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Malachi (day 926-929)

Malachi 1 (day 926) 14 July 2012

             1: Scholars tend to date Malachi somewhere around 450 B.C., after the exiles have returned to Jerusalem and rebuilt the temple. It is a time when Jerusalem and Judah are part of a relatively minor Persian administrative district; the reference to “governor” rather than “king” lends credence to placing Malachi at around this time in history.

“Malachi” simply means “my messenger,” and there is no way of knowing if this is the prophet’s actual name. Unfortunately this is all the information we have about the author.

             We note that, although Malachi is the last book in the Old Testament in Christian Bibles, in the Jewish scriptures that is not the case; Malachi is nearer the center and is followed by Psalms, Proverbs, Job, and so forth. We should not, therefore, try to read Malachi as though it were a bridge between Old and New Testaments.

             2-5: The prophecy begins with a declaration of God’s love for Jacob (Israel and Judah). The people question God’s love, however. I suppose that is only natural, considering what they’ve gone through for the last 150 years! God’s response is to compare their state with that of Edom. Isaac and Rebekah had twin sons, Esau and Jacob. God chose Jacob as the progenitor of the people he would someday establish as Israel – indeed, he changed Jacob’s name to Israel (Genesis 32:28). Esau was said to have settled in what came to be known as Edom (Genesis 36:1). God’s point here is twofold: First, Edom no longer exists and God will see to it that it will never again recover as a nation, proving that God favors Israel over Edom. Second, the fate of Edom proves that God is more than just a local deity, and that lends even greater significance to God’s having chosen Israel as his people.

             6-14: Next, God accuses the priests of not honoring him as they should. The priests ask for details, and God provides details. They offer inferior animals as sacrifices, he says, and they wouldn’t think of treating their governor like that. They may as well lock the doors of the temple, he says. God is respected in other nations, but not by the priests in Jerusalem. The incense offered to God in other nations is probably a reference to faithful Jews now scattered throughout the Mediterranean region and beyond. In Jerusalem, however, the priests are bored with religion and are doing no more than going through the motions of their sacred duties.

 

Malachi 2 (day 927) 15 July 2012

             1-3: The priests are threatened to straighten up and fly right or else God will curse them and allow them to suffer the worst kind of disrespect.

             4-9: The accusations against the priesthood continue. Early on they were obedient and reverent, and diligent in teaching the people. That was as it should be, but is the case no more.

             10-12: It makes sense to understand verse 11 as the prophet speaking to the priests. We’re all in this together, he says (“all one father”), so why have we not kept the faith? The reference to “the daughter of a foreign god” is to priests who marry foreign women who worship other gods.

             13-16: These verses are curious, and the whole section becomes difficult to understand. Here he seems to be accusing the priests of being unfaithful to their wives, foreign though they may be.

             17: Malachi charges the priests with giving nothing but lip service to their duties. They protest, and he tells them they have not upheld God’s law but have copped out, telling people who are going against God’s law that God loves them all the same. In their perverted understanding of justice God simply pats everybody on the back and says, “There, there, God forgives.” We see that attitude a lot these days as well.

 

Malachi 3 (day 928) 16 July 2012

             1-4: “My messenger” in verse one is the same word that is rendered “Malachi” at the beginning of the book, but it is doubtful that the prophet is referring to himself at this point. Also, “The Lord” in verse 1 is not the proper name of God but rather a word that is usually used for human rulers. The pronouncement is that at some time in the future a messenger will appear who will herald the arrival of a righteous king who will reform the priesthood.

             5-7: With the new reforming king in place God will point out the crimes of those who were supposed to be the shepherds of the people. God will once again invite the people to return to the covenant relationship established with their ancestors, and once again they demur with a question about procedures.

             8-12: God charges them with not offering a full tithe. If they will do that God will bless the land and they will prosper accordingly.

             13-15: God accuses them of discrediting him and dissuading the people from being faithful, thus giving the wicked more opportunity to cheat others.

             16-18: Malachi foresees the day when there will be an accounting of who is faithful and who is not, and the faithful will be rewarded.

 

Malachi 4 (day 929) 17 July 2012

             1-4: These verses basically repeat the prophecy of chapter 3. There, it was said that the king to come will be like a refiner’s fire (3:2); here it is said that day will be “burning like an oven.” The righteous will be rewarded and the wicked put in their proper place (as in 3:18).

             5-6: The coming of Elijah is a new idea. The last time Elijah was mentioned was at 2 Chronicles 21:12. None of the other prophets imagined his reappearance. So, why does Malachi think that Elijah will appear again? Perhaps it is because Elijah did not die but was taken up into heaven in a whirlwind (2 Kings 2:11), sort of making him available, I suppose. Perhaps it was Elijah’s defeat of the prophets of Baal at Mt. Carmel that makes him a logical choice to be the one to straighten out the priesthood in days to come. Jesus said that John the Baptizer is the return of Elijah (Matthew 11:14). At Matthew 16:14 it is reported that some of the people think Jesus is the reincarnation of Elijah, and Elijah actually appears with Moses on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matthew 17:3).

             Elijah will be the one to reconnect the generations of God’s people. Turning the hearts of parents to their children means the parents will be diligent in teaching the children the ways of God. Turning the hearts of children to their parents means the children will be attentive to the teaching.

             And so the prophetic witness of the Old Testament comes to an end. God will see to it that, just as in the past, a redeemer will arise in the future to rescue God’s people and assure God’s continued

 

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