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Malachi 1:1−14 comment (0)

May 31, 2012

By Kenneth B.E. Roxburgh

Related Scripture: Malachi 1:1-14

Bible Studies for Life 
Chair and Armstrong Professor of Religion, Samford University

Are you just going through the motions?

Malachi 1:1−14

Malachi is the final book of the Old Testament, the last “messenger” of God within the Minor Prophets. All 12 books tell the story of how God spoke to His people as they faced the challenges and opportunities of living in changing times and circumstances, shaped by the religious, political, economic and social context of their history.

Malachi occupies an important place in our Christian Bibles, as it comes at the end of the Old Testament, and contains a promise of the coming Messiah, which the New Testament conveyed was fulfilled in the coming of John the Baptist and Jesus. 

Malachi does come at the later stages of Israel’s history, following the return from exile and the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem under the direction of Haggai and Zechariah. However, the perspective we have in the book is not a rosy picture. There are explicit and implicit criticisms of the sacrificial system and the priests. Malachi supports the system itself, but is concerned at the way in which religious ritual has become corrupted. He challenges the apathy toward religion and a relationship with God.

Doubting God’s Love (1−5)
Malachi’s favorite term for describing God is “Lord of Hosts.” It is a title for God that occurs on 24 occasions within this short book and speaks of the majesty and sovereignty of God who showers His love on His people.

The book begins with God declaring His love for a people who question the reality of His concern for their lives. The setting appears to be that of the return of the people from exile; a certain disappointment had set in among the people of God that things would never be quite the same as before. This is not the anguished cry of someone experiencing suffering that you find in the Psalms of lament, but an expression of skepticism and doubt, a challenge to the faithfulness of God. Malachi answers their questions by taking them seriously and reminding them of God’s covenant promises, which include both judgment and mercy. He assures them that the “best is yet to come” when they will be able to say with confidence, “Great is the Lord beyond the borders of Israel.” Israel should not doubt God’s love for them but should understand His love for the whole world. 

Offering our Second Best (6−10)
This section is a long attack on corrupt priests and the way in which they are not following the proper sacrificial system. They are allowing worshipers to offer blind and lame creatures, rather than the unblemished animals commanded by God. These priests who despise God will themselves be despised by Him. Malachi is concerned that these religious leaders grasp the enormity of their failure, that their lack of commitment to God’s ways are causing the people to stumble.

Malachi is convinced that obedience brings blessing and disobedience incurs punishment. He repeatedly emphasizes God’s judgment and the connection between sin and chastening. The prophet is concerned about a mechanical understanding of worship that values ritual over relationship. He makes it crystal clear that wrong practice will hinder relationships between priests and people and between the people and God. His addressing the priests seems to leave us out, until we remember that as Baptists we believe in the priesthood of all believers. We all have a responsibility in offering our lives in the service of God, which constitutes true worship (Rom. 12).

Forgetting Whom We Serve (11−14)
Malachi assumes that the true worship of God will stand or fall on the awareness we have of who God is. So he speaks of the God whose name is great among the nations, the Lord of Hosts. An attitude toward worship that says, “What a weariness this is,” is a clear sign that the people have failed to understand what a privilege it is to honor God in our praise and thanksgiving and to live a life of holiness. He is the King of Kings and calls for reverence and respect in the way we live before Him.

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