Our study of the Minor Prophets has brought us finally to the book of Malachi, written approximately 450 years before Christ. Malachi, whose name means “my messenger”, lived during the time of Ezra and Nehemiah, which was about one hundred years after God’s people returned from exile.

Proper religious ceremonies were being observed once again in the temple;  but for most of the worshipers, it was just “going through the motions”. The dry, formal services failed to indicate any real love or heartfelt conviction on the part of the priests or the people.

Thought Questions: Who is to blame if the church service seems too dry and formal? Is it possible to be blessed and spiritually uplifted, even if the service falls short of being all it should be? Even if the pastor and church leaders put on a good “show”, what difference does it make if the congregation doesn’t respond to God’s invitation and praise and serve Him with all their heart? Why is it important for church growth that both leaders and members be filled with God’s Spirit?

Malachi teaches us that God is fully committed to His people, but we also must be fully committed to fulfilling our sacred responsibilities.

Memory Text: “‘My name will be great among the nations [Gentiles–KJV], from the rising to the setting of the sun. In every place incense and pure offerings will be brought to my name, because my name will be great among the nations [heathen–KJV],’ says the Lord Almighty.” Malachi 1:11 NIV

We have to keep in mind that the reference to “nations” or “heathen” refers to groups of people who practiced idolatry; in essence they were Satan worshipers. And when they became so utterly vile and a threat to themselves and those around them, God at times allowed them to be wiped out, often by angelic or supernatural involvement of some kind. But the greatest miracle of all would be for these Gentile nations to become followers of the Lord. That was God’s true desire.

Sunday: Great Is the Lord (Malachi 1)

{Questions they asked God in this chapter: How have you loved us? v. 2 How have we shown contempt for your name? v. 6 How have we defiled you? v. 7}

The issue in this chapter is the charge of bringing less than physically perfect animals to be sacrificed in the temple. Why would God be upset with this practice? Why were the priests rebuked for allowing it? But before we get to these answers, let’s take a look at the first five verses of Malachi and discover why God hated Esau, and what this “hate” really means.

Malachi 1:3 clearly says, “And I hated Esau, and laid his mountains and his heritage waste for the dragons of the wilderness.” KJV Two other versions in my parallel Bible agree with the use of the word “hate” here, except for The Living Bible, which translates it as “reject”. The Strong’s Concordance also verified the word “hate”, but I think “reject” does seem to stay true to the context. God did truly reject Esau’s descendants, because of their rebellious ways.

So, what about the concept of God hating Esau?. How do we reconcile that hate with our belief in the loving nature of our Creator? First of all, let’s keep in mind that Jesus pronounced in Luke 14:26 that if we are to follow Him, we must “hate” our family members. Indeed it says we must hate our father, mother, wife, children, brothers, sisters, and even our own life. Once again, The Living Bible comes to our rescue and says we just must love God more than our family or ourselves. That certainly does make more sense to our minds today.

Another verification of this understanding of the word “hate” is found in Genesis 29:30-31, which says:

“And he went in also unto Rachel, and he loved also Rachel more than Leah, and served with him yet seven other years. And when the Lord saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb: but Rachel was barren.”

We can see here that Leah was loved less than her sister, but certainly Jacob held no great animosity against her–she bare him many children. But once again, the term “hate” was used to describe the emotion that was felt for her.

Thought Question: What does God’s hate really mean in these passages? What is the connection between God’s love and hate, and His blessing and cursing?

And now the issue of the animal sacrifices. We can clearly see, standing on the other side of the crucifixion, the reason why the “Lamb” must be perfect and without blemish. They represented the supreme sacrifice that Jesus made for us. Offering any less would nullify the lesson of the spotless character of God. In allowing this practice, the priests were encouraging the people to think that sacrifices were not important, that following all of God’s instructions was not important.

I couldn’t help but see a comparison to some church leaders today. In many churches we see a trend of “watering down” some of God’s instructions. Whether it’s accepting another day to worship God, acknowledging lax Sabbathkeeping, or continuing in any lifestyle that does not fully reflect the purity that God has called us to, the message is given that God isn’t particular, that He accepts our worship, even if it falls short of what God requests of us.

