Read: Malachi 1-4
Malachi’s prophetic and challenging words seem to flow well after reading Nehemiah 13. As contemporaries, Nehemiah was working to establish order out of the chaos of exile while Malachi focused on remembering the covenants of old. Both worked hand-in-hand to encourage the remnant and rebuke those who were misguided.
The overarching theme that sticks out to me today has to do with covenants. This is a foreign concept today in this society. Few are held to the high standard of covenants, but this needs to be explored.
The paragraph headings in the NIV prompt us to consider five thoughts on covenants:
- Blemished Sacrifices: Malachi 1:6-14
- Divorce: Malachi 2:10-16
- Injustice: Malachi 2:17-3:5
- Tithes: Malachi 3:6-12
- Renewal: Malachi 3:16-4:6
“A son honors his father, and a slave his master. If I am a father, where is the honor due me? If I am a master, where is the respect due me?” says the Lord Almighty. Malachi 1:6
When you offer blind animals for sacrifice, is that not wrong? When you sacrifice lame 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. Malachi 1:8
Malachi’s message is direct and full of examples of how people were cheating and further, how the priests allowed them to offer unworthy sacrifices:
“Because of you I will rebuke your descendants; I will smear on your faces the dung from your festival sacrifices, and you will be carried off with it. Malachi 2:3
That’s pretty harsh, agree? Smearing dung on my face for my blatant disrespect.
Malachi sets up this discussion with asking us to remember:
Do we not all have one Father? Did not one God create us? Why do we profane the covenant of our ancestors by being unfaithful to one another? Malachi 2:10
Unfaithful by marrying outside of Israel which leads to idolatry (Ezra and Nehemiah both addressed these issues before) and unfaithful in marriage:
It is because the Lord is the witness between you and the wife of your youth. You have been unfaithful to her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant. Malachi 2:14
In the next two verses that follow Malachi reinforces the sin of being unfaithful to the wife of your youth, of disregard for the covenant bond of marriage. These are hard words to consider in this society where so many marriages end in divorce. I would offer a difficult observation: one or both have forsaken their end of the covenant by taking their eyes off of God and placing them selfishly on their own desires.
Lord, I pray for those whose marriages are under attack, for those who are hearing voices that are not from you telling them that divorce is the only option. Help our brothers and sisters to seek you first, Lord, to look to you above all others. Help me to remember the covenant bond with the wife of my youth and rejoice! This is a great thing! May we hear to words of assurance from you and see the smile on your face as we walk hand in hand. Squelch the voice of the great deceiver who whispers words of self-gratitude, of instant satisfaction rather than long term commitment. May we be a better people as a result and please help us to be different, in a righteous way, than the rest of the world around us.
“So I will come to put you on trial. I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive the foreigners among you of justice, but do not fear me,” says the Lord Almighty. Malachi 3:5
Our God is a God of order and discipline, one who promotes justice and fair treatment among his people. The idea of loving our neighbor flows from this concept, but the way we act many times is far from just.
Now this verse is the verse for the every preacher to hit as school begins: remember to tithe!
Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it. Malachi 3:10
Reading this in context is very helpful. The exiles have returned, yet they are withholding their tithes from the priests and musicians who are assigned duties for the people and for the Lord. They weren’t meant to be bi-vocational–they were supposed to be completely dedicated to the temple.
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. Malachi 3:16
So refreshing to read! There are those who heard the message! Yes, most of the words of the prophets are difficult, but there are those who listen. The Lord will honor his end of the covenant, “they will be my treasured possession. I will spare them…for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its rays.”
Malachi ends the words of the Old Testament with hope for the coming Messiah, then silence for 400 years. We remember the 430-year gap between Joseph and Moses, now we wait for John the Baptist to proclaim the coming of Jesus.