The Book of Malachi - Part 1

The Book of Malachi is the last book of the Old Testament. The Book was written sometime after the return of the Jews from the seventy years of Babylonian captivity. The book was particularly admonishing the the priests and the people about their improper way of offering sacrifices and giving to God. It seemed that after the seventy years of exile, the Jews have forgotten the proper way of worship. The book also warned the people about God's coming judgment and the Second Coming, the Day of the Lord.

An example with Esau

Malachi started his book with a tough warning. In Mal 1:2-5, God was telling the Jews of the assurance of His love and promises to Israel their patriarch and reminded them of the fate of Esau. Esau turned his heart against his own brother, Jacob then against his parents and God. He sold his holy birthright to Jacob, and that sealed his fate. Eventually he married pagan women and lived among the Gentiles. God took away from him the blessings to become a great nation therefore turning the territory of his generation into a desolate land. God was bringing this into the people's memory so that they will not commit the same mistakes. Please read The Prophet Obadiah for details about Jacob and Esau (Israel and Edom).

The sins of the Jews

God was regarded low by the priests, even lower than to one's own master or father. That was a great offence against the Lord.

Mal 1:6a
6 "A son honours his father, and a servant his master. If I am a father, where is the honour due me? If I am a master, where is the respect due me?" says the LORD Almighty. "It is you, O priests, who show contempt for my name.

But the priest have become insensitive to this so that they don't even know they are guilty of the sin. So they asked the Lord what was their sin.

Mal 1:6b-9
"But you ask, 'How have we shown contempt for your name?'
7 "You place defiled food on my altar.
"But you ask, 'How have we defiled you?'
"By saying that the LORD's table is contemptible. 8 When you bring blind animals for sacrifice, is that not wrong? When you sacrifice crippled or diseased animals, is that not wrong? Try offering them to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you?" says the LORD Almighty.
9 "Now implore God to be gracious to us. With such offerings from your hands, will he accept you?"-says the LORD Almighty.

The priest became very complacent about the unacceptable sacrifices written by Moses in Lev 22:17-33. Probably, they have been burning offerings to God for years and centuries, they forgot the important rules or even more possibly, they have lost their sincerity and faith. Time can easily change our lifestyles but that should not change the way we worship God. Jesus Christ had put an end to animal sacrifices by offering Himself on the cross but God still demands same kind of worship, do offerings they did before—not animals or grains anymore but our own bodies.

Rom 12:1-2
12:1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God — this is your spiritual act of worship. 2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Therefore, if God rejected blemished animal offerings before, He will also reject our bodies if we are corrupted by the standards of this world. Worship is not only found in the confines of the worship hall but more importantly how we conduct ourselves daily with the rest of the world. We live today in a most trying times in all history. More and more people have access to knowledge by means of handheld electronic gadgets. People are becoming less physically sociable but more electronically sociable as we are more opened to all sorts of worldly influence greatly reducing our fellowship time for God. The message of Malachi is even more real nowadays.

The priests are admonished
God admonition in Mal 2:1-9 are solely against the priests who administers the ceremonies at the Holy Temple before the people of Israel. The priests come exclusively from the tribe of Levi. To Levi, God has this covenant with him:

Mal 2:3-6
4 And you will know that I have sent you this admonition so that my covenant with Levi may continue," says the LORD Almighty. 5 "My covenant was with him, a covenant of life and peace, and I gave them to him; this called for reverence and he revered me and stood in awe of my name. 6 True instruction was in his mouth and nothing false was found on his lips. He walked with me in peace and uprightness, and turned many from sin.

But is this the Levi with whom God made a covenant of life and peace the Levi, the son of Jacob? The first Levi, the third son of Jacob through Leah (Gen 29:34) was a violent man killing many, not promoting life (Gen 34:25-30; 49:5-7). The real Levi is Jesus Christ, our High Priest in the order of Melchizedek, the first High Priest (Heb 4:14-15; 5:5; 6:20), the One whom Malachi was talking about having the covenant of life and peace. In the New Covenant with Jesus Christ, every believer is a priest of the Lord (Isa 61:6; 66:21; 1Pet 2:5-9; Rev 1:6; 5:10; 20:6). This admonition is for us, present generation who are members of the Church of Jesus Christ, our God.

Judah's immorality
In Mal 2:10-16, Malachi also admonished all the people this time, the whole House of Judah, those who have returned from captivity in Babylon. They too, like the priests have desecrated God sanctuary by prostituting themselves with pagan women. Malachi was referring to tribe of Judah's bad example they have shown when they married foreign women (Neh 13:23-27). It is important to read the warnings here by Malachi.

