Tag: Malachi

Problem and Promise

Malachi 3:13-4:6 

Not really a surprise, God holds true to character as described and displayed since the beginning – beautiful blending of justice and mercy. Even though time after time mankind individually and collectively deserved destruction because of sin, God held back. Preserved those who were his (a remnant), gave all opportunity to repent and turn back to him. Kept reminding people he would not do that forever – is day coming when he will carry out final justice on all.

Is not a “wait until your father gets home” kind of threat – Bible assures us God knows exact timing of day when he will carry out his purpose… he just hasn’t told anyone yet. Meanwhile, God still going the extra mile (and a million) to woo people away from their sin and back to him. God invites, God pleads, God reasons, God threatens, all the while demonstrating gracious and loving faithfulness.

In bringing OT revelation to a close, once again identifies problems with Jewish attitudes toward God, implying a challenge: “if what you have said is true, if what you have done is justified, then explain why I am going to do this.” Many / most of Jewish people had made up for themselves a representation of YHWH that wasn’t even close to the real deal. Had convinced themselves of all sorts of wrong things about God that would make impossible for him to keep his promises. Yet, we know is exactly what he did… and will do. And God was still gracious and merciful to them… and us.

A. a problem attitude  v.3:13-16a

the many

discourteous – God charges them with bringing strong and and heavy accusations against him… speaking way out of turn

not said frivolously, they really meant it, accusing God of doing things contrary to his nature and character… then responding basically with “yeah, so what?”

defeatist – thought because of who they were that God would bless them tangibly… in the present… in ways they could measure

couldn’t see the payback, figured all was God’s fault, must not be worth their effort – more a business transaction than loving relationship marked by obedience

distorted – either standard changed or God doesn’t care, is the unrighteous who prosper, who test him w/o consequences

the few

delighted – were some who loved and deeply respected God, well aware of his majesty and delighted in him – were only small minority, yet noticed by God

edified – spoke often to one another, encouraging to remain faithful, sharing what God was teaching them during quiet times

“…His visits to friends were times when he sought to do good to their souls; and never was he satisfied unless he could guide the conversation to bear upon the things of eternity. When he could not do so, he generally remained silent.” Bonar on McCheyne

meditated – this part of reason why God so provoked with majority… were some who had wits to meditate on his name (character), connect right dots together

these few had proper attitude toward God and their circumstances/surroundings – probably had right attitude about themselves, their responsibilities

B. a promised Book  v.3:16b-18

remembrance

for those who fear God – an encouragement to persevere, stay faithful even when/if not noticed by others… God sees

reassurance

they shall be Mine… and God will do all necessary to protect/preserve them from harm when that Day finally comes

not uncommon in military conflict for things to get mixed up, casualties from “friendly fire” – will never happen by God’s doing on Judgment Day or any other

reward

I will make them My jewels, prized personal possession – brought all the way from total depravity to position of honor

those whose names are found in Book will be singled out for attention before all mankind and angels on that Day – God showing off his greatest handiwork for all to see

rescue

I will spare them – not-so-subtle reminder, is because God takes pity/shows compassion on those who fear him – no room for boasting, taking credit from God for what he has done

how will that be possible w/o violating God’s character? God has a plan, will somehow change his people… so they get it

C. a promised Messiah  v.4:1-3

purifying

this not the very next big thing, is really the very last big thing on God’s schedule for this age: “great and dreadful day of the Lord”

the stubble burned up – possible, even likely that Peter had this in mind (2 Pet. 3), purifying fire of judgment removing evildoers from earth as stage of God’s action

neither root nor branch – no reproduction – this planned judgment will be final, no hope of any future for the wicked

blessing

healing – otoh, far different future planned for those who fear God, brought about by work of Sun of Righteousness

must be the Messiah who does this, parallelism of Ps. 103:3 “Who forgives all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases”

fattening – hardship, privation of this life all past – all vestiges of the curse removed… from people and planet

work of Messiah takes care of past, restoring to better than original condition, and guaranteeing future

overcoming

trampling the wicked – Messiah’s first coming succeeded, as far as was intended – second coming needed to finish work

all those who are his share in his triumph, having full and final victory over evil and evildoers… including baddest of all, Satan

helps to keep their apparent present prosperity in perspective – is of limited duration, really evidence of God’s grace

D. a promised Prophet  v.4:4-6

reminder

meanwhile, the Law still the standard – those who belong to Christ no longer under its condemnation, but…still serves as rule of life for the believer

segue into announcement of Prophet – their ministry to confront people over failure to keep law, call to repentance

once more God makes clear is his intention to redeem, not destroy – many will end in ruin, yet… a remnant!

warning

the Great Day is coming – ministry of John the Baptist should have awakened to seriousness of their condition

if God promised both a Prophet and a Day, kept his promise about the Prophet, pretty sure thing about the Day too

opportunity

repent while there is time – John’s ministry was effective, many did turn back to God and eventually follow Jesus

