Malachi is the last book in the Christian Old Testament. He is considered the last of the prophets who wrote down his prophetic call. Malachi’s name means “my messenger,” an appropriate title for a prophet. Malachi was writing to the remnant of Israelites who had returned after 70 years in Babylonian captivity. His ministry existed at the same time as Nehemiah but after the time of the prophets Haggai and Zechariah. To set the stage for Malachi, the temple had been rebuilt, and the people of Israel were once again in the Promised Land. However, old sinful habits were creeping into their society again. All we know about Malachi is inferred from his public messages, recorded in his book.
Malachi lived during a time of great injustice, corruption, and poverty in Jerusalem. Jesus was not due on the scene for several hundred years. Every day, as people witnessed the society around them, they were reminded of the promises God had spoken through Haggai and Zechariah. These prophets had encouraged them to rebuild the temple with the hope that God would bring prosperity and peace. It now was almost fifty years since they had returned, the temple rebuilt. Yet, Israel was still overcome by injustice and corruption, while they witnessed the nations around them all prospering.
The people were questioning the promises and if God still loved them. Through the prophet Malachi, God responds to the concerns of His people. When God tells Israel, “I have loved you,” the people respond, “how have you loved us?” God responds by reminding them that they were chosen, and His love is not dependent upon anything that they can do.
(Malachi 3:6-7)1NIV New International Version Translations – “I the Lord do not change. So you, the descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed. Ever since the time of your ancestors you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the Lord Almighty….”
The book that Malachi wrote is distinguished as being the only prophetic book that ends not in deliverance but judgment. It ends with a curse.
(Malachi 4:1-5) – “’ Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and the day that is coming will set them on fire,’ says the Lord Almighty. ‘Not a root or a branch will be left to them. But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its rays. And you will go out and frolic like well-fed calves. Then you will trample on the wicked; they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day when I act,’ says the Lord Almighty. ‘Remember the law of my servant Moses, the decrees and laws I gave him at Horeb for all Israel. See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents; or else I will come and strike the land with destruction.’”
Judgment would historically come in the form of the Roman general Pompey who captured Jerusalem in 63 BC. Caesar Augustus (63 BC – 14 AD) would be the first Roman emperor and one of the most successful. He would reign for 45 years ruling at the time of Jesus’ birth. Today we are faced with uncertain but not unprecedented times. God’s people have been here before. Malachi, therefore, is a great place to review. Not only does Malachi teach us of the unchanging character of our God, but it also leaves us with hope. The book of Malachi ends with God promising His people, “But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its rays….” (Malachi 4:2).
Not only was this promise fulfilled in the first coming of Christ, but this promise will be completed in the great Day of the Lord as He returns to bring final justice and peace to our world. The words in the brief four chapters of Malachi are the concluding message from our God to his people before almost 400 years of silence. These words bore the weight of the New Christian Church and became the cornerstone of hope for the people of God. Malachi is a beautiful picture of a conversation between God and His people, as they seek Him and question His promises.
A summary of the book of Malachi covers these areas:
- Malachi rebuked the sins of the priests – Priests were the political leaders of the times. They mocked God by using God to enrich themselves at the expense of the people. The leaders were also derelict in their official duties which were to guide the moral values of the nation.
- Malachi rebuked the sins of the people – The people had divorced their rightful wives; they had married foreign wives; they doubted God’s justice; and they were neglecting to pay first fruits, their tithes to God, giving God their leftovers.
- The people did nothing about the poverty that existed in their nation.
- Malachi admonished the people because they had not learned from the consequences of their past sins.
- Despite Israel’s doubts, to the contrary, Malachi assured them that the Lord God still loved them (Malachi 1:2–5).
- Part of Malachi’s ministry was to prepare the hearts of God’s people and the way for John the Baptist, who would then prepare the way for the Messiah, Jesus.
(Malachi 3:1) – “I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the LORD Almighty.”
In the Old Testament, the message of the prophets, repentance is a recurring theme. Repentance was demonstrated through rituals such as fasting, wearing sackcloth, sitting in ashes, wailing, and liturgical laments that expressed strong sorrow for sin. These rituals were supposed to be accompanied by authentic repentance, which involved a commitment to a renewed relationship with God, a walk of obedience to His Word, and living right. Too often, however, these rituals merely represented remorse and a desire to escape the consequences of sin.
The word repentance means “the act of changing one’s mind.” True biblical repentance goes beyond remorse, regret, or feeling bad about one’s sin. It even involves more than turning away from sin. It is a dedication to redirect oneself to a future life with God based on His Truth (His rules). Our nation, any nation cannot continue to ignore its Creator, living as if God doesn’t matter. He does!
- Why are good people quiet about sin when they see it?
- Ideas to Explore: Fear? Don’t see it as a problem? Does the media endorse it? Leadership is all doing it?
- Do you think God cares about corruption in society?
- Ideas to Explore: Why do our leaders and courts permit it? Do the wealthy or popular get a free pass?
- Use your favorite issue with society today – Now, ask does God care and what is His Truth about that issue?
- Ideas to Explore: We all seem to have pet peeves. Why are there so few activists for God’s Truth?
- How do you help society see that God wants repentance?
- Ideas to Explore: God has stated in our Bible that repentance is a prerequisite to His blessing for a nation. How are you helping?
- There is a war against our children – Where and when do you see it ending?
- Ideas to Explore: Drugs, education, destruction of the family, crime, all hurt the youth of our country. How would you fix it?
- 1NIV New International Version Translations