Malachi 1

Malachi means “My Messenger” or “My Angel.” He was well named because he was a messenger sent by God with messages from God. That makes Malachi very special, since there have only been a few human beings who have received divinely inspired messages like that.

Malachi lived after the return from the Babylonian captivity and after the second temple was built – sometime after 520 BC. It’s possible that Malachi was the last prophet before the arrival of the Son of God, who inaugurated the New Covenant.

After returning from exile and rebuilding the temple, which was a time of spiritual renewal, the Jewish people drifted away from the Lord. We lost our first love. Our religion became external, ceremonial, ritualistic, passionless, lukewarm. We were performing the outward ceremonies of Judaism while being far from God.

Israel in the time of Malachi was experiencing a lot of problems. It seems that an unusual amount of tragedies were occurring. Maybe the weather was bad. The harvests definitely were bad. Pests were attacking the crops. The economy was bad. Maybe we were being attacked by enemies. Maybe there was an unusual amount of sickness and death.

The Chosen People had a special relationship to the Lord. When we loved Him and were obedient to him, He blessed us. Things went well for us. When we were far from Him and disobedient, things did not go well for us. Malachi’s generation complained that God was the source of our problems instead of realizing that we were the source of our problems.

Malachi let us know that our problems resulted from our bad attitudes and behaviors – indifference to God; disregard for the worship at the temple; intermarriage with unbelievers; and a high divorce rate. Malachi challenged us turn away from these things, and renew our relationship to the Lord.

He did that in an interesting way – by listing our bad attitudes and behaviors and the Lord’s responses to them.

Are you going though the motions of religion while being far from God? This book was written for you.

Have you ever lost your first love for God? You have no passion for God or the Word of God or sharing the Gospel of God? You are more excited about money, sports, entertainments, vacations, your hobbies than you are about the Lord? This book was written for you.

You are doing things you know are wrong, but you don’t care enough to stop? This book was written for you.

The lessons from Malachi apply to individuals who are backslidden, churches that are lukewarm, nations who once knew God but no longer know Him.

The book starts with a description of the kind of message Malachi is bringing. It’s a heavy one. A prophecy – “masah” in Hebrew, which means a “burden.” Malachi is not bringing a pleasant message. His message is more like a heavy load that’s difficult to carry.

While the message is a heavy burden, it’s a message from God and must be treated as such. It’s the word of the Lord to Israel through Malachi. God spoke to Malachi, who communicated the Lord’s word to the Chosen People. This is a divinely inspired message from the Creator, through a Jewish prophet, to the Jewish people. And it has faithfully preserved for approximately 2500 years, so that it is able to benefit all of humanity.

Malachi begins with the Lord responding to one of Israel’s bad attitudes. We complained that the Lord no longer cared about us. “I have loved you,” says the Lord. “But you ask, ‘How have you loved us?’ Things weren’t going well for the nation. What was the explanation for our problems? The Lord didn’t love us. He no longer cared about us.

Malachi wanted us to know that the Lord did love us. He did care for us. His love was revealed by His choice of our nation to be the Chosen People, not our twin-brother nation, Edom.

“Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?” declares the Lord. “Yet I have loved Jacob, but Esau I have hated, and I have turned his hill country into a wasteland and left his inheritance to the desert jackals.”

I have loved Jacob, but Esau I have hated. It’s not that God hated Esau or his descendants in the sense of having intense dislike for them and wanting them to be destroyed. God hated Esau and his descendants in the sense of not choosing them to be the Chosen People, as He chose Jacob and his descendants.

There were two brothers. Twins. Equals. From those twins, twin nations were formed. The Lord chose one of those twins to be the heir of the covenant He made with Abraham. The other was not chosen.

Both nations sinned – frequently. Both nations failed – repeatedly. But, one of those twin-nations would be chosen by God to be the heir of the amazing Abrahamic covenant. One of those twin-nations would be blessed and have a glorious future, and one nation would come to an inglorious end.

God was committed to one of those twin-brother nations, to make sure that nation would endure and succeed and be greatly blessed and be a blessing to other the nations of the world. That was the nation the Lord loved – Israel.

The Edomites would have their time in the sun. But eventually they would serve their purpose as a nation, and then their national existence would come to an end. Their end was sure – no matter what the people of Edom intended to do, no matter what they proudly boasted about themselves. Edom may say, “Though we have been crushed, we will rebuild the ruins.” But this is what the Lord Almighty (Lord of Hosts) says: “They may build, but I will demolish. They will be called the Wicked Land, a people always under the wrath of the Lord.

