Malachi Introduction – “Malachi” means “my messenger.” There is little else known about his lineage or background. Even dating his writings has been difficult for scholars, although it is probably safe to say it was after 538 B.C. because the *Talmud grouped Malachi with Haggai and Zechariah as being prophets after the exile to Babylon. Malachi must have written after the temple had been rebuilt since he referred to worship there which would bring us to a date after 515 B.C. when temple restoration was complete. Some think that Malachi ministered when Nehemiah returned to Persia for a while. So Malachi may have written during the years Nehemiah served (445-420 B.C), and maybe between 432 and 431 B.C., the years when Nehemiah was away from Jerusalem. Scholars are quite certain that he was the last of the OT Prophets to write.

*The Talmud is the central text of mainstream Judaism. It takes the form of a record of rabbinic discussions pertaining to Jewish law, ethics, philosophy, customs and history.

Life was not easy for the exiled returnees. The people continued to live under Persian sovereignty even though they were back in their own land. Harvests were poor, and locust plagues were a problem. Even after Ezra’s reforms and Nehemiah’s amazing success in motivating the Jews to rebuild Jerusalem’s wall, most of the people remained cold-hearted toward God. Several generations died without seeing any fulfillment of God’s promises to Israel and many had lost their faith over those years.

Malachi’s chief purpose was to “right a sunk ship.” After the captivity period, it was like starting all over again with the people. Even their behavior toward one another was immoral. He used the Laws of Moses as a standard to judge behavior and attitudes while trying to motivate the people to love God. Quite appropriately, he ends the Old Testament by describing the forerunner to the Messiah – one who would be like Elijah and would move people first to repentance. Of course, this was fulfilled by John the Baptist about 400 years later. Following the Book of Malachi, God did not speak to the Hebrews until the New Testament times.

Malachi 1 – God’s people were offering sub par animal sacrifice offerings to God. Some were sickly, lame, even blind. They were so far from God they were not even realizing how insulting this was to God. God said they should try giving those animals to their governor and see how much he likes it! These priests were justifying blemished sacrificial animals to the people. God had had enough of that.

Why did God love Jacob and hate Esau (v2-3)? My best guess is that Esau was of the spirit of this world – fleshly, non-spiritual, whereas Jacob was a peaceful man (more spiritual possibly) although he was far from perfect. Perhaps God knew in advance how these two people would respond to Him and His Kingdom Ways. God told their mom, Rebekah, that two nations were in her womb with these two boys. To me, “nation” speaks about general, overall tendency or types of people. In this world, there are those who love this world and live by its “code,” and there are those who reject this world and live through Christ. If my analysis is somewhat accurate, then it may become easier for us to understand God’s original statement about these two guys. Esau, of course, demonstrated his worldliness by selling his important inheritance for one measly meal because he was so hungry one day. If he had valued the spiritual blessings of God, he would have never done that. Jacob, although being very conniving, did at least in this instance value what God values.

Application for Today: How much do we value God and His Kingdom? Do we serve in our church like we should, or are we like those priests in Malachi’s day that demonstrated spiritual error and apathy? Do we exist for this world or His? Do we exist to take or to give? What motivates our actions and behaviors, His Spirit or the spirit of this world? Can people of this world sense that we are different from them in some way (whether or not that difference makes them feel good or uncomfortable)? Either we are of the spirit of Esau or Jacob. The big question is not “What am I living for?” but rather “Who am I living for?”

Malachi 2 – Why God Did Not Destroy Evil When It Emerged

God continues His frustration with the Jewish priests. Their hearts were not listening to Him. They would cry at the altars (or during worship) and not understand why God was not accepting their sacrifices. Verse 7 says a priest should preserve knowledge and should be the person from whom others seek advice because they are messengers of God. The people were also in trouble with God. They were blaming Him for their woes while they were being unfaithful to one another and abandoning their wives for not just other women, but foreign women. A big no-no at that time! God also stated that He hates divorce.