John’s coming is past, Day is future, clock is ticking – as long as it ticks, still opportunity for sinners to repent and be saved

people need to hear both – the warning and the opportunity for rescue – don’t know how long window of opportunity will be open

May be tempted to think – huge task, no way can be done, people won’t listen, etc, etc. Much of that is true, yet… since Christ has not come back yet, must mean are still others who will come to faith. They need to hear Gospel truth, need to see it lived out day by day, leave results up to God. Our job to…Rescue the Perishing 

Test Me Now

Malachi 3:6-12  

Is rare that God would tell his people “put me to the test”. In fact, Deut 6:16 God specifically told his people not to test him. Obviously only something we should do with permission. Here, is not only God who will be tested – if people respond to God’s challenge the way he expects, will be testing their own beliefs, their charges against God.

Had really accused God of unfaithfulness, making promises and not keeping or making promises he was not able to keep. Also accused God as being the source of their troubles, took no responsibility to themselves. That they were alive to hear this challenge from God should have told them something: they deserved swift judgment from God, not a second change.

God, true to form… and his character, showed great forbearance – in spite of insulting and sinful behavior, God works to get attention of his people. Stands right out in open… with open hands, not clenched fist… graciously and patiently calling his people back. And he promises immediate good, not some kind of probation.

God gives sufficient explanation so should be no misunderstanding – God identifies the problem, the resolution, and way forward.

A. Who moved?  v.6-7a

abundantly clear, is great relational distance between people and God – God still nearby but… no intimacy of relationship

God is God

could have said “remember my name, YHWH, and what it means” – “I am”… what he was he still is, what he is he will always be

consider what sort of being this YHWH really is – eternally sufficient in himself, needing nothing else to be complete and content

that means in his Being he does not and cannot change – is incentive to consider his track record, how character has been described and displayed

because of that…

since he is merciful, gracious, longsuffering… he has withheld some of what his people really deserved: final and total judgment

let them know God had not been looking in different direction, ignoring either their circumstances or their behavior

also puts on notice that has not relaxed standard of right / wrong – apparent prosperity of wicked must have different reason

yet you…

God has not changed, has not turned away from being attentive to his people – however, same cannot be said of them

truth is they had turned away from true God, had ignored YHWH’s expectations / commands, done their own thing

was not a new problem – individuals had remained faithful but… as a people had repeatedly turned away to other gods

here’s the deal

not a complicated solution… had turned away, “simply” needed to turn back – could do so in full confidence of restoration

return to Me, not return to My way – God later gives example of disobedience… is a symptom, not the real problem

they had transferred loyalty / devotion to another god (the real problem) – God wanted their hearts, knew hands would follow

B. What did we do?  v.7b-9

professed ignorance

claiming (in so many words) they were already in the right place, doing the right things, problem must be on God’s side

failure to keep 1st command didn’t seem to bother them – “love the Lord your God with all your heart…”

things led to things, leading further away from intimate relationship with God, yet God carries on conversation with people reluctant to listen and heed

far more than simple theft

rationale: we’re doing poorly, cannot afford to put that much (either amount or quality) in the offering, have own needs to consider

brought less than they should have, brought things of inferior quality… because were not putting worship of God first

failure to adequately support Temple budget had serious consequences – religious workers unable to work, worship center space misused (Neh. 13:4-13)

became matter of survival for Levites, forced to become bi-vocational in order to feed family

worship for entire people suffering, workers / facility neglected, outreach / benevolent ministry hindered by lack of resources

worst of all: God himself dishonored by people’s careless attitude/practice, and this in front of rest of the world

addressed as “sons of Jacob” (6b)

now, let’s take it up another level – remember Jacob, his character… as a deceiver… guilt by association here

could have called them sons of Abraham or sons of Israel (since Jacob’s name was changed) – didn’t do so

their “robbery” not an accidental thing, was a purposeful defrauding – trying to deceive God and themselves… that were doing enough of right thing to earn God’s favor/blessing

have triggered covenant curses

was not only their fraud over charitable contributions, that was just quantifiable symptom of faithless hearts, disobedience in countless other areas

their hardship, failure to thrive in the land actually had God as the cause – God himself actively opposing efforts to get ahead

should not have been surprise to them, was exactly what God promised at conclusion of Moses’ ministry

were also promised a choice between life and death – if they would return to God, he would… once again… bless them

C. Now what?  v.10-12

test me

in effect says “go ahead, try it, see if you can out-give me, if you can out-bless me; but you must put me first”

