“Behold, I will send my messenger... even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith Yahweh of hosts. BUT WHO MAY ABIDE THE DAY OF HIS COMING?”
Although the prophecy of Malachi is undated, it is generally conceded that it belongs in the period of Nehemiah. Malachi also forms the second portion of our daily readings during December. It is hoped that this brief outline of the book will assist us to gain the maximum benefit as we read from this prophet over the coming days.
The Prophecy of Malachi appears somewhat of a paradox: the dramatic contrast between the opening appeal and the awesome conclusion directs us to the conflict between Yahweh and His people, and the opposing attitudes towards Divine worship. “I have loved you…”, Yahweh pleads at the beginning of the prophecy: and the final ringing indictment—“a curse”, concludes the book and the Old Testament.
The theme of the book is suggested in chapter 3:6: “I am Yahweh, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed”.
The prophetʼs name, “Malachi”, means “My Messenger” and throughout the book there is a play on his name. There are five “messengers” in the book—
- Malachi himself 1:1
- the true Priest 2:7
- John the Baptist 3:1; Matt11:10
- Jesus Christ 3:1
- Elijah 3:1; 4:5
We believe Malachi was contemporary with Nehemiah, probably around BC444, but the prophecy is undated indicating that it is applicable to all generations.
The basic problem confronting Malachi was that the people were not familiar with the Word and therefore did not really know what Yahweh required of them or how far short they fell of those requirements—they were spiritually blind. There was a two-fold reason for this—the priests had failed to educate the people (which was their particular responsibility, (2:7), but the people made no effort on their own part to remedy the situation. They had become worldly and careless of spiritual matters. Carelessness and indifference ultimately led them to apostacy and, when Malachi challenged their position, they had become so lacking in spirituality that they vigorously defended their apostate attitudes and practices.
It is only the mirror of the Word that shows us what we really are and provides the remedy: a carnal-minded man does not perceive himself to be such because his mind is not enlightened by the Word. Only in measure as we daily look into that “perfect law of liberty” will we see ourselves as we really are and, without any attempt at self-justification, will seek the forgiveness and strength which Yahweh is waiting to provide.
“Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith Yahweh 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”(3:10). An open-hearted generous service to Yahweh will draw a loving response from our Father.
In Malachiʼs day the Priests administered the Law in a corrupt and negligent manner: little care was shown in adhering to the rituals of the Law and no concern was evidenced for the principles to which the worshipper should have been directed. Amongst the people, divorce and heathen marriage was rife. This they attempted to justify and by their reasoning make evil appear good.
In dealing with these tragic circumstances, Malachi endeavours to draw his people back to Yahweh by directing them to some very fundamental truths—
- there is a God in Israel (1:5)
- He loves His people and has consistently demonstrated that love (1:2)
- He is their Father and their Master and deserves honour and reverence (1:6)
- He is Holy and demands holiness in His people (2:11)
- He requires obedience and purity in worship and sacrifice (1:10,11)
- He is a God of Judgment and will judge His people (3:1—3, 5)
- He has in store a glorious future for those who love Him and seek to manifest that character embodied in His Name (3:16,17)
Malachi sets out his propositions in eight statements to which Israel responds with a question.
1:2 “I have loved you”
Wherein hast thou loved us?
1:6 “The Priests despise my Name”
Wherein have we despised Thy name?”
1:7 “Ye offer polluted bread”
Wherein have we polluted Thee?”
2:14 Yahweh will not accept your offering”
Why do you not accept our offering?”
2:17 ”Ye have wearied Yahweh”
Wherein have we wearied Him?”
3:7 “Return unto me”
Wherein shall we return?”
3:8 “Ye have robbed me”
Wherein have we robbed Thee?”
3:14 ”Your words…stout against Me”
What have we spoken against Thee?”
The book opens almost abruptly—“The burden of the Word of Yahweh to Israel by Malachi…I loved Jacob and I hated Esau” (1:1–3). Subsequent history proved Yahwehʼs judgment to be just: Esau (or Edom—see Obadiah) has always been a hater of Israel and is typical of all who bear such animosity to the people of God and whom Yahweh will destroy with the wicked.
Yahweh next describes Himself as Father and Master: if this be acknowledged then, He asks, “where is my honour?” and “where is my fear [or reverence]?” (1:6).
Turning to the Priests the prophet indicts them for offering polluted bread, the blind and lame for sacrifice and for treating the table of Yahweh with contempt (or “lightly”). With a perceptive thrust at the core of the issue, Malachi suggests that they try offering such inferior, careless service to their earthly governor and see what swift rejection that would bring (Ch.1:7,8). Why then, should Yahweh be pleased to accept such “second-rate” service? However, there will come a day when praise and a “pure offering” will ascend to Yahweh—from among the Gentiles (Ch.1:11).