Adonai’s opposition to Edom and its eventual demise would reinforce what we already knew – the Lord is not like the gods of the other nations. He is not a local deity. He is the God of all peoples. He is in control of all nations. You will see it with your own eyes and say, ‘Great is the Lord – even beyond the borders of Israel!’

Eventually this prophecy of Edom’s demise was fulfilled. Edom came to an end. Edom lost its national existence and the Edomites lost their identity as a people. Try to find an Edomite today. You can’t.

I have loved Jacob, but Esau I have hated. Does the Lord have the right to choose one nation and not another? Bless one people and give them a glorious future and allow another people to come to an inglorious end? Yes. Does He have the ability to do that? Yes, He does. Can He bring the United States to an inglorious end – especially if we continue in our wicked, Edomish ways. Yes. He can.

Does the Lord have the right to choose one person and not another? Give one individual a glorious future but not another and allow the unchosen one to come to an inglorious end? Yes, He has that right.

The fact that God was committed to Israel’s survival and success revealed His love for us. The fact that Edom would die as a nation highlighted the love God had for the surviving twin-brother nation – Israel.

We were complaining that the Lord did not love us. The reality was that He did love us – but we did not love Him. And Malachi gave us evidence that we did not love Him. If you love someone, you treat him with respect. But we weren’t honoring the Lord – because our love for Him had become cold. “A son honors his father, and a slave his master. If I am a father, where is the honor due me? If I am a master, where is the respect due me?” says the Lord of Hosts.

God was Israel’s Father and Master – superior to us and worthy our respect. If it’s the responsibility of a son to honor his father, and the duty of a slave to respect his master, how much more was it Israel’s responsibility to honor and respect our Heavenly Father and Celestial Master? But we weren’t. Why then should He honor us? Bless us? Prosper us?

The reason for our problems was our lack of love, honor and respect for Adonai Tz’vaot, the Lord of Hosts, the Lord of Armies, the One in charge of all His armies in Heaven and His people on Earth; the One in control of all forces and all powers and all things. Malachi was telling us that it is foolish and destructive to dishonor the Lord of Hosts. Only trouble can come to those who do that – which it had.

Maybe the situation wouldn’t be so bad if our spiritual leaders were loving God the way they should, respecting Him the way they should, honoring Him the way they should. Maybe they could turn the people back to God and reignite their love for Him. But Malachi made it clear that Israel’s spiritual leaders, who should have known the Lord the best and honored Him the most, were also expressing contempt for Him. It is you priests who show contempt for my name. But you ask, ‘How have we shown contempt for your name?’ Israel’s spiritual leaders were unaware that they had been expressing contempt for the Creator.

The Lord gave an example of their contempt. By offering defiled food on my altar. That’s bad. The holy priests of the holy people serving at the holy house of the holy God in the holy city on the holy land were required to offer holy sacrifices. But they weren’t. The sacrifices were defiled.

The priests were unaware that they were offering unacceptable sacrifices. But you ask, ‘How have we defiled you?’

The Lord responded with a specific example of unacceptable sacrifices. “By saying that the Lord’s table is contemptible. When you offer blind animals for sacrifice, is that not wrong? When you sacrifice lame or diseased animals, is that not wrong? Try offering them to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you?” says the Lord of Hosts.

The Lord of Hosts is the best and is worthy of the best. He is worthy of receiving sacrifices that were unblemished, not ones that were blind, lame or diseased. An earthly ruler would be insulted if he was given defective animals as a gift. How much more the One who is greater than any ruler on Earth?

By offering defective animals, the people and the priests revealed their contempt for the Creator. Instead of making the Lord want to accept them and bless them, it did the opposite. It made the Lord want to reject them and remove their blessings – which is what had been happening.

What kind of service are you offering the Lord of Hosts? The best of your time, your talents or your treasures? Or something defective?

The Lord told them they needed to turn things around. “Now plead with God to be gracious to us. With such offerings from your hands, will he accept you?” – says the Lord of Hosts. If they turned to the Lord and, with sincerity and conviction, asked Him to forgive them and restore them even though they didn’t deserve it, He would.

That’s who He is: gracious, merciful, forgiving, wanting His creatures to turn to Him and be blessed, not continue turning away from Him and suffer loss.

Radical and immediate action needed to be taken! The priests and the people needed to stop their contemptuous worship which offended the Lord. “Oh, that one of you would shut the temple doors, so that you would not light useless fires on my altar! I am not pleased with you,” says the Lord of Hosts, “and I will accept no offering from your hands.

