Welcome to our Bible Study Series on the Minor Prophets.
This is – Malachi, The Crumbling of a Nation
Click on the link above for the study session. Find the notes below.
Malachi, Crumbling of a Nation:
- Number 12, our final study in the series: God in the Ruins. Tonight we’ll look at Malachi’s message, as he is God’s final mouth piece until John the Baptist arrives to make the way for the Messiah.
1. Malachi’s Setting:
- Malachi, a prophet in the days of Nehemiah, directs his message of judgment to a people plagued with corrupt priests, wicked practices, and a false sense of security in their privileged relationship with God. Using the question-and-answer method, Malachi probes deeply into their problems of hypocrisy, infidelity, mixed marriages, divorce, false worship, and arrogance.
- So sinful has the nation become that God’s words to the people no longer have any impact. For four hundred years after Malachi’s ringing condemnations, God remains silent. Only with the coming of John the Baptist (3:1) does God again communicate to His people through a prophet’s voice.
- Malachi’s name means “My Messenger” and it is appropriate to the book which speaks of the coming of the “messenger of the covenant”. Unknown to us apart from the superscription to this book, Malachi was the last of the Old Testament prophets and the author of this final book of the Old Testament.
- Although an exact date cannot be established for Malachi, internal evidence can be used to deduce an approximate date. The Persian term for governor, pechah (1:8; cf. Neh.5:14; Hag. 1:1, 14; 2:21) indicates that this book was written during the Persian domination of Israel (539–333 B.C.). Sacrifices were being offered in the temple (1:7–10; 3:8), which was rebuilt in 516 B.C.
- Evidently many years had passed since the offerings were instituted, because the priests had grown tired of them and corruptions had crept into the system. In addition, Malachi’s oracle was inspired by the same problems that Nehemiah faced: corrupt priests (1:6–2:9; Neh.13:1–9); neglect of tithes and offerings (3:7–12; Neh.13:10–13); and intermarriage with pagan wives (2:10–16; Neh.13:23–28).
- Nehemiah came to Jerusalem in 444 B.C. to rebuild the city walls, thirteen years after Ezra’s return and reforms (457 B.C.). Nehemiah returned to Persia in 432 B.C., but came back to Palestine about 425 B.C., and dealt with the sins described in Malachi. It is therefore likely that Malachi proclaimed his message while Nehemiah was absent between 432 B.C. and 425 B.C., almost a century after Haggai and Zechariah began to prophesy (520 B.C.).
2. Malachi’s Purpose:
- Malachi’s prophecy was designed as an appeal that would break through the barrier of Israel’s disbelief, disappointment, and discouragement. The promised time of prosperity had not yet come, and the prevailing attitude that it was not worth serving Yahweh became evident in their moral and religious corruption.
- But God revealed His continuing love in spite of Israel’s lethargy. His appeal in this oracle was that the people and priests would stop to realize that their lack of blessing was not caused by His lack of concern, but by their own compromise and disobedience to the covenant law.
- When they repent and return to God with sincere hearts, the obstacles to the flow of divine blessing will be removed. Malachi also reminds the people that a day of reckoning will surely come when God will judge the righteous and the wicked.
3. Malachi’s Message:
- The people of Israel had become disillusioned and doubtful. Internally they wondered if God’s messianic promises would ever be fulfilled and whether it was worth serving God after all. Externally, these attitudes were manifested in empty ritual, cheating on tithes and offerings, and indifference to the moral and ceremonial law.
- Malachi challenges these problems and attitudes and calls the people to a new commitment and obedience. And so the book of Malachi is divided into three main parts: the privilege of the nation (1:1–5), the pollution of the nation (1:6–3:15), and the promise to the nation (3:16–4:6).
- Malachi’s structure is built upon a recurring pattern of accusation (“You are robbing Me!”), interrogation (“How have we robbed Thee?”), and refutation (“In tithes and offerings”). Over and over, the false conclusions and rationalizations of the people (“but you say” and similar
expressions appear more than a dozen times) are overcome by irrefutable and convicting arguments.
- Of the fifty-five verses in Malachi, forty-seven are spoken by God, the highest proportion of all the prophets. Malachi is also the only prophet who ends his book with judgment. While Joel and Zephaniah present the theme of the day of the Lord with greater intensity than Malachi (3:2,17; 4:1,3,5), they end on a theme of hope and blessing. But Malachi is a fitting conclusion to the Old Testament because it underscores the sinful human condition and anticipates God’s solution in the work of the coming Messiah.
4. The Book’s Application:
- This books concludes with a dramatic prophecy of the coming of the Lord and John the Baptist: “I will send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before Me” (3:1). Israel flocked to the Jordan four hundred years later when “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the LORD” (Matt. 3:3) appeared, breaking the long silence of prophetic revelation.
- The silence was broken by the words of the next prophet, John the Baptist: “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). Malachi also predicts the coming of the messenger who will clear the way before the Lord (3:1; cf. Is. 40:3).
- John the Baptist later fulfils this prophecy, but in the next few verses (3:2–5) jump ahead to Christ in His second advent. This is also true of the prophecy of the appearance of “Elijah the prophet” (4:5). John the Baptist was this Elijah, but Elijah will also appear before the second coming of Christ.
- So in Malachi, we learn that when we fail to obey God we rob Him of what He deserves and ourselves of the blessings He desires for us.
- God sovereignly chose Jacob over Esau
- We despise God by profaning worship
- God hates divorce
- The two key element of a Biblical marriage are covenant and companionship
- When our ways are wicked we weary God by our words
- God’s messenger would prepare the way for the Lord to come in judgement
- We are arrogant when we say – it is in vain that we serve the Lord
- God keeps a record of those who fear Him
- God will distinguish between the wicked and the righteous
- Those who fear God will be healed and restored
- The prophet Elijah would come before the terrible and great Day of the Lord to call men to repentance
- God does not change