samaria eventually came to the gates of Jerusalem.  It was only by the grace of God that Sennacherib’s army did not conquer Jerusalem at the time, and that the Angel of the Lord killed 185,000 soldiers encamped outside. (Isa 37:36)
  • Sin grows, like yeast in bread.  1 Corinthians 5:6–7, "(6) Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? (7) Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us."  Why is it so important to deal with sin?  Because eventually it spreads to others.  One person looks the other way, then another, then another…soon an entire congregation simply shrugs & says, “That’s just the way it is.”  That’s not the way it’s supposed to be!  We are supposed to be holy, as God is holy – set apart for His use & His worship.  Obviously none of us is perfect, and all of us fall in major ways on occasion.  But sin not to be tolerated; it’s to be repented.  Sin is something to flee, and thankfully we can flee to the cross! 
  • God against Jerusalem/Judah (1:10-16)
  • Throughout this section, Micah engages in almost constant word-play.  It doesn’t come across in the English, but the Hebrew has words that either sound the same, or mean almost the same thing, with every city being another example of how the people of the south were to be humbled.

10 Tell it not in Gath, Weep not at all; In Beth Aphrah Roll yourself in the dust. 11 Pass by in naked shame, you inhabitant of Shaphir; The inhabitant of Zaanan does not go out. Beth Ezel mourns; Its place to stand is taken away from you.

  • The exception to the rule is “Gath.”  Gath was not a Jewish city, but a Philistine one.  The people of Judah would certainly mourn & be humiliated, but the prayer of Micah was that word would not spread to their enemies.  If all of this had to come to pass, may it not be celebrated among the Philistines in Gath.  The Jews might need to weep everywhere else, but there, they (hopefully) wouldn’t weep at all.
  • Beth Aphrah = House of Dust.  Dust thrown on head in mourning & grief.
  • Shaphir = Beautiful.  The beautiful would be shamed.
  • Zaanan = Going out.  The people named for their coming & going in freedom would be restricted, unable to go anywhere.
  • Beth Ezel = ??  There are some different thoughts for this name.  Some scholars believe it is related to “taking away,” whereas others believe it refers to “beside/alongside.”  Thus, it is either the House of Taking Away, or the Beside-House.  Either way, the idea is that there is nowhere to stand in safety.  Their security has been taken away from them.

12 For the inhabitant of Maroth pined for good, But disaster came down from the LORD To the gate of Jerusalem. 13 O inhabitant of Lachish, Harness the chariot to the swift steeds (She was the beginning of sin to the daughter of Zion), For the transgressions of Israel were found in you.

  • Maroth =Bitterness.  The people were bitter as they “pined” away.  The word “pined” is interesting in that it refers to an anxious waiting – almost like the people were writhing in pain.  They longed so much for something good to come their way, but they waited in vain.  All that they would receive would be “disaster.
  • Don’t miss the fact that this disaster came from the Lord God!  It may have been the Assyrian army in their wickedness, but it was still sovereignly allowed (even intended and directed) by Almighty God.  God allowed the Assyrians to come in, wreak havoc, and then He pulled them out again by His mercy.  They came “to the gate of Jerusalem,” but they were not allowed to go inside.
  • The Assyrians were allowed to conquer the Jewish city of Lachish, a name which sounds very similar to “swift steeds.” (לָרֶ֖כֶשׁ )  The Bible speaks of the disaster that came to Lachish, while Sennacherib was on his way to Jerusalem.  2 Chronicles 32:9–10, "(9) After this Sennacherib king of Assyria sent his servants to Jerusalem (but he and all the forces with him laid siege against Lachish), to Hezekiah king of Judah, and to all Judah who were in Jerusalem, saying, (10) “Thus says Sennacherib king of Assyria: ‘In what do you trust, that you remain under siege in Jerusalem?"  So proud was Sennacherib of this conquest that the Assyrians had artwork carved of the battle & placed in palace in Nineveh (now housed at the British Museum).
  • Question: Why did God allow Lachish to be conquered & not Jerusalem?  It was a lesson.  It was directly because of the destruction at Lachish that Hezekiah sought the Lord in prayer in the way that he did.  The people of Judah had received a bitter taste of the Assyrian army, and they shuddered at the thought of more.
    • This is exactly the purpose of God’s hand of discipline in our lives.  Is it something He desires to bring?  No – God would much rather we willingly humble ourselves in repentance.  Is it something that we want to experience?  No!  Apart from the fact that it is a sign of God’s love for us (which is good!), no discipline is easy to endure.  But if that’s what it takes to bring us to repentance, then that’s what God is going to do.  He loves us too much to allow us to remain in sin, and He will do whatever is necessary to wake us out of our stupor and to seek His face.

