Introduction to the Book of Malachi
and Study of Malachi 1-4
September 30th

Produced by The Listening for God Ministry
Copyright 2016

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Malachi (Overview)

The four-chapter book of Malachi (pronounced ma - lə -ˌkī) concludes the series of prophets and is the last book in the Old Testament. The name Malachi means the “The Messenger.” Malachi lived during a time after the rebuilding of the Temple had been completed, and when sincere worship had waned. This may have been about the same time that Nehemiah decided to return to Jerusalem to manage the wall re-building project (see study on May 18th and beyond)

The people who had returned from exile were waiting for another miracle to lift up their nation, but instead experienced threats from neighboring countries, leaving them insecure and weary of waiting for divine help. The messages from Malachi cover a number of topics including one final rebuke of Edom, the future arrival of a special messenger, and the Day of the LORD.

The rebuilding of the wall would help protect them from their treacherous neighbors but the rebuilding of their spiritual lives would provide the ultimate protection.

The messages in this book were intended to inspire Malachi's contemporaries but also should serve as inspiration for any of us who are seeking miracles and pining for justice. We will complete the study of Malachi in one day.

References used in this study include the following books:

  • Baldwin, Joyce G, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, An Introduction and Commentary, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, Inter-Varsity Press, Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL, 1972

  • Boadt, Lawrence, Reading the Old Testament: An Introduction, Paulist Press, Mahwah, NJ; 1984

  • Holy Bible, New Revised Standard Version, Zondervan Bible Publishers, Grand Rapids, MI; 1993

  • Life Application Study Bible, New International Version, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, M; 1991 (with commentary from an inter-denominational team of experts)

  • Men's Devotional Bible, New International Version, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI; 1993 (with daily devotionals from Godly men)

  • The New American Bible, Sponsored by the Bishop's Committee of the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Catholic Bible Publishers, Wichita, KS, 1970

  • Peterson, Eugene, The Message, The Bible in Contemporary Language, NavPress, Colorado Springs, CO, 80920, 2005

Malachi 1-4 (The End)

Please refer to one or more Bible versions of your choice to read this section. We recommend that you read at least two versions for added understanding. For your convenience, we have provided six links below, each of which takes you directly to today's chapters in a specific version:

Key Verse

“But also look ahead: I’m sending Elijah the prophet to clear the way for the Big Day of God—the decisive Judgment Day! He will convince parents to look after their children and children to look up to their parents. If they refuse, I’ll come and put the land under a curse.”

- Malachi 4:5-6 (MSG)

Summary of Chapters

In chapter 1 Malachi reports that the LORD “hates” Edom and therefore he will not allow them to rebuild their country. He then criticizes the priests for defiling him by bringing blemished sacrifices. The LORD says he would rather that the temple doors be shut than receive unworthy sacrifices. He declares that one day all nations will worship him, but the deceitful men who don’t offer proper sacrifice will be cursed.

The critique of the priest continues in chapter 2. The LORD notes that the curse will be passed from generation to generation and he will defile the priests by rubbing “stuff” in their face.

    “And now this indictment, you priests! If you refuse to obediently listen, and if you refuse to honor me, God-of-the-Angel-Armies, in worship, then I’ll put you under a curse. I’ll exchange all your blessings for curses. In fact, the curses are already at work because you’re not serious about honoring me. Yes, and the curse will extend to your children. I’m going to plaster your faces with rotting garbage, garbage thrown out from your feasts. That’s what you have to look forward to!

    - Malachi 2:1-3 (MSG)

    “It’s the job of priests to teach the truth. People are supposed to look to them for guidance. The priest is the messenger of God-of-the-Angel-Armies. But you priests have abandoned the way of priests. Your teaching has messed up many lives. You have corrupted the covenant of priest Levi. God-of-the-Angel-Armies says so. And so I am showing you up for who you are. Everyone will be disgusted with you and avoid you because you don’t live the way I told you to live, and you don’t teach my revelation truly and impartially.”

    - Malachi 2:7-9 (MSG)

The LORD then expands the criticism to all of Judah because of their unfaithfulness to him and their marriage to foreign gods.