What a shocking request! We were better off shutting the doors of the temple so that no sacrifices could be offered there? The temple and the sacrifices were crucial to our relationship to God. When offered with faith, the sacrifices atoned for us and pleased the Lord and made us acceptable to Him. But our defiled and defective offerings were counter-productive. They were displeasing to God and unacceptable to Him – and made us unacceptable to Him.

Is it possible to go through the motions of worship, even God-ordained worship like sacrificing animals at the temple, and still be far from God? Be unacceptable to Him? Yes.

Is there the slightest possibility that that is you? That you think you are a Christian, you think you are a Messianic Jew because you have prayed some prayers, made some commitments to God, and are going though the motions of religion – but your heart is far from Him? If you ask yourself that question, and the answer is yes, don’t stay in that place. Talk to me and let’s work together to get you in a better place.

The Lord is too great to be treated with contempt – especially by the Chosen People. My name will be great among the nations, from where the sun rises to where it sets. In every place incense and pure offerings will be brought to me, because my name will be great among the nations,” says the Lord of Hosts.

The Lord is letting us know that a time is coming when He will be known by all the nations of the world. Everyone on this planet, from the east to the west, will know Him and honor Him. He will be worshiped with pure and acceptable worship all over the world. Since that will happen, how could the special, set-apart nation be treating the Lord so disrespectfully? It made no sense. They, above all others, should be treating the Lord with respect. They needed to repent – turn from their bad attitudes toward God and their bad behaviors and replace them with good attitudes and good behaviors.

But they weren’t.“But you profane it by saying, ‘The Lord’s table is defiled,’ and, ‘Its food is contemptible.’ And you say, ‘What a burden!’ and you sniff at it contemptuously,” (like turning up your nose at something that you find unpleasant) says the Lord of Hosts.

Instead of seeing their ability to offer holy sacrifices in the holy house of the holy God as a great privilege, as a way of becoming acceptable to God, as a way of experiencing atonement, the people saw the sacrifices as something they were forced to do but really didn’t want to do.

Serving God was too much trouble. It was too much of a burden. It took too much time and effort. And it was too much of an expense, so they offered the Lord the least valuable animals – the ones that were crippled, diseased, even stolen. “When you bring injured, lame or diseased animals and offer them as sacrifices, should I accept them from your hands?” says the Lord.

A man would promise to give the Lord a valuable animal, a healthy male animal, but then reconsider, break his promise and substitute a defective animal. “Cursed is the cheat who has an acceptable male in his flock and vows to give it, but then sacrifices a blemished animal to the Lord. This was like the sin of Annanias and Saphira, who pretended to give God everything in order to look very religious, but did not give Him everything. Is that you? Are you an Annanias or a Saphira?

That’s not how the Chosen People, who were to be a light to the other nations, were to treat their God and king who will be respected by all of humanity. For I am a great king,” says the Lord of Hosts, “and my name is to be feared among the nations.”

Some final thoughts:

Israel was experiencing a lot of problems in the days of Malachi. The Lord had been allowing the nation to experience difficulties in order to reveal to us that things weren’t right between us and Him. Like a good Father, He was allowing hardships to happen to us in order to discipline and correct us so that He could bless us.

Problems, trials, hard times, difficult circumstances are one of God’s way of revealing to us that things are out of order in our lives and our relationship to Him isn’t what it should be; and it’s time to make some changes. If God allows trials into our lives, we should ask ourselves: are there things that are out of order in my life? Are there things that are interfering with my relationship with God? Do I have any bad attitudes, bad behaviors, sinful habits I need to eliminate?

And as we experience hard times as a nation, which I am sure we will – shortly – national soul-searching and national repentance will be needed so we can turn away from our national sins.

Let’s pray:

Lord of Armies, indeed You are a great God and King, and will be worshiped by a redeemed remnant of humanity forever and ever. Help us, even now, to acknowledge how worthy You are by giving You our best – the best of our time, our talent and our treasure. Help us to not offer defective sacrifices, unacceptable service and worship.

Lord, if we have lost it, help us regain our first love for You.

Lord of Hosts, stir us up. Help us to be hot, passionate and zealous and enthusiastic about You and serving You; or cold – openly hostile to You, so that it’s clear that we need to change; but Lord, help us not be lukewarm – which is so spiritually dangerous.

May our worship and service to You not feel like a burden, but be a joy and a delight. Amen.