Again specifically addressing the Priests, Malachi pronounces a curse upon them because they will not hear or heed and give glory to Yahweh (2:1–3). He cites the faithful example of Levi who fulfilled his office of priest: “For the priestʼs lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek the law at his mouth: for he is the messenger of Yahweh of hosts”. But on the contrary those priests had departed out of the way themselves and “caused many to stumble”.
The people had shown contempt towards the covenant of Yahweh and were displaying the same attitude to their marriage covenant, divorcing the wife of their youth and marrying heathen women (2:10–16). Blind to their sins, they accused Yahweh of injustice and called for “a God of judgment” (2:17).
In response Yahweh answers, “Behold, I will send my messenger… and the Lord whom ye seek”—this “God of Judgment” whom you desire—“shall suddenly come to his temple… But who may abide the day of his coming?” This is full of irony: they professed to seek a God who would dispense true justice. Yahweh promised to send such a one but the manner of his coming would not be as they expected. He would certainly dispense justice for he would be “like a refinerʼs fire” and “like fullerʼs soap” and he would “purify the sons of Levi that they may offer unto Yahweh a pure offering in righteousness [justice]” (3:1–3).
Having warned them of impending judgment, Yahweh through Malachi now appeals to them to return unto Him, to give Him His dues and put Him to the proof: “prove me now herewith”, He pleads, “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” (3:10).Yet they could see no virtue or benefit in serving Yahweh: “What profit is it that we have kept His ordinance, and that we have walked mournfully before Yahweh of Hosts?” But there was a remnant, as there has ever been, who truly reverenced Yahweh: who spoke of Him and His Purpose among themselves at every opportunity: who thought upon the characteristics of His Name in an endeavour to develop those same characteristics in their own lives. They were not confused in the matter of righteousness: they did not accuse Yahweh of injustice but knew how to discern between “the righteous and the wicked” because their minds were enlightened by the Word. Such are a joy to their Father. He will lovingly spare them and count them as a “special treasure” (“jewels”) in the day of judgment (3:16–18).
For there is a Day of Judgment coming when all the proud and wicked “shall be as stubble” (cp Joel 3:14; Rev 6:16). But there will be redemption and healing when Israel is restored and the prophet Elijah has completed his work among the tribes of Israel. The work of turning “the heart of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers” will be the mission of Elijah the prophet, who was removed in the midst of his work (cp 1 Kings 18:36,37). The period of this mission will constitute for Israel “the great and dreadful day of Yahweh”. Brother Thomas describes it thus: “It is…subsequent to the advent of Jesus, the resurrection of the righteous, and the battle of Armageddon, and before the passing of Israel through the refinerʼs fire in the wilderness of the peoples, which is to them and the nations ʻthe great and terrible day of the Lordʼ.” (Mystery of the Covenant of the Holy Land Explained page 24, old edition).
His mission was to the ten tribes 1 Kings 18
He destroyed the prophets of Baal and restored true worship, yet his work was incomplete
John came in his spirit Luke 1:17; Matt11:14
But did not supercede him Mark 9:11–13; John 1:21
John was to Judah what Elijah will be to Israel
Their work is expressed in Mal 3:1 and Isa 40:1–11
Elijahʼs work will involve the “second exodus” —see Elpis Israel pages 446 to 454, and Mystery of the Covenant of the Holy Land Explained, by Brother Thomas.
Israelʼs restoration Jer 33:6–9; Ezek 36:21–29
Brought under the “Bonds of the Covenant” Ezek 20:33–38
Terms set forth under Christ Jer 31:31–38
Elijahʼs invitation Jer 3:12–4:2; Isa 40:10
Israelʼs sorrow at their blindness Hos 8:10
Their willingness to submit Psa 110:3
Their “mighty deeds” during exodus Mic 7:14–17
Other nations assist them Isa 18; 66:20
The route Isa 11:11,16; 27:12,13; Hos1:6–11; 2:14–19
The ruling Princes Matt 19:28
We await the coming of the Messenger of Yahweh for judgment and blessing—judgment upon the wicked and them that know not God, but blessing for those who have committed their way to Him and separated themselves from the age of evil in which they find themselves. Surely we desire in that day to be partakers of the blessing and to assist in bringing this world into subjection to the rule of Christ and His people under the bonds of the Covenant—purged and purified and reflecting as gold or silver the glory of their Maker and Redeemer. Surely there is profit even now in walking in uprightness of heart before Yahweh, rejoicing in His goodness and mercy, that in the day of glory we may be among His jewels, reflecting in measure the character of our Father as manifest in His Name.
Yahweh calls upon Israel to acknowledge their privileges 1:1–4
The nation despises Godʼs Law and the priests profane the holy things 1:6–14
Threatened punishment on the priests 2:1–9
Rebuke because of divorce and heathen marriages 2:10–16
Impending Divine judgments 2:17–3:6
Failure in tithes and offerings 3:7 –12
Israel condemned for blasphemous words against Yahweh. 3:13 –15
The ultimate prosperity of Yahwehʼs people and their elevation 3:16 –4:3
Concluding exhortation and promise of another Messenger 4:4 –6