14 Therefore you shall give presents to Moresheth Gath; The houses of Achzib shall be a lie to the kings of Israel. 15 I will yet bring an heir to you, O inhabitant of Mareshah; The glory of Israel shall come to Adullam.

  • Moresheth Gath = possibly means “one who is betrothed.”  If so, than the discipline they experience will be the dowry that is given.
  • Achzib = lie.  The kings/leaders of Israel were deceived by the strongholds there. 
  • Mareshah = possession/inheritance.  God would bring “an heir,” or a possessor/captor to them.
  • Adullam.  This isn’t so much a word-play as it is a reference to Jewish history.  It was to the cave of Adullam that David fled when he hid from King Saul.  David was considered the “lamp of Israel,” (2 Sam 21:17), so it’s probably with a quite a bit of sarcasm that the current sinful leaders of Judah were called “the glory of Israel.”  They would be left without a city to hide and find safety, and like David long-before, they would flee to the caves to hide from the coming foreign armies.
  • This was quite the list of cities!  There would be no safe place for those in the south, when God allowed His judgment to come.  It would begin with the Assyrians, but it would be completed with the Babylonians.  From that, there would be no escape.  So what should they do?  How should they respond?  Vs. 16…

16 Make yourself bald and cut off your hair, Because of your precious children; Enlarge your baldness like an eagle, For they shall go from you into captivity.

  • They were to humble themselves and prepare for captivity.  What Micah did in his mourning is what all of Samaria ought to do as well.  The judgment proclaimed by the prophet was indeed coming, so they needed to get ready for it.
    • Sadly, there’s no indication that they did.  Although the timeframe is a bit different, Jonah showed the entire city if the Ninevites repenting at the single proclamation of God’s judgment against them.  The Israelites received many more proclamations through all kinds of prophets, and they did nothing.  On this, they could have learned a lesson from the pagans.
  • Don’t fight God’s discipline, nor think yourself too good to experience it.  None of us are exempt, and once God declares something, we can be sure that He will move on it.  Our only real option is to humble ourselves & submit unto His hand.  And as believers, when we do we find that even if God does not remove His discipline, He will always give us the grace & strength to endure it.

Micah 2

  • God against oppression (2:1-5)

1 Woe to those who devise iniquity, And work out evil on their beds! At morning light they practice it, Because it is in the power of their hand. 2 They covet fields and take them by violence, Also houses, and seize them. So they oppress a man and his house, A man and his inheritance.

  • Description of the plans and practices of the wicked.  “Those who devise iniquity” are those who scheme out their wickedness.  They thoughtfully plan out how evil they will be. Micah specifically lists sins of greed and oppression.  These were people who coveted what they did not have, and plotted evil in order to obtain it.  Verse 2 is so specific, it’s hard to imagine that Ahab’s & Jezebel’s plotting against Naboth isn’t in mind. (1 Kings 21)  These were individuals who schemed evil against a man & his family – likewise, Micah (with the word of God) calls out any & all individuals who might follow in those footsteps.
    • Beware greed!  There is a reason that covetousness is included in the 10 Commandments – when covetousness begins, it leads to a host of other sins.  We want what we cannot have, and that starts our minds down a path of debauchery.

3 Therefore thus says the LORD: “Behold, against this family I am devising disaster, From which you cannot remove your necks; Nor shall you walk haughtily, For this is an evil time.

  • Notice the parallel wording in verse 3 in comparison with verse 1.  God devises disaster against those who devise iniquity.  God schemes against the schemer.
  • Question: Will the schemers be able to avoid God’s judgment?  No.  This is something “from which you cannot remove your necks.”  They would not escape their sin – they would know the judgment of God.
    • God’s judgment can never be avoided.  BUT…God’s judgment can be atoned!  As Christians, we do not experience the judgment due our sin, but that judgment is still doled out – it’s not avoided by any stretch of the imagination.  God gave His judgment, but He put it on Jesus & not us.  The judgment of God was not avoided; it was fulfilled – it found atonement in the sacrifice of Christ.

4 In that day one shall take up a proverb against you, And lament with a bitter lamentation, saying: ‘We are utterly destroyed! He has changed the heritage of my people; How He has removed it from me! To a turncoat He has divided our fields.’ ” 5 Therefore you will have no one to determine boundaries by lot In the assembly of the LORD.

  • A song of mourning and a proverb will be taken up against God’s people.  Once God’s judgment is poured out, it will be recognized for what it is.  The people will see the extent of their ruin, how everything was taken away from them.
  • Sadly, the same thing will take place in the hearts of countless numbers of people in hell.

Thus far, all of this has been the warning of God, spoken through the prophet Micah.  How would these warnings be received?  They wouldn’t be.  Vs. 6…

  • God’s word despised (2:6-11)

6 “Do not prattle,” you say to those who prophesy. So they shall not prophesy to you; They shall not return insult for insult.

