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Scripture Reading on Sunday Mornings: Malachi

Omri Miles March 16, 2019


Author: the prophet Malachi (1:1)
Date: Approximately 435 B.C., making it the final Old Testament book written.
Purpose: Malachi was written to call Israel and its leaders back to covenant faithfulness to Yahweh
in anticipation of the Messiah’s coming.
Centuries before Malachi prophesied, Solomon wrote, “The fear of Yahweh is the beginning of
knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Proverbs 1:7). Solomon recognized that those
who fear Yahweh (the wise) gain knowledge, while those who do not fear God (fools) lack
understanding due to their rejection of God’s wisdom (see also Proverbs 12:11; 15:21, 32; 18:2, 15;
26:7, etc.). Several questions from Malachi’s hard-hearted audience reveal the widespread, willful
ignorance of the nation of Israel and thus, their unwillingness to fear God. These questions
spanning this short book contrast Israel’s ignorant assertions against God with God’s obvious evidences
against Israel.

Israel’s ignorant assertions and God’s obvious evidences can be summarized in seven key areas:

God’s love for Israel was unmistakable, especially after having been restored so soon after exile (Cf.
Jer. 29:11). Yet Israel still asserted that she had not been loved by asking, “How have You loved
us?” (1:2). God proceeded to compare His relationship with Jacob and thus, Israel, to His
relationship with Esau and the Edomites. The evidence was clear — God is unwaveringly
committed in His steadfast love for Israel.

Israel revealed her ignorance in asking, “How have we despised Your name?” And again, “How have
we defiled You?” (1:6, 7). God answers by presenting obvious evidence against the nation
concerning the types of sacrifices they were offering. The sacrificial system was God’s means of
establishing fellowship with His sinful people, forgiving them through bloody offerings of
atonement made in His presence (Cf. Lev. 16:1-34). Nevertheless, Israel gave such little regard to
having reconciliation with God that the people and the priests were offering animals that hardly
be accepted by their own meager leadership (1:8). Their sacrifices, offered with such little regard
for God, were ultimately a display of spite towards Him.

Even with their sinful practices concerning the sacrificial system, God rejected their sacrifices for
another reason as well — rampant divorce. When the nation ignorantly asserts that there was no
good reason that their sacrifices were rejected by Yahweh, God responds with more obvious
evidence against them, namely, that men were divorcing their wives (2:13-16). Israel’s disfavor was
displayed in God’s consistent rejection of His own means of reconciliation through sacrifice.

In Malachi’s day, the nation of Israel was claiming, “Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of
Yahweh, and He delights in them” (2:17). In the same verse, Malachi says that they also denied that
God was willing to do right by being absent in justice. These lies plainly reveal the
wrongheadedness of the nation during this time, a swift descent into rebellion from the
obedience demonstrated during the prophetic ministries of Haggai and Zechariah.

A fifth area in which Israel demonstrated a lack of understanding is her abandonment of God.
When God called for repentance, the nation, completely devoid of spiritual discernment, asked,
“How shall we return?” (3:7). Unfortunately, the current waywardness of the people reflected the
historical hard-heartedness of their forefathers.

God made it clear that He could not be robbed in any ultimate sense (3:8), but in withholding the
full tithe required of Israel in the Mosaic Law, Israel certainly was robbing God in a temporal way
(3:10; Cf. Num. 18:21, 24). Even in this, God’s promises to His people were irrevocable and He
remained eager to bless them if they would only obey His righteous ordinances that were spoken
so long ago through His servant Moses (3:10-12; 4:4).

Finally, the seventh area in which Israel showcases her ignorance is by asserting her innocence
before God despite claiming, “It is vain to serve God; and what profit is it that we have kept His
charge, and that we have walked in mourning before Yahweh of hosts,” etc. (3:14-15). The claims
here are far from innocent. Rather, they are astonishingly arrogant! The godliest acts — worship,
obedience, and repentance — are being called unprofitable and worthless. When Job made a
similar claim, saying, “It profits a man nothing that he should take delight in God” (Job 34:9), he
was rightly accused of speaking “without knowledge [and]…without insight,” (Job 34:35). Malachi
charges his audience with the same folly.

A couple implications seem appropriate for the members of Grace Bible Church to consider. First,
consider Israel’s swift plummet from their former obedience (Cf. Haggai 1:12). Malachi was written
less than 100 years after the nation had responded obediently to Haggai and Zechariah’s
instruction, but former obedience cannot secure future faithfulness. Or, as Tom Angstead has said
it, “Yesterday’s obedience doesn’t guarantee obedience tomorrow.” It’s easy to get excited about
the encouraging things that God is doing in our church now (and we should be!). However, we
should also be sobered by Israel’s example and made all the more vigilant in our pursuit of
holiness, never relying on past acts of obedience.
Secondarily, we ought to be encouraged by God’s response to this rebellious people! He says, “I
have loved you” (1:2), “Return to Me, and I will return to you” (3:7), “You who fear My name, the sun
of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings; and you will go forth and skip like calves from
the stall. You will tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the
day which I am preparing” (4:2-3). This is how God regards rebels who turn and fear Him! Those of
us who have fled to Christ in repentance and faith ought to be greatly encouraged by God’s
words of hope scattered throughout this book for those who fear Him.

Sunday morning Scripture readings are a great time to include children in the instruction coming
from the pulpit. Here are some suggestions for how to help your children glean from what is
being read during this time.
• Use Malachi as a springboard for the gospel. Those who fear God are loved by God and are
promised to be preserved by Him from His coming destruction on the wicked. Urge your
children to begin fearing God by believing Him and submitting to Jesus, the crucified and
resurrected Lord of all!
• For kids who can read or who are on the verge of learning to read and can recognize familiar
words, teach them repeated words in Malachi such as “God, “ “the LORD (Yahweh),” “How,” “fear,”
etc. This may help to keep them engaged and attentive since they can identify words in the
text being displayed up front.