Daily Bible Studies
|Series Theme: Studies in Malachi|
Introduction to Malachi
Malachi is sometimes demeaned as a prophetic book but seen in its historical context it is a vitally significant book, no more so that for its lessons for us in the twenty first century.
Later he returns to Jerusalem to correct misdoings.
It is Nehemiah's corrections that suggest to commentators that Malachi was written in this time. There are no date hints in the book but the things he speaks against are very similar to the matters Nehemiah had dealt with.
The structure of this little book is most clearly seen in a number of complaints the Lord makes against His people:
Their primary problem is that, living in a waiting period, a period while God is waiting until the time is right to bring His Messiah, there seems to be little happening in the nation.
The time of large prophecies and great miracles seems to have passed and the post-exile period lacks all of that glory. In this void the people drift and become cynical. It is a time for remaining faithful even if God is not appearing to do great things. When they drift into cynicism it is down to Malachi to call them back. Read on!
Chapter: Malachi 1
Passage: Malachi 1:1-5
A. Find Out:
1. What were Israel questioning? v.2a,b
2. To whom did the Lord refer? v.2c
3. What had the Lord done for ‘Esau'? v.3
4. Yet what did Esau say? v.4a
5. But what did the Llord say? v.4b
6. What will be Israel 's response when they see it? v.5
1. How does the Lord go about showing Israel He loved them?
2. How do we see Divine Election being proved?
This is God's word through Malachi to Israel (v.1). The word starts out at a very foundational level, about what they feel about God's relationship with them. In the post-exile period they questioned (foolishly) whether God really loved them. In the back of their minds perhaps was the thought that God had destroyed them and now it was chance that some of them had come back to Jerusalem.
Hold on, says the Lord, think about Jacob and Esau. Did I not choose Jacob over Esau. Look at what I did to Esau and compare that with what I did with you. Esau (who became the nation of Edom ) has been judged and demolished and, unlike you, I will not let them rebuild.
The Lord wants them to see the comparison with what has happened to them and what has happened to Edom. Edom has been completely destroyed; they, Israel, have been pulled down and rebuilt. The fact of their continuation is a sign of God's love for Israel.
Within all this we are reminded of God's sovereign choice of Israel over Edom (see also Rom 9:10-13). We suggest God's choice is determined by what He knows He can do with a person's potential. The outcome is clear: Jacob (Israel), although a twister to start with, was malleable and was changed by God. Esau despised his birthright and thereafter became a godless nation. Did God make Edom like that? No, it was their choice, revealing His choice was perfect.
1. God chooses by sovereign foreknowledge.
2. God's love is always there for whoever will come to Him.
Chapter: Malachi 1
Passage: Malachi 1:6-14
A. Find Out:
1. What illustrations does the Lord give to show up who? v.6
2. How does the Lord say they have done that? v.7,8,13
3. Who does the Lord compare and what does He tell them to do? v.8c,9
4. What does the Lord wish they would do instead? v.10
5. What does He say about the rest of the world? v.11
6. Who is to be cursed and why? v.14
1. What attitude do priests and people obviously have?
2. How do they reveal that attitude?
3. Why is that such an insult?
Attitude always comes out in actions. The first complaint the Lord had against this people was that they questioned His love for them (v.1-5). Because they had a questioning heart it has led them on to a casual, flippant, even contemptuous operation of the sacrificial system. They have re-instigated the sacrificial system as the Law of Moses required but their hearts are not in it. They are not sincere. So the Lord pulls them up on their attitude first of all. He points out that there is an absence of honour and respect (v.6). God is the King, the Lord Almighty (v.14) and He is worthy of honour and praise (Rev 4:11), but they just pay Him lip service.
How did they do that? They did it by bringing sacrifices that were the cast-offs of the flock. The Law prescribed that the offering was to be one without blemish (Lev 1:3,10). It was to prefigure the perfect, sinless Son of God (although they didn't know that) and was to be a sign of their totally contrite heart, coming in an attitude of humility and reverence to Almighty God. They have a feeling that God has given up on His world and they treat Him casually. They don't know it but, before many centuries are out, He will come to His earth and His name and His glory will be known throughout the earth (v.11) in the following centuries.
Chapter: Malachi 2
Passage: Malachi 2:1-9
A. Find Out:
1. Who is being warned in what way, for what? v.1,2
2. What will happen to them and why? v.3,4
3. What had been the two sides of the covenant with Levi? v.5
4. What had been Levi's role? v.6,7
5. But what had they done? v.8,9b
6. So what was the Lord doing with them? v.9a
1. What history had Levi with the Lord?
2. What should the priests have been doing?
3. What had they been doing?
From complaining about the quality of the sacrifices and the lip service being paid in the Temple, the Lord now focuses on the priests themselves. The fact was that they should have been properly instructing the people so that right sacrifices would be offered, but they hadn't!
The Lord starts out with a simple warning to honour Him or be cursed (v.1,2), yet already the curse was in operation because the covenant with Levi would stand. Levi had been the first priest and from him came the tribe from which the priests came (Num 3:11,12, 25:10-13) and it was with them that the Lord made a covenant. However a covenant is a two-sided agreement and on the priest's side the requirement was to remain faithful and true to the Lord, and that included in the way they taught and guided the people in their relationship with the Lord. The Lord's side of the agreement was to provide peace and blessing when the priests honoured their side of it.