  • Literally, “do not drip.”  God’s warnings were seen as a constant annoyance – a dripping to be stopped up & avoided.  It wasn’t seen as a flowing river of blessing, but more like a leaky roof that required repair.
  • People didn’t want the message of Micah (or of Isaiah, Hosea, etc.).  They didn’t want to hear a proclamation of judgment or a description of suffering, despite it being the truth.  What they wanted was something good – they wanted their ears tickled.  Micah spoke of the people receiving humiliation & insult, and the people didn’t want to hear of reproaches and hardships that could not be avoided.  They wanted to hear of good times & blessings & comforts.
    • Not much has changed! This is prophesied as a sign of the latter days (2 Tim 4:3) – even beyond that, people have always wanted to hear good news rather than hard news.  Keep in mind that the Bible does give good news.  It gives marvelously good news!  But we have to hear the hard news of judgment before we can appreciate the good news of the gospel.  That requires that we listen to all of God’s word, and not just get our ears tickled.
  • There’s no question that messages of judgment are difficult to hear. But the truth must be proclaimed!  Woe to pastors who refuse to preach the truth!  Woe to so-called prophets who proclaim nothing but empty promises & ear-tickling to their audiences!  They will face their own judgment by the Lord, and no doubt many will hear the words, “Depart from Me, I never knew you.”
    • Question: Why are these sorts of false prophets so abundant?  Apart from it being the end-times, and their existence being foretold in the Scripture – how is it that so many of these false teachers exist & have such prominent voices?  Answer: because people pay attention to them.  TV shows that have no viewing audience don’t last very long.  Authors who don’t sell any books don’t write many.  Granted, many people are truly deceived – but if true born-again Christians stopped giving time & attention & money to these false teachers, many of them would dry up almost overnight.  We have to take responsibility for ourselves, and that means we need to be true Bereans – being discerning with whom we listen, and what teaching we receive as truth.
  • The Lord continues speaking to Israel (probably both the north and the south)…

7 You who are named the house of Jacob: “Is the Spirit of the LORD restricted? Are these His doings? Do not My words do good To him who walks uprightly?

  • Has the Holy Spirit been shortened?  Did He somehow become powerless?  Is His word no longer truthful & trustworthy? 
  • Perish the thought!  God’s word is good & accurate!

8 “Lately My people have risen up as an enemy— You pull off the robe with the garment From those who trust you, as they pass by, Like men returned from war. 9 The women of My people you cast out From their pleasant houses; From their children You have taken away My glory forever.

  • God’s own people were acting like pagans.
  • They committed gross injustice towards women & children – again, calling on the earlier charge of oppression.
  • Worse yet, they destroyed their legacy.  The children would not know the “glory” of God, because they would not know God.
  • For all of these reasons, God declares their judgment. Vs. 10…

10 “Arise and depart, For this is not your rest; Because it is defiled, it shall destroy, Yes, with utter destruction. 11 If a man should walk in a false spirit And speak a lie, saying, ‘I will prophesy to you of wine and drink,’ Even he would be the prattler of this people.

  • The people would depart the land.  It would no longer be a place of rest of them – they had defiled it.
  • God had given them the opportunity to hear the truth, but they didn’t want it.  Again, they wanted a lie.  They wanted someone who would drip promises of parties & wealth; not of sin & judgment.
  • That may have been what they wanted; it wasn’t what they would receive!
  • Judgment was coming in the present, but something better was coming in the future: restoration!  Vs. 12…
  • God’s promise of restoration (2:12-13)

12 “I will surely assemble all of you, O Jacob, I will surely gather the remnant of Israel; I will put them together like sheep of the fold, Like a flock in the midst of their pasture; They shall make a loud noise because of so many people.

  • Notice the “surely” – the Hebrew grammar shows a definite emphasis on God’s work of assembling & gathering.  IOW, there’s no question He is going to do these things.  This is the sure promise of God!
  • The near promise was for scattering (“Arise & depart”); the future promise was for gathering.  Like the Good Shepherd He is, the Lord would gather His sheep together like flock.

13 The one who breaks open will come up before them; They will break out, Pass through the gate, And go out by it; Their king will pass before them, With the LORD at their head.”

  • Question: Is God presented as a shepherd, or as a king?  Both! The Good Shepherd opens the gate, but He can also be thought of as the Victorious Conqueror who “breaks open” the restraints on His people.  He will lead them as their King – just like He had always intended for them.
  • For as much as Micah will prophesy of judgment, he will also prophesy of the Millennial Kingdom, with King Jesus as the glorious reigning Messiah.  The first taste of it is given here.  He is King, and He is LORD.  He will lead His people, and all Israel will finally see Him for who He is!

