Malachi Chapter One

 

Introduction:

 

            As is common with several of the minor prophets we know virtually nothing of the personal life or background of the prophet Malachi.  His name means “angel of Jehovah” or “messenger”.  Of course, all the prophets were messengers of God but he is the only one with a name that has that meaning.

            As we noted in our earlier study, Haggai and Zechariah wrote after the return of the Jews from Babylon in 520 BC.  The references of Haggai to the dates and time of the rule of Darius, king of Babylon, gives us that very precise date reference.  Malachi prophesied about 120 years later, during the time of Nehemiah.  Consequently much of what he deals with in Judea are the problems that Nehemiah came from Babylon to Jerusalem to correct.  In this we find many parallels between the spiritual condition of Judah at the time of this writing and the spiritual condition of the church today.

            One of the greatest problems of the time of Malachi was maintaining the worship of God and subsequently the spiritual condition of Judea.  Keeping the Jews focused on proper worship of God is the only thing that would protect them from the temptations of the idol worship that surrounded them.  In addition Roy Deaver, in his 1990 commentary on Malachi suggests that these problems also existed:

 

            The priests themselves had grown careless in exercising their duties.

            The people were indifference and spiritually lethargic.

            The people had come to doubt God’s love for them.

            The people questioned whether there was any divine justice.

            Since the wicked prospered the people questioned whether there was any value in walking before God and obeying his commandments.

            They questioned, since God is good, why do the wicked prosper and the righteous suffer.

 

These are issues, concerns and conditions that concern many people today and can be applied to the church today just as well as they were applied to Judea in the waning years of the Old Covenant.  I’m sure we will be given opportunity to consider them during our brief study of this book.

 

Read Malachi 1:1-5Israel’s Ungratefulness to God

 

v.1  The burden of the word of the LORD to Israel by Malachi.”

 

            Malachi begins, as do many others, by presenting his credentials, the source of his words.  The burden he bears is to bring to Israel the “WORD OF THE LORD”.  So his words are from God, to be heard and obeyed by the remnant of Israel that remains because they are from God.  The very first concern that the prophet address is Judea’s doubt that God loved them:

 

v.2I have loved you, saith the LORD. Yet ye say, Wherein hast thou loved us? Was not Esau Jacob's brother? saith the LORD: yet I loved Jacob,”

 

            God reminds them that he has loved them.  Did he not rescue them from the slavery of Egypt and given them a new land?  He did this because he loved them:

 

Deuteronomy 4:37And because he loved thy fathers, therefore he chose their seed after them, and brought thee out in his sight with his mighty power out of Egypt;”

 

Why did he love them?

 

Deuteronomy 7:7-8The LORD did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people:  8But because the LORD loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers, hath the LORD brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.”

 

He loved them because he had made promises to their fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  And when the time was right and He was ready he redeemed them from Egyptian slavery.

            Israel says but Esau was Jacob’s brother, did God not owe the same allegiance to Esau that he claims to owe Israel.

 

v.3  And I hated Esau, and laid his mountains and his heritage waste for the dragons of the wilderness.”

 

            God declares that he hated Esau and Paul quotes him in Romans 9:13.  As a result God laid the mountains and heritage of Edom waste for the “DRAGONS” or “JACKALS” “OF THE WILDERNESS.”

            We remember from our study of Genesis that the character of Esau was such that God chose Jacob over him to carry on the promise made to Abraham and Isaac.  These same character flaws are what caused God to direct Jeremiah to prophecy:

 

Jeremiah 49:17-18Also Edom shall be a desolation: every one that goeth by it shall be astonished, and shall hiss at all the plagues thereof.  18As in the overthrow of Sodom and Of Gomorrah and the neighbour cities thereof, saith the LORD, no man shall abide there, neither shall a son of man dwell in it.

 

But what did Esau do to attract the ire of Almighty God?  The prophecy of Obadiah was written to Edom:

 

Obadiah 1:10-11For thy violence against thy brother Jacob shame shall cover thee, and thou shalt be cut off for ever.  11In the day that thou stoodest on the other side, in the day that the strangers carried away captive his forces, and foreigners entered into his gates, and cast lots upon Jerusalem, even thou wast as one of them.

 

v.4Whereas 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.”

 

            Edom stands in defiance to God.  Israel complains that even though Edom had been punished they are as strong as ever.  Edom rebuilt their nation, they restored their might and power in the world.  But God says that will only be temporary “THEY SHALL BUILD” “BUT I WILL THROW DOWN”.  Those who have declared themselves to be God’s enemies, those that live on the border or in wickedness that these are “PEOPLE AGAINST WHOM THE LORD HATH INDIGNATION FOR EVER.”

 

v.5And your eyes shall see, and ye shall say, The LORD will be magnified from the border of Israel.”

 

            God says watch and you will see.  The name of the Lord will be magnified from the border of Israel.  God will magnify the remnant of Israel just as the prophet Micah had promised that God would magnify Bethlehem of Judea:

 

Micah 5:2But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.”

 

Read Malachi 1:6-9Israel’s Polluted Worship

 

            One of the main problems was that Israel had polluted their worship:

 

v.6A 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?

