God’s Final Word
Text: Malachi 1:1-5
Introduction: We turn now to the last book of our Old Testament, to the book of Malachi, and to God’s final words with the nation for 400 years. Between Malachi and Matthew God says nothing, not one word. The next time He speaks to this nation it will not be by the Written word, but by the living Word, Jesus Christ, not by the prophets, but by THE Prophet, the one whom Malachi describes as “the messenger of the covenant”.
Like Haggai, and Zechariah, Malachi is a postexilic book. But unlike those previous prophets his goals were not to stir them to build the temple. His arrival came much later than that. In fact by the time he arrived on the scene the temple had been rebuilt, Nehemiah had overseen the rebuilding walls of Jerusalem, and the nation had been reformed, albeit still under the governing eye of Persian rule. Malachi’s purposes were not physical, in the terms of building a sanctuary, but spiritual. His goal was to address the formalism and scepticism of a people who had lost any sense of God’s presence in their lives.
Malachi may be looked upon as a miniature summary of the whole Old Testament, particular with relation to Israel. He speaks of:
The Selection of Israel by God – 1:2; 2:4-6 & 10.
The Transgression of Israel against God – 1:6; 2:11, & 17
The Manifestation to Israel of Messiah – 3:1; 4:2
The Tribulation of Israel among the nations – 4:1
The Restoration of Israel at the Last – 3:2-4, 12, 16-18; 4:2-6
Ultimately this is a book about God’s love; about His love for His chosen people, and about His faithfulness in that love, in spite of their rejection of Him and rebellion against Him. These are God’s last words to Israel before Jesus comes, and He simply says, “I love you.”
I. God’s Love Declared – Malachi 1:2-3
A. The Book of Malachi is easily and readily outlined following seven defensive questions asked by the Jewish of the time.
1. In many ways these questions are somewhat flippant.
2. Each time the prophets makes a statement, or an accusation and the people retort with, “Is that so?”
3. See 1:2, 6, 7; 2:17; 3:7, 8 &13
4. These people were formally worshipping, but they were spiritually insensitive, totally unaware of how their lives were an offence to God.
5. And you know it’s interesting, because initially the prophet is non confrontational in his words, he simply states that God loves them, and that’s when the argument began.
a. “Wherein hast thou loved us?” was the retort.
b. “How have you loved us, God?”
c. These people doubted God’s love for them, and the reason for that was they were still under Persian rule, no longer in captivity, but still ruled over by a foreign power.
d. They felt like God had not prospered them, that He had let them down, that if He really loved them life would be a lot easier.
e. You know a lot of Jewish people still feel that way, they are still antagonistic toward God, and many are agnostics and atheists.
f. Many of them look back at the holocaust and question how there could be a God, and even if there is a God how could it be said that He loves them. They blame God, but never do they consider their own sins as a possibility for such awful events.
B. But the fact that He chose them is the proof of His love.
1. See Malachi 1:2b-5.
2. Now when God says He, “loved Jacob, and hated Esau,” we must understand He was not referring to the individuals, but to the nations that sprang out from those individuals.
a. In fact the word “hate” here is not an emotional statement, but a matter of preference – much like someone might say “I hate vegetables.”
3. Jacob is synonymous with Israel, and Esau with the Edomites.
4. The proof of God’s love lay in the matter of His Sovereign choice. He had chosen and favoured Israel above all the nations of the earth.
a. What was it that set Israel apart? What made them special? Nothing, but the grace of God.
C. Now the Jewish people had a grievance with the Edomites.
1. If you recall our study in Obadiah you will remember how there came a dark day in the history of Judah in which the Philistines and the Arabians attacked Jerusalem - and the city was ransacked.
a. This attack came during a period of Edomite revolt against the rule of King Jehoram in Judah. (2Chron 21:8 & 16-17)
2. Whilst the Edomites could not of themselves topple Israel, they invited others to do it.
3. And when foreign forces went against Judah, the Edomites were aloof to the plight of the Jews, they even “cast lots” to see who would plunder Jewish homes.
4. They rejoiced over Israel’s troubles and spoke proudly of her distress.
5. After Jerusalem had been overthrown they pillaged the city and whilst doing so they looked down their noses at the Jews in defeat.
6. They also blocked survivors from escaping the hands of the enemy and turned people over to their oppressors.
a. The Jews remembered that, … but God remembered it also, in fact that was what Obadiah as about, so whilst they had been restored to their city and rebuilt it, Edom would never prosper.
b. Though the Edomites also suffered at the hands of the Babylonians (Jer 27:2-8), but they never recovered, Ultimately Edom became “as though they had not been.”
c. Israel had much to be thankful for, and this was due, in no small part to the love of God for them
II. God’s Love Disdained
A. The real issue in this book is not whether God loved them, but how He could love them.
B. These people disdained God’s love, and their disregard for Him could be clearly seen in both their attitudes and their actions. Both by the priests and the people.
1. The priests were professional preachers. Hirelings, who just went through the motions of ritual and ceremony with no real thought or care to their duties.
2. They cheated God by bringing before Him shabby offerings – 1:7-8
a. They brought animals that were blind, diseased and crippled – those that were of least value to the farmer.
b. The people saved the best for themselves, and the priests accepted that.
c. God said “Try that with the governor.”
(i) Persian governors often enjoyed lavish banquets, and the meals often included offerings from the people – the people gave their best produce in submission to Persian rule.
(ii) Malachi points to that practice and says, “Try treating your governor in the same way you treat God and see how far you get.
