Today we will consider the book of Malachi, and complete our walk through the Old Testament. The name Malachi means “my messenger,” so it may or may not be a proper name (1:1). Whoever it is, this prophet provides the last of God’s revelation until the coming of Christ. Israel was now back in the land, the Temple has been rebuilt, and the people have settled in. However, the situation is not what the other prophets had predicted for the remnant, because Israel considered themselves that remnant, but the remnant was meant to be understood spiritually. Because they misunderstood, many were disillusioned and thought God had failed to keep His promises.
We see this in verse 2 where God knows the people are questioning His love. How can Israel know God loves them? He chose them over Esau (vv. 2-3). Paul famously quotes this in Romans 9:13 where He expounds the sovereignty of God in salvation. God then indicts the people. He begins with the priests. He is not honored among them, a complaint God made against them way back in 1 Samuel 2:28-30. Some things never change. They offer Him less than their best in the offering (which implicates the people, too – vv. 7-8). They dishonor God in ways they wouldn’t dishonor man.
God then says that He would rather they stopped the offering completely – even more, that they would just close the Temple (v. 10)! Because offerings that God desires will be made to Him in all nations (v. 11). In verse 13, we see that the priests find it tedious to offer to God according to His commands. God curses them for their self-deceit and again tells them that He will be God to all the nations (v. 14).
God then tells the priests that they will give honor to Him, or He will send “the curse” upon them. This refers to the covenant curses (see Lev 26:14-39, Deut 28:15-68), the chief curse being the loss of the Land and therefore God’s presence. But note that God says He has already brought the curse upon them. And He will continue to curse the offspring of the people (v. 3). The dung of the offering refers to the fact that the dung was not to be offered, but to be burned outside the camp (see Ex 29:14). In other words, the offerings were not according to God’s requirements (see Micah 6:6-8 for the spiritual requirements).
God then points the priests back to their father Levi (v. 4). God upheld the covenant by giving him life and peace, and Levi upheld it by fearing God (v. 5). The point is that the priesthood (long before the time of this prophecy) had broken the covenant God made with Levi (v. 8), so God will humble them (v. 9).
In verse 10, the prophet speaks of the covenant again, but this time speaks to the offspring of Judah (vv. 10-11). The offspring of Judah have also broken the covenant. God uses the metaphor of mixed marriages as an indictment for their “marrying” themselves to wickedness. They “marry” people who have other gods for their father, even though YHWH is the Father of Judah and his offspring. In verse 14, God continues the metaphor for the nations faithlessness to Himself – He is the wife of their youth. God wanted godly offspring (v. 15). And we again see Him call the people back. God then indicts the people for wearying Him by calling evil good (v. 17 – see Isa 5:20). They do evil, then blame God when they don’t get what they believe they deserve. Some things never change…
In chapter 3, God says that He will send “my messenger” (literally, “Malachi”). This messenger will prepare the way for YHWH, and YHWH will suddenly come to His Temple (3:1). Christ said that John the Baptist was this messenger (Matt 11:10). That means that Christ is YHWH. He is the messenger of the (new!) covenant that is coming. Verses 2-4 refer to His coming, but His Second Coming. This will be the day of judgment (v. 5).
In verse 6, God tells Israel that the only reason they still exist as a people is because He does not change. His eternal plan will stand. He will use Israel to bring forth Christ. This is why He has endured their disobedience from the beginning (v. 7). God then puts out another call to repentance. That the people say “how will we return” implies that they don’t believe they ever left. But God then tells them that they have been robbing Him (v. 8). How? They have not offered to God what He commands, here represented by the tithe of food and their freewill offerings. The nation is cursed (see 2:2) because they have withheld from God what He has demanded – what HE deserves. They withhold from Him because they want to be blessed their way. But God tells them: give to me what I command, and I will show you blessing (v. 10)! He will provide for them and make them blessed among all the nations (v. 12).
God then tells the people they have spoken against Him (v. 13) because they have said there is no point in serving and worshiping God (v. 14) and they believe the wicked will not be judged (v. 15). The reason they feel there is no point in serving and worshiping God, that is, following the Law, is that they thought of the Law as end in itself. As Paul might say, they followed the Law like servants instead of sons (see Gal 4:1-5).
By contrast, however, there were those of the physical people that were sons. In verse 16, those who feared the Lord and honored Him were written in a book of remembrance before Him. This is the book of life (see Phil 4:3, Rev 13:8). Those whose names are written therein will be saved “in the day” from judgment (v. 17). That is when the distinction between the righteous and the wicked will be made plain (v. 18). And it will have nothing to do with physical lineage.
Chapter 4 continues speaking of that day. Remember that the last days begin with Christ’s First Coming and will be completed at His Second Coming. When complete, that day will be a day of judgment for the wicked (4:1), but a day of salvation for the elect whose names are written in the book of life because they fear God (v. 2). They will join Christ to judge the wicked (v. 3).
And now, as God finishes His revelation until He completes it in Christ, He points His people to the Law (v. 4). The Law will be what will guide and provide His people what they need until He acts again on their behalf. When He does, Elijah will be sent to them (which Christ applies to John the Baptist – Matt 11:14) and the great and awesome day of the Lord will have begun. Elijah (John) will kick off God’s full plan of salvation. The description in the first part of verse 6 is applied to John in Luke 1:17. But for those who are not part of that program of salvation there will be judgment – they will be, literally, devoted to destruction (see Deut 7:2).
And that is God’s final word until the Word becomes flesh. He points His people to His written word, and tells them the fulfillment of His promises is coming. They will have to wait more than 400 years for Him. We will see, God earnestly calls the physical people to repentance once again, and they will once again refuse, for the most part. The God Who spoke these words – and all the words of the Old Testament – is the God that Elijah (John) will announce. God will come to the true remnant and fulfill every last promise.