Chapter 3: 1,16
3:1 "Behold I will send my messenger
and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall
suddenly come to this temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom
ye delight in: behold, he shall come, said the Lord of hosts.
Our text finds Israel at a point in its history that was unfamiliar. It
was at the close of a chapter in its development and now pondered which
way to turn.
When in slavery in Egypt the goal was clear...to become free of bondage.
Freedom was the object of prayer. It was the object of conversation and
the foremost ideal in every heart.
When in exile in Babylon the goal was equally clear...to get back home,
to restore the temple, to rebuild the walls and to resume its place of
national prominence. The return from Exile was the object of their prayers,
conversation and thought.
When Israel was in a crises, what it wanted was easy to visualize, but
outside of a crises circumstance, it was hard see.
Israel had reached a point where they enjoyed an abundance of comforts.
What they had achieved came as the result of hard time. A remnant had returned
from captivity in B.C. 536. Under the leadership of Haggai and Zechariah
they had rebuilt the Temple. 60 years later Ezra came and helped re-establish
the nation. 13 years after Ezra, Nehemiah came and rebuilt the wall.
This text finds Malachi coming at the close of the Old testament. The
people had a new Tabernacle paid for with the sweat of their labor, they
were comfortable with the present order and were satisfied and desirous
of maintaining the status quo. They gave, but they would not give a tithe.
They worshiped out of tradition rather than the heart.
Onto this panorama came Malachi saying "We've come this far by
faith" but we have a long way to go. We have carried our burdens in
the heat of the day, had many risings and fallings, but we have a long
way to go.
3:16; "Then they that feared the Lord
spake one often to another: and the Lord hearkened, and heard it, and a
book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared and that
thought upon his name."
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This ttext considers the prophet