Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Dec 28 2019 - Malachi 1:1-2:9 – Insincere devotion

We have come to the last book in our journey through the Old Testament. Malachi is usually the last book to be found in our English Old Testaments (though not in the Hebrew Bible, which is structured differently). It was probably the last book of the Bible to be written in the Old Testament era. After this there is a 400 year period of God's silence; 400 years of waiting for the Messiah to appear.

Malachi was written some time after the Israelites had returned from captivity in Babylon, shortly after the time of Ezra and probably during the period when Nehemiah had been called back to Persia. The temple had been rebuilt and temple worship had resumed. But the worship seems to have been largely ceremonial and insincere. The evils that provoked the Lord to reject their worship a century or so earlier and prompted him to send his people into captivity seem to have returned (compare Malachi 1:10 with Isaiah 1:10-15). The Exile appears to have taught his people nothing.

The name Malachi means 'My messenger' and could be a pen-name used by the prophet. As the name suggests, it consists mainly of messages directly from the Lord to his people.

The Lord's complaint is a familiar one. His purpose is to bring blessing to all nations so that all the ends of the earth will worship him:

"My name will be great among the nations, from where the sun rises to where it sets. In every place incense and pure offerings will be brought to me, because my name will be great among the nations," says the LORD Almighty (Malachi 1:11).

The Temple in Jerusalem should have been the centre from which knowledge of God and worship of him spread into all the world. But instead, the inhabitants of Jerusalem are offering maimed animals in sacrifice, animals which they would not have dared to present to their governor (1:8). Their worship is half-hearted at best and is evidence they have forgotten all that the Lord has done for them:

"I have loved you," says the LORD. "But you ask, 'How have you loved us?'" (1:2a).

The people have forgotten the promises God made to their ancestors, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. They have forgotten how the Lord rescued them from Egypt, cared for them in the wilderness and brought them into the Promised Land, a land flowing with milk and honey. They have forgotten God's faithfulness to his covenant in bringing them back to the Promised Land after their time in captivity in Babylon. They have forgotten God's purpose for them – that they were to be his special possession, a priestly people through whom all nations were to be blessed. Because they have forgotten God's blessings and his calling, worship has become a burden; something they did resentfully and in a manner that cost them as little as possible. Like the servant of Jesus' parable in Matthew 25:24, they had come to view God as an unreasonably demanding master.

The people and their priests are in danger of again facing the judgment of God they experienced in the time of their captivity. Indeed, one might well argue that the 400 years of silence following the words of this prophet amounted to a continuing captivity for Israel from which God could only rescue them by coming himself to save and to heal.

Are there times when our worship and service of God becomes grudging and resentful? If so, it is surely because we also have forgotten what he has done for us and lost sight of his great love for us and the wonderful purpose of his calling.

Father, forgive me when I sometimes lose sight of your great love in the Lord Jesus and become resentful of your call upon my life. Open my eyes to the wonder of your salvation, my heart to love you and my lips to praise you. May others be drawn to know and worship you through the testimony of your thankful people.

Peter Misselbrook