God and his agenda had been pushed back to second (or lower) place – God wants to be first in their affections

is only when God is first that he receives glory and honor he deserves – otherwise he is defrauded of glory

show your devotion

remember, God was treating them according to the state of their hearts, not based on works – not to be understood as any kind of transaction… you give me $10, I’ll return $100

give me all your heart, show it by putting me and the work of my kingdom first, I will reverse the curse

side note: many things required by God not proportional – e.g., sin offering (Lev. 4:27-35) for common person, 1 female kid or lamb (no distinction about severity of sin or wealth of sinner)

support for the “church” to be shared proportionally, a percentage rather than fixed amount, willingly and joyfully given by all

I will respond

consistent with what God promised through Moses, repeats that assurance that he would overwhelmingly bless obedience

really a heart to heart thing – when God’s people respond to him with all their heart, God responds to them from his heart

God’s desire is to bless his people… and he will… but will not reward disobedience or disloyalty – wants full devotion

Remember where we started: because God is God, he does not change. If was true for Malachi, still true for us. Love for God showed in obedience that includes using what he has entrusted to us for his glory will be met with superabundant blessing. Not a “name it and claim it” kind of transaction, is a general principle that applies according to God’s perfect plan. How we are blessed is up to God, not us. Can be absolutely certain, we will never be losers when we give heart, hands, holdings to God for his use.

Disturbed But Not Disheartened

Malachi 2:17-3:5 

At this point in Malachi’s prophecy perspective changes to future, looking forward across coming 400 years to next big event on God’s timeline. Makes proper conclusion to OT revelation, introduction to NT events and progress of redemption. Important to keep in mind theme of Minor Prophets – “Redeemed from Ruin”. Even though God, rightly, promises judgment on those who persist in rebelling against him, God does not have “scorched earth” policy. Does not intend to annihilate his disobedient people, instead intends to redeem them.

Just as God’s righteous holiness requires a Judge to carry out just punishment on sinners, so his grace and mercy requires a Redeemer to rescue those he intends to save. Yet, as is case so often, our ideas of how things should go rarely match God’s plan. Was true for Jews of Malachi’s day, continues through every age including our own.

Jews of Malachi’s time plagued with tunnel vision – had hard time seeing beyond immediate, especially seeing beyond borders of own country. Weren’t really interested in what God might be doing or have in mind for other people groups, what their part might be in God’s plan for them. Something that plagued them then, continued in Jesus’ day, still persists. And… principle doesn’t get all attention it should in our country. e.g., Samaritans sequestered and shunned; instead should have been evangelized and assimilated.

Like most, they fell for Satan’s insinuation – if life isn’t all you expect it to be, then maybe God is holding out on you. In response, God spoke pretty sharply, gave reality check and reinforced his earlier promises. Good reminders for us, even though disturbed, to not be disheartened by what we see, what we don’t see.

A. “Where is God?”  v.17

empty promises?

no minced words here – God’s ears tired of being abused, his people expressing doubts about Him and his character

have considered promises God made, compared with present circumstances, figured something is wrong… on God’s side of things

should have known better, probably didn’t want to take responsibility – easier to blame God for hard times

a changed standard?

are disturbed by what they perceive as evil going on around, rightly so – they just connect the wrong dots

since God seemed to be blessing the wicked, he must approve of actions – do you wonder God’s ears hurt??

this after had declared by prophet Isaiah: “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!”  Isa. 5:20

lots of wrong theology there: prosperity = blessing; that God’s standard of right/wrong would change, that none of problem was with them

no hope for justice?

since injustice at least continuing, if not increasing, God must not be paying attention… or doesn’t care about what’s happening

theodicy question: if God is good, why is there evil? – lots of possible responses/conclusions, most of them wrong… have too narrow and uninformed view of things

important to keep starting point straight – Christian must start with God, his character, his truth, then try to make sense of circumstances

Jewish people of Malachi’s day like many throughout all ages, were approaching it backwards – trying to understand God in light of circumstances, coming up with wrong answers

B. “He is coming”  v.1-2a

the messenger first

God is not sleeping, has not forgotten his promise, is still committed to continuing his plan… on his timetable

is the next big thing on his timeline and he intends to announce it – will send a messenger to prepare the way

no need for us to wonder about messenger’s identity – Mark, Luke and Jesus all tell us explicitly: Mark 1:2-4, Luke 1:76, Matt. 11:7-10 

“As it is written in the Prophets: “Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, Who will prepare Your way before You.” “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the LORD; Make His paths straight.'” John came baptizing in the wilderness and preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.”

