1 Peter 2:9-10, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”
God speaks through Malachi for the last time before engaging in over 400 years of silence, broken by the announcement of the angel to Zacharias of the impending birth of John the Baptist, the messenger spoken of through Malachi. Malachi’s message is largely directed at the priesthood’s miserable personal walk with the Lord and their public teaching of the people at large to change and facilitate the right relationship with God, followed by the promise of a messenger whose personal example and teachings would properly prepare the hearts of the people for a relationship with God through the Messiah. It’s a lesson to us – the new priesthood – of our personal accountability in our relationship with God, our example to others, and our role in preparing others to accept Christ as their personal Savior.
Through Malachi, God identifies the issues through the posing of several questions in the people’s own words followed by the contradiction of their life’s actions with the Word of God and the message it sends to the people around them.
Q: What is the answer to the question in v.2, “How have You loved us”?
A: God has chosen them; not just over all the other nations of the earth but even within the same family (Jacob & Esau were brothers).
Ephesians 1:4, “just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him…”
This verse plainly states that our calling is to be “holy and blameless before Him” – that is, separated and devoted to God’s kingdom, not the kingdom of this world.
Q: What might we surmise from v.4 is the current situation with Esau or those that were NOT chosen?
A: They’re currently “building” or “on the rise”. At the time of this writing Esau is not subdued and, historically, Edom (the descendants of Esau) will have a prominent role in the intervening centuries between Malachi and John the Baptist.
Q: Are non-believers sometimes “doing better” in life than believers? Why is that and what point of view should we take?
A: They’re only temporarily better off from an earthly point of view. We are chosen from God’s much greater, eternal point of view. Our service extends beyond the limitations of this present life.
Point: We must not lose sight of the fact that we are God’s chosen regardless of the current situation, knowing that in the end we will prevail through Him.
Q: What is the answer to the questions in v.6 & 7, “How have we despised Your name?” and “How have we defiled You?”
A: They are allowing blemished – in other words, unclean – sacrifices.
Q: What’s the big deal about “blemished” sacrifices? What do clean vs. unclean sacrifices represent?
A: It’s the allowance of sin to be a normal part of what we give to God. It’s a spirit of compromise which allows unholiness to co-exist with holiness, a situation God cannot tolerate.
Q: Why, according to v.10, does God desire his gates to be shut?
A: Sacrifices are supposed to be the END of the process, a celebration of repentance before God. First the heart is supposed to change and then the sacrifices are to be given to celebrate the change of heart. The sacrifices are not a “safety net” or ritual to simply cover sin. Compare this with Jesus’ example in Matthew 5:23-24:
“Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.
Point: We are not to mix unholiness with holiness, to serve God with unconfessed sin in our life. Preparation for our personal service before Him involves taking the necessary steps that prepare a devoted, uncompromised heart.
Q: According to v.16, what are the things they’re doing that have “wearied Him”? What does it mean to cover ones “garment with wrong”?
A: They are tolerating sin, wearing it openly alongside the few things in which they’re obedient to God. This compliments the previous condition as another example of allowing sin to coexist with what is claimed to be holy – ourselves.
Q: What was the Old Testament standard for divorce? How did it work on the technical, legal level?
A: Deuteronomy 24:1, “When a man takes a wife and marries her, and it happens that she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out from his house,” The husband writes the wife a certificate of divorce and sends her back to her family.
Q: How do you interpret the statement in v.14, “….she is your companion and your wife by covenant” in contrast to the law of divorce?
A: Relationships have a higher calling and accountability than just a legal status. What is implied is the application of love to the law and the deeper commitments that it brings out rather than doing just enough to “legally” comply. Obedience from the heart is required, not merely a disciplined life.
Point: We cannot, in the name of pursuing God’s service, neglect the application of love to the law and our relationships. Devotion to God is revealed in our devotion to others.
Q: What is the answer to the question, “How shall we return?”
A: Obedience. Becoming a “doer” of the Law, not just a “hearer”.
Point: A key characteristic of a priest is obedience to the Word.
Q: The example of robbery is not giving God their whole tithe and offering. Is God really concerned with money?
A: Tithes and offerings are not a system of taxation but is taught in the OT as being “worship.” Imagine coming into God’s presence to only worship Him with 75% of your being.
Point: We never come to withhold even 1% of our worship from Him. When we bring 100% we receive many more times that in return. Note that 100% of $1 is the same as 100% of a $1,000.
Q: What is the real feeling behind the assertion that there is “no profit” serving God?
A: They are looking at their immediate condition. The wicked “appear” to prosper in this life and the people have lost sight that God’s rewards are promised for the coming life, not necessarily for this one.
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
— Matthew 6:19-21
Point: The true priest understands true rewards and the difference between temporary earthly things which will fade and eternal heavenly things which will remain forever. He’s committed to the long-term vision of God, not the short-term vision of Satan.
Q: What are the key characteristics of the righteous priest?
A: They both “talk the talk” AND “walk the walk”. They are an example in both the integrity of their personal life and in their instruction of others.
Q: Obviously the priesthood at the time of Malachi was not living up to the standards of 2:6-7. According to this passage, how would that be rectified?
A: v.3 indicates that there will be a purification process to ensure that those that serve God do so in righteousness.
Q: What is Elijah’s primary purpose?
A: To restore the hearts. (Think about this in relationship to all the characteristics discussed to this point.)
Q: How does this relate to the questions asked in Malachi and the example of 2:6-7 of the righteous priesthood?
A: Through a refining process their hearts will be restored to the right condition of obedience in both their personal lives and in their example to, and teaching of, others.
Read Luke 1:5-17
Q: What are the key accomplishments prophesied in v.16-17 for John the Baptist?
Turn many back to God
Go as a forerunner before Christ
Make ready a people prepared for Christ.
Q: Obviously a pattern for our own lives, what are the 2 key prerequisites according to v.15?
A: Separation to the Lord (not just minimal obedience to the law) and filled with the Spirit.
Q: How did John fulfill God’s word in Malachi of a refining process of the people?
“as it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness,
‘Make ready the way of the Lord,
Make His paths straight.
Every ravine will be filled,
And every mountain and hill will be brought low;
The crooked will become straight,
And the rough roads smooth;
And all flesh will see the salvation of God.’”
— Luke 3:4-6
Showing the people how to remove, fill in or overcome any spiritual obstacle in their life preventing them from coming before God 100%, without the compromise of sin. John’s message and baptism was the beginning of the process allowing them to come to Christ divested of the sinful practices they allowed to live side-by-side with their adherence to the law. It began the fulfillment of the law through Christ’s love.