Notes from Malachi
We had a good Bible study this past Sunday and will have our next one at the same location In Cabot Park. Thank you guys for coming! We studied the book of Malachi and I made a podcast highlighting a very important verse in this book. Check it out here: https://open.spotify.com/episode/5C1t2sfVFXSxmdH1ZnrMQa?si=4T6DRGhvQR28rayIXBbgQA
Here's my notes from that study:
The very last book in the Old Testament, and the last prophetic word of God before the New Testament. It’s a pretty short book that’s packed full of doctrine and prophecy.
Authored by Malachi which means “My Messenger.”
Written sometime between 450-400 B.C. before the “silent years” where God didn’t send any prophet but a lot took place in world events that paved the way for events in the New Testament to take place.
As a quick side note, the book of Daniel is one of the most attacked books in the Bible because of its prophecies which were so exactly fulfilled, and many of them took place during this 400 silent years (Daniel 11). So we need to remember that God is always working and nothing surprises Him. Also, and I promise we’ll get to Malachi, Daniel 12:4 says, “But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.” So near the end times, many shall run to and fro (you have more power to travel than any king before like 1950), and knowledge shall be increased (we are in the “Information Age”).
Anyways, back to Malachi. This book relates closely with the book of Nehemiah. Just as Malachi was the last book of prophecy, Nehemiah was the last historical book of the Old Testament.
So let’s take a look at Malachi chapter 1, verse 1, and see the big picture.
1 The burden of the word of the Lord to Israel by Malachi.
2a I have loved you, saith the Lord.
Let’s stop there for a second and recognize that this is the message of the whole book. The burden is the endless, unfailing love of God and long historical failure of Israel to be faithful to God in return. This is a message to us as well that we will fail throughout our lives but our sin cannot override the love and grace of God.
Romans 8:38-39 says, “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Paul doesn’t leave anything out there. Physical things, non-physical things, even concepts, time, and dimensions cannot separate us from God’s love. That’s incredible. And Christianity is the only religion that says it’s not about you and what you do or don’t do; it’s about Jesus. Deny yourself, and take up your cross daily, and follow Christ.
It’s actually arrogant to think your sin can cancel out the work that Jesus Christ did on the cross. It’s also arrogant to think that you can add to your salvation as if Jesus only was able to take care of most of it. It’s all Him.
So here in Malachi we have the word of the Lord to the people and He says, “I have loved you” and their response is in the second part of verse 2.
2b Yet ye say, Wherein hast thou loved us? Was not Esau Jacob's brother? saith the Lord: yet I loved Jacob,
3 And I hated Esau, and laid his mountains and his heritage waste for the dragons of the wilderness.
First of all, there are multiple charges God brings against the people here and every time they basically say, “What are you talking about?” They aren’t even aware of their own sin or couldn’t even admit failure. 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
But here in Malachi the people have chocolate smeared on their face and God’s asking them who ate the cookies! “Huh? What cookies?”
There’s a sense of apathy throughout this book. The people are doing the rituals but doing them without love for God. G. Campbell Morgan writes on this, “This prophecy teaches that all motives other than love fail to produce maintenance of true relationship. It is possible to attend the temple, bend the knee, and make an offering regularly, but unless there is love in the heart there is no communion with God.” And he says, “To go to the temple merely as a matter of duty is to blaspheme.” It’s not just useless, it’s sin. What about when we pray before a meal? Is it done out of ritual or habit or out of a love for God and gratitude for His provision?
Jacob and Esau.
So these two verses of Malachi are quoted by Paul briefly in Romans 9:13 – “As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.” So out of context that could mean that God randomly loves people and randomly hates people, but that’s not the point Paul is making and that’s not the point being made in Malachi. If we look at this verses in Malachi, including verse 4, it’s clear that the nations of Jacob and Esau are being talked about and not the individuals. God is making the point that he blessed the nation of Israel (Jacob) and not Edom (Esau) in answering their rather foolish question about God loving them.
It says in verse 3 that God “hated” Esau but that’s not hatred the way we commonly use it. In the Bible and in the ancient world, to hate something or someone often meant to prefer something else on a comparative basis. When we see the word “hate” in Scripture, we need to understand it in context. God clearly showed favor to Israel rather than Edom. Here’s just a couple examples from Scripture to prove this:
Let’s go to Genesis 29:30-31
So the definition and explanation is given to us right there. “Hated” and “loved less than” are synonymous. There’s clearly a preference here just as back in Malachi.
This helps us understand what Jesus said in Luke 14:26, “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.”
He clearly doesn’t mean we should have an emotional hatred against our family. He’s explaining that we need to put Him first above everything.
Ok, back to Malachi verse 4.
