Malachi 1:1–2:9. Last Words From God. The Sins of the Priests.
Malachi 1:1–2:10 I Have Loved You. Have You Honored Me?
Key Notes: A link to Luke. God loves Jacob, not Esau. Predestination. Do Jews love God? Not in sacrifices. Better sacrifices are offered by Gentiles.
Malachi is a mysterious figure. The name means “my messenger” and some are not sure whether it is the name of a person or a title. The name is not referred to elsewhere in Scripture but we will assume Malachi is a person. The date of the book is not certain either, but the problems the book discusses are similar to those that Nehemiah faced: mixed marriages (Neh. 13:23–29), corrupt priests (Neh. 13:4–9), and lack of tithing (Neh. 13:10). An estimated date is 450 BC.
Malachi is the last of the post-exilic prophets—Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi. After Malachi there will be four-hundred years of silence with no prophetic word heard. If four hundred years passed, we could suppose that all of Israel’s old history had been forgotten by the time of Christ. What do we we remember of 1620? 1517? But the people became thirsty to hear a word from God. and when Jesus came, "...the people were in expectation concerning John, whether perhaps he were the Christ." Lk3:15.
After 400 year had passed, the Angel Gabriel spoke to Zechariah the priest in the Holy Place next to the Altar of Incense, “… make ready for the Lord a people prepared.” (Lk. 1:17). Malachi’s last word is, “I will send you Elijah the prophet….” (Mal. 4:5). Zechariah's son, John the Baptist, became the new Elijah. The link between the Old Covenant and the New was forged by Gabriel’s word.
Malachi is built around seven statements from God and Israel's retorts:
- “I have loved you.” ~ “How have You loved us?” 1:2
- You have despised My name. ~ “How have we despised Your name?” 1:5
- You offered polluted food on My altar. ~ “How have we polluted it?” 1:7
- He no longer accepts your offering. ~ “Why does He not?” 2:13
- “You have wearied the Lord….” ~ “How have we wearied Him?” 2:17
- “Will man rob God?” ~ “How have we robbed You?” 3:8
- “Your words have been stout against me.” ~ "How have we spoken against You?" 3:13
Malachi has to deal with a disgruntled and unhappy people, sluggish, dull, and argumentative. Whatever he says is countered with a defensive retort.
1:1 The “oracle” is “the burden of the Lord to Israel.” The burden implies heavy information, sobering realities.
1:1–5 God loves Israel and His love is challenged. The Jews do not feel loved. They are not in “the land of milk and honey, everyone beneath his vine and fig-tree, living in peace and unafraid.” (Deut. 8:8; Mic.4:4). They are at home but in poverty, and under the thumb of the Persians. God responds by noting the difference between Jacob preferred and Esau rejected. Love of Israel, like a beautiful canvas, is shown against the the rough frame of God's non-love of Esau. We like the picture but the frame is limiting and upsetting.
Why were the Edomites, children of Esau, rejected?
The easiest explanation is to review the history of Esau and his family once again.
- Esau despised his birthright. Gen.25:34
- He planned to kill his brother Jacob when he was swindled out of the birthright. . Gen.27:41
- He married two Hittite women who made Rebekah despair. Gen. 26:34
- Amalek was the grandson of Esau and a mortal enemy of Israel. Gen. 36:16
- Esau’s people (Edom) forced Israel to go around them to get to the Promised Land. Num.20:14
- There was general hostility between Israel and Edom throughout the monarchy.
- Edomites harassed Judah during the siege of Jerusalem by the Babylonians. Obadiah 10–14
- The Herods were of Edomite background, hostile to Christ and His followers. Herod tried to kill Jesus. Matt.2:13–18.
Esau is the model of the attractive rebel. Jacob, on the other hand, although a cheater, knew God and clung to God. But that is not the only reason why Esau was rejected. Before he was born, it was prophesied that he would serve his younger twin brother. (Gen. 25:23). And Paul says, “...though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad, in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of His call, she was told, 'The elder will serve the younger.'” As it is written, ’Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.’” (Rom. 9:10–13)
The prophecy of Esau’s downfall was fulfilled. After the Babylonians, the Edomites were forced out of their territory by Nabateans, who made Petra their capital. The Edomites migrated into the Negev and made Hebron their capital. They had all but disappeared by the time of Christ. “There are no Edomites in New York.”
This is the doctrine of election. Election is an eternal act of God’s sovereign mercy by which He chooses certain human beings to be His children not based on anything they have done or can do. We will work on this later.
1:6 The issue is now reversed. Instead of “I love you” the question is “Do you love Me? Do you honor Me?”
The relationship between us and God is always bilateral. They did not fear God and they did not honor Him.
1:7–2:12 The priests were sacrificing blind, lame, or sick animals and polluted offerings. If the offering is despised, who would care to receive it? Would the governor or other public official accept such a gift? It would be better to shut the Temple doors than to continue these corrupt practices. To pledge a sacrifice and then deliver a blemished animal was an insult. 1:14
1:11That is to say that pagan nations knew the trueGod1:111:11 Malachi says pure offerings are being offered to God all around the world. Catholics say this is the sacrifice of the Mass, but the prophet speaks of his own times. Malachi is saying that Gentiles around the globe knew and honored the true God centuries before Jesus came! Admittedly, we know little about this but Paul makes two references to God's attitude toward Gentiles before the New Covenant. (Rom.3:25; Act 17:30). And there were God-fearing non-Jews in Israel in NT times. We know of Gentiles like the Centurion whose servant Jesus healed (Matt.8:5f), the centurion at Jesus’ crucifixion (Mk. 15:39), and Cornelius (Acts 10). An angel of God said to Cornelius, “Your prayers and your alms have ascended as a memorial before God.” He was neither Jew nor proselyte, but a God-fearer, and God approved of his offerings and introduced him to Jesus.
In this chapter, God says “My name is great (feared) among the nations” three times (1:11, 11, 14) and “Great is the Lord beyond the border of Israel”. (1:5). These four statements amplify God’s rejection of Israel’s offerings and indicate that God is already moving the focus away from Israel and onto the Gentiles. The history of Acts is the out-working of this shift of God’s favor toward the Gentiles.
2:1 If the sacrifices and offerings are defective, the priests must be to blame. It was their responsibility to monitor what was offered. God will curse their blessings, rebuke their offerings and throw dung in their faces as they are dragged from His presence.
2:5 “The covenant with Levi” was first mentioned when Phineas the priest broke up Israel’s binge of idolatry and fornication with Moab. (Num. 25). He was given a “covenant of peace”. (Num. 25:12–13). God’s covenant with the Levitical priesthood is also mentioned in Jer. 33:21 and Neh.13:29.
“2:7 For the lips of a priest should guard knowledge and men should seek instruction from his mouth, for he is the messenger of the Lord of Hosts.” Moses ordered the priest to be judge and teacher of the Law. (Deut. 17:8–11, 33:10). Later it was a king who got the Levites to do this work. The best example is Jehoshaphat sending out priests and Levites on teaching missions throughout Judah (II Chron. 17:7–9) and establishing them as judges. II Chron. 19:8
The track record of the priests was not good. Aaron was weak. Eli allowed the sacrifices to become corrupted by his sons (I Sam. 2:27–36) and his lineage was lost. Jehoiada was one example of the priest acting as a responsible public leader and teacher of his king, Joash. II Chron. 23, 24:14
Comments On the doctrine of election:
God chooses those who will be saved. That does not seem fair.
Why does God not choose everyone? Why doesn’t God save everyone?
Why does God save anyone? He is not obliged to save anyone.
Paul has the perfect opportunity to rationalize election for us in Rom. 9. He does not. He says God has a right to do what He wants. However, Paul follows up his discussion of God’s sovereignty in salvation with a discussion of Israel’s errors which led to their downfall. (Rom. 9–11). And the word in Romans 11 is that ultimately Israel will come back to God.
Hates? Like love, hate is on a continuum. We who are married must acknowledge that love and hate are on sides of a line, and we may oscillate on either side of the line in a matter of minutes. We only have one word for hate in Greek (and also only one for fear), and it lacks the subtlety that we have in the three or four Greek words for love. But we can see the subtlety in its use.
Some Biblical examples: Leah saw that she was “hated” by Jacob (Gen. 29:31), but shortly thereafter she had two children by him.
“If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother…he cannot be My disciple.” Lk. 14:26
"He who loves father and more more than Me is not worthy of Me." Matt.10:37
“He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep if for eternal life.” John 12:25
“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” Matt. 6:24
The word preference or hate covers differences in degree of approval as well as outright antagonism. However we put it, God preferred Jacob over Esau. We observe, however, that hate follows Esau’s bad actions rather than preceding them. Preference was declared before their birth; rejection was down the road. Ezek.35:1–15
Scripture is heavy with appeals to human beings to turn from sin and seek God. This is the burden of all the prophets, as we are reading in Malachi. It is Jesus’ appeal in the Gospels, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.” Paul beseeches us to be reconciled to God.
So the conundrum is that God is sovereign and we are responsible. If we are saved, we praise God. If we are lost, we condemn ourselves. Both are true although they seem mutually exclusive. It is the problem of of His part and Ours. The site where the two parts intersect is a mystery. But we are sure that His Part is much more important than Our Part.
Another way to deal with paradox is to make a list of all the wrong solutions and propose that the answer lies somewhere else, perhaps in the middle. A similar method can be applied to the analysis of the heresies on the Incarnation. The Incarnation can be understood best by looking at various vain attempts to rationalize it, to make it philosophically appealing. It is the “none of the above” in the multiple choice question. We can tackle the question of God’s sovereignty in a similar way, by looking at wrong answers.
*Blind chance governs everything in the universe. Everything is predetermined based on nature and biology. God does not exist in any personal way.
*Our salvation is totally in God's hands. We do not know who will be saved. God is arbitrary and unpredictable. It is luck, kismet. We hope for the best.
* Election is based on God foreknowing what will happen in the future and making His selections.
*God is limited and does not know the future. He does not know what we will do, so election does not make sense.
*God is the author of evil as well as good. God is in eternal struggle with evil. Election is impossible.
*We save ourselves by strong moral effort and with God's cooperation.
*As long as our good deeds outweigh our bad deeds, we will be OK.
*Hell / purgatory is remedial. Eventually all will be saved.
*Sin is an illusion of minds in need of enlightenment. Enlightenment is salvation.
*All the Hell you get is right on this earth.
*Sin is not very bad and Hell will not be very bad either.
*None of the above.
God is good.
God is love.
God chose you and gave His Son to die for you.
Praise Him for salvation full and free.
“To a troubled woman, Martin Luther said: ‘Hear the Incarnate Son. He offers thee Himself as predestination.’”
“Your own eyes shall see this and you shall say, “Great is the Lord, beyond the border of Israel.” Mal.1:5