Mal 2:10-16
10 Have we not all one Father? Did not one God create us? Why do we profane the covenant of our fathers by breaking faith with one another?
11 Judah has broken faith. A detestable thing has been committed in Israel and in Jerusalem: Judah has desecrated the sanctuary the LORD loves, by marrying the daughter of a foreign god. 12 As for the man who does this, whoever he may be, may the LORD cut him off from the tents of Jacob-even though he brings offerings to the LORD Almighty.
13 Another thing you do: You flood the LORD's altar with tears. You weep and wail because he no longer pays attention to your offerings or accepts them with pleasure from your hands. 14 You ask, "Why?" It is because the LORD is acting as the witness between you and the wife of your youth, because you have broken faith with her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant.
15 Has not [the LORD] made them one? In flesh and spirit they are his. And why one? Because he was seeking godly offspring. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth.
16 "I hate divorce," says the LORD God of Israel, "and I hate a man's covering himself with violence as well as with his garment," says the LORD Almighty. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith.

God is more specific to our moral duty towards God. Judah became detestable to God's eyes by becoming immoral—marrying unbelieving women. And even that was not the worst part. They also divorced their wives in order to remarry whom they choose disregarding the command not to marry unbelievers (Deut 7:2-4; Josh 23:12-13; Ezra 10:10).

These days, marriage is no longer considered sacred. Very few consider marriage seriously anymore as reflected by the 50% of all marriages in America that end in divorce. The passage says that guarding our spirit (against temptation) and keeping the faith is one of the best weapons to avoid marriage break-up. Sexual temptations abound among men and women alike that can ruin the very foundation of society—which is the family. The children are the real victims of marriage break-up.

Do not question God about our miseries

God is also wearied by so many people today accusing God of injustice. Many of us, me included, who questions why the ungodly prosper while the believers suffer.

Mal 2:17
17 You have wearied the LORD with your words.
"How have we wearied him?" you ask.
By saying, "All who do evil are good in the eyes of the LORD, and he is pleased with them" or "Where is the God of justice?"

A psalmist had once complained about the prosperity of the wicked:

Ps 73:2-3
2 But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold. 3 For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.

And Jeremiah also once questioned the Lord at the time when Judah was suffering, about to fall in the hands of the Babylonians:

Jer 12:1
You are always righteous, O LORD, when I bring a case before you. Yet I would speak with you about your justice: Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do all the faithless live at ease?

Even Job, known for his enduring faith once had a doubt about God's justice when he faced, perhaps the cruellest trial in the Scriptures:

Job 21:7-9
7 Why do the wicked live on, growing old and increasing in power? 8 They see their children established around them, their offspring before their eyes. 9 Their homes are safe and free from fear; the rod of God is not upon them.

If God's most faithful servants had questioned God's justice, how much more of us, of ordinary faith? Every believer has at least once or many points in their lives for sure doubted God's justice. God knows about this. There's nothing new but it has made God weary about our lack of faith. God's had written for us in the Scriptures the answer on this question... "Why do the wicked prosper and the faithful suffer?"

Ps 37:1-7
Do not fret because of evil men or be envious of those who do wrong; 2 for like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away.
3 Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. 4 Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.
5 Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this: 6 He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.
7 Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.

Read all the verses of Psalm 37 and have faith, for God cares for you. Ever wondered why no apostle had lived a comfortable and wealthy life? All they had to show are suffering after following Jesus Christ. They were actually became poorer and martyred. God may never lead us to those same footsteps. He will only take us to where our faith will be able to bear. God pushed His most trusted servants to the limits of their faiths in order to prepare them for a greater rewards that moths and rust can not destroy but a hundredfold blessings in Heaven. Soon we will see the name of the twelve apostle engraved on the foundations of the Holy City (Rev 21:14) with all the wealth and power for eternity. Read also the Eight Beatitudes why we have to rejoice if we are deprived of earthly pleasures. Let us not question God for all our sufferings. Soon in Heaven we shall see the orphaned, the beggars and the diseased in the street, the homeless, the starved people in Africa, Asia and everywhere, the victims of injustice, all enjoying the best rewards God can provide.

It is not a sin though to enjoy the bounty of God's earthly blessings. However, having a great comfort and wealth is also likened to man sleeping with an enemy. Once a man obtain great comfort and wealth, most certainly he becomes a slave to money. Then, given a choice between losing all and following God is almost impossible (Mat 19:24). And that is certainly dangerous since a man can not serve two masters (Mat 6:24). We have to emulate Job who treated money as a slave not a master and God will provide us more. Malachi also had answers to those who complained about the "injustice" why the sinners prosper and the righteous suffer.

Mal 3:14-18
14 "You have said, 'It is futile to serve God. What did we gain by carrying out his requirements and going about like mourners before the LORD Almighty? 15 But now we call the arrogant blessed. Certainly the evildoers prosper, and even those who challenge God escape.'"
16 Then those who feared the LORD talked with each other, and the LORD listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the LORD and honored his name.
17 "They will be mine," says the LORD Almighty, "in the day when I make up my treasured possession. I will spare them, just as in compassion a man spares his son who serves him. 18 And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not.

[Related: Modern Idolatry]

We will continue next week on this study of the Book of Malachi.

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