Conclusion:
There’s some marvelous symmetry in Chapters 1-2.  Micah begins with God marching out to battle against His people.  Chapter 2 ends with God leading His people as the Victorious King & Shepherd.  There was much judgment awaiting both the Jews & Samaritans – but there was also a promise of restoration, regathering, and grace.  The judgment they deserved; the grace they did not…but that’s what makes it grace!

We too have received the grace of the Lord!  We have drunk abundantly of His mercies, and we rejoice in the fact that Jesus is the atonement for our sins.  He fulfilled 100% of the judgment that we should have received.  Praise God!

Just be careful not to take it for granted.  Do not despise the word of the Lord, nor His conviction.  When the Holy Spirit speaks to your heart, listen.  Pay attention to the things He has to say to you, and respond in obedience.  God doesn’t want to bring His discipline, but He’ll do it if necessary.  Don’t make it necessary.

Messenger of Messiah

Posted: November 6, 2015 in Malachi, Route 66

Route 66: Malachi, “Messenger of Messiah”

Nobody wants to be the bearer of bad news.  We even get hesitant to share some messages, simply because we’re afraid of how people will respond.  There’s a reason the cliché says “Don’t shoot the messenger!”  Others, however, need to be shared no matter how hard it may be to hear.  Those diagnosed with cancer need to be told immediately so that they can figure out the proper treatments.  And of course, those headed for sinful destruction need to be told, so they can repent & turn around before it’s too late.

Throughout the Bible, God shows that He was always vocal with His people in regards to His messages.  The Bible itself IS the message of God, with His will written in black & white for anyone willing to take the time to read it.  God wanted His people to know His will, and He routinely sent messengers to speak it.

Malachi is one of those messengers.  In fact, his very name translates to “my messenger.”  It’s even possible that the book that we have is actually anonymous, and that the name refers to a title given to this prophet.  Whoever this man was, he was simply a messenger of the Lord God.  God had a message to give, and this man was the person to deliver it.

Interestingly enough, this messenger delivers a message about another Messenger to come.  Actually, there are two messengers to be expected in the future.  One is someone who comes in the role of Elijah, and the other is the Lord God Himself.  The Lord Messiah will come as a Messenger of God, bringing the message of God’s holiness and judgment.  The time was coming when the Jews would have to face God for their sins, and the message they needed to hear was this: repent, before it’s too late!  God had a plan for His people, having loved His people, but He would also judge them for their sins.  God was merciful in giving them a chance to get ready, so He gave them plenty of advance warning.  This prophecy is the message in advance.

BACKGROUND:
The Jews were slipping back to their old ways.  The proverbs say it so vividly, “As a dog returns to his own vomit, so a fool repeats his folly,” (Prov 26:11).  It was sin that took them into the Babylonian captivity, and although after 70 years away the people were back in the land, they once again started falling back into old sinful habits.  God knew this wasn’t going to change.  There would always be brief periods of repentance & revival, but it wouldn’t last.  That’s just the human condition.  That’s the way it was with the ancient Jews, and that’s the way it is with us.

From a cursory glance of the book, it might be difficult to actually place a date range on it.  After all, the messages of Jewish sin and the judgment of God are nothing new – this is the same thing that God had been telling His people for centuries.  Yet a closer look indicates that the book was indeed written after the Jewish return from Babylonian captivity.  1:7 refers to ongoing sacrifices, indicating a functioning temple system.  1:8 references a “governor” rather than a “king,” and even the word for “governor” has a foreign origin – perhaps Persian.  However, the biggest indicator of chronology is the description of the sins of the Jews.  The things for which God called the Jews to repentance, are the very things described at the end of the book of Nehemiah when Nehemiah writes of the sins of his people.

Recall that Nehemiah had specifically requested permission from the Persian king to travel to Jerusalem, upon hearing that the walls of the city still lay burning & in ruins.  Although many of the people had returned, they had just done the bare minimum work of reconstruction.  Prophets had already spoken to the people about rebuilding the temple (Haggai & Zechariah), and apparently they had gotten that much done, but not much more.  Their city was still unprotected, and marauders could potentially come in at any time and lay waste to all that had been done.  What the Jews needed was leadership, and God raised up that leader in Nehemiah.

Nehemiah got to Jerusalem & got to work.  Within 52 days, the wall had been built (despite opposition), and the people rejoiced.  Nehemiah stayed on for a time as the city’s governor, and then travelled back to Susa in Persia, in order to keep his word to the king (Neh 1:6,13:6).  It was during Nehemiah’s absence that things went to Hades in a handbasket.  Corruption had set in among the priests, the people had stopped bringing their tithes to the temple, and they also began intermarrying the pagan women around them.  Once Nehemiah returned, he took the people to the woodshed (so to speak), and tried to get things back on the right track.

