Summary: A study of lessons that can be learned from the Book of Malachi
Malachi very skillfully provides a very vivid image of the love of God as well as His might and power. Malachi helps us see that the story has not yet ended. God still has promises to fulfill on behalf of His people. The Book of Malachi represents the link between the Old and New Testaments. Malachi was the last of the inspired prophets to speak in the Old Testament. Malachi addresses the profane and corrupt character of the priests, the people’s marriages with foreigners, the non-payment of tithes, and a lack of sympathy towards the poor. Despite all the corruptness and evil of the priests and the people they just could not understand why God would be upset with them. They were going to the temple; they were offering sacrifices…so they were doing what God required. So what is the problem? As intermediaries between God and the people, the priests were responsible for reflecting God’s attitudes and character. By accepting imperfect sacrifices, they were leading the people to believe that God accepted those sacrifices as well. But God says I am not pleased with you. Malachi drives the point home by saying that the temple might as well be closed because God will not accept these sacrifices. The bottom line is that this is a group that was simply going through the motions; maintaining the traditions and following all the prescribed rituals. The act of worship had become a burden to them; they did it because they felt they had to. As Christians, we are often in the same position as these priests because we reflect God to our friends and family. What image of God’s character and attitudes do they see in you? If you casually accept sin, you are like these priests in Malachi’s day, simply going through the motions. God will not be pleased with you. In this message we would like to discover that God’s desire is for His unfailing love to be the driving force that causes us to seek to honor Him.
I. God gives the people a reminder of His unfailing love.
A. The opening part of Malachi’s message seems to suggest that Judah is questioning or doubting God’s love.
1. Israel is characterized by widespread doubt of their standing with God.
2. Malachi’s message highlights God’s unchanging love for His people.
3. Their doubt may have been rooted in several circumstances.
a. They had returned from exile (as God had promised), and they had built their temple (as God had promised.)
b. However the monarchy had not been reestablished and there was no sign of the glorious priest-king predicted by Zechariah.
c. They were not a great and victorious people. Gentiles were not coming to worship at Jerusalem.
d. Prosperity had not returned. Enemies had not been crushed.
4. Unfilled hopes had given rise to serious doubts.
B. The appreciation of God’s love, faithfulness and justice in the face of their sin had not lasted.
1. God’s love bridges the gap between the beautifulness of His holiness and the ugliness of mankind’s sin.
2. The obvious fact in our text is that Israel has lost sight of both God’s holiness and their own sins.
3. Israel had begun to take God’s love for granted and responded to His discipline with, “You don’t love me.”
4. Love was the heart of this covenant relationship as was obvious in Him choosing them to be His own people.
5. Acknowledging God’s love for her, Israel should have responded by loving Him and obeying His commands
C. The knowledge that we have been chosen to have an intimate relationship with God should make a profound difference in the way we handle failure, obstacles, and disappointment and human relationships.
1. To a large extent spiritual health and growth is based on a growing appreciation of God’s love.
2. Even in the midst of rebellion God has demonstrated His compassion, grace, patience and love.
3. Despite our continued sin God will never abandon us, always hoping that we will confess our sins and turn back to Him.
II. The people had forgotten what the heart of our worship should be.
A. The servants at the temple who were the closest to the sacred things were the ones who had defaulted in the most central obligation of all—that of honoring God.
1. The most sacred duty which God delegated to priests under the law was their service at the altar of sacrifice. Here was where these priests helped sinful people find reconciliation with God.
2. Apathy toward the temple ritual and especially toward the laws of Moses had reached such proportions in postexilic Judah that God raised up the prophet Malachi to reprimand the people.
3. Even though they were blind to God’s love, Israel should have recognized God as their Father and realized that He deserved their honor.