“And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Highest; For you will go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways,” (Zechariah)

“As they departed, Jesus began to say to the multitudes concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? “But what did you go out to see? A man clothed in soft garments? Indeed, those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses.  “But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I say to you, and more than a prophet. “For this is he of whom it is written: ‘Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, Who will prepare Your way before You.'”

the Angel of the covenant

another Messenger to follow first, this one introduced with specific historical reference – the Angel that would go before them during the Exodus through the wilderness – Ex. 23:20 

and… perhaps also word of warning to Malachi’s audience: Ex. 23:21 

“Beware of Him and obey His voice; do not provoke Him, for He will not pardon your transgressions; for My name is in Him.”

will it be a good thing?

that depends – will come suddenly, means his people should be prepared… whenever it actually happens

those who truly love God have great desire for him to come, everyone else not so much

and… makes difference which coming is being considered – next time when he comes as Redeemer, later when comes as Judge

C. “He will purify”  v.2b-5

fire and soap

will be irreversible action that happens as result of Jesus’ coming – what fire and soap accomplish will not be undone

probably both comings in view here, object of actions can be somewhat distinguished – individuals and entire people group

don’t take it too far, descriptions hold up for a little – first coming and intervening time focused mostly on individuals, second coming on entire groups of people

purify

both fire and soap purify – fire, refining by separating impurities and bring to surface, leaving pure substance behind

soap along with water separates impurities and flushes away, likewise leaving clean object behind

purpose of this to purify people, sinners, who will give acceptable and pleasing worship to God – impossible to do in natural state

punish

not a good outcome in view for what is being removed in purifying process – dross, dirt not fit for use and is thrown away

for some kinds of impurities, heating in fire consumes them – certainly a picture of the Last Day, final purification of God’s people and punishment of the lost forever

will be a just punishment – consequences for sinful behavior, but foremost because they do not fear God

do take note of specific behaviors identified, bear in mind their prevalence today:

“those who practice divination, those who commit adultery, those who break promises, and those who exploit workers, widows, and orphans, who refuse to help the immigrant” NET

And so the bottom line here: God is still God and his eternal purpose is still moving forward even when we cannot see the wheels turning. We should be disturbed by injustices and evil we see, should do what God enables and equips us to achieve to make things better. At same time, do not be disheartened – final outcome does not depend on us and… God hasn’t changed his mind. He will still have final victory over sin and Satan. Wrong shall fail, right shall prevail.

God, Why Are You Upset with Us?

Malachi 2:10-16 

Book of the Twelve begins and ends on same thematic note: marriage. Same is true for beginning and end of Old Covenant text. Might wonder what a social institution has to do with salvation – Redeemed from Ruin theme. Let’s back up a few millennia, Day 6 of Creation, principle stated in Gen. 2:24

“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”

Notice where emphasis is – on becoming one. When God through Moses described first marriage, identified principles involved, first thing God comes to is marriage being something that demonstrates oneness, unity. Result of marriage expected, except in unusual circumstances, to involve offspring raised in home with father and mother.

If we take Adam as prototype, the first of his kind, two important things presented to us from week of Creation:

Adam as one made in image of God is to be faithful husband to his wife with whom he has become one

Adam also to be faithful father to his children in the setting of a family that demonstrates faithfulness and unity

Should be no surprise to us in New Covenant period that God has graciously given visible tangible things to represent to us invisible intangible realities – things like baptism, Lord’s table. Same is true to extent with marriage – strong parallels between marriage covenant and God’s covenant with his people. Between relationships present in marriage and family and that between God and his people. From God’s side, reaches pinnacle in Christ and his relationship with church. By no means an entirely new idea first revealed in Ephesians. Paul himself credits Moses with first presenting concept as we read above.

Given strong and close connections between God’s covenant and marriage covenant, no wonder God makes big deal about marriage being done right. Then there is practical reality – if “observance” of either covenant is compromised, both are at great risk. When principles of one are held lightly, disregard for principles regarding other quickly follow.

In our text, God not happy with his people. Through prophet Malachi identifies two primary and a secondary reason for his severe displeasure with his people followed by a stern warning. btw, don’t have to look too hard to see much of what Malachi and contemporaries experienced taking place in our own nation and neighborhoods and families.

A. dishonoring God’s covenant  v.10

one Father – relationship

personal pronoun changes here, from “you” to “we” – lets us know Malachi not talking about universal Fatherhood of God, brotherhood of man – has covenant people in view

ancient treaties emphasized sovereign/subject relationship – subjects not to forget who is in charge, what they owe to him

God no less a sovereign than ancient rulers but… not aspect of relationship that is at front here – using affection based on paternal relationship to woo his people back

one choice – election

for those who knew their Bible, this portion of Malachi’s message must have reminded of Moses’ instruction to Israelites in Deu 7

themes of marriage, election, covenant woven together – who they should not marry b/c are chosen people in covenant with God

makes it plain God chose them (not other way round) to be his people, was that God who made them a people

one family – at risk

God does deal with people as individuals, also as group – a Father who has made up a people is concerned with his entire family

one member acting out can put well-being of human family at risk – clear example of that after fall of Jericho and defeat at Ai because of one man, Achan, and sinful actions

sinning against God puts other family members, even neighbors at risk; sinning against neighbor puts relationship w/ God at risk