However, the sad truth was that now the priests were being casual and were not honouring the Lord (v.1,2), they were not revering the Lord (v.5), and they have wrongly taught so that people turn from God (v.8) and they have shown favouritism (v.9). For all these reasons the Lord will deal with them for that too is part of the covenant – discipline when failure.
1. We are a holy priesthood (1 Pet 2:5,9) with a duty of care.
Chapter: Malachi 2
Passage: Malachi 2:10-16
A. Find Out:
1. What 3 questions does Malachi ask? v.10
2. What has Judah done, and how? v.11
3. What does such a person deserve, despite what? v.12
4. Why were they weeping? v.13
5. What's the reason for that? v.14,15
6. What 2 things does the Lord hate & so what is the challenge? v.16
1. What seems to be happening which is condemned?
2. Why was their past so important?
3. How were they pretending to carry on normally?
God's love questioned, lip-service worship, and negligent priests, those have been the matters raised so far by Malachi. Now he focuses on their spiritual unfaithfulness. Although a number of commentators see this as family unfaithfulness, we suggest ‘spiritual' because of the language used. Observe.
The nation (Judah) have ‘broken faith' and ‘desecrated the sanctuary' (the Temple). This is not about taking foreign wives (although that had been a problem), this is more about the consequences of that, spiritual adultery taking on worship of ‘a foreign god' (v.11). This is a worship issue. Such people deserve to be cut off from the covenant people, even though they bring offerings (v.12) which God ignores (v.13).
The expression ‘wife of your youth', we suggest, refers to the faithful Israel that God brought into being after the Exodus. This original covenant people in close relationship with God, is one with the present people, even though the exile has come between, because the Lord has always wanted godly offspring (v.15), faithful people. God hates divorce (v.16), breaking the covenant, which is why there are still a people of God. He hates people turning away from God to idols and He hates the violence that so often ensues. This is a call to faithfulness (v.10,16).
1. A poor relationship with God always brings social upset.
2. The primary call to us is always to remain faithful to the Lord.
Chapter: Malachi 2/3
Passage: Malachi 2:17-3:5
A. Find Out:
1. How had Israel wearied the Lord? v.17
2. What did the Lord say would happen? v.1
3. What will He come to do? v.2,3a
4. What will be the result of this? v.3b,4
5. Who will He come against? v.5
1. What twofold corruption of the truth were they declaring?
2. So what was the Lord going to do about that?
3. What was going to be the end result?
The Lord has been chiding Israel in a number of ways. Now He brings that to a peak with a warning of judgement. But first He gives the reason for that: they have twisted the truth. First of all they say that evil is good, there has been a blurring of right and wrong, so that God is pleased even with those who do wrong. Second, because God had not apparently come in supernatural power after they returned to the Land, they had become cynical and so as sin had increased they had almost denied God's presence, by questioning, where is the God who was concerned with justice and righteousness?
The Lord's answer to this is that the Lord they are asking about will come and His messenger will come. Now at that time they might have thought that this was one and the same person, but within some four hundred years the Messiah would come to his Temple, preceded by his messenger, John the Baptist. Beware the day of his coming, says the Lord, for he will come as a refiner and purifier and he will cleanse away all their sin, so that those who are left will come with a right heart to bring right offerings to the Lord.
There then follows a list of those whose sins particularly offend the Lord because they sin and do not fear him: those in the occult, those who abuse family life, distort truth and oppress the weak, all of these will be dealt with.
1. There are times when God appears quiet, but He will judge sin.
Chapter: Malachi 3
Passage: Malachi 3:6-12
A. Find Out:
1. How does the Lord say He has not changed? v.6
2. What does He say about their past and their present? v.7
3. What does He say they are doing? v.8
4. What does He say is their present state? v.9
5. How should they change that? v.10
6. How then will the Lord act and with what result? v.11,12
1. What do you think was the point of the Lord saying He does not change?
2. What was His charge against Israel in this passage?
3. How did relationship with God have practical outworkings?
The good news for Israel was that the Lord does not change. He is still a God of loving kindness who waits for His people to respond. If He wasn't He would have completely destroyed this people. So He is still waiting for their response and He calls them to return to Him (v.7). Their answer is to ask, how? The Lord's answer to that is, “Stop robbing me.” “We're robbing you?” they ask, “How do we rob you?” By not obeying the Law of tithes!
The Law of tithes required a tenth of the crops, herds or flocks of the people of God be presented to the Lord, or more specifically, His priests. It was the Lord's way of providing for the priesthood. This people had obviously not been doing that. It was part of the covenant, the agreed way of working between the people and God. Failure to keep the covenant invoked a curse on the people, and that would have negative practical implications. (See Deut 28:15 on). Probably their lack of giving was as a result of lack of belief that the Lord was still with them, hence He needs to speak to them through His prophet. Test me out, He says, and you'll see you can't out-give me. Obey the covenant and receive the blessing that goes with obedience (See Deut 28:1-14), a prosperous and ‘blessed' people!
