Archive for the ‘Malachi’ Category

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.

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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!