Applications for Today:

1) The New Testament says we are now the kings and priests unto God (Rev.5:10, 1 Peter 2:5), therefore we should do what verse 7 says. “Preserving knowledge” means to me that we should speak truth about God, His Word, and this life because there are many voices in society trying to suppress truth in unrighteousness (Romans 1:18). To be the “salt” that Jesus tells us to be, we must be actively seeking truth from God’s Word to us and sharing it in a spirit of love (Ephesians 4:15).
2) Just as God was not fooled by religious priests and Jewish people whose hearts were far from His, so too today He knows His real kids from the phony ones. He never wanted religion from people, He wants a relationship of love. America probably has more churches per square mile than any other nation, but how many real Christians attend them? I have found that “religious people” (proud church-goers thinking they are good or trusting in rituals to save them) are the most closed to the Gospel because they do not realize how bankrupt they are inside, so in their minds they have no need for what we say….and they usually do not like us. Beware of the spirit of the Pharisees today.
3) I remember witnessing to a young man many years ago after playing some floor hockey. When I first brought up the subject of God, he immediately said, “What has He done for me lately?” Apparently his life was not going well, but, like anyone who has not repented and turned toward God, he was living in sin and not realizing that this was the cause of his lousy life, not God. He had the same spirit in him that these Jews in Malachi’s time had in themselves. Due to his blind, self-centered attitude and the Truth being suppressed by this world, he had no idea how much God has done for him.
4) Those Hebrews in Malachi’s day were treating the Laws of God as not being realistic or that relevant to their “modern society.” Sound familiar today?
5) People today have a similar attitude as the ones in Malachi’s day. They say:

  1. a) “If there is a just God, why doesn’t He do something about all the suffering?”
  2. b) “If God is just, why do the wicked prosper?”

The Bible says that God blesses the wicked as well as the righteous (Matt.5:45; Acts 14:17), and the righteous suffer as well as the wicked because of the Fall and sin (Gen. 3:16-19; Eccles. 2:17-23). Moreover, God allows Satan to afflict the righteous as well as the wicked (Job 1-2). God will eventually punish the wicked and bless the righteous, but perhaps not in this life (cf. Job 21:7-26; 24:1-17; Ps. 73:1-14; Eccles. 8:14; Jer. 12:1-4; Hab.1). Malachi’s audience had forgotten what God had revealed on this subject, and too many people today do not read the Bible. 🙁

Further note regarding why God does not uproot all the evil on earth – In Matthew 13:24-30, Jesus told a parable about the wheat and the tares. Wheat represented redeemed souls alive on earth and tares were evil, unrepentant souls. Angels wanted God to allow them to take out all the tares as soon as the evil came about, but God said it would harm the wheat so He would allow both to grow together. God will perform that desired separation “at the harvest” or the judgment at the end of this age. So it is safe to trust that God knows what is best, not us. His Plan is deeper than we perceive and we can trust that it is good.

Malachi 3 – Verses 1-3 are heavily prophetic about John the Baptist and Jesus. John, being the forerunner who prepares people to receive Christ via true repentance, and Jesus appearing suddenly in the Temple and teaching there during His first coming. Due to the word “suddenly,” however, dispensationalists believe it refers to Jesus appearing in a rebuilt Temple in Jerusalem during His Second Coming. Still others think it may refer to His Second Coming but not appearing in a physical, rebuilt Temple, but rather appearing among all believers who make up that heavenly temple. Verses 2-3 speak about Jesus having the power to sift people like wheat and separate the good from the bad (Matthew 3:10-12). I tend to think it at least refers to His Second Coming because it is asking “who can stand when He appears?” During His first coming many stood without knowing who He was and what He had the power to do to them. But maybe the word “stand” means “who can successfully refute Him?” during His first coming. And I recall the time during His arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane that those soldiers all fell backward onto the ground twice when Jesus identified Himself to them. The bottom line is this chapter gives us a fantastic look at the Messiah that was to come. Verse 5 mentions judgment which may refer to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. because Israel rejected God while He was with them face-to-face.

The people in Malachi’s day were also “robbing” God by not paying 10% (a tithe) of their food harvest to the “storehouse” or Temple. God promises that if they are faithful with this, He will bless them greatly and rebuke the devourer. “Devourer” could mean the thing that gradually takes away material sustenance from people such as little things going bad and need to be replaced, or failing crops, or other countless examples of value slowly wasting away. Why did God want this practice done? In order to maintain a loyal commitment with people He loves and to show other nations that He is real and wants to help them as well. But their attitude was that following God was not worth the trouble and it doesn’t benefit them (profit from). Amazing lack of knowing God here.

