An overview of the book of Malachi.
This last book of the Minor Prophets serves as a perfect photo-finish to the Old Testament.
Covenant people, will you live faithfully no matter what your experience tells you?
Today we dig into the book of Malachi, the final book in the Old Testament. This series has been re-invigorating for me personally as I have studied each book and sought to answer: what do we need to know about this book at a high-level beyond just the author and date it was written?
I hope it’s been encouraging for you as well.
“Malachi marks the close of the Old Testament prophecy, and the beginning of 400 years of silence between the Old and New Testaments. Having learned little from their captivity, the people soon lapse into many of the same sins that resulted in their exile in the first place. Covetousness, idolatry, mixed-marriages with pagan people, abuse of the poor, calloused hearts. In a question-and-answer format, Malachi answers Judah’s hardheartedness and pronounces God’s curse upon all who practice such things…
It will remain for John the Baptist, the promised forerunner who would come in the power and spirit of Elijah to bring a hope-filled message: Behold! The Lamb of God.”
-Wilkinson & Boa, Talk Thru the Bible
In 55 verses, God speaks in the first-person (“My”) 21 times.
- My honor
- My respect
- My altar
- My name
- My covenant
- My messenger
- My statute
- My house
- My possession
- My servant
47 verses are God speaking in a personal way, which is unique in the prophecies we read.
Malachi focuses on who God is, what is His, and what He says to His people.
We know nothing, really, about Malachi. The name either means “my messenger” or “my angel.”
Malachi is a photo-finish to a very long document called the Old Testament.
In preparation for this message I learned things I had never seen before in Malachi. The Bible is a living Word.
It is as relevant the day it was penned as it is today as we read it. God is speaking to you and me through His Word.
Coincides with Haggai and Zechariah. Probably occurred after Nehemiah had completed his wall.
This temple complex had to be rebuilt in order for God’s people to worship.
Ezra tried to rebuild God’s people spiritual
Nehemiah tried to rebuild the physical wall
Malachi is talking about the internal structures (heart and mind) as well as the physical structure of the worship complex, and it finishes the Old Testament very well.
What God the Father inspires Malachi to write is striking.
He talks about sacrifice, tithing, offerings, marriage and divorce – very practical things.
And his target audience is the pious Jew who just doesn’t care. It’s a call-out and criticism of their apathy.
This apathy may be due to the reality that they’re in ruins, under Persian rule, and wont see a happily-ever-after in their lifetime.
Malachi is written in a style unique in the Minor Prophets.
Malachi is writing to a ‘person’ who disputes him. Not necessarily a single individual, but an ideology in dispute with Malachi’s message.
Messages of Malachi
There are six messages, objectives or oracles:
- The love of God – Malachi 1:2-3
- The unfaithful priests – Malachi 1:6-2:9
- Unfaithful people – Malachi 2:10-16
- God’s justice – Malachi 2:17-3:5
- The people are robbing God – Malachi 3:6-18
- God’s judgment – Malachi 4:1-6
Themes through the Major and Minor Prophets are very similar.
Chosen People | Covenant Promise
God chose Israel and made a covenant to them, which cannot be broken.
Malachi 4:4-6 is book-ended by references to the law of Moses and to Elijah the prophet. Consider Luke 24:27 where Jesus explains about Himself from the law of Moses to the prophet Elijah.
This encompasses the whole story, and the theme within talks about the covenant blessings that are pre-conditioned on covenant faithfulness: if-then.
Let’s acknowledge: God blesses us often even though we’re unfaithful.
But when we live faithfully, we’re open for blessing.
God’s people are in a bad way and are going to die not seeing the fruition of the promises that were made. What’s their motivation to live faithfully?
The last three verses of Malachi form a fitting conclusion to this book, which itself competes with the book of the 12 [minor prophets]. The references to Moses and to Elijah the prophet, with both of whom Jesus conversed on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matthew 17:4). There is a backward glimpse to the covenant requirements, and a forward look to the One who will work for their fulfillment. The promise of the coming “Elijah” ensured one more prophetic voice before the end came.
“Remember the law of Moses My servant, even the statutes and ordinances which I commanded him in Horeb for all Israel.
Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord. He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, so that I will not come and smite the land with a curse.”
To remember is a choice, always. Spiritually, we forget everything. The emphasis of the Pentateuch was: remember.
Why is it important that Malachi, in one sentence, mentions Moses and Elijah? It encompasses the Scripture. Moses was revered by all Jews because He spoke to God and received the Law. Elijah saw spectacular miracles and forms a book-end on prophecy.
But John the Baptist is going to come – and what will they say?: Is he Elijah?
The law and the prophets are complete in this picture, and this last book of the Old Testament sews this all together.
Observations about Malachi 4:4-6:
- The word “Remember”
- The day of the Lord – when He comes it’s going to be amazing, but it’s also going to be terrible because justice will cut two ways.
- Future ministry – an allusion to the fifth commandment in an appeal to the hearts of the father and the hearts of the children. This goes back to the intent of the first idea of family. Are you going to train your children to follow God based on what He’s taught you?
“Malachi’s remarkable ethical thrust has lost none of its cutting edge through the passing of time. His teaching, both positive and negative, strikes at the heart of nominal, easygoing Christianity as it did at that of Judaism. Can it be that the book is disparaged because ‘with man as the filter through which the word must pass,’ or ‘arbiter of the meaning of the word,’ it is inevitable that he will censor out what he does not wish to hear, and audit only what is predisposed to hear.” – Joyce Baldwin, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi: An Introduction and Commentary
We’d rather define God our way than follow God’s definition of Himself. This is the ongoing problem.
We’ve turned our personal rights into gods, idols.
Apathy is hard to overcome. The hardest people to work with are the people who don’t care.
‘Everyone is motivated, but you can’t motivate anyone.’
When a person doesn’t care, how do you help them? You can’t, but you want to. That’s the tension.
Christianity has become a consumable religion as opposed to a worshipful relationship with the creator of the universe.
“Great art Thou, O Lord, and greatly to be praised; great is Thy power, and Thy wisdom infinite. And Thee would man praise; man, but a particle of Thy creation; man, that bears about him his mortality, the witness of his sin, the witness that Thou resistest the proud: yet would man praise Thee; he, but a particle of Thy creation. Thou awakest us to delight in Thy praise; for Thou madest us for Thyself, and our heart is restless, until it repose in Thee. Grant me, Lord, to know and understand which is first, to call on Thee or to praise Thee? and, again, to know Thee or to call on Thee? for who can call on Thee, not knowing Thee? for he that knoweth Thee not, may call on Thee as other than Thou art. Or, is it rather, that we call on Thee that we may know Thee? but how shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? or how shall they believe without a preacher? and they that seek the Lord shall praise Him: for they that seek shall find Him, and they that find shall praise Him. I will seek Thee, Lord, by calling on Thee; and will call on Thee, believing in Thee; for to us hast Thou been preached. My faith, Lord, shall call on Thee, which Thou hast given me, wherewith Thou hast inspired me, through the Incarnation of Thy Son, through the ministry of the Preacher.”
– Augustine’s Confessions, Book 1
When we close the chapter on Malachi, I would ask you to ask God to break your heart for what matters to Him. That’s worship.
He is sovereign.