7.70 Malachi -- Seven Oracles
His book is a collection of seven short prophecies on different topics:
1. Jacob and Esau. The Lord was responding to a complaint by the Jews that God doesn't live them. He told them to compare themselves to Edom, the descendants of Esau:
"They may build, but I will demolish. They will be called the Wicked Land, a people always under the wrath of the Lord" (Mal 1:4).
It may be hard for Israel, but by comparison with Edom, they are blessed. This is a reminder that God does discriminate among nations. The Bible is no stranger to the idea of individual blessing, "every man under his own vine and fig tree" (Mic. 4:4, Zech. 3:10), but Malachi stands squarely within Biblical tradition in viewing this as part and parcel of a larger, corporate blessing. Entire nations and peoples are loved or hated, blessed or cursed, by the Lord. And chief among those He declares blessed is Israel -- no matter how often the Jews complain.
Yet in this same passage is the following verse:
"You will see it with your own eyes and say, 'Great is the Lord—even beyond the borders of Israel!'" (Mal 1:5)
God's plan and rule are not restricted to Israel.
2. Contempt for the Lord (Mal 1:6-14). Malachi scolds the priests for offering to God blemished animals as sacrifices. Would they dare give sick and diseased animals as tribute to the governor? Instead of such contempt, it would be better to douse the sacrificial fires and close the Temple (Mal 1:10). Again, this passage strikes a universal note, reaching beyond the borders of Israel and into the end-times:
"My name will be great among the nations, from the rising to the setting of the sun. In every place incense and pure offerings will be brought to my name, because my name will be great among the nations" (Mal 1:11).
3. Righteous and unrighteous priests (Mal 2:1-9). In Malachi, God has great concern about the conduct of the priests. He accuses them of not listening to Him and not honoring His name -- unlike their forefather Levi. Therefore, they have come under a curse and have become despised.
4. The Marriage Covenant (Mal 2:10-16). Malachi turns next to divorce. In many cases, this is happening in Judah as men take foreign wives, "the daughter of a foreign god."
"I hate divorce," says the Lord God of Israel...."So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith" (Mal 2:16).
5. The Coming Judgment (Mal 2:17, Mal 3:1-5). This is an end-time message of a coming "Messenger of the Covenant" who will purify the Levites, so they will offer right offerings. It is not merely those whose sins are "religious" who will be judged. He also lists "social" sins as well: sorcery, adultery, dishonest employers, those who oppress widows, orphans and aliens. This passage is quoted by several people in the New Testament, including Jesus, who identifies the messenger as John the Baptist:
"This is the one about whom it is written:
'I will send my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way before you'" (Mat 11:10).
6. Return to the Lord (Mal 3:6-18). There is yet time for the Jews to return to the Lord (Mal 3:7) before this judgment comes. Malachi spells out two aspects of such a return. First, there is the matter of worship, of the offerings. The Jews were skimping on the required tithe:
"Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me.
"But you ask, 'How do we rob you?'
"In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse -- the whole nation of you -- because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house" (Mal 3:8-10).
Secondly, the Jews must turn from their unbelief and cynicism:
"You have said, 'It is futile to serve God. What did we gain by carrying out his requirements and going about like mourners before the Lord Almighty? But now we call the arrogant blessed. Certainly the evildoers prosper, and even those who challenge God escape'" (Mal 3:14-15).
In response to this word, many people changed their attitude and signed their name to a pledge to honor the Lord.
7. The Day of the Lord (Mal 4). The book, and the Old Testament, end on a promise (or threat) of ultimate judgment. For the wicked, the Lord's coming will be a consuming fire. But for those who fear the Lord and revere His name, it will be a sunrise of vindication and release. The closing words seem to be addressed to Israel alone. They are admonished to remember Moses and to wait for Elijah (Mal 4:4-6) -- the two Old Testament figures present at Jesus' Transfiguration (Mat 17:3). Elijah will come with a ministry of reconciliation, turning "the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers." This is not unlike the ministry of Malachi himself.