"The Twelve"

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Malachi means "My Messenger" and may be short for "Yahweh's Messenger." Malachi is the last book not only among the Twelve, but the last voice of the entire disclosure of inspired holy Scripture before the revelation of Christ. Malachi is the only prophet to end his prophecy with judgment. This is a striking situation since Malachi serves as the prelude to the gripping silence of 400 years; this prophecy is the cloud that will linger over the house of Israel, as the last note of her need in anticipation of her Messiah. The title given to the book is Messenger of the Covenant and Messiah.

Situated as the latest of the prophets addressing conditions in post-exilic Israel, it is clear that the promised time of prosperity had not yet come and spiritual deriliction had taken root again. Over 100 years have passed since the return of Israel and the great post-exilic prophecies of Haggai and Zechariah are not yet fulfilled. Israel is disillusioned and doubtful; it appears that they are questioning God's providence. Cynicism is common and their devotion to Yahweh has degenerated to mechanical motions of religion, empty ritual, godless hearts performing acts of worship, cheating, cutting corners, giving the bare minimum, and the like.

There appears a pattern that is relevant to every generation, namely a low esteem of the word of God inevitably leads to indifference to holiness and authentic worship.

The degeneration was so rapid and pervasive that Israel actually had actually questioned the worth of serving God! Theirs was a self-centered religion, much like much of contemporary Christianity. This manifests itself in spiritual corruption and is typified in the self-centered complaint, “if I'm not getting what I want, then why should I…” The impetus for morality either stands or falls on this principle. Misplaced affections, corruption of heart, love of self are all described as indictments in the disputations delivered, and yet God responds with amazing words, My love will continue, My faithfulness will not fail.

The Lord issues a call to see that their hardships and consequences, even their lack of blessing, were not due to His lack of faithfulness or concern, but rather because of their own compromise and disobedience to their covenant. They were called to return from the heart and in the end, He warns them that a day of reckoning will surely come. God will judge the righteous and the wicked accordingly.

Overview

The book may be divided into three major segments:

  1. Privileges Reminded (1:1 – 5)
  2. Pollutions Reported (1:6 – 3:15)
    1. Sin of the Priests (1:6-2:9)
    2. Sin of the People (2:10-3:15)
  3. Promises Rendered (3:16 – 4:6)

Six Disputations

The buld of the book consists of disputations that the Lord raises against Israel. Each divine accusation is denied or diminished:

  1. Favor of the Lord (1:2-5)
  2. Failure of the Priests (1:6-2:9)
  3. Failure of the People (2:10-16)
  4. Future Messenger (2:17-3:5)
  5. Fraudulent Worship (3:6-12)
  6. False Witness (3:13-4:3)

Chapter Summaries

  • Ch. 1: Yahweh's love for Israel and passion for His own glory—His name to be great among the nations
  • Ch. 2: Rebuke and judgment upon the priests; The importance of the priestly covenant; Covenant appeal
  • Ch. 3: Yahweh is sending His messenger for He is coming; Rebuke against Israel's hypocrisy and derision
  • Ch. 4: The final day of the Lord is coming but will be preceded by Elijah to change hearts

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