B. dishonoring the marriage covenant  v.11, 14-16a

setting: Ezra 10:1-17 (457 BC)  Neh. 13:23-27 (between 430 and 424 BC)

ongoing issue in Israel’s history as well as other nations / groups – is important issue, must be addressed, yet marriage issues really a symptom of something bigger

Ezra had to deal with unbiblical marriage when he arrived in Jerusalem, 30 years later Nehemiah faced with same issues

at same time, church was in trouble… all sorts of wrong things happening – neglect of church, improper use of facility, disregard for Sabbath requirements

treachery

“violation of allegiance or of faith and confidence • betrayal of trust” – if marriage intended to picture God’s relationship w/his people, making own rules for marriage a violation of allegiance to God

theological ground totally confused when believer marries unbeliever – besides practical family compromises – unbelieving spouse usually makes unbelievers of children, maybe more

puts “believer” in impossible position – cannot be loyal to both God and unbeliever, must break trust with one or other or both

violence

implication in v.11 + v.14: men had divorced wives to marry more desirable pagan women, viewed by God as domestic violence

wrenching apart two whom God had made one, tearing apart fabric of family when children involved – violence strong word that includes both cruelty and injustice

displeases God because of violent nature that is contrary to his character, defeats his intended purpose for marriage

God seeks godly offspring, those who worship him in spirit and truth, the next generation in his family as well as the home

C. dishonoring the worship of God  v.12-13

worship like nothing is wrong

disobey command that is known – had copy of the Law, reminded by Ezra and Nehemiah, could not plead ignorance

put on outward appearance of obedience – followed rituals, mostly, knowing rest of life didn’t please God = hypocrisy

religious but not moral – talked the talk, did religious things but loyalty was to things other than God, offensive to him

expect God’s continued blessing

assumed if they did some things right God obligated to respond – no thought for kind of people God wanted: “be holy…”

mourning loss of the wrong thing – grief b/c they lacked material things, not b/c relationship with God was in trouble

same for all idols they worshiped – wanted benefits promised, more a commercial kind of transaction than personal relationship

D. watch it  v.16b

of utmost importance in worship

right god – God commands full and exclusive loyalty of heart and action, will not share his glory with any other (Isa. 42:8; 48:11)

right attitude – honest, sincere desire to please God plus diligent effort higher priority for God than quality of performance

and with spouse

the one you might choose – start with principles God (not the world) has established, keep desires in check for later

the one you have – nurture loyalty / faithfulness to spouse, treat him/her as one of God’s good gifts to be cherished

anyone/thing you desire – not everything we desire is good for us or pleasing to God, should not have everything we want, governed by mind not emotions

for the sake of the church

v.15 – “he seeks godly offspring” – goes back to Creation Mandate, institution of family to provide useful citizens for church/state

in the home – right attitudes/desires need to be both modeled and taught… for sake of family, church, and state

violence and treachery in the home has profound consequences in classroom, workplace, government, church, public

in the church – disloyalty to spouse/brother/God outside the church has impact on relationships / behaviors in the church

When things aren’t going way we think they should, experiencing hardships or suffering we don’t expect – ask what is wrong with me/us, not what is wrong with God.

Problems we observe in family/church/state have root in relationship with God, attitude toward him and his commands – other problems are symptoms.

True and lasting solution to those begins with the Gospel, does not end there. e.g. refugee situation

 

God’s People Need Faithful Leaders

Malachi 2:1-9 

In previous chapter God took people and priests to task for improper attitude toward worship – in particular, people bringing, priests accepting and offering sacrifices unacceptable to God. And they expected God to be ok with that… and continue blessing them. Both people and priests were responsible for actions and attitudes, priests more so because of position of influence. Priests expected to lead people to truth with both life and lips, were seriously deficient in both.

Here God narrows focus to priests, accusing them of unfaithfulness to his covenant, threatening to bring on them curses promised for not keeping the covenant (Deut. 28). No guesswork here about what God expected of his people, how they had sinned against him, how he would respond. Like earlier at Nineveh, God’s threats are great act of grace – warning his people, giving time for repentance, opportunity to get back to right standing with God.

Some details different for us – are under different / New covenant, so not surprising things might have changed. No longer single place for worship, gather on Sunday rather than Saturday, many ceremonial requirements don’t apply. However… God is still the same, need to treat what he says to us with as much respect as ancient people should have. And basic principles of worship have not changed – first and most important is about us giving God his due, taking to heart what he gives to us, take seriously the need to give glory to God in worship.