4 Whereas Edom saith, We are impoverished, but we will return and build the desolate places; thus saith the Lord of hosts, They shall build, but I will throw down; and they shall call them, The border of wickedness, and, The people against whom the Lord hath indignation for ever.
5 And your eyes shall see, and ye shall say, The Lord will be magnified from the border of Israel.
6 A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master: if then I be a father, where is mine honour? and if I be a master, where is my fear? saith the Lord of hosts unto you, O priests, that despise my name. And ye say, Wherein have we despised thy name?
So again God is showing them His favor and blessings then charging them guilty for not giving Him the honor He is due.
7 Ye offer polluted bread upon mine altar; and ye say, Wherein have we polluted thee? In that ye say, The table of the Lord is contemptible.
8 And if ye offer the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? and if ye offer the lame and sick, is it not evil? offer it now unto thy governor; will he be pleased with thee, or accept thy person? saith the Lord of hosts.
So the priests weren’t giving their best. Regarding sacrifices to the Lord, Leviticus 22:22 says, “Those that are blind or fractured or maimed or having a running sore or eczema or scabs, you shall not offer to the LORD, nor make of them an offering by fire on the altar to the LORD.”
Why? Because God deserves the very best. These priests were giving sacrifices that didn’t cost them anything. They didn’t sacrifice their best; they really didn’t “sacrifice” anything because they were offering that which had almost no value. Maybe when we pray we should do it sacrificially rather than taking care of other stuff first and then seeing “if we have time” to pray. There’s a lot of other things we could do sacrificially and give to God first rather than seeing what we have left over to give Him.
9 And now, I pray you, beseech God that he will be gracious unto us: this hath been by your means: will he regard your persons? saith the Lord of hosts.
10 Who is there even among you that would shut the doors for nought? neither do ye kindle fire on mine altar for nought. I have no pleasure in you, saith the Lord of hosts, neither will I accept an offering at your hand.
So God didn’t want the sacrifices at all. He wanted the doors to the Temple shut. Again, give God your best and don’t just give Him “something” in order to go through the motions. Do I think God has probably not been very pleased with the complacent church in America going through the motions for so long? Yep.
Because—in my opinion—that a church that preaches feel-good messages that align with culture rather than the full truth of Scripture is worse than no church at all.
11 For from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same my name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in every place incense shall be offered unto my name, and a pure offering: for my name shall be great among the heathen, saith the Lord of hosts.
Here we have God’s plan for the good news to go out into all the world. Jesus Christ coming and dying for our sins wasn’t an afterthought or a “Plan B.”
12 But ye have profaned it, in that ye say, The table of the Lord is polluted; and the fruit thereof, even his meat, is contemptible.
13 Ye said also, Behold, what a weariness is it! and ye have snuffed at it, saith the Lord of hosts; and ye brought that which was torn, and the lame, and the sick; thus ye brought an offering: should I accept this of your hand? saith the Lord.
14 But cursed be the deceiver, which hath in his flock a male, and voweth, and sacrificeth unto the Lord a corrupt thing: for I am a great King, saith the Lord of hosts, and my name is dreadful among the heathen.
1 And now, O ye priests, this commandment is for you.
When God pronounces judgment it is always against the rulers, against the leaders that are leading their people astray.
2 If ye will not hear, and if ye will not lay it to heart, to give glory unto my name, saith the Lord of hosts, I will even send a curse upon you, and I will curse your blessings: yea, I have cursed them already, because ye do not lay it to heart.
3 Behold, I will corrupt your seed, and spread dung upon your faces, even the dung of your solemn feasts; and one shall take you away with it.
Basically God will throw it back in their faces. That’s how much God detests these fake, insulting sacrifices.
Look at verse 7:
7 For the priest's lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek the law at his mouth: for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts.
The spiritual leaders are the messenger of God and they should act that way. They should keep knowledge and guide the flock. Titus 1:7 says, A “bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God…” They are held to a higher standard. James 3:1 says, “My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment.”
8 But ye are departed out of the way; ye have caused many to stumble at the law; ye have corrupted the covenant of Levi, saith the Lord of hosts.
9 Therefore have I also made you contemptible and base before all the people, according as ye have not kept my ways, but have been partial in the law.
And the rest of this chapter is strong judgments against the priests, and we never hear this in church. God does actually care whether you follow sin or follow Him! Let’s go down to verse 17.
17 Ye have wearied the Lord with your words. Yet ye say, Wherein have we wearied him? When ye say, Every one that doeth evil is good in the sight of the Lord, and he delighteth in them; or, Where is the God of judgment?