The message of Malachi seems to have come during that in-between time.  While Nehemiah was gone, God was still speaking…though He wouldn’t for long.  God addressed these very issues of sin, called the people to repentance, and told them of His judgment to come.  However, all of that came within a context of love.  God had chosen the Jews & loved the Jews.  He had a grand plan for the Jews and would one day personally dwell within their midst.  All of those promises were still valid, but in the meantime they still needed to walk in holiness.  So God sent this message, and along with it, the message of future Messengers to come – ultimately of the Messiah.

SIGNIFICANCE
The book of Malachi is both canonically and chronologically the final book of the OT.  He is the final writing prophet, and the prophetic word of God would not be heard among the Jews again for 400 years.  That’s not to say that the Jewish people did nothing for 4 centuries, but there was no word from God during that time.  God certainly was active in keeping His promises.  He kept His people alive, despite great opposition (and even a preview of Antichrist and the abomination of desolation).  God did much to act, but He did not speak…not at least anything that was recorded.  The book of Malachi leaves the people of God on edge, with a word basically saying, “To be continued…” and then they wait.  They’re waiting for the continuing word, the continuing message, and ultimately, the Eternal Messiah.  Thus, this is a short book, but it’s massively weighty in regards to anticipation. 

(In that respect, the OT ends not much differently than the NT.  The OT ended with the message that the forerunner of the Messiah would be coming, so watch carefully.  The NT ends with the message that the Messiah Himself is coming back, so we still need to watch carefully.  Watch!)

Malachi is quoted 4 times in the NT, mostly in regards to John the Baptist fulfilling the role of Elijah, as the forerunner of the Messiah.  This is one of Malachi’s most important contributions to the Scripture, in that it gave a sign from which people could look for Messiah/Christ to come.  Modern Christians today tend to downplay the significance of John the Baptist, but it would have been impossible to overstate his importance to the 1st century Church.  John was so well-known that he is referenced in all four gospels, which were written in dates ranging from the 50’s-90’s, to people ranging from Jews to Gentiles.  All kinds of people had heard of the ministry of John the Baptist, and people were still converting based on his message well into the book of Acts.  John serves as a massive signpost to Jesus – truly the final OT prophet, though he never wrote a single word.  Malachi and Isaiah both prophesied of his role, with Malachi leaving people on edge to look for him.

Malachi is also quoted by the apostle Paul in regards to God’s sovereignty.  Does God have the right to choose whom He loves?  Yes, based on what God had to say about the comparison between Israel and Edom.  From Paul’s usage of that verse has come a lot of (unnecessary) controversy regarding God’s sovereignty and election.

Beyond that, Malachi addresses such things as God’s unchangeable nature (immutability), tithing, divorce, the Incarnation, the 2nd Coming, and much more.  It may be a tiny book, but it’s got a lot to offer!

GENERAL OUTLINE
Although some scholars divide Malachi into two parts, we’re going to see three basic divisions:

  • God’s love for Israel (1:1-5). This 1st tiny section really sets the tone for everything else that is to come.  God will have much to say about His judgment of their sin, but He first affirms that He loves His people.  Messages of rebuke are much easier to receive from those you know love you…and that’s what God tells the Jews.
  • Israel’s profanity towards God (1:6-2:17).  God loved them, but He wasn’t blind to their sin.  Concentrating on three main areas (offerings, priests, marriages), God lists off the various ways they had profaned His holiness.
  • God’s message to Israel (3:1-4:6).  Once God declares what He saw, He also declares what will come.  His messenger would come to prepare His way, and He Himself would come to cleanse His people.  The time for them to repent was now, and one day the Jews would not only see the holiness of God, but so would all the world.

God’s love for Israel
Introduction (1:1)
Unlike other OT prophets, Malachi says virtually nothing about himself.  There’s no mention of any kings under which he wrote (perhaps proof that there were no Jewish kings at the time), nor is there any mention of family background.  Again, his own name might not even be his proper birth-name, but a title given him by the Lord.  One tradition ascribes the book to Ezra, but that is highly unlikely.  Based off of the pattern shown in the rest of the OT Scriptures, in that every other prophetic writing began by introducing the actual prophet, it seems only reasonable to conclude that there was indeed a prophet whose name was (most appropriately) “My Messenger,” or Malachi.  מַלְאָכִֽי

There is perhaps one additional clue as to the timeframe seen in the introduction: this word was addressed to “Israel.”  There is no indication of a divided kingdom, or even a kingdom at all.  Instead, the people of Israel are addressed, perhaps showing that those divisions no longer mattered.  God had a word for His people, and He sent His messenger to give it.

  • In regards to his name, is that not how we want to be known as well?  There’s something wonderful about Malachi’s identity being wholly wrapped up in the message God had given him for the people.  When people heard him, they didn’t hear a celebrity or anyone else – they heard the word of God.  How wonderful it would be for us to be so transparent that when people saw us, they saw Jesus!  The NT says that we are the aroma/fragrance of Christ (2 Cor 2:15) – because of our message of the gospel, everything we say and do is supposed to cause people to smell Jesus, as He effuses from us.  At the end of the day, we (especially as a church congregation) don’t want to be known for our name, but for Jesus’ name.  We just want to be His messengers. 

