Malachi 1:6-14, Part 3, apocalyptic series: The history, the people, and the priests
The background: In 538 B.C. the decree of Cyrus ended the Babylonian captivity and allowed the Jews to return to their homeland and to rebuild the temple. “This was some 80 years after Haggai and Zechariah encouraged the rebuilding of that temple with promises of God’s blessings, the engrafting of the nations, prosperity, expansion, peace, and the return of God’s own glorious presence.”
After their seventy-year captivity, the people had arrived to find Jerusalem a shattered city, ancestral division of lands destroyed, and the temple reduced to rubble. Their ancestral homes had been demolished.
All had appeared to be lost, and then they began the process of rebuilding. And yet, still, they didn’t quite know how to function as Jews in Israel, having passed nearly two generations in pagan Babylon. Life in Israel felt foreign to them.
To Malachi’s disillusioned contemporaries, those original predictions must have seemed a cruel mockery. In contrast to the glowing promises, the harsh reality was one of economic privation, prolonged drought, crop failure, and pestilence,”1.
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.
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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 twelfth year, Nehemiah returned to Persia. By that time, most of the exiles had returned 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.
- Yet 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’ (1:2).
- Not respecting God’s codes and regulations (1:6) showed they had stopped honoring God.
- Among them 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.
In other words, Israel seemed to be in a state of decline regarding their faith, impacting their actions at home, at work, at the temple, and in their moral choices.
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.
The same could be stated of us. How are we to function as followers of Christ in this hardened era? Do we see ourselves in these indictments? Are we here?
- Introduction to Malachi, ESV Study Bible, Crossway Bibles, Wheaton, Illinois, pg. 1771.
- Kenneth L. Barker and John R. Kohlenberger III, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Abridged Edition, Old Testament, Zondervan, 1994, pg. 1543.
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As I read this, Melinda, I was thinking in my head exactly what you wrote near the bottom: “The church in American seems to be in this same place.” Yes, the church and perhaps ourselves. I believe what we need today is much like what the Jews and Gentiles needed in the days of the early church: God’s Word taught and not watered down, leaders committed to doing church and life God’s way, and a lot of love, understanding the people around us and ministering to them with them (their culture, their issues, their needs) in mind.
What an excellence response, Stephen! Isn’t it incredible how the Word of God is so applicable to every people group in every time. Over and over again, we sinners, like the ancient sinners in this scenario, need the LORD to set us straight, to convict us, to comfort us, and to guide our actions. We are just like them!
Wow, Melinda, you’ve hit the target here. So many assume God’s perpetual blessing on us without regard for any obligation on our part as a nation. Preach it, sister. God bless.
Nancy, the shocking factor as I worked through this investigation of the era and the responses of the Jewish people was the fact that we are indeed exactly like them. We tend to “assume God’s perpetual blessing on us,” as you stated so eloquently. The hubris of humanity.
Two points especially struck me.
1. “The battle for truth and righteousness had waned because their obvious political enemies were gone. Yet this left room for the not-so-obvious enemies — namely smugness, pride, and compromise.”
Oh, how convicting this is. All too often we’re on guard against the obvious enemies, only to fall victim to the not-so-obvious enemies that slip in, unchallenged. Ouch!
2. “The church in America seems to be in this same place, recalling a time when faith was more prevalent and our people strove to be more like Jesus.”
This is borne out by the recent Barna survey results showing that only 37% of U.S. Christian pastors have a biblical worldview.
More proof that the “enemy” is no longer outside the church, but speaks from our pulpits!
Wow! Thank you for including this additional information, Ava. The fact that only 37% of US pastors have a Christian worldview explains quite a bit of the problems in our churches and, hence, in our country. We are just like these people in Malachi’s time. Sin is common in all eras.
You sparked two comments, Ava: History seems to repeat itself. When there is a time of great blessing, of returning from captivity, of rebuilding a homeland, the church seems to fall apart, leaving believers who have relied upon the church floundering. In this case, the Jewish people decide that God does not love them, even though He says so repeatedly via His “messenger” — Malachi. “Jacob I have loved” needs to impact their lives again. They need revival. We need revival. All of us need to be washed clean with Biblical words, convicted of sin, and repentance and turning away from those.
Wow. Your writing currently reminds me of our situation today. Not do we always assume His perpetual blessings but many also believe God is ONLY love. I think some are in for a shock in the future. Thanks Melinda
Yvonne, I agree with your viewpoints on what a shock the future might hold for those of us who don’t love the LORD, nor draw close to Him. His blessings are indeed perpetual. He died for us, and He draws us to Himself as we grow through the indwelling of His Spirit within us.
The world is in an uproar. Arguments, violence, selfishness and more plague are prevalent. We must continue to read Scripture and learn from the mistakes of the past. We must seek Him and show others the way to Him. Great message Melinda.
That’s even more true today, Melissa, as we may be having massive riots in every state due to the Supreme Court decision to send the decision on abortion back to the states, since the Constitution doesn’t address it. People are lying to the masses about the fallout, and that is upsetting more people than is necessary. Lord Jesus, help us to be faithful and kind simultaneously.
So good, Melinda. You are right that it is a wake-up call, and it should be for us today, too. We Christians can be so smug and self-righteous, but the reality is ALL of us fall short. Let’s proclaim the Word and the truth of the Gospel and remain humble and thankful that we, too, can be saved despite our many, many shortcomings.
Amen, Jessica! The power of our own testimonies of how we came to Christ and how tender He has been in forgiving our sins can draw others to Jesus. I was a prodigal, so I’m grateful for the Lord’s pursuit of me and His presence with me everywhere I am and at whatever time I need him, 24/7. God bless you, sister!
So much of what has been written here in both the post and the comments makes me want to sit in stillness before the Lord and seek His face and His comfort. Indeed, our nation and our families are suffering from turning from the teachings of the Word toward false teaching proclaimed by those pastors and Christian friends who do not have a Biblical worldview. It is time for repentance and prayers for our nation and our families.
Melinda, this is so well stated and is a wake-up call to current day believers. I liked how you said God’s people had lost their sense of chosen-ness. Wow! We can do this as well. And there’s this sobering thought relatable to our Christian lives today, “Israel seemed to be in a state of decline regarding their faith, impacting their actions at home, at work, at the temple, and in their moral choices.” Isn’t that always true? Down through the ages to the present, our faith, weak or strong, is seen in every area of our lives.
Excellent points, Karen! They are like us. We are like them. All of this relates to us, our friends, and our nation!
Losing our concept of chosenness is devastating. I experienced this after a difficult period of my life. I prefer recognizing and realizing who I am in Christ and that He has chosen me!