Summer is drawing to a close and I am adding one final Bible study post before we go back to regularly scheduled programming of Bible studies and adult education.
Malachi is listed in most Christian Bibles as the final book before we start the New Testament, which begins with the gospels telling the story of Jesus.
Malachi lived in the time after the return from exile. The people of God are back from Babylon, the temple is rebuilt and life is getting back to normal.
And by normal, I mean that people are once again falling into precarious habits leading to corruption or wickedness. The excitement of the return home is fading. People are becoming lethargic and ambivalent to following God’s will and God’s law. People are straying from God and God is not happy.
And like usual, it’s into such moments that God sends a messenger.
Malachi’s very name means “my messenger” and it seems appropriate to end our series with a prophet whose name matches his task assigned by God.
So what is Malachi’s message?
Read Malachi 1:1-14
The people are not offering their best to God (in particular blind, lame or sick animals are being sacrificed when God wants people to bring their best to the altar).
Why would that be upsetting to God, especially when the people ask for God to show favor?
How does God want people to show their honor for God?
Why is God so angry with the priests?
How have the priests stopped honoring God?
Who is being faithless?
Why would God compare the the worship of other Gods to cheating in marriage?
God is upset and hurting because his children are straying towards other gods (again) and yet his children don’t realize that they are doing wrong. They want justice and yet don’t want judgment.
People anticipate the arrival of a messenger who will prepare the way for God.
But messengers of God are now known for being gentle. They are known for bringing upset with their honest messages. Few can withstand the fire or lye soap.
Silver and gold are purified in fire. But fire burns and hurts.
Clothes require soap in order to be clean. But lye is a harsh cleaner.
If people are to be clean and pure enough to stand before God, it is not an easy road as people will be judged. And since God knows all of what has happened, God has enough evidence to convict anyone who mistreated their neighbors or didn’t worship God.
So what will God be judging?
God is upset that people are not sharing what they have with those who do not have enough, are not speaking honestly or are oppressing those under their command. The people are not loving their neighbors as themselves nor are they loving God with all they are and all they have.
God is upset that despite calling for people to return, they don’t. Or they think they return and yet they keep their gifts, offering and tithes to themselves.
How many of us do the same? Many times God will take the tithes and ensure that the children of God will have enough blessings but that doesn’t happen when the tithes are not being shared.
Instead people are watching as the arrogant and evildoers gain property, but God is calling for people to delight in how God provides for those who serve God.
The day is coming when God will strike down the arrogant, the evildoers and the wicked.
This acts as a warning to those who do not serve God.
But this also acts a promise for those who live righteous lives and serve God.
Moses is the one who gave many commands (including but not limited to the 10 commandments).
Elijah, who is seen as one of the most powerful and influential prophets/messengers God ever had, was taken up to heaven in a whirlwind. Because he did not die, people await his return. And Elijah’s task will be to turn hearts between parents and children so that they will act in appropriate ways to each other and thus prevent Israel from being cursed.
Malachi is a short book but it packs a punch.
One of the most amazing aspects of the messages God sends through many and various prophets is that the messages are both specific to the time and place and yet remain timeless.
What did you read that connects with what you see happening in the world around you?
How can we read Malachi’s message and learn about how to live in our own time?
What might God be judging you and those around you for? Are you living a good and honest life or are you hoarding your possessions without sharing? Are you putting all your trust in the promise that God will provide for those who serve God? And how are you serving God? How might God be calling you to serve?
As anyone who actively tithes and serves can tell you, God truly does provide blessings beyond the stuff we need in order to live but also provides a joy that only God can give. Daily bread is provided for our survival as well as the emotional and spiritual support that we need in order to thrive.