3. They cheated the people through their shabby example – 2:7-9
a. They had lost the respect of those they were supposed to lead and serve.
b. Sound familiar? Isn’t that how it is today when preachers try to be trendy and cease being truthful, when they stand for nothing and fall for everything, when they deny the Bible and support sinful lifestyles. People never respect that kind of leadership. It is a disservice to both God and man.
C. But the people too showed tremendous contempt for the things of God.
1. This they did in the way they harboured inequality – 2:10
a. Jews were supposed to recognise one another as brethren, as peers, and treat each other with justice and equity – but that wasn’t happening, instead they dealt treacherously with each other, betraying one another, backstabbing each other, cutting one another’s throats.
b. They forgot, and sometimes we forget, that how we treat one another reflects on our love for god, that it impinges upon our relationship and fellowship with Him.
2. They engaged in intermarriage – 2:11
a. This was a problem Nehemiah had faced, and now Malachi also addresses it.
b. Such marriages were forbidden under the law in part to preserve the Messianic line, and maintain the peculiarity of Israel, but also to because they would inevitably, as Solomon’s example so drastically proved, would lead to idolatry.
3. They practiced immorality – 2:14
a. In many cases were divorcing their wives to enter into these marriages with pagan women.
b. Probably not enough is said about divorce in the church today. It is one of those taboo subjects, but if you want to know how ~God feels about it Malachi lets us know in no uncertain terms. He says God hates it – vs 16.
c. Why is God so against it? Because of the heartache it brings into people’s lives and families, because of the bitterness and the hurt of it – see vs 13.
(i) Illus: man in Perth Australia placed his “entire life” on Ebay after a divorce because everything around him brought back such unhappy and bitter memories.
4. They exhibited impertinence – 2:17
a. God was fed up with them. Why? What had they done?
b. They said that he really favoured the wicked in the world; that it was evil men who prospered, and God took delight in that kind.
c. Of course others also have felt that way, not least of all Asaph, but he at least remembered their end, he remembered that ultimately god would judge them, but these people, they entertained no such notion, “Where is the God of judgment?” they asked.
5. They were guilty of indebtedness – 3:8-10
a. They had failed in their giving, defrauding God in their tithes and offerings.
b. Malachi said they “robbed God”. Did you ever consider the possibility of that? That a man may rob God?
6. They charged God with indictments. – 3:13-15
a. They said harsh things – “Your words have been stout against me, saith the LORD.”
b. What did they say? That serving God was a waste of time. That there was no gain in it. Again, that only those who did evil seemed to get along, they were “set up’ in life.
D. Now, remember, this whole argument began when Malachi told them of God’s love, and they said, “Wherein hast thou loved us?”
III. God’s Love Displayed
A. How was God’s love displayed?
B. By the remembrance of His saints – 3:16
1. Isn’t that a beautiful verse? Did you ever consider that God is listening to every conversation, keeping a record of when we speak lovingly about his name?
2. God loves us… and love must be reciprocated, and when it s God takes note.
C. By the sending of His Son. – 3:1
1. The messenger sent before to prepare the way of the Lord was John the Baptist, who came in the spirit of Elijah heralding the arrival of the Messiah.
2. The “messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in,” is the Lord Jesus Christ, who when He came, “came unto his own” to these very people who treated God with such contempt, and naturally “His own received him not.”
a. They rejected Him and turned Him away, ultimately nailing Him to the cross.
b. You see the mystery here is not that the Lord hated Esau, but that He loved Jacob.
Conclusion: So this is the book of Malachi. A declaration of God’s love: followed by accusation after accusation of Israel’s infidelity. Every charged met with flippancy. Everyone answered “Is that so?” or “Who, me?” Until ultimately, in the face of their sin and rebellion God in love sends His Son to die for them, and not just them, but us also. So that Paul wrote, ”God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
Malachi presents God’s final words in the last days preceding the coming of Christ. But it wasn’t just His first coming He prophesied, but also His Second Coming – see 4:5-6.
The “great and dreadful day of the LORD” is the day when Jesus appears to judge the world in righteousness. You and I are part of the generation of these last days. And when we hear the decrees of God’s Word declared, we too often respond in the same way as those ancient Israelites.
God could just as readily accuse us of inequality. “Who me?” Yes you. You who backbites your fellow Christian, you who ever critique the lives of brothers and sisters in Christ without one thought of your own failings. Yes you. Have you not read, “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?”
We are no different from those priests and people of old who thought of worship and the service of God as weariness. “Who me?” Yes, you. You who look at your watch every few minutes, and time every sermon, and are pressing to go home. You. You’re just the same as them.
And what about those of you who think nothing of dating the unsaved, are you any different from those who married unbelievers in Israel.
Or what about the adulterers among us? “Who me?” Yes, you who dabble in pornography, who look upon others with lust in your heart. That’s adultery. “Is that so?” Yes it is, for Jesus said, “Whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.”
Or you who think God benefits the sinful, and prospers them. “Who me?” Yes, you who lives for material gain, whose life purpose is not only to keep up with the Jones, but to get ahead of them. You, who thinks that serving God is terrible waste of time, talent and resources. That one needs to really get on this world to be a success. You.
Or you, who are short-changing God in your offerings. Oh, I am going to be careful about applying the promises made to God’s covenant people unto us, and not make the tithe a legalistic requirement. But do you really think that a Christian ought to give less under grace than a Jew under Law? Do you not see how the N.T. teaches God loves a cheerful giver and blesses generosity? Funny isn’t it, how we always have money for the things we love, but scrimp in our giving to God. You are no different than they were. You are just the same. Possibly even worse. You too are guilty of robbing God.
Yes these are God’s final words to Israel before Jesus came. But they are just as relevant to us who live before Jesus comes again. And the admonition just as necessary, “Return unto me, and I will return unto you, saith the LORD of hosts.”