Malachi likely prophesied several decades after the first exiles of Judah returned from Babylon. Now under Persian rule, they had returned to the minor province of Judea to rebuild the temple. Territory that had once belonged to the northern kingdom of Israel had been divided into several minor provinces.
Sometime after Ezra was a religious leader, Malachi wrote:
1 The oracle of the word of the Lord to Israel by Malachi. 2 “I have loved you,” says the Lord. But you say, “How have you loved us?” “Is not Esau Jacob’s brother?” declares the Lord. “Yet I have loved Jacob 3 but Esau I have hated. I have laid waste his hill country and left his heritage to jackals of the desert.” 4 If Edom says, “We are shattered but we will rebuild the ruins,” the Lord of hosts says, “They may build, but I will tear down, and they will be called ‘the wicked country,’ and ‘the people with whom the Lord is angry forever.’” 5 Your own eyes shall see this, and you shall say, “Great is the Lord beyond the border of Israel!”
Malachi’s book is a wake-up call to renewed covenantal fidelity. Thirteen years after Malachi prophesied, Nehemiah returned from Babylon and led the people in rebuilding the walls of the city of Jerusalem, establishing a safer environment for further growth.
In the thirteenth year, Nehemiah returned to Persia. By that time, most of the exiles had traveled to Judea, the temple had been rebuilt, and the sacrificial system reestablished long enough to develop certain abuses. It was during this interim that Malachi wrote, perhaps between 458-434 B.C.
“Apathy toward the temple ritual and especially toward the law of Moses had reached such proportions in post-exilic Judah that God raised up the prophet Malachi to reprimand the people.
The battle for truth and righteousness had waned because their obvious political enemies were gone.
“This left room for the not-so-obvious enemies — namely smugness, pride, and compromise. The people in general and the priests in particular had lost their sense of ‘chosen-ness’ and of God’s love for Israel (Malachi 1:2).
- Not respecting His codes and regulations (1:6) showed they had stopped honoring God.
- Intermarriage with unbelievers was rampant (2:11).
- Their domestic commitment was low, and divorce was the result (2:16)(as addressed in the first post on Malachi).
- In 3:5 is a list of abuses and unacceptable practices they were committing: sorcery, adultery, perjury, fraud, oppression, and injustice. These were the things that occasioned Malachi’s angry indictment.”2.
The Priests’ Polluted Offerings
6 “A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am a father, where is my honor? And if I am a master, where is my fear? says the Lord of hosts to you, O priests, who despise my name. But you say, ‘How have we despised your name?’ 7 By offering polluted food upon my altar. But you say, ‘How have we polluted you?’ By saying that the Lord’s table may be despised. 8 When you offer blind animals in sacrifice, is that not evil? And when you offer those that are lame or sick, is that not evil? Present that to your governor; will he accept you or show you favor? says the Lord of hosts. 9 And now entreat the favor of God, that he may be gracious to us. With such a gift from your hand, will he show favor to any of you? says the Lord of hosts.
“10 Oh that there were one among you who would shut the doors, that you might not kindle fire on my altar in vain! I have no pleasure in you, says the Lord of hosts, and I will not accept an offering from your hand. 11 For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name will be[b] great among the nations, and in every place incense will be offered to my name, and a pure offering. For my name will be great among the nations, says the Lord of hosts. 12 But you profane it when you say that the Lord’s table is polluted, and its fruit, that is, its food may be despised. 13 But you say, ‘What a weariness this is,’ and you snort at it, says the Lord of hosts. You bring what has been taken by violence or is lame or sick, and this you bring as your offering! Shall I accept that from your hand? says the Lord. 14 Cursed be the cheat who has a male in his flock, and vows it, and yet sacrifices to the Lord what is blemished. For I am a great King, says the Lord of hosts, and my name will be feared among the nations. (Malachi 1:6-14 ESV).
But Time Marches Onward
The Jewish people seemed to be in a state of decline regarding their faith, thus impacting their actions at home, at work, at the temple, and in their moral choices.
The Sadducees were a socio-religious sect of Jews active in Judea during the Second Temple period, from the second century BC through the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE (AD). The Sadducees are often compared to other contemporaneous sects, including the Pharisees and the Essenes. See Wikipedia
Founded: 167 BC
Dissolved: 73 CE (AD)
Historical leaders: John Hyrcanus; Alexander Jannaeus; Aristobulus II
The church in American seems to be in this same place, recalling a time when faith was more prevalent and our people strove to be more like Jesus.
Do we see ourselves in these indictments? Are we here?
