Malachi: Introduction

Pastor John Weathersby
Sunday September 19, 2021

Church, it has been a fast time since we finished the book of Mark. Over the next 12 weeks, we will be slowly going through the book of Malachi, finishing on December 5th.

Malachi has 55 verses, so we’ll average around four and a half verses per week.

We have the earliest evidence of the book of Malachi across Qumran scrolls that have minor prophets four columns or 38% of the book 2:10-3:24 according to R.E. Fuller in his Dissertation on Minor Prophets from Manuscripts from Qumran. There is another Qumran scroll that contains 3:6-7.

We find the book of Malachi in the Septuagint, which is a fascinating work. The Septuagint was written from Hebrew into Greek, so we have a translation of the OT texts by contemporaries to the intertestamental period of the NT’s authorship and into the same language, the majority of the NT would be written into. Called the Septuagint between traditionally it was written by 70 or so scholars

Malachi is a fascinating book. It is what is referred to as a “minor prophet.” There are 11 others for a total of 12 in the Bible. Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. These minor prophets are called so simply because of their length. They’re shorter, so “minor’.

Malachi will give us a New Testament perspective. We’ll study the book looking to “refocus” the Christian life as this was much of Malachi’s focus and provides many lasting principles for us today. For Example, Malachi helps us to:

Understand sin as against God: Malachi 1:6-14 (including our focus on verse 10)

Malachi 1:6-14 (ESV)
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 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.

Each Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John quote from the book of Malachi, universally each writer quoting Malachi 3:1, which says:

Malachi 3:1 (ESV)
“Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts.

Additionally, we see, Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Thessalonians, James, 1 Peter, and Revelation quoting from Malachi – this book is influential and packs a punch.

This book places in juxtaposition human will and motives against the character and nature of God, and this is how we focus. We learn through the negative examples, the

Psalm 119:18–19
18  Open my eyes, that I may behold
wondrous things out of your law.
19  I am a sojourner on the earth;
hide not your commandments from me!

Malachi cuts to the core of a people who are skeptical of religion and whose issues of the heart are keeping them distanced from God. They need refocus. It is one of those books I could imagine the author of Hebrews thinking of when he wrote:

Hebrews 4:12–13 (ESV)
12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
13 And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

Specifically, the people offered sacrifices to God that exposed their hearts towards Him (Malachi 1:8/13), the priests were not faithful to ministry (Malachi 2:8), they were marrying in with non-believing pagan nations (Malachi 2:11) they weren’t faithful in marriage (Malachi 2:14). They kept back their tithes (Malachi 3:1). With all these things – God is still coming for a hard-hearted, resistant, unfaithful people – just like today.

Malachi 2:8, 11, 14 (ESV)
8 But you have turned aside from the way. You have caused many to stumble by your instruction. You have corrupted the covenant of Levi, says the Lord of hosts,
11 Judah has been faithless, and abomination has been committed in Israel and in Jerusalem. For Judah has profaned the sanctuary of the Lord, which he loves, and has married the daughter of a foreign god.
14 But you say, “Why does he not?” Because the Lord was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant.

It is last in the order of our OT, the last message God spoke through a prophet, even though it’s plausible that other books were written after this prophecy was recorded (like Chronicles, Ezra, and Nehemiah). And as we saw with every gospel writer, including Malachi 3:1, it tees up the coming of Christ, the savior who finally addresses all the heart issues with effect.

The name Malachi its self means “my messenger.” The name “my messenger” is used in that oft-quoted 3:1, and we’ll dig into that when the timing is right (spoiler alert – it will be on 11/14).

Often times there is some contextual clue in a book such as a reference to a leader/ruler that allows us to key off of that for dating the book. So we won’t dive in deeply on when it was written there is much debate on this.

Its style of writing is interesting. Malachi’s prophecy generally gives a sermonic feeling. It asks lots of rhetorical questions which God answers. It often looks like a pseudo dialogue with representative quotes from “the people,” almost like Malachi generally characterizes the people in statements, then the Lord retorts, for example, look again at our focal verse for the book:

Malachi 1:10 (ESV)
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.

The assumptive dialogue here is with a people who have the doors open to anything and uselessly kindle fire on God’s altar. The result of this is that their offerings and worship of God aren’t accepted. It’s a lesson from the negative, not a sentencing. God is demonstrating WHAT they are doing so that they won’t. He is calling they/us back to refocus.

God is speaking directly through the prophet in the book, as we see in a perfect example in Malachi 1:13 – “Says the Lord.”

Interestingly the Hebrew Bible places prophets in the middle, not last but also we see this as having 4 chapters. However, the Hebrew texts has 3. The book is structured around 6 speeches and two appendices (4:4 and 4:5-6 the last 3 verses of the book).

Malachi 4:4-6 (ESV)
4 “Remember the law of my servant Moses, the statutes and rules that I commanded him at Horeb for all Israel.
5 “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes.
6 And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.”

Ultimately what we’re seeing is a failure from the top that Malachi (by calling of God) is handling. The priests weren’t rightly guarding knowledge:

Malachi 2:7 (ESV)
7 For the lips of a priest should guard knowledge, and people should seek instruction from his mouth, for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts.

The result that flows:

Malachi 2:17 (ESV)
The Messenger of the Lord
17 You have wearied the Lord with your words. But you say, “How have we wearied him?” By saying, “Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the Lord, and he delights in them.” Or by asking, “Where is the God of justice?”

People were questioning God’s justice and mercy, calling evil good. Sound familiar?

Isaiah 5:20 (ESV)
20  Woe to those who call evil good
and good evil,
who put darkness for light
and light for darkness,
who put bitter for sweet
and sweet for bitter!

And so, God is calling for a refocus.

God is calling for a refocusing to a people who don’t understand his mercy and justice in a confused world. Perfect for us today.

Let us be introspective as we study this, not looking to the text thinking of others. Lets get personally uncomfortably deep:

2 Corinthians 13:5 (ESV)
5 Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!

2 Peter 1:10–11 (ESV)
10 Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. 11 For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

55 verses four chapters, 1,781 words. With a low average reading speed of 200 words, 8.9 minutes of reading to read this book daily.

Twelve weeks 84 days, or potential for 747.6 minutes reading the word while we study this book.

Imagine how such a seemingly small investment of time, 8.9 minutes will leave you transformed with the equivalent of almost 12 and a half hours of Bible reading time in a prophecy that calls to introspection, refocus, the character and nature of God, and His coming Messiah, Jesus.

That’s it, that’s the challenge.

Pray, Observe, Apply.

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