1. Our faith level is indicated by our giving level.
A. Find Out:
1. What does the Lord then say they have said? v.13
2. What had they wrongly said? v.14
3. What three groups of people now resulted? v.15
4. Yet who did the Lord observe? v.16
5. How will the Lord treat them? v.17
6. So what distinction will be made? v.18
1. How had Israel got into a negative way of thinking?
2. So what effect had that had on the nation?
3. Yet what was the Lord going to do about it?
The Lord now comes back to draw attention to the attitude that is prevailing among this people. He's dealt with a number of things that were their behaviour, but behaviour is the outworking of thinking and so now He exposes their wrong thinking.
He starts by challenging what they have been saying about Him. They had fallen into a state of cynicism saying, there is no point in serving God, nothing is happening, He's not here, let's do our own thing! We're fed up going about like a bunch of mourners constantly in a state of woe. If this was in post-exile times, it is easy to see how this came about. The glory of the return is now in the past and they seem to be just an ordinary bunch of people carrying out religious duties. Where is the Lord? Well actually He is waiting for the right time to bring His Messiah into their midst but that will be some four hundred years yet. When God is not moving dramatically, we are just called to be faithful and it may not be glorious. The temptation is to give up, become cynical and fall into wrong thinking. That is what they had done.
Yet there are those, a minority, who held to their reverent belief in God (v.16) and the Lord has noted these. When a time of separating out comes, they will be clearly distinguished from the grumblers. The truth will be seen.
1. If God doesn't seem active, remain faithful.
A. Find Out:
1. What day is coming to deal with who? v.1
2. But what will happen to those who honour the Lord? v.2,3
3. What are they counselled to do? v.4
4. Who will the Lord send before that day? v.5
5. What will he do? v.6a
6. If they don't respond what will He do? v.6b
1. What sort of day is the Lord speaking about?
2. Yet what has got to happen before it comes?
At the end of the previous chapter the Lord had been talking of a time when there will be a distinction between the righteous and the wicked, a time when He will deal with the wicked. In this final short chapter He flows on to speak about what must surely be a different time, a time of major judgement. It is clearly a day of judgement and of destruction of the wicked (v.1) but it is not all-inclusive for the righteous will survive (v.2) and indeed they will be a means of bringing righteousness to the land (v.3).
These righteous survivors are simply told to keep to the Lord of Moses, the Law given to establish a covenant between God and His people (v.4). Yet before that day comes the Lord will send a major prophet to the people to bring about an unprecedented peace. When He speaks of uniting children and parents, it is a picture of unity and harmony and so it is in the kingdom of God. This ‘Elijah' was identified by Jesus as John the Baptist (Mt 11:14, 17:2). There is with this promise an oft-missed curse. If Israel fail to respond to this major prophet then the land will come under a curse.
Is this what happened when the leaders of Israel rejected Jesus? Is this what happened when Jerusalem was sacked in AD70 and Israel were scattered to the world for two millennia? These words of Malachi are serious words of challenge.
1. God always looks for a faithful remnant, even in judgement.
2. God's plans scan the centuries. Think big!
In these studies we have seen:
As we conclude these brief studies in Malachi the following are perhaps the key things we should hold onto:
The Fruits of Cynicism
In a time when the Lord is in a ‘waiting phase' the temptation is to become cynical about the faith and to become lax in the expressions of it. The truth is that in the Covenant in the Old Testament, God gave instructions to Israel how to live in covenant with Him and if they held to the Law that He gave them, He would simply bless their everyday lives.
The warnings of Malachi challenge us not to become casual in our attitude towards God. Israel at this time doubted God's love for them and so, in a variety of ways, simply became slack over the way they carried out their covenantal duties. They also became tolerant of wrong and casual about letting foreign religions infiltrate their Temple activities.
The Warnings from God
Part of Israel 's thinking was, “Oh it doesn't matter,” but God showed that quite clearly it did matter! He cursed the one who brought a defective animal as a sacrifice (1:14), He curses the priests who dishonour His name (2:2,3,9), He will cut off the spiritually unfaithful (2:12), and He will bring a day of judgement (3:1-5, 4:1-3), and will curse them for not bringing tithes (3:9)
The Declarations from God
As well as warnings from God, He also makes some declarations to be noted: His name will be great among the nations (1:11), He is a great king (1:14), He wants His covenant with Levi to continue (2:4), He hates the thought of divorcing Israel (2:16), He does not change (3:6), and He will have the faithful ones as His treasured possession (3:17).
The Exhortations of the Lord
Because the Lord is not writing them off, He exhorts them so they may turn and receive blessings. He calls them to implore Him to be gracious (1:9), to guard themselves and not break faith (2:15 ,16), to return to Him (3:7), to bring in their tithes and ‘test' God (3:10), and to keep to the Law (4:4). Here we have a call for a change of heart and a change of action, all of which will bring blessing from God.
We may summarise this as, see the grace of God who warns an unfaithful people and gives them yet further opportunity to come to Him.