Israel vs. Edom (1:2-3)
Again, God had some harsh words coming for Israel, but before He gets to it, He first affirms His love for His people.  [Sandwich principle]  Here, God comes straight-out and tells His people plainly that He loves them.  The only problem was that they didn’t believe it.  God knew that they would question His love for them, if for no other reason than because so many of the promises God had made to them were as of yet unfulfilled.  God had promised a world-wide kingdom – it hadn’t come.  God had promised to personally come to them – He hadn’t come.  At this point in the life of Israel, the people were back in the land, but they were small and insignificant in the grand scheme of things.  They didn’t even rule themselves independently.  Where was this great love of God for Israel?

God’s answer was simple: look around you.  They were back in the land.  That itself was evidence of God’s love.  The contrast was with Edom.  Historically, Esau & Jacob were twin brothers, although only one received the Messianic covenant of God (Jacob/Israel).  Thus what happened to their descendants?  Both nations were conquered by Babylon, but only one nation was back.  The Jews had returned to their homeland, but not the Edomites.  This was proof of God’s love for them.  God had chosen the Jews over the Edomites, and it was God’s right (and joy) to do so.

It’s that issue of God’s sovereign choice which Paul picked up on in his letter to the Romans.  Speaking of God’s election of Jacob: Romans 9:13–16, "(13) As it is written, “Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated.” (14) What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? Certainly not! (15) For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.” (16) So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy."  From this has erupted all kinds of controversy in regards to Calvinism, predestination, and the like.  The truth is that all we can say assuredly from this passage is that God chose to love Jacob, and God has the right to choose to love anyone He wishes.  God doesn’t have to love anyone.  God doesn’t have to show mercy to anyone.  This is a choice that He makes, and it is wonderful!

  • Does this mean that there are certain people in the world incapable of receiving God’s mercies?  Actually, this Scripture doesn’t address that at all.  It says nothing about the choices of Esau/Edom to refuse repentance, nor anyone else in the world.  It says nothing from the human point of view, but speaks only of God’s point of view.  God chose to love, and that alone is enough to make our minds spin!
  • Understand that we are no more deserving of God’s love than Israel…or Edom, or Babylon, or any other nation of the world.  We all deserve His judgment.  The idea that He would love us at all is amazing.  Yet He does, and all the evidence we need is in the cross and resurrection.

God’s plan for Edom (1:4-5)
God wasn’t quite done speaking about Edom.  Edom had plans for itself, to rebuild…but those were contrary to the plans of God for them.  As we’ve seen many times in the past, God is God over every nation of the world; not just Israel.  God would not allow Edom to rebuild, and this was historically proven when the land Edom once inhabited was taken over by the Nabatean empire.  What was once known as Edom became the people of Idumea, and they ended up moving into the southern areas of Israel during the years of the Romans.

So God loved His people, and the evidence was there.  However, the people did not act in love towards their God.  They engaged in profane sin, and God goes on to list it…

Israel’s profanity towards God
Profane offerings (1:6-14)
Notice the dialogue that takes place throughout Malachi.  Over & over again, God lays out a truth, and anticipates a response from the people along the lines of “How so?”  Earlier, God said He loved Israel, and the question back was “In what way?”  It’s the same thing here.  God deserved the honor and reverence of the people, but declares that He was despised by them instead.  They ask (1:6) “In what way have we despised Your name?

The answer was seen in their offerings.  Yes, the people brought offerings to a functioning temple, but what they brought was worthless.  They brought the least of the flocks: the lame, blind, and sick (1:8).  If the Persian governor showed up, the people wouldn’t think about giving him a gift of a disabled sheep – yet they didn’t hesitate to do the same with the Lord God.

Why should God accept such a worthless offering from them?  This was all vanity – all ritualism, and God declares He wouldn’t accept it.  Malachi 1:10, "(10) “Who is there even among you who would shut the doors, So that you would not kindle fire on My altar in vain? I have no pleasure in you,” Says the Lord of hosts, “Nor will I accept an offering from your hands."

  • God isn’t interested in ritualism for the sake of ritualism.  He isn’t interested in an offering that is a throw-away thought.  The people may have walked through the steps of obedience, but their hearts were far from Him.  We can so easily do the same thing as NT believers!  We can pray the same perfunctory prayers we always pray, without thinking it through.  We can sing songs simply because music is playing, without meaning the words.  That’s not true worship, but that’s so often what we offer.  God deserves something more!  If a special guest arrived at our home, we would speak to them sincerely & desire to engage with them.  How much more with our Lord & Savior?

