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Overview of the Minor Prophets: Malachi

After the return from captivity, the people began to rebuild Jerusalem and the temple, then ceased their work. Ezra and Nehemiah, as well as the prophets Haggai and Zechariah, spurred them on to resume the work. By Malachi’s time the temple had been rebuilt and sacrifices were again being offered (1:710; 3:810). 

One would think that all was well. 

But not so. The Jews had returned to the sins of their fathers—only one hundred years after returning from captivity! They forgot the lessons God had taught them. Even more, they forgot the God who had taught them these lessons! 

Malachi indicates that the Jews were committing the same sins as Israel had before the captivity. The priests corrupted the sacrifices (1:614) and did not teach the law, causing many to stumble (2:89). The Jews worshiped idols (2:11) as well as Jehovah. Men were unfaithful to their wives (2:1416). The people robbed God of his offerings (3:8). When called to repentance, the people refused (3:7); they denied that God would come to judge (2:17); and they spoke stout words against Jehovah, claiming that it was vain to serve him because he withheld the good gifts he had promised (3:10, 1315). 

You or I would have written the Jews off for good. We might wonder why Jehovah did not immediately destroy them in just anger. The book of Malachi gives the reason why he did not. First, he is Jehovah, the unchangeable one, who remembers and keeps his covenant (3:6). Second, although the term is not used, he is longsuffering; he bears patiently with his people. 

In his patience, God again sent a prophet to reprove them. Like the prophets before him, Malachi showed the Jews their sins, called them to repentance, spoke of God’s curse and judgment on the wicked (1:14; 2:23, 9, 12; 3:5), and promised that God would glorify his name in saving a people (1:11; 3:10; 4:23, 56). 

The fruit of Malachi’s work is that some repented (3:1618). God knew this would be the fruit, which is why he did not destroy the Jews at once. This repentance is amazing, for it was the work of God’s grace in them. This repentance is beautiful: it led them to speak to each other, encouraging them to take God’s word to heart. 

Young people, we can learn several lessons from the book of Malachi. 

First, sin is so deeply ingrained in us that we cannot escape its power. God can deliver us, but we cannot deliver ourselves. Seek God’s grace! 

Second, even the sin of idolatry is beyond our power to resist. We are all idolaters since pride and covetousness are forms of idolatry (Col. 3:5). We cannot escape this bondage on our own! 

Third, God does and will deliver us in Christ. The gospel in Malachi is that God will send the Sun of righteousness to heal (4:2) and Elijah (John the Baptist) to bring the people to repentance (4:5). God will completely deliver his people from idolatry! 

Fourth, God delivers not only by forgiving, but also by sanctifying us. Salvation is not only judicial (how God views us), but also ethical (what God works in us). Delivered from sin, we willingly praise God, delight in Christ (3:1), and offer our offerings in righteousness (3:3)! 

Fifth, we experience God’s blessing in the way of obedience. Never does our obedience earn this blessing or influence God to give it. But God withholds the evidences of his favor from those who walk in sin. The Jews of Malachi’s day were a case in point: because God withheld the rain and good earthly gifts as chastisement for their sins (3:10), they accused him of being bad, rather than examining themselves (3:1315)! He would restore these tokens, but only after they repented (3:10).  

Those who teach the health and wealth gospel use Malachi 3:10 to their advantage: obey God and you will be rich! That idea is detestable. The rain and earthly gifts that Old Testament Israel enjoyed were types of the spiritual riches God gives us in Christ. He gives these to sinners graciously. Yet we will consciously enjoy them only in the way of obedience. The very last exhortation of the entire Old Testament is: “Remember ye the law of Moses my servant” (4:4). 

Sixth, no comfort is given to those who ignore the warnings and calls to repentance. They will be destroyed. Upon these wicked the righteous will tread (4:3). The last word in the Old Testament is this: those who do not repent, and whose hearts are not graciously turned, will be cursed (4:6)! 

Young people, believe in Christ, obey in love and gratitude, and take the warnings of the prophets to heart. 

 

Prof. Kuiper is the professor of Church History & New Testament Studies at the Protestant Reformed Theological School and a member of Trinity Protestant Reformed Church.