Malachi gives three reasons why God deserves our full respect and honorable service.

  1. First, He is our Father. As His children, He should be honored and obeyed.
  2. Second, He is our Master. As servants, our Master deserves our best service.
  3. And lastly, He is our King. Certainly, no earthly king would feel honored by sub-standard gifts. How can we offer God anything but our best then?

 Monday: Loving and Respecting Others (Malachi 2)

{Questions they asked God in this chapter: Why do you not pay attention to our offerings and accept them with pleasure from our hands? v. 13-14 How have we wearied Him? Where is the God of justice? v. 17}

This chapter takes up another issue God has with His people, another indication that their worship falls short of honoring God. He reminds them of another covenant they have taken lightly–the marriage covenant. There had been far too much intermarriage with idolaters and also too much divorce. God intended marriage to be a life commitment. But in choosing their mate unwisely, and later breaking their marital vows, God was evidently not an integral part of the arrangement.

How this sad state reflects our society today. We should not be surprised that the divorce rate of church members almost equals that of those out of the church. It shows us just how far we have wandered from God’s guidance, just like those living in Malachi’s time. We should heed the prophet’s warning and focus on God, making Him the number one priority in our life.

Tuesday: Tithe in the Storehouse (Malachi 3:1-12)

{Questions they asked God in these verses: How are we to return? v. 7 How do we rob you? v. 8 }

Tithing was not introduced in Malachi. As a matter of fact, the practice is first mentioned in the story of Abraham. He returns a tenth of the spoils to Melchizedek, king of Salem and priest of God. (Genesis 14:20) Its purpose has always been to support the priesthood and those entrusted to tending God’s flock. According to Malachi, to neglect returning tithe is the same as robbing God, our High Priest and Good Shepherd.

What is unique about Malachi’s reference to the custom of tithing is the rare challenge that God proposes in verse 10 to put God to the test. He says: “Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat [food] in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.” KJV

God was at times annoyed by requests for a test to show He was God. But there is something about tithing, when done willingly with humility out of love, that gives God a concrete chance to show His love in return. God invites us to return the tithe and be reminded that God owns everything and that He will provide for you in return, in ways you couldn’t have imagined.

Personal Thought Question: How does the practice of tithing strengthen me spiritually? Who am I cheating when I fail to return a faithful tithe?

Wednesday: A Scroll of Remembrance (Malachi 3:13-18)

{Question they asked God in these verses: What have we said against you? v. 13}

The people are now wondering if God really cares about them, because it appears that so much evil goes unpunished. Why should they serve God, when so much injustice seems to pass by God unnoticed?

Patiently, God answers with a definite proclamation of His love and of His remembrance of all that goes on in the world. He reassures them that all will be made right in the future. He even mentions a book, or scroll, of remembrance, the only Scripture that calls it by name (although other prophets have alluded to a recording of our names and deeds). The names in this “book of remembrance” (v. 16) will be used to make up the jewels of His kingdom (v. 17). It will be used to judge the wicked and the righteous when He returns.

Thursday: The Sun of Righteousness (Malachi 4)

This metaphor of the dawning of a new day when the Sun of Righteousness will arise with healing in his wings, continues God’s answer to their question. They were wondering why evil goes unpunished, so He opens to them how sin and evil will someday be eradicated from the universe.

He describes this day as a time when the earth shall burn as an oven and all the wicked shall be as stubble. According to our lesson, the “stubble is the unusable part of the grain, and it lasts only seconds when thrown into a blazing furnace.” When combined with the last chapters of Revelation, we have a fairly good idea of what hell consists of.

Malachi 4:1 says plainly that the wicked will be “burned up”. A similar passage in II Peter 3:10 says:

“But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.”

This fulfillment is also described in Revelation 20:9, “And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them.”

This definitely marks a new day in the history of salvation. The universe is rendered eternally secure.