Chapter 3 describes the coming of the messenger who will prepare the way for the LORD. On that day the wicked will be judged. This has been the pattern for generations of Israelites, but the LORD offers reconciliation: “ ‘Return to me and I will return to you, says the LORD almighty’ (Mal 3:7 - NIV).” They shortchanged the LORD and abandoned him, but those who feared the LORD have been noted and honored.

Chapter 4 is the final one of Malachi’s. This chapter describes the Day of the LORD that will burn like a furnace for the evildoers, but will be a day of freedom for the believers. " 'But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its rays. And you will go out and frolic like well-fed calves. 3 Then you will trample on the wicked; they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day when I act,' says the Lord Almighty.(Mal 4:2-3 - NIV).”

The LORD commands the people to remember the decrees and laws given to Moses. He then concludes by saying he will send Elijah before the day so that he can turn people’s hearts. If people’s hearts are not turned, then he will curse the land.

Reflection and Application

Remember that the people of Edom who are addressed in chapter 1 are the descendents of Esau, who was the brother of Jacob, son of Isaac, and grandson of Abraham. Esau and his descendents had an opportunity to receive the blessings promised to Abraham, but choose another path, and took advantage of its brother Judah (The Southern Kingdom of Israel) when he was weak. Perhaps this is why God was so angry.

The practice of animal sacrifices may seem like an ancient and cruel practice to which we have a hard time relating. The people of Malachi’s day were asked to bring unblemished animals as a sacrifice because these were the ones that were most valuable and were representative of wealth for an agrarian culture. A lame animal was less valuable and was considered to be an offensive sacrifice, as pointed out by God in chapter 1.

We are also called to sacrifice – not our best animal but the best of our time and talents. As we prepare to enter the joy of the New Testament let us remember to ask for God’s help in making ourselves living sacrifices for him. When we sacrifice ourselves it is hard not to be sincere, thus we minimize the risk of the LORD tossing the sacrifice back in our face.

The message of the LORD’s willingness to return to his people is repeated over and over by many of the prophets. All he asks is for the people to return to him, and he will return to them. Jesus creates a parable to illustrate this point when he tells the story of the Prodigal Son. The father is ready to return to the son when the son returns to him. By bonding ourselves to Christ we will find the same freedom that the calves feel when they are released from the barn. However, ours can be permanent.

One of the last few verses in Malachi 4:4-5 provides a fitting conclusion. Verse four calls all the people of Israel to remember "the Law" given to Moses: " 'Remember the law of my servant Moses, the decrees and laws I gave him at Horeb for all Israel.' (Mal 4:4 - NIV) " This phrase may have referred to the entire Pentateuch, not just the 10 Commandments, and the command applies to all the people of Israel. Verse 5 foresees the day when Elijah will bring the community together. Malachi borrows from Joel 2:31 when he indicates that Elijah will come on that "great and terrible day of the LORD."

A messenger came in the person of John the Baptist, as described in the early chapters of Matthew, the first book of the New Testament. John described how the one after him will baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire and burn up the chaff. Did John represent the return of Elijah? Some people thought Jesus was Elijah, but he was not. In the book of Matthew, Jesus says that John is Elijah. " 'And if you are willing to accept it , he is the Elijah who was to come. He who has ears, let him hear' (Matt 11:14-15 - NIV)."

The final word of the Old Testament is a reminder to obey the laws and decrees or suffer destruction. There will be a new covenant, but it does not replace these laws, it fulfills them. As we read through the New Testament let us look for ways that Jesus fulfills and explains the law while also emphasizing the role of forgiveness and grace in the path to salvation. When we finish the New Testament on December 31st we will see that the final word is a blessing of Grace:

"The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen (Revelations 22:21 - NIV)."

Questions and Prayers for Further Reflection

    Related Questions
    1. What types of animals have you cared for?
    2. What was your favorite book of the Old Testament?
    3. How can we share with our friends and family the messages we have read in the Old Testament and dispel some of the myths regarding an unforgiving and overly vengeful “Old Testament” God?
    Recommended Prayer
    Father in heaven, we thank you for giving us the law and the prophets. Help us to understand and apply what we have learned.

    Suggested Prayer Concerns

    Looking Ahead

    Tomorrow will be a day of rest and reflection as we transition from the Old Testament to the New Testament. The next reading will be on October 2nd:

    Matthew 1-4 (Setting the Stage for Jesus' Life on Earth)

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