The same could be stated of us. How are we to function as followers of Christ in this hardened era?How are we to function as followers of Christ in this hardened era? #Faith #Trust #Believe Click To Tweet
“In his letter, Malachi defends the reality of God’s elective love for Israel, a love which calls for robust covenant obedience and sincere worship as its response. Instead, the people were dishonoring God by their worthless offerings and the hypocritical formalism of their worship.”3.
Again, this reminds us of the current state of the church in our nation. Are we doing the same?
“‘I have loved you,’ says the LORD“ (Malachi 1:1, God’s first words to Israel here). This fact, the most significant reality in their lives, is where they need to focus. God’s love for them surpasses all else.
However, the people’s anger and despair at the condition of the city and the region has caused them to harden their hearts. This wasn’t what they had expected. To deal with their traumatized emotions, they reopen the wound of this lover’s spat.
“How have you loved us?” they spit out yet again, addressing the LORD in Malachi 1:2.
God’s reply: “‘Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?’–and so, as far as dignity went, as much entitled to God’s favor as Jacob. My adoption of Jacob, therefore, was altogether by gratuitous favor (Romans 9).”4.
Jacob and his offspring I have loved (Jacob was chosen as the patriarch of Messiah’s lineage). Esau and his offspring I have hated (not chosen, even though Esau was the firstborn of the twins).
They should have focused on the good that God had done for Jacob’s descendants. But they did not. Like them, do we forget to focus on the goodness of God and of all of His blessings?
Angry at their loss of significant offices, at the lag of time that it took to elevate the priesthood to the importance which they felt they deserved. Their discontent was all about themselves.
The priests despised the LORD. “Despised” means to hold in contempt, to hold in disdain, to disrespect. It means not to treat something with proper respect (Mal.1:6)(Strong’s #959 בָּזָה bāzāh).5.
In this way the priests failed the people, for the responsibility of the priesthood was to instruct the Jewish nation in how to worship, how to approach, and how to know their God. When they returned, they had not worshiped the LORD in temple worship for more than seventy years. The priests blew it.
“A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am a father, where is my honor? And if I am a master, where is my fear? says the LORD of hosts to you, O priests, who despise my name. But you say, ‘How have we despised your name?’ By offering polluted food upon my altar. But you say, ‘How have we polluted you?’ By saying that the LORD’s table may be despised” (Malachi 1:6-7 ESV).
Because of their distrust, disdain, and contempt for the LORD, the priests neglected their responsibility to instruct and to guide the people in how to worship and how to approach their God. This set Israel on a downward trend, away from the LORD. This caused decades of problems to work through as a nation.
How do we see our own country, which used to be predominantly Christian from the very beginning?
How have we turned from true Christian faith and from our observance of it?
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Thanks for all the research and details you provide for us each week. I’m learning so much. I think we are in a time again where God’s church has become polluted by the world. Daily, I’m praying for restoration and revival to spread across our land.
Yvonne, I agree with you about the condition of today’s church. The lessons learned from the Old Testament are incredibly helpful, for the writers, led by the Holy Spirit, didn’t cover up the bad decisions nor the bad actions. It helps us to learn from their mistakes.
I pray that when God asks “How have you loved me?”, I will be able to answer that I showed His love in every moment. Thank you for this special message.
Isn’t that the truth, Melissa! We want all the reasons we love Him to flow off our lips and to bleed out from our lives. We want Him to see us walking in His steps, sacrificing ourselves as He sacrificed Himself for the good of others. We pray. We ask for His leading. We entrust ourselves to Him.
We’ve been doing a study of the minor prophets at church since Christmas. This week’s study to take us to Easter is Malachi. I love that the last book of the Old Testament is our prelude to Resurrection Sunday. Thanks for this great resource for the week! God bless, Melinda!
Malachi opens the door to the New Testament in so many ways, as he wraps up the Old Testament. I am blessed by Malachi’s bravery, by his faith, and by his obedience to the One who inspired him to write what he has written. Your minor prophets examination at this time of year was surely a great blessing, Nancy!
You make some powerful points here. I think irresponsibility and “falling away” often comes down to a basic lack of respect, whether respect of self or respect of community or, worst, respect of the Lord. What a great resource this is.
Thanks, Jessica, for taking the time to respond this morning. What you’ve written here really fleshes out “falling away,” how it might happen, and why our respect of the Lord Himself is essential.
Melinda, I pray we never lose our sense of “chosen-ness” and learn to keep the enemies of pride and compromise at bay in our hearts and on our spiritual journey. Thanks for these sobering reminders.
I agree, Karen! Turning toward the Lord daily and recognizing our “chosen-ness” is a significant part of walking and living out our faith in Christ Jesus. The fellowship of the body of Christ is a great help toward living our faith consistently. As in the series “The Chosen,” we were also called by Jesus to follow Him, walking in His footsteps.