A. God must be taken seriously  v.1-4

need to hear what he says

are to be active listeners to God in his Word and in worship – pay close attention with goal of comprehension

striving to make mental associations, find hook to hang it on (or one it’s already on), keep it accessible for future use

those in leadership in particular need to master God’s truth not just for own benefit – need to understand it well enough to pass along to others… accurately

Neh. 8:8 “So they read distinctly from the book, in the Law of God; and they gave the sense, and helped them to understand the reading.”

need to take it to heart

iow, take what God says seriously – God not like us, talking endlessly about things that won’t matter in 100 years (minutes)

everything God says has significance – not taking his word to heart means we don’t really take God seriously

God expects his Word not to merely inform but to transform – both process and result of transformation give glory to God

is those who have been and are continually being transformed who give kind of glory to God (worship) he wants/deserves

God will have his way

is against God’s character to simply stand by while he is not honored, even dishonored… esp. by those who should know better

God also not content to deal only with present… is concerned about future… and so should his people be – what is done now forms foundation, sets stage for future generations

if his leaders and people fail to heed, will get worse than egg on faces – both they and their rituals will be covered in refuse

refuse / offal what was removed from sacrificial animal before offered as burnt offering, then burnt outside the camp because considered unclean

strong implication if Malachi’s hearers (priests and people) continued disregarding God’s expectations, would be treated same as offal and destroyed

bottom line: God was / is determined to have a people who respect him and his covenant, take worship seriously, do their best in his strength to please him

B. Levi was a good example  v.5-7

God gave, Levi responded

at head of line was Aaron, from tribe of Levi, ones to whom worship responsibilities were entrusted

might seem otherwise, harsh and confining and impossible to keep, yet God’s intent was for good of his people

God would be faithful to his covenant – if his people responded properly, they could count on him for protection and provision, life, peace

God’s intention that his people would learn to fear him – “combination of affectionate love and deep respect, joined to an awareness of majesty” – and show him proper reverence

Levi was faithful

God didn’t give them wiggle room, couldn’t say he expected too much from them, had set his standard too high for anyone

picks out Phinehas, Aaron’s grandson (Numbers 25) – people got into serious trouble, sacrificing and worshiping Moabite gods until God sent a plague

Phinehas took action, stopped the plague – feared God more than he feared powerful people among both Jews and Midianites

he was influential… for good

as good leader Phinehas taught truth – people could count on getting right instruction from him as spiritual leader

in both day to day life and at time of crisis he put his understanding of God’s truth into action, did the hard but right thing

did as God expected one in his position to do – lived at peace with others, had reputation for integrity, honored God with life/lips

result of his constant faithfulness – God used his teaching and example to turn many away from sin, iow were converted

C. you have undone what he did  v.8-9

priests were unfaithful

not simple neglect, harmless error, failure to do good job professionally – weren’t doing it right in their own lives

apparently in God’s eyes behavior in private life / off the clock is as important as job performance… particularly in the church

nothing about slipping, backsliding, losing their way – was an intentional turning aside from what they knew was right

priests encouraged the people to be unfaithful

didn’t want to lose face by having people show them up so… dragged everyone down with them, leading astray

encouraged others to believe couldn’t or didn’t need to meet God’s standard, put every covenant blessing in jeopardy

not something that went away quickly – think Pharisees of Jesus’ day, how much they twisted true sense of law into something incredibly burdensome

there would be serious consequences for all

their plan would backfire – instead of maintaining reputation and influence, God would make sure they were held in contempt and humiliated before everyone

if there were no serious repentance on part of priests and people, covenant curses would kick in and everyone would lose

Have some liberties now they didn’t then – aren’t stuck with corrupt / incompetent spiritual leaders. Have opportunity and responsibility to sit under sound teaching. Right along with that, need to do two things: encourage those spiritual leaders who are, like Phinehas, doing well; take God’s word and their teaching to heart, working along with Holy Spirit to be transformed by the Word.

Another blessing we have – his Word in variety of versions suited to different reading abilities that make it less challenging to read and comprehend. Need to make the time, listen with intention of understanding and applying, depending on Holy Spirit for help and strength.

Where Is My Honor?

Malachi 1:6-14 

God begins address to his people by declaring the fact of his love. He defends veracity (truthfulness and accuracy) of declaration by giving particular examples. Since love of God for his people has been proven, proper response from people is expected… honor and fear/reverence. Because God truly loves his people, he simply cannot overlook their failure to respond properly. When people challenge God’s “take” on their behavior, no way is God going to back off, say “nevermind, no big deal”.

It is big deal – failure of people to honor and fear God has consequences in all areas of a society. For God to ignore/overlook would be fatal to his people and their society. Same is true for us in our present cultural setting – every day those consequences becoming more obvious everywhere we look. We can and should encourage right behavior when we see it, discourage wrong behavior and point out consequences when we have opportunity. What people do with warning is their responsibility.

In first part of chapter, God addressed people as a whole, now distinguishes between people and leaders, holding both accountable for their actions and attitudes. Priests had a duty to give right instruction to God’s people and set right example for them to follow. At this time of their history, priests were failing in both areas and actually leading people faster and deeper into sin. As incredibly outrageous as their behavior sounds, is far more typical than would like to think.