As for Israel, God was reminding them of something important: He loved them, having chosen them out of all the nations of the world.  But they weren’t the only nation in the world.  One day God’s name would be great among every nation (1:11,14).  Israel didn’t want to lose their opportunity to worship Him now!

Profane priests (2:1-9)
God moves from the offerings brought to the temple, to those who received the offerings in the temple.  The priests were just as profane as the blind & lame animals to be sacrificed.  God had made a covenant with the house of Levi for a perpetual priesthood (2:4), but this was a covenant that was being despised by the current descendants.  This current generation of priests was no different from the sons of Eli (1 Sam 2).  They did not seek the Lord, did not know the law of God, and they caused people to stumble in their worship (2:7-9).  The Levitical priests were supposed to be examples to the rest of Israel of how to worship God – they were supposed to be able to teach the people of Israel the truth of God.  As it turned out, they were incapable of either, not caring anything about God.

  • We do not have a Levitical priesthood within the Church, but ALL of us within the Church are priests.  We are a royal priesthood of believers (1 Pet 2:9), and just like the Levites were supposed to represent God to Israel, so do we represent Jesus to the world.  When our own personal walk is profane, then we are no good for the spread of the gospel.  The mission is too important for us to let our sin get in the way!
  • We’re all priests, but there definitely is special application to those in the ministry.  Those who teach the word ought to know the word.  Those who preach Christ ought to be careful not to cause others to stumble.  There is indeed a judgment coming, and those who teach the Scripture will be held to a stricter judgment (Jas 3:1).

Profane marriages (2:10-17)
The final area of profanity God points out is the defilement of marriage.  God desired purity for His people, and part of that was only possible if Jews married other Jews.  Invariably, when the men of Israel intermarried with the pagan cultures around them, it was the Israelites who fell into sin.  (Solomon being a prime example!)  The Jews of Malachi’s day ended engaging in this same folly (2:11).

Beyond intermarriage, there was also an issue of rampant infidelity and divorce.  Whether or not this was related to the intermarriage is not said, but it seems to be implied.  Perhaps many of those who married pagan women first cheated upon their Jewish wives with them, and then divorced their Jewish wives to go after the pagans.  Again, this isn’t directly said, but the text leaves open the possibility.  In any case, adultery & fornication was far too common among the (supposed) people of God, and it led to divorce after divorce.

Likewise today, divorce is far too common.  Even if some of the statistics regarding divorce among Christians are incorrect, simple observation shows Christian divorce to be rampant.  ANY divorce is sad.  ALL divorce grieves the heart of God.  Even when divorce takes place under Biblical allowances, it’s still tragic that it became necessary in the first place.  How does God see divorce?  He hates it.  Malachi 2:16, "(16) “For the Lord God of Israel says That He hates divorce, For it covers one’s garment with violence,” Says the Lord of hosts. Therefore take heed to your spirit, That you do not deal treacherously.”" Divorce destroys families, hurts children, hurts people, and rips apart covenants made with the Lord God.  Divorce is tragic…always.

  • That’s not to say divorce is unforgiveable.  There is forgiveness at the cross for even the worst of our bad choices.  We just want to be careful to hate the things God hates and love the things God loves.  God hates divorce, but He loves grace and reconciliation.

God’s message to Israel
The coming messenger(s) (3:1-5)
So God had seen the sin of His people, and now wanted to make it clear that He had a plan to deal with it.  He would do so by sending His messenger.  Interestingly, there are two messengers mentioned – both in vs. 1: Malachi 3:1, "(1) “Behold, I send My messenger, And he will prepare the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, Will suddenly come to His temple, Even the Messenger of the covenant, In whom you delight. Behold, He is coming,” Says the Lord of hosts."

The NKJV & HCSB indicate these messengers as being two different individuals by the way the 2nd “Messenger” is capitalized, but that’s not evident in all Bible translations (and there isn’t any capitalization in the Hebrew text at all).  So how do we know this is referencing two different people?  First, we can look at the context.  God says how He will send His messenger, who will prepare the way, then He speaks of the Lord who comes to HIS temple, and this Lord is described as the “Messenger of the covenant.”  In fact, vs. 2-3 go on to speak about how no one can endure the “day of His coming,” as He will judge like a “refiner and purifier of silver.”  That is descriptive of the judgment of the Lord God; not a mere prophet (even as great as a prophet might be).

The second way we can know this refers to two different individuals (and not only a single reference to the Lord God) is because Jesus personally interprets this verse for us.  Matthew 11:10,13-14 "(10) For this is he of whom it is written: ‘Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, Who will prepare Your way before You.’ … (13) For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. (14) And if you are willing to receive it, he is Elijah who is to come."  Thus the 1st messenger in 3:1 is John the Baptist – as told us directly by Jesus.  The 2nd Messenger is someone who would come suddenly to His temple – something that John never did (he ministered in the wilderness by the Jordan river), and he could never have claimed the temple as his own, even if he did minister there.