 

            Now God charges the priests with refusing to honor him properly in their worship.  A son honors his father and a servant honors his master.  These were commandments of God that they knew:

 

Exodus 20:12 “Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.”

 

Colossians 3:22Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God;”

 

So God asks “WHERE is MINE HONOUR?”  He charges the priests with despising his name.  The words of Jesus were stronger even that those of Malachi but given for the same reasons:

 

Matthew 15:7-8Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying,  8This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.”

 

Is the condition of many in the church any different today? 

Then as is common in the writing of Malachi he now gives the reasons for the charges against them.

 

v.7Ye 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.”

 

            They were never to bring anything as an offering to God that was not perfect.  The commandment that should immediately come to mind is that found in:

 

Deuteronomy 15:21And if there be any blemish therein, as if it be lame, or blind, or have any ill blemish, thou shalt not sacrifice it unto the LORD thy God.”

 

But this didn’t apply just to animals, grain and other offerings but also the condition of their hearts and their attitudes toward God.  When we turn to Matthew 23 we see Jesus upbraiding the scribes and Pharisees for the attitudes that made their worship an abomination to God.  A couple of examples:

 

Matthew 23:13-14But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in.  14Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows' houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation.”

 

v.8And 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.”

 

            Again the prophet asks: if you offer sacrifices to God that are of the best that you have is it not evil?

 

Leviticus 22:22-24 “Blind, or broken, or maimed, or having a wen, or scurvy, or scabbed, ye shall not offer these unto the LORD, nor make an offering by fire of them upon the altar unto the LORD.   23Either a bullock or a lamb that hath any thing superfluous or lacking in his parts, that mayest thou offer for a freewill offering; but for a vow it shall not be accepted.   24Ye shall not offer unto the LORD that which is bruised, or crushed, or broken, or cut; neither shall ye make any offering thereof in your land.

 

Then he asks: if you offered something such as this to your ruler would that be acceptable to him?  If not, then why would you offer something that is blind, blemished, sick, lame or broken to God?  And what is our parallel today?  Is it not when we offer less than we should, make an offering because the “have to” rather than from love for God, His son and His kingdom.

 

v.9And 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.”

 

            Now the prophet begs Judea to pray God, “BESEECH GOD” that his grace would abound toward them; pray that God would regard them with mercy.  Otherwise they become as those described by Hosea:

 

Hosea 13:9O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself; but in me is thine help.”

 

            In these few verses we learn that Israel had degenerated again to the point that God was ready to refuse their worship.  This is a pitfall that we can get into today as well; as we will throughout the study of this book, stop and look at what has happened and how it affected their relationship with God.  Do what one commentator calls making some “observations.”

 

1.      The priests of Judah were taking the lead in corrupting their worship.  They were literally acting as though God had not given them instruction regarding how he should be worshiped.  Their attitude seemed to be, “it really doesn’t make any difference how we worship God, if it makes us feel good, if we like it then that is what we will offer God.   After all his grace, mercy and love is so great that He will accept it.”

 

Do we have any parallels today?  They’re all around us, not only among the denominations but among those who claim to be the Lord’s church.  We have instrumental music, praise teams, special programs, dramatic presentations, special holidays, children’s church, puppets shows for the youngsters.  We see virtually anything and everything that man can devise as a marketing ploy to draw numbers but have nothing to do with man spiritual well-being.  But most important; all of these things go beyond what God has commanded or authorized:

 

Matthew 15:9But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.”

 

Colossians 2:22-23Which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men?  23Which things have indeed a shew of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body: not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh.”

 

Even though both Jesus and his apostles, being directed by the Holy Spirit, have condemned such practices, our brethren continue to flock to them.  Then we have false teachers that go all the way and declare that everything we do in life is worship.

 

2.       In order for us to practice true worship God has provided us with specific items or acts of worship as His standard of true worship.  We, in obedience to him, must conform ourselves to the standard that He has set.

 

John 4:23-24But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.  24God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.

 

3.       Purity in worship, just as purity in our daily living, is essential to maintaining our fellowship with God.  If we do not maintain our fellowship with God then we remove ourselves from his favor and blessings.  The Apostle John writes:

 

I John 1:5-6This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.  6If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth:”

 

4.       Just as God will not accept our left-over scraps in the giving of our means he will not accept our left over scraps or half-hearted attitude in our worship either.  Our giving and our worship must be in concert with the blessings we have received from God:

 

I Corinthians 16:1-2Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye.  Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come.”

 

Read Malachi 1:10-14 – God Will Reject Them

 

v.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.”

 

            Several times during these past months and even years I have made the comment that there are churches, even in this city, that call themselves churches of Christ that need to remove that designation from their signs and buildings.  God is telling Judea through Malachi basically the same thing.  With the spiritual condition of the priests they might as well “SHUT THE DOORS” of the temple and no longer “KINDLE FIRE ON MINE ALTAR”. This is not the first time that God has brought words of condemnation upon the remnant of Israel.  First through Isaiah:

 

Isaiah 1:11To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the LORD: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats.”

