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Malachi 1:12, 614comment (0)

August 9, 2007

By Jay T. Robertson

Related Scripture: Malachi 1:12, 614

Assistant Professor, School of Christian Studies, University of Mobile

Malachi 1:1–2, 6–14

Malachi, the last of the writing prophets, wrote to the Jewish people who had been restored to their land after 70 years of exile in Babylon. The temple had been rebuilt, thanks to the faithful preaching of Haggai and Zechariah. Worship at the temple may have begun (depending on when exactly Malachi wrote), thanks to Ezra’s teaching. And Jerusalem’s walls may have been rebuilt, thanks to Nehemiah’s effective leadership. Externally things looked good. True worship, however, had not been restored. Therefore God inspired Malachi to write this book.

Do you trust God’s love? (1–2)
Malachi began by affirming God’s love for the benefit of those who were questioning it. Judah responded to God’s affirmation of His love for them with a question expressing doubt. Such an opening to the book suggests that Judah’s questioning of God’s love will be a major theme.

The people of Israel who had returned from Babylonian exile had been captivated by God’s faithfulness to His covenant with Abraham (Neh. 9:8, 17, 28–33). But the community’s appreciation for God’s love, faithfulness and justice in the face of its sin had not lasted. Malachi introduced this first insight into the people’s changed attitude with the first of eight uses of “But you ask.” God’s love spans the divide between His holiness and humanity’s wickedness. But Judah had lost sight of God’s holiness and of their sinfulness.

Like self-centered children who had taken love for granted, Judah had become blind to it and responded to the Lord’s discipline with, “You don’t love me.” They considered the evil and the arrogant fortunate. They believed it was useless to serve God — just look at how He had treated them. The popular attitude was that God had forsaken them. It is easy for believers today to do the same thing.

Do you honor God’s greatness? (6–11)
The priests who served at the temple were the ones who had failed in the most central obligation of all, that of honoring God. When the people brought blemished sacrifices (Mal. 1:14), the priests should have corrected them. Instead they offered “stolen, lame, or sick animals” (Mal. 1:13) as sacrifices to the great King. They should have known that God specifically forbade such sacrifices in Leviticus 22:17–25.

Why did God care so much about whether the sacrifices brought to Him were unblemished? For one thing, God was interested in the priorities of the Israelites’ lives. He wanted them to honor Him by bringing Him their best. God also desired to teach the people that a sacrifice for their sins must be perfect. Above all else, the Levitical sacrifices were meant to point to the sacrifice for sin that still was to come — Jesus Christ, the truly unblemished One, the perfect Lamb of God.

The people of Jerusalem in Malachi’s day questioned whether God really loved them, but the Lord responded by saying that the real question was not God’s love for Israel but Israel’s love for God. We must worship God according to what He has said about how He should be worshiped. He asks us for our best, and so we should give our best. You cannot worship God and remain your own lord. The sovereign Lord deserves your best.

Do you love God wholeheartedly? (12–14)
Not only were the priests’ actions displeasing to the Lord so were their attitudes. The priests were profaning God’s name by offering unacceptable sacrifices to the Lord. To profane someone’s name meant to ruin his or her reputation. The Bible repeatedly declares God’s purpose of making known, protecting or redeeming the glory of His great name whether in judgment or deliverance. Instead of honoring God, the priests were treating God’s name with contempt. For them, the holy service of God had become a bore, a labor of duty rather than a labor of love, a yoke around their necks. What a warning to teachers of the Word of God today. We cannot afford to treat God’s Word lightly. May our love for the Lord motivate us to honor God by giving Him our best.

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