Application for Today: Tithing is practiced by many churches today. It started with Abraham and the High Priest Melchizedek who was before Moses, so this was not contained in the Mosaic Law as some Christian have claimed. The modern-day storehouse would be the local church to which a person is committed. This institution along with its pastors, apostles (church starters) prophets (ones who have the Holy Spirit’s gift of prophecy – speaking the Word of God to churches and individuals), teachers, and evangelists (Ephesians 4:11-13) constitute the church and its staff. These groups that God has ordained to be The Church on earth need money to pay bills. Tithes do this. Even Jesus said we should tithe (Luke 11:42). Not tithing may indicate that we do not trust God with money. It may indicate our disbelief in His Word. It could reflect a poor walk with Him. God knew this would challenge humans, so He challenges us to test Him in this area. In other words, He is saying, “Just do it out of obedience if nothing else and I will show you what I can do.” We should not, however, do this just to get something back from God. God loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:6-7).

Some believers maintain that tithing today is not like it was in the Scriptures and therefore should not be a church requirement. They point out that not all Jews were required to tithe, and the ones that did, gave a portion of their food to the Temple for the priests, not money. They further assert that New Testament giving is beyond a required tithe, i.e, cheerfully giving beyond any requirements and not keeping a precise account of how much was given. I personally feel that churches have the right to require tithing. Those that do not, I would say that their congregation would be quite mature if all bills were paid up over the years. After saying all that, I will also say that too many Christians do not give enough to the church and to others. For example, surveys have shown that a significant number of members do not give 10% or more. Whether or not tithing is expected, this is not a good sign.

I will end this discussion with what I call the “tithing testimony.” Over the years I have met many Christians who had financial problems before but not after tithing. Others, as they tithed beyond the 10%, received more wealth afterward. Their testimony is that one can never out give God. Therefore, for those who dispute the New Testament practice of tithing, it’s difficult to argue against success. For me personally, however, when I decided to tithe on my sale of my house, I saw an additional LOSS of money with major things breaking down – rider lawn mower, refrigerator, and something else of great expense. But I think God was teaching me to give without expecting more in return and that teaching by Christians about getting back if one tithes is not the best way to teach tithing. I also believe the argument against NT tithing is valid. Mature churches should not have to be legalistic with how much they give to support their church. Hopefully they are giving beyond 10% of their income.

Feedback: Janet – Back in 1972, Dick and I gave our hearts to Christ. In December of 1972, Dick felt led to begin tithing. I thought he was crazy! December…Christmas…4 little kids! But we said, Yes, let’s try. Malachi 3:10 prompted us….“Bring Me your full tithes and offerings and I will pour out My blessings upon you”. Sounded good,…so we put God to the test! Wow! What blessings God has poured out on us! We have more than we need so we keep on giving. Starting with a tenth (tithe) was a huge challenge for us but, miraculously, the money was always there. Then we kept increasing our ‘tithe’, so we give way more than a ‘tenth’. We believe ‘tithing’ is critical because it sets a standard, an actual amount of money to start with….more precise than just ‘give generously’. At one point, Dick was chair of Finance Committee at church and to his shock he discovered we were one of the top givers in our very wealthy, upper class community…and here he had a small ‘school principle’s salary’. It made us realize many in the church don’t take tithing seriously. We have never fallen into financial distress, we keep increasing our giving and God keeps blessing. Back in 2005, we felt led to increase our giving by a considerable amount because of a mission project. We again trusted God and decided to plunge in. A week later, Dick received a letter informing him that his pension was to be increased because he had served in the US Army during the Korean conflict and the amount of pension increase was same amount we had pledged! We are giving way more than a tenth, but give wisely, and we are truly, truly blessed. God owns all we have anyway, so why hold back from him what he’s blessed in giving to us?

Malachi 4 – There is a day coming when all evil and arrogant people will be crushed into chaff and burned up in judgment, and people who have been forgiven will rise above that horrible scene and will have healing within them and scamper about free and joyful. What a picture! God is actively preparing for such a day. The Book ends with the prophecy of a person coming (in the spirit) of Elijah before the day of the Lord. This, of course, was John the Baptist according to Jesus. About 400 years went by from the writing of these words in Malachi to the births of John and Jesus. God would then begin to speak to humanity on a whole new level.

This promise of evil being punished is comforting to me considering all the evil that goes on and people seemingly getting away with it. God has the last say in all matters. Then, the joy that awaits believers is literally and figuratively “out of this world!” God has big plans for us in His ever expanding Kingdom. I believe He first needed to destroy evil and the power of sin before He could carry on with His plans. So the redeemed (His Bride) will have passed kindergarten and will advance to first grade (with many more grades to come).