Summary: While we often question God’s love, we can rest assured that He has poured out His favor on His people.
Experiencing God’s Love
A man was having a hard time getting out of bed one Sunday morning. “Get up. It’s time to get ready for church!” He just grumbled and replied grumpily, “I don’t want to go to church today. Those people at church don’t like me. I don’t want to go.” She persisted, “You have to go.” To which he responded, “Give me three good reasons why I should.” She answered, “Because it’s Sunday, I’m your wife, and you’re the pastor. Now get up!”
As we come to a brand new study from the last of the Old Testament books, I wonder if the prophet Malachi wanted to stay snuggled under his sheets instead of preaching to his people. Please turn in your Bible to the book that bears his name. If you’re having a hard time finding it, go to Matthew and hang a left. This short book is easily overlooked and seldom preached from. I can’t ever remember hearing a sermon series from Malachi.
The opening verse is packed full of information that will help to give us a framework for our study together: “An oracle: The word of the LORD to Israel through Malachi.” Let’s look at each phrase carefully.
An oracle. An oracle is actually a “burden.” Webster defines it as something carried that is difficult to bear. It has the idea of something heavy, a load to be lifted up. The words to follow in Malachi are not light or trifling but weighty and substantial. The prophet recognizes that what he is about to communicate to people is not fluffy stuff that will just tickle the ears but will ultimately trouble their souls. And that’s how it should be when we come to the Word of God. Jeremiah 23:29: “Is not my word like fire, declares the LORD, and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?”
As we go through Malachi for the next seven weeks, I’ll make a promise to you. I will do my best to allow the burden of each passage to filter through my life first before I preach it to you. Will you commit to do the same when you hear His weighty Word? I’d like to encourage you to read through this short book at least once a week for the next two months. If you do, you’ll discover that while there are some challenging truths to ponder, at its core, Malachi is really a love letter from God, full of hope and encouragement.
The word of the Lord. These words are not just the musings of Malachi, but instead the revelation of Yahweh, the God of the covenant. God had something He wanted to communicate to His people 2400 years ago and He wants to use these same words to speak to His people today. That’s the beauty of Scripture. Hebrews 4:12 says that God’s Word is living and active. 2 Peter 1:20-21: “Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”
To Israel. While the Word of the Lord is heavy, notice that it is written not “against” Israel, but “to” them. God wasn’t out to blast them. He wanted to bring them back. Let me give a brief survey of Old Testament history so we can better place Malachi in context. In Genesis 12, God called Abram to leave Ur, which was located in modern day Iraq, and to follow Him to another land. As Abraham obeyed, his descendents multiplied. The Israelites were later enslaved in Egypt for over 400 years until God called them out under the leadership of Moses.
Eventually they were allowed to enter the land God had promised them. Hundreds of years passed during which the nation experienced struggles, faithlessness, and wrestling with God. The high point of Israel’s history came when David, a godly king, was called to sit on the throne. For forty years David expanded the nation in both breadth of influence and knowledge of God.
But things went downhill from there. After his son, King Solomon died; Israel was split into two kingdoms. The Northern Kingdom had ten tribes and was referred to as Israel. The Southern Kingdom had two tribes and was known as Judah. Because of their disobedience, the Assyrians conquered Israel and the ten clans were scattered and became known as the “ten lost tribes of Israel.”
Even though the southern tribes saw all this happen, they, too, continued to rebel against God. In 586 B.C., Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonian (modern day Iraq) army captured the Jews, Jerusalem was destroyed, the walls were knocked down, and the temple was burned. The people were deported and were forced into slavery again. Their history had come full circle.