Sunday, September 14, 2014

Reading Through Malachi

Malachi ChartThe prophecy of Malachi provides the conclusion to the Old Testament canon and Malachi was the last of the Old Testament prophets until John the Baptist. His name means “My Messenger” and he wrote to encourage the remnant that had returned from Babylon to repent from their spiritual indifference and compromise. This message was urgent because another, greater “messenger of the covenant” was coming to bring YHWH’s judgment and blessing. 

As E. Ray Clendenen writes in the New American Commentary, Malachi, 231 (All quotes below in blue are from Clendenen)

Malachi’s prophecy indicts the religious leadership of the day and chides God’s people for their spiritual apathy and their skepticism and cynicism concerning God’s plan for their future. It also calls the people to correct their wrong attitudes of worship by trusting God with genuine faith as living Lord. Furthermore, it warns the people of their immoral behavior toward one another and calls for their repentance lest they be terrorized at the coming of the Lord.

The priests were not treating the temple and their ministries with respect. The people were not bringing their tithes and offerings to God and were again involved in intermarriage with pagan women. Politically, the nation was still under Persian rule and the people wondered if God would ever fulfill His covenant of a glorious future for Israel. So Malachi reminded the people that…

One’s health and wholeness as a child of God is determined first by one’s attitude toward and relationship with God, thus the theological angle; second by one’s attitude toward and relationship with others, thus the social angle; and finally by one’s attitude toward and use of one’s possessions, the economic angle. Clendenen, 237.

Our God calls his people to genuine worship, to fidelity both to himself and to one another, and to expectant faith in what he is doing and says he will do in this world and for his people. Clendenen, 238.

So Malachi calls all of God’s people through the ages to repent NOW from your spiritual apathy and show your commitment to God with your words and actions because the Messiah is coming soon to judge and bless. The message is URGENT because God’s soon arrival means judgment is coming soon.

Authentic worship can be expressed in formal ritual acts as well as in spontaneous acts, and either can be sham or hypocrisy. Israel’s ritual properly performed was for expressing their faith, learning and proclaiming the nature of their holy God, and receiving atonement. It was never intended to replace obedience or to hide a disregard for God’s instructions. Malachi 1.10, 273.

Authentic worship involves LOVE: (1:2-5) God reaches out to you in love so you should respond to His love. It also should reflect HONOR (1:6-2:9) as we give God the respect He deserves. We need to worship and serve God in a way fitting to His character and to the Kingdom privileges He gives us.

Realizing that God brought them into existence as a united whole in a covenant relationship to himself should have produced faithfulness not only to him, but also to one another. Their unity should have motivated mutual understanding, caring, and support. Malachi 2.10, 325.

Not only does the Lord appear here in his role of Defender of the defenseless and Helper of the helpless, invisible but powerful witness of every injustice, but he also watches over covenants made before him and judges those who break vows.  Malachi 2.14, 349.

The one who divorces his wife out of hate or greedy desire, then, according to the prophet joins a devilish fraternity. The very things he is responsible as her husband to pursue on her behalf—blessings, good, salvation, praise, right, peace, and justice—he is wickedly and unscrupulously robbing from her. Malachi 2.15-16, 369.

Our lives should be full of hope and faithfulness to covenant, including covenants we make with each other. We can trust God for the future. His character guarantees His promises. (2:17-3:6)

We should understand God’s material blessings as intended to glorify him and to enrich not individuals but the entirety of God’s people. Malachi 3.8, 415.

Our obedient use of money is a good measure of our commitment. (3:7-12)

Malachi was calling Judah to a lifestyle guided at all times not by human wisdom, ambition, or societal expectations but by the thoughtful application of God’s Word.  Haggai, Malachi 4.4, 459.

God wants heartfelt worship that leads to committed service. (3:13-18). We can encourage one another that God will never forget faithful sacrificial service. Christians should act in the now because we are motivated by the future. It is urgent because God’s messenger has come and is returning. (4.1-6)

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