Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Reading Through Malachi

(NOTE: We are still waiting to hear from Stanford about upcoming testing and treatment. In the meantime, I would appreciate prayers for the ongoing edema that is very uncomfortable and forces me to lie on my back most of the day. I had to one-finger type this post laying on my back in bed this morning.)

Ham HahlenMalachi is the final book of the prophetic section of the Old Testament and warns Israel to be ready for His coming. We will read through it accompanied by The Minor Prophets vol. 2, The College Press NIV Commentary, by Clay Ham and Mark Hahlen. I am posting quotes from the book on my Facebook page on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday (NT is Mon-Wed-Fri) and we can discuss comments and questions about the passage there. As usual, quotes from the commentary are in blue below…

Malachi is the final one in the line of writing prophets in the Old Testament. He bases his message on the covenant in Deuteronomy and basically sums up the message of the prophets. YHWH is coming to save His people from oppression, but He will judge His own people first to purify them for His coming kingdom. Thus, His people should commit themselves fully to the LORD and show it in their holy lives and their love for others.

The coming of the day of Yahweh has been delayed, but Yahweh reaffirms the certainty of its promised coming. Yahweh, in time, distinguishes between the righteous and the wicked (2:17–3:5). Nevertheless, on that day, the faithful righteous escape the destructive wrath of God and are purified by Yahweh’s refining fire (3:2–4). Only through and after that purification does Israel experience restoration in the day of Yahweh that the coming of Elijah heralds. Malachi, 518–519

The book consists of six disputations and a conclusion. The first three disputations deal with the people's lack of love for God, the priests' failure to honor God in their duties and the people's unfaithfulness demonstrated by their divorces and marriages to idolatrous women. The people measure God's love for them by their circumstances rather than God's promises. They are urged to remember past blessings and look to future glory. The priests dishonor God by providing inferior sacrifices and their lack of study of torah resulting in teaching error. The divorces reflect the people's lack of concern for God's covenant. If they do not repent they will find God "divorcing" them.

In Malachi, the failure of Israel to recognize Yahweh’s covenant love for them leads to their failure to demonstrate covenant love toward Yahweh (1:6–2:9) and others (2:10–16). Malachi 1.2-5, 529

(The priests) are treating the service of Yahweh with contempt (1:6, 12) and are causing many to stumble through their failure to instruct the people properly (2:7–8). Yahweh grants life (perhaps an image for the lasting priesthood of Phinehas) and peace in return for reverence and awe. Indeed, life and peace are the natural outcome of complete commitment to Yahweh. Malachi  2.6-7, 545

2:10–16 urges the people to abandon the two practices related to marriage, the intermarriage with women who worship other gods and the divorce of couples already married, by showing proper concern for fidelity in their own marriages. Malachi 2.10-16, 549

The final three disputations deal with God and his just administration of the covenant. The people are accusing God of breaking covenant because he is not blessing them. Instead they have hardship. God responds that he is coming to take care of this and the people need to purify themselves and be ready. In the second discussion God points out that it is actually the people who are not keeping covenant. They are withholding the tithes that support the priests, Levites, system of worship and provide support for the poor and needy. God challenges them to fully obey covenant and see the blessings flow. Finally, they accuse God of not differentiating between the righteous and the wicked and claim that it does no good to serve God. Again God reminds them of his imminent coming.

The accusation that Israel is robbing Yahweh in the tithes and offerings indicates that the people have rejected Yahweh as the nation’s benevolent provider (Deut 6:10–12) and have repudiated the worship of Yahweh financed by the tithe (Num 18:21–29). Malachi 3.8, 566

The prophet affirms Yahweh’s love and care for the people. Yahweh listens (קָשַׁב, qāšab) to those who fear him. Malachi 3.16, 572

The prophecy of Malachi ends with an announcement of the coming of Elijah and the coming of YHWH to his temple. All the questions of justice and blessing will be answered then. The post-exilic prophets emphasize that this coming is imminent and the need to make oneself ready is urgent. Blessing and cursing will be dependent on the response to God's messenger and to God Himself.

The announcement of Elijah’s coming (vv. 5–6) refutes the previously expressed view about the prosperity of the wicked, for only a united community who returns to a proper observance of the covenant will avoid divine curse. Malachi 4.4-6, 578–579

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