 

Then through Jeremiah:

 

Jeremiah 6:20To what purpose cometh there to me incense from Sheba, and the sweet cane from a far country? your burnt offerings are not acceptable, nor your sacrifices sweet unto me.”

 

God closes His condemnation of their spiritual condition and more specifically their worship with the declaration that “NEITHER WILL I ACCEPT AN OFFERING AT YOUR HAND.”  Just as the prophet Amos had told them before their captivity:

 

Amos 5:21I hate, I despise your feast days, and I will not smell in your solemn assemblies.”

 

God hated the days they set aside to worship him; he would no longer “SMELL” their offerings of incense.  In today’s worship this is represented by prayer, he will no longer hear the prayers of those who refuse to honor him as He has commanded.  He will not only refuse to hear hour prayers but also refuse our worship, our giving of our means or anything else we might offer to Almighty God.

 

v.11For 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.”

 

            God will turn to the heathen, God will make great among his people the very people that the Jews hated and detested, even during the time of Christ.  God’s chosen people reject him, those that God had not made his people, however, the Gentiles, will turn to Him when given the opportunity.  Their “INCENSE”, their prayers will be “OFFERED UNTO MY NAME” and will be accepted because they will make a “PURE OFFERING.”  Isaiah’s prophecy will be fulfilled:

 

Isaiah 66:19-20And I will set a sign among them, and I will send those that escape of them unto the nations, to Tarshish, Pul, and Lud, that draw the bow, to Tubal, and Javan, to the isles afar off, that have not heard my fame, neither have seen my glory; and they shall declare my glory among the Gentiles.  20And they shall bring all your brethren for an offering unto the LORD out of all nations upon horses, and in Chariots, and in litters, and upon mules, and upon swift beasts, to my holy mountain Jerusalem, saith the LORD, as the children of Israel bring an offering in a clean vessel into the house of the LORD.”

 

            After the conversion of Cornelius and God adding Gentile people to his church; i.e. to the saved (Acts 2:47), this indeed was what happened throughout the missionary journeys of Paul, Barnabas and Silas.  The gospel was preached first in the synagogues, to the Jews and when they rejected it was taken to the Gentiles who accepted it readily.

 

v.12But ye have profaned it, in that ye say, The table of the LORD is polluted; and the fruit thereof, even his meat, is contemptible.”

 

            The Jews complain that the “TABLE OF THE LORD” is polluted, the fruit brought about by their worship is polluted, even “HIS MEAT” is “CONTEMPTIBLE”.  But why is that so?  It is so because the Jews had profaned it.  In my mind it is like someone who complains about the spiritual condition of the church today, about how boring it’s worship has become, how uninteresting its preaching and teaching, how old fashioned and outdated its doctrine, when the real problem is in their own hearts, minds and attitude.

 

v.13Ye 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.”

 

            With 120 years having gone by after the lessons learned by their captivity in Babylon the Jews begin to repeat the sins of their forefathers.  They had gotten tired of worshiping God, it had become a great weariness to them; like the child who wails “do we have to”?  They are like the Israelites in the wilderness whom God fed faithfully day after day:

 

Numbers 11:4-6And the mixt multitude that was among them fell a lusting: and the children of Israel also wept again, and said, Who shall give us flesh to eat?  5We remember the fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlick:  6But now our soul is dried away: there is nothing at all, beside this manna, before our eyes.”

 

            Oh, they still came to worship God, but with what?  They brought that which was gained by violence in direct disobedience to God’s commandment.  They brought that which was lame, sick and of no further value to them.  They gave God what was left over or what they didn’t want.  Do we have any parallels in our worship today?  How about those who only show up when it’s convenient, those who don’t plan or purpose their giving of their time, talent or their material means.

 

v.14But 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.”

 

            God’s commandments were very specific concerning the quality of sacrifice that was to be presented to him in Old Testament worship:

 

Leviticus 22:18-20Speak unto Aaron, and to his sons, and unto all the children of Israel, and say unto them, Whatsoever he be of the house of Israel, or of the strangers in Israel, that will offer his oblation for all his vows, and for all his freewill offerings, which they will offer unto the LORD for a burnt offering;  19Ye shall offer at your own will a male without blemish, of the beeves, of the sheep, or of the goats.  20But whatsoever hath a blemish, that shall ye not offer: for it shall not be acceptable for you.

 

Down through the ages man has sought to circumvent, ignore, modify and twist to suit themselves that which God has directed.  These Jews were no different;  instead of presenting to God that which he had directed; they substituted what ever it was that they wanted and expected God to just accept it.  One vivid example is found in the New Testament of two who claimed to have given their very best but in fact lied to the Holy Spirit and to God:

 

Acts 5:1-4But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession,  2And kept back part of the price, his wife also being privy to it, and brought a certain part, and laid it at the apostles' feet.  3But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land?  4Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God.”

 

And we all remember the outcome of their deception, God struck them dead.  God does not strike people dead today but he is just as displeased with hap-hazard, half-hearted, lukewarm or unauthorized worship just as much as he was at the time of the prophecy of Malachi or the time of the writing of the New Testament.