Summary: Overview of Malachi
The Importance of Staying on the Right Track
An Introduction to Malachi
I did it again just the other night, without really meaning to, almost without really trying. I got off on the wrong track.
My family and I were on the way home from an out of town basketball game in Wilson County, I was driving down I24, looking for the exit to 440W to get back to our usual route home when I missed the exit. After commenting on the lack of proper highway signage, I exited on Harding Road, when my wife informed me we were going the wrong way.
The proper response would have been, “Thank you, dear. I thought I could take Harding and get back on track.” But my response was to ignore her, because I knew where I was going, and I knew I would soon prove to her the error of her ways.
She tried again, reminding me we would soon come up to Sam’s Club—a definite sign we were going the wrong way. Just as I was pooh-poohing her lack of direction, suddenly the big Sam’s Club sign rolled into view. It was then I did what most husbands do in a situation like that—I blamed our situation on my wife. To make a long story shorter, the rest of the night was not what you might call “Marital bliss.” All because I got off on the wrong track.
Not because I took a wrong turn, but because I took a wrong turn and kept going. Not because my wife had done anything wrong, but because my attitude had also taken a wrong turn. It can happen quickly, almost without trying: You can end up on the wrong track, going in the wrong direction, stepping on the accelerator and getting more lost by the moment—unless Somebody you love helps you turn around and get back on the right track.
Getting back on the right track is the theme of the last book of the OT, the book of Malachi. The prophet Malachi was sent to get Israel back on track with the Lord in 4 key areas—areas where you and I can often get on the wrong track if we’re not careful.
First, a little background.
The first verse of the book identified the author as Malachi which could be translated My Messenger. It’s not certain whether Malachi is a proper name, or just a description of an anonymous prophet. Like many of the other prophets (such as Obadiah) we know nothing else about who the author of the book was, where he was from, or when he first gave this message from God. Some compare the issues raised in the book with those raised in the book of Nehemiah 13:10-30. This implies Malachi may have prophesied sometime during the work of Nehemiah, perhaps during his return trip to Persia mentioned in Neh. 13:6. This would place Malachi’s ministry between 430-400 BC.
This time frame adds some important context for Malachi’s message. Through the work of Ezra and Nehemiah, Israel has returned from exile, rebuilt the Temple, now rebuilding Jerusalem, on their way to restoration. But while Nehemiah is away, they begin to get off track. They start to stray away from their devotion to the Lord, to cool off in their love for God. So God sends Malachi to call them back to the right track again.
He does this through an interesting method of communication known as dialectic= using questions to emphasize how they have strayed, and what they need to do to get back on track. It was a method used by the Greek philosopher Socrates, but which Malachi uses like a lawyer arguing before a jury. His questions are found in 1:2, 6,8; 2: 10, 14-15, 17; 3:2, 7-8, 13-14. God uses these questions to deal with 4 areas where His people need to get back on track:
1. They need to get back on track with their love for the Lord. (1)
A successful marriage is one in which you fall in love many times, always with the same person. -D. W. McLaughlin
I sometimes wonder if that’s not also the secret of an ongoing relationship with the Lord—falling in love many times, always with the same Person. Our hearts can be fickle, and it is often too easy to get on the wrong track with our love for the Lord.
Malachi spends the first chapter reminding Israel of God’s love for them in choosing them to be His covenant people. He didn’t choose them because of how good or large they were—He choose them out of His sheer grace. (cf. Mal. 1:2) Every Israelite knew the story of Jacob and Esau. They knew God chose them, and yet they still turn around and ask in vs. 2 In what way have you loved us?