A. wrong ideas about God

a father who does not expect honor

not a new problem: 300 years before, Isaiah 1.2-3 Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth! For the LORD has spoken: “I have nourished and brought up children, And they have rebelled against Me; The ox knows its owner And the donkey its master’s crib; But Israel does not know, My people do not consider.”

yet is expected in civil society (and even many uncivil ones) that son will honor parents… for good reason – home the training ground for rest of life, relationships

since God is good Father who provides everything good for his people, defies reason why any would fail to gladly honor God… but were acting as though God didn’t need or expect honor

a master who does not require reverence/fear

this shouldn’t surprise – one who does not honor father will probably not show respect for master/superior/teacher/employer

“Fear of God is a combination of affectionate love and deep respect, joined to an awareness of majesty. One cannot honor God without lovingly respecting him, without recognizing his glorious majesty. The fear of God is always affectionate. Love of God is always deeply respectful.” Maoz

don’t be too hard on the people – more in their day than ours, were highly dependent on religious leaders

more detail in next chapter, but priests were actively leading people into serious error by their own words/attitudes/actions

a God who expects too much

devoting time, effort, and resources to worship of God as he expects is huge burden, too hard for priests / people to meet

so many things wrong with this one: starts with failure to love God, respond to God’s love – looks at only horizontal without considering vertical

difference between active and passive expression only matter of degree – don’t have to say it’s a burden to act like it is one

“it’s close enough”; “don’t feel up to it today”; factor in the body language, hurrying through preparations, etc.

B. wrong attitude toward worship

motions count but motives don’t

thought as long as they gave appearance of meeting requirements, should be good enough to get good results

apparently didn’t think through: God doesn’t need anything we bring to him, there must be more to it than simply the act and the stuff

not having right motives (duty rather than devotion, e.g.) bad enough – could maybe cut a little slack for ignorance

were at least a number who intentionally tried to deceive God – promised expensive offering to get out of a jam while intending to actually give something less valuable

God should be happy with what he gets

two kinds of giving that goes on during worship – what worshiper gives to God and fellow worshipers, what God gives

all attention given to what they were giving to God, actually despised what God was trying to give to them

acted as though doing great favor to God by their presence and that they brought something to sacrifice, looked down on what God offered

this is a burden and not a blessing

every part of body language screamed boredom and weariness with worship – the ordinances are distasteful, meaningless, tiresome, an inconvenience… and have better things to do

feel some sense of obligation to at least go through the ritual but make it fast, get it done, move on to next thing

eventually get to place where things must change for people to keep participating – make less distasteful, tiresome, inconvenient

NOTE: all these “issues” come from individual’s perspective, not God’s… viewing worship and relationship with God from bottom up rather than top down POV

C. God’s priorities

his honor of supreme importance

priests have despised his name but… God intends his name, his honor to be maintained – he will be honored by the nations

not something God begs for, simply declares it will be done – for his name to be great, he must be worshiped

is during times of formal worship that attention is drawn to God, he is praised and glorified, he and his name magnified

no worship less offensive than false worship

“isn’t there someone who will lock the door so this won’t keep happening?” – as important as worship is to God, he has his standard

if were going to persist in going to church with bad attitude, God preferred they stay home and not insult him

are many churches here in Maine with locked doors – grieves us because of what it means for communities yet… perhaps not a bad thing if God would not be rightly honored

pure people offering pure worship from pure hearts

obviously cannot achieve perfect purity in this life – does not justify an “anything goes” approach to worship

should do our best in dependence on God to approach his standard as nearly as possible

more we nourish our love for God, better we get to know him through his Word and works, more like Jesus we become

more like Jesus we are, closer we will approach the ideal – giving God the kind of worship he deserves from kind of people he wants

Worship is a big deal. When we do it God’s way, he provides amazing blessings to his people. We have advantages OT worshipers did not – not confined to one location, not required to bring animal sacrifices, not expected to make 3 pilgrimages each year. Have greater responsibilities also – present our bodies as living sacrifices, live all of life coram Deo, all while working against the clock b/c Jesus is coming!

God’s People are Privileged

Malachi 1:1-5 

Prophetically, Malachi like the Finale of a production… and yet is only Act 1. Clear from Malachi and preceding prophets must be more for God to do, so many of his promises left unfulfilled. Must be more to follow… after extended intermission of 400 silent years. Then Act 2 commences with God’s last call, delivered through ministry of John the Baptist, last of the OT-style prophets.

God really closes his written revelation from old covenant perspective with cliff-hanger. Malachi speaks of several future messengers and events that to his readers were shrouded in mystery. This “word of the LORD” truly a heavy burden for both prophet and people to bear. Yet is in many ways a word of great hope… because of what is promised, because is clearly not God’s final word to his people.

As with other prophets, are many parallels between circumstances and needs of their audience and people of today. Malachi’s message just as timeless and relevant to our culture as that found in Jerusalem following return from exile.