What is this saying?  It’s teaching not only of the ministry of the John the Baptist, but also of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ.  For the Lord to be seen by the Jews to come suddenly to the temple is to speak of a physical appearance of God.  Right here is a pointer to the Deity and Incarnation of Jesus, seen not only as the Messiah of the Jews, but the God of Israel.

Of course the main point is that God was coming, so the people needed to be ready.  That’s why He called them to repent…

Call to repentance (3:6-18)

  • The call (6-7).  God first invites the people to repent.  God had been gracious to their forefathers in the past, and God would be gracious to them now.  God had made a covenant with their forefathers in ancient times, and God would not break it today.  Why?  (6) “For I am the LORD, I do not change.”  God is immutable, unchangeable in His very nature.  He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  God was just as loving & merciful in the OT as He is seen in the NT.  And the same is true in regards to His holiness & righteousness.  He never changes.  (And praise God for it!  Imagine if God was as fickle as we are!)
  • Tithing (8-12).  God already pointed out the profanity of their sacrifices; now He points out that they had stopped bringing in their tithes.  Yet this was something that they could quickly change.  And in fact, this was something God invited them to test.  They experienced hardship now because they had withdrawn themselves from God.  But what would happen if they trusted God with everything, including their economics?  God would pour out blessings upon them!  God wanted His people to trust Him, and He gave them the opportunity to do so through the tithe.
    • This verse is often taken out of context in regards to NT giving.  The principle is true; the specific commandment is not.  The tithe certainly preceded Israel (it’s seen in Abraham), but this specific tithe was commanded for Israel in regards to their national covenant with God.  What IS commanded for us in the NT is free, cheerful, abundant giving.  Ultimately, it’s an act of worship; not a get-rich-quick scheme.
  • Service (13-18).  Not only could the people repent in regards to their giving, but they could do the same in regards to their service.  At the time, they believed it was “useless to serve God” (3:14).  Like so many of us today, they looked around & wondered why it was the wicked seemed to prosper.  Earlier, they asked “Where is the God of justice?” (2:17), and now they believed that it was the wicked & proud that seemed to be blessed (3:15).  Yet God reminded them that He knew them.  He knew who it was that truly feared the Lord (2:16), worshipping Him & meditating upon His name.  The worshippers of God had their own names written in God’s book, and God promised that they were His.  They would be rewarded and made the jewels of God (3:17).
    • The point?  Trust the justice of God.  Wicked people DO sometimes prosper today, but they won’t in eternity.  One day everything is going to be made plain, and God will know those who worship & serve Him in spirit & truth.

The Day of the Lord (4:1-6)
About that day of judgment, God goes on to make it clear.  All those proud wicked people will be burned up like stubble (4:1).  They will be consumed in the day that the Lord Jesus returns in power, glory, and His wrath.  None of the wicked will be able to stand, and everything about them will be cut of (root & branch, 4:1).  But those who worship God will be upheld by Him!  They will be blessed by Him!  Malachi 4:2–3, "(2) But to you who fear My name The Sun of Righteousness shall arise With healing in His wings; And you shall go out And grow fat like stall-fed calves. (3) You shall trample the wicked, For they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet On the day that I do this,” Says the Lord of hosts."  This is the promise of God Almighty!  He (Jesus, the Sun of Righteousness) will heal every hurt, and He will bless His people.

In the meantime, the people needed to wait.  That day was coming, and God told them exactly what to look for.  Rather, God told them WHO to look for: the 1st messenger of 3:1.  Malachi 4:5–6, "(5) Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet Before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. (6) And he will turn The hearts of the fathers to the children, And the hearts of the children to their fathers, Lest I come and strike the earth with a curse."  When the Israelites saw the return of Elijah, that is the day that they would know their redemption was nigh.  When the messenger in the spirit and power of Elijah came, preaching repentance, and causing people to repent (especially in regards to their families), then they could know the 2nd Messenger, the Messiah was at hand.

And He was!  John came on the scene preaching the Kingdom of God, and the coming King – and that’s exactly Who came.  Jesus arrived as the Ultimate Messenger of God.  And just as Malachi indicated, He came once with the message of repentance, but there is still a second coming in the future, when He’ll come with power & judgment.  Are we watching?  Are we ready?

Conclusion:
At the end of 4:6, the word of God would be silent for 400 years – but when it came again, it would pick up exactly where God left off.  God told the people to get ready & watch for His Messenger, and that is who came.

In the meantime, they had the opportunity to repent, and it wasn’t one to waste.  God was well aware of their profanity & worthless worship, and He knew that His judgment of them was well-deserved.  But that’s not what God wanted to do.  God loved His people, and He wanted them to repent…so He gave them every opportunity to do so.

Thankfully, He gives us the same opportunity!