People can be impatient. They see the wicked prospering, and doing well, and not seeing the judgment of God so they question God and His authority. We do the same thing! Look at all these evil people in 2020, they’re on TV all the time and we say where is the God of judgment? But as any kid knows, “He’s got the whole world in His hands!” Job 20:4-5 says, “Knowest thou not this of old, since man was placed upon earth, That the triumphing of the wicked [is] short, and the joy of the hypocrite [but] for a moment?” Their time is short, it’s just that God’s timeline is a lot different from ours.
Then we get to some amazing prophecy in chapter 3 and God answers their complaining and questioning from verse 17 in Malachi that we just read.
1 Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the Lord of hosts.
So Malachi means “My Messenger.” And here God tells of His messenger He will send before the Lord. That would be John the Baptist and the Lord would of course be Jesus. The Lord of Hosts is speaking in this verse and describing John the Baptist and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Isaiah 40:3 says, “The voice of one that crieth, Prepare ye in the wilderness the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.”
Let’s go to the Gospel of Mark chapter 1 and read verses 1-8.
2 But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner's fire, and like fullers' soap:
3 And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness.
It seems here that we’ve quickly gone from announcing the First Coming of Christ to His Second Coming.
4 Then shall the offering of Judah and Jerusalem be pleasant unto the Lord, as in the days of old, and as in former years.
5 And I will come near to you to judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against false swearers, and against those that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow, and the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger from his right, and fear not me, saith the Lord of hosts.
It seems these will be common sins towards the end of all things. Here we also see that the church will be diminished towards the end.
6 For I am the Lord, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.
He doesn’t change. He’s always perfect, always loving.
7 Even from the days of your fathers ye are gone away from mine ordinances, and have not kept them. Return unto me, and I will return unto you, saith the Lord of hosts. But ye said, Wherein shall we return?
8 Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings.
So this passage is always brought up by pastors when they give their obligatory tithe talk. It’s actually a pretty cool passage too because it is the only time in Scripture where God says, “Test me” in verse 10.
So let’s read the next couple verses then talk about it.
9 Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation.
10 Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.
So first of all, in context this is directed at the priests. The priests were robbing God from the tithes and offerings that He is due. But Hosea 4:9 tells us, “And there shall be, like people, like priest; and I will punish them for their ways, and reward them for their doings.” So while this is directed at the priests, it doesn’t mean that the common folk are innocent in this.
We can see why pastors use this passage in their tithe sermons. However, tithing means a tenth and the Jewish nations was commanded to give a tenth of their earnings. We don’t have that same command today under the new covenant. We are not under the law but under grace.
That’s why 2 Corinthians 9:7 simply says that God “loves a cheerful giver.” And I think that should be our understanding for giving to a church. Give freely and gladly, and it doesn’t necessarily mean giving to a church. Give to the poor. Give to widows. Give to various ministries around the world, which is a blessing of the internet, we can research Christian ministries and churches all over the world. Give to people that just lost their job because of government shutdowns. But don’t give out of feelings of obligation. That’s just like we’re seeing here in Malachi where the people are sacrificing out of obligation but there’s no love in it.
John Wesley went even farther than said and basically said that you’re defrauding God if you use the money God has given you for anything other than basic necessities. The rest should go towards the Kingdom of God.
Let’s go down to verse 16, and this is really good.
16 Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another: and the Lord hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon his name.
G. Campbell Morgan said this verse “reveals the secrets of strength in an age of failure.” The remnant that feared the Lord “thought upon His name.” A focus on God is what we need right now all over the world.
Also, the beginning of that verse is another verse about the church’s need to gather. Those that feared the Lord spoke often to one another. Not in Zoom meetings, not through e-mail, but in person. And look at the beautiful response of God in this book of judgment! The Lord heard them and acknowledged them, and a book of remembrance was written for those that feared the Lord.
We are absolutely in an “age of failure” and our secret to maintaining strength in this time is so simple but so profound: Think upon the name of the Lord. Focus on who He is and walk with Him.
17 And they shall be mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him.
18 Then shall ye return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not.
Chapter 4 is pretty short but has a really interesting prophecies about the Day of the Lord, the end times, about Elijah so let’s just read that whole chapter.
1 For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch.
2 But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall.
3 And ye shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I shall do this, saith the Lord of hosts.
4 Remember ye the law of Moses my servant, which I commanded unto him in Horeb for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments.
5 Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord:
6 And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.
So Elijah the prophet will come before the Day of the Lord which is at the end of the Great Tribulation. John the Baptist was kind of a shadow of Elijah because Gabriel the Angel said that John will come in the “spirit and power” of Elijah. And most people think that Elijah will be one of the two witnesses that will come at the beginning of the Great Tribulation in Revelation 11.
Also see John 1:19-28