A. introduction  v.1

prophet

Malachi probably his name (“messenger”), not title/description – follows pattern of other OT prophetic books, name @ beginning

labored between time of Nehemiah (approx. 430 BC) and destruction of Edom (410 BC) – Temple sacrifice in full swing

setting

city of Jerusalem only recently secured – required great effort from Nehemiah to encourage people to actually move into city

Israel a province, not a nation – had some freedoms under fellows like Zerubbabel, Nehemiah but… harassed by Samaritans, under control / rule of Persia

nothing like the peace and prosperity of Solomon – partly their own doing, partly God’s consequences for their doing

much hopelessness, despair – little in their circumstances to change that so… God sent word thru his prophet

form

presented as disputation – statement or question, response, reply, rebuke or promise

God opens, answers for the people, then replies to their response in dialogue fashion

might think courtroom, God would have been justified – yet… far more of love, grace, mercy than justice

Malachi quite distinct from many of his neighbors – almost no traces of Babylonian influence in writing or thinking

purpose

“Jehovah [LORD] of hosts” occurs twenty-four times in these fifty- nine verses; the  sovereign divine pronouncement “I will” occurs thirteen times Parker

Malachi addresses issue of “what does it take to satisfy God’s expectations?” – implied, “is it even possible?”

he/God calls people to repentance and renewed obedience yet at same time makes clear utter inability to satisfy God

requires unlimited power of Sovereign Lord of Hosts exercised on behalf of his people to change into who he wants them to be

B. God speaks – He declares His love  v.2a

people deserve rebuke

made clear repeatedly people have failed to live up to God’s expectations / standard for relationship with him, with others

need for correction not where God begins – does not begin with charges, even in question form like with Adam and Eve

God begins with his character

not the place we usually begin with corrective discipline – how many times…, what were you…, often start with fault of person

even Dale Carnegie starts with what is commendable in individual, God starts with what is commendable in himself

is a God of love – loves because he is love – not something he starts and stops on a whim or only when he gets paid

and the foundational principle of their relationship

since God is immutable, doesn’t love someone today and abandon or turn on them tomorrow

his relationship with his people not dependent on their circumstances, not always obvious from details of particular situation

means they should look above immediate circumstances, find God first, then see how situation serves God’s purpose for them

C. people challenge – they doubt His love  v.2b

if that is true then…

people aren’t convinced – have their own ideas… based on their worldview, their understanding of God, what they had been taught by (sometimes corrupt) religious leaders

should have been comparing themselves to God’s standard – should be at all times, esp. when things are tough

instead were comparing circumstances to what God had promised – many large, wonderful things… even by post-exile prophets

we’re not seeing it

poverty – deprived of God’s blessings… God must not love them b/c weren’t prospering – if things were good, must be doing right

insecurity – wall completed but… still at risk from neighbors with no way for majority living outside Jerusalem to defend

worship doesn’t seem to bring benefit – were going through motions of following the rules but circumstances not getting better

we’re not feeling it

are vassals, not self-governing – even though had some freedoms, not the same; constant reminders they were subjects

everyone hates us, including family – Edomites really family but behaved as enemies… not feeling respect/affirmation desired

if you really love us, why are things this way? – God asks the question everybody has but doesn’t dare to speak

D. God replies – He demonstrates His love  v.2c-5

God not only asked question, he condescends to answer it… with far more than “because I said so”

it is particular

if God should love any two people alike, ought to be twins; yet… made clear distinction between Jacob and Esau

purposely showed favor to Jacob, disfavor to Esau – chose to treat Jacob one way, Esau another way for reason only God knows

before getting knickers in a bunch, neither one deserved God’s favor – only one has ever earned favor, Lord Jesus

important point for Jews – God loved them on his terms… more in view than simply family tree… did not love all Jews the same

it is protective

Edom just one example of God protecting from enemies – was God who led around on way from Egypt, restrained them later

Israel existed as independent self-governing nation for 900 years – surrounded on all sides by those who hated God and them

was God’s doing, not Israel’s military / political genius – could have easily been overrun by enemies… if God didn’t protect

it is persevering

repeated attempts to go against God’s purpose would be frustrated – this true for both Israel and enemies – God will win

God can “outlast” all enemies of his people – external forces like political/military, unseen spiritual ones, internal sin and self

it is powerful

love not limited in either power or scope – will accomplish all God intends, what motivated God to greatest act for our good.. sending Jesus to accomplish our redemption

God has enough love to go around… even for other peoples – not only can, he will love people from all nations into family

first indication God has more things planned for their future – God intends to keep working, they will acknowledge his glory and greatness as he enlarges his territory

We don’t deserve God’s love any more than Jews did, cannot earn privileges that come from adoption into his family. Yet God has done everything necessary for us to enjoy those privileges because he is love… and he loves us.