Reading: Malachi 3:1-4, 10-12, 4:1-3
Preacher: Rev Kevin Kim
The final book of the Old Testament, Malachi received its name from its author (Malachi 1:1). In Hebrew, the name comes from a word meaning “messenger,” which points to Malachi’s role as a prophet of the Lord, delivering God’s message to God’s people. Malachi came along at a time when the people were struggling to believe that God loved them (Malachi 1:2). The people focused on their unfortunate circumstances and refused to account for their own sinful deeds. So God pointed the finger back at them, and through Malachi, God told the people where they had fallen short of their covenant with Him. If they hoped to see changes, they needed to take responsibility for their own actions and serve God faithfully according to the promise their fathers had made to God on Mount Sinai all those years before. Malachi exposes Israel’s corruption, but it also offers hope.
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The last book for ‘Small Things Matter’ series is the book of Malachi. We have different pronunciation for Philemon and Habakkuk. I think we have a consensus to pronounce this book ‘Malachi’. I know that some home group and Bible study group is studying this book at the moment. Please correct me if I am not right.
The final book of the Old Testament, Malachi received its name from its author (Malachi 1:1). In Hebrew, the name comes from a word meaning “messenger”. The master theme of this book can be stated as the unfailing love of Yahweh for the His chosen people, Israel. Throughout the book we see this theme vividly portrayed. It is first introduced to us in the beginning of the book (1:2a). This love was constant and continual, denoting that Yahweh had the same love for His people in the past, the present, and the future that was to come.
In this book, God’s people were at a decisive turning point in their history. Babylon had fallen to Persia. The exile was over. Now they could return home. S Surprisingly all thanks to Cyrus, the emperor and founder of the great Persian Empire, the captive Jews were allowed to return Jerusalem and rebuild their temple. Some 42,360 Jews made the long trek home. Amazingly, Persian king, Cyrus, restored to the Jews the temple vessels stolen by the Babylonians and even contributed financially to the Jewish cause. Cyrus also handed back to them many of the treasures that had been taken and he encouraged them to worship their own God.
His successor Darius went even further, providing support for the rebuilding of the temple in 515 BC.
So what was the problem? With this surprising support from foreign power, why were they on the turning point? It was not just about post-liberation let-down. It was more about their determination about change.
The experience of exile had changed God’s people. Some had learned how to prosper under foreign rule. Even under the rule of Babylon, many Jewish captives adapted their life style, and some of them became quite wealthy. Now with the rule of another foreign rule, Persia, they were willing to continue prospering in the new Empire. Meanwhile those who had not been taken into exile, had lived for two generations without national leadership and in many cases they had fallen back on pagan practices and worship.
Now the temple was being restored. But it could hardly match the grandeur of the temple of old. The people of Israel simply lost the national identity as the chosen nation from Yahweh, the almighty God. They were not able to even imagine the grand Temple vision of prophet, Ezekiel.
So you may ask that why not adapt the new situation? You are in a new world and new time. Why not adapt and prosper by whatever means possible? You can get married foreign woman and man. You can bring injured or sick animals to God for offering – What is wrong with that?
The prophet Malachi was speaking out right at that moment of demoralization of Israel.
He would be the last prophetic voice that the Jews would hear, considering that 400 years of silence from heaven was on the brink of the horizon. In spite of Israel’s many sins, God still loved them unconditionally. We see the constancy of God’s love being revealed throughout the book, but we should keep in mind that this constancy of love for His people is revealed even in the midst of their many sins. God was keenly aware of their rebellious acts, but He loved them anyway.
Malachi knew that it was time to get back to basics and remember the more fundamental covenant that had been made with Moses. That was what made them a people of God, and faithfulness to that covenant is what would bring true prosperity.
Without this covenant, people of Israel did not have their national identity. They did not have religious identity. They did not have the ultimate reason of their everyday living.
The covenant between God and people of Israel is a particular kind of covenant, a living reality, understood and applied in ever new ways, but faithful to that which developed from Moses and the Exodus, through David and the Kingdom to the crucified and risen Jesus who will come again.
Malachi’s writing style is distinguished from any other prophet, writing in a form of disputation; he particularly used the question and answer method. It almost places the reader’s mind in that of a courtroom, where the Israelites are being charged, followed by evidence to support the charges. This is a confrontational address employed by Malachi.
In the book there are seven questions the Israelites asked of God. The first question is found in the second verse. Each question was in response to a clear statement from God. S The questions are as followed:
“How have you loved us?” (Mal. 1:2)
“How have we despised your name?” (Mal. 1:6)
“How have we polluted you?” (Mal. 1:7)
“How have we wearied him?” (Mal. 2:17)
“How shall we return?” (Mal. 3:7)
“How have we robbed you?” (Mal. 3:8)
“How have we spoken against you?” (Mal. 3: 13)
Although there are different interpretation of identity of my messenger in verse one, most of early Christian interpretations agree S that He is, John the Baptist, t S he one who will “go before the Lord to prepare his ways” (Luke 1:76). He is Elijah, the one Malachi foretells later in his book: it says, “I will send the prophet Elijah before the great and terrible day of the LORD comes”
If “my messenger” in Malachi 3:1 is John the Baptist, “the Lord whom you seek” and “the messenger of the covenant” in verse 1 are most often identified with Jesus himself.
Malachi will serve as a prologue to 400 years of prophetic silence, which will eventually be broken by the next prophet, John the Baptist. Malachi predicts the coming of John the Baptist, who will make straight the way before the Lord (3:1; Is. 40:3). The following verses moved ahead to the Lord Jesus Christ in His second advent (3:2-5), which is also true of the prophet Elijah (4:5). Though John the Baptist was this Elijah in the Gospels, the OT prophet Elijah will also appear prior to the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Hebrew Word, ‘Mishpat” plays a important role in this book, Malachi. You can find this word, mishpat three times in Malachi (Mal. 2:17; 3:5; 4:4). The word occurs two times as the meanings of a justice and a judgment in the fourth disputation and once as the meaning of laws in the conclusion of the book. Therefore, the mishpat is useds in the order such as justice-judgement-law. This word as the order of ‘justice-judgement-law’ plays a key role . When the people notice the religious and social corruptions, they raise the concern about God’s mishpat (justice). In order to respond to their concern, God declares a mishpat (judgment) to the people. After that, God commands the people of Israel to remember the mishpat (law). That pattern of ‘justice-judgement-law’ is found two times in the book and the word, mishpat serves as a significant word that describes the difficult experience of the period of Malachi.
Malachi 4:2 describes a hopeful picture of calf jumping from the stall. There is an interesting concept, ‘Anti-fragile’ by Nassim Taleb about creating systems that benefit from disorder.
He says, “Some things benefit from shocks; they thrive and grow when exposed to volatility, randomness, disorder, and stressors and … risk, and uncertainty. Yet, in spite of the ubiquity of the phenomenon, there is no word for the exact opposite of fragile. Let us call it antifragile. Antifragility is beyond resilience or robustness. The resilient resists shocks and stays the same; the antifragile gets better.”
Taleb has three categories of systems:
- Fragile systems cannot cope with disorder and often collapse
- Robust systems can withstand change
- Anti-fragile systems benefit from disorder.
Why does a church need to be anti-fragile?
Because it’s exposed to all sorts of volatility, randomness and disorder.
Transitions in leadership
Changes in the environment and culture
Unexpected death or departure of key members
- The picture of well-fed calf jumping and leaping is how you remain anti-fragile. Being resilient and you remain stress less and high energy.
As we move into a new series of ‘Gifts of God’, the book of Malachi gives us a timely reminder of offering and tithe.
Study of Habakkuk is available at our website. I will add my sermon and Phil’s Malachi Bible study on the website this week. May we continue to read the Bible and learn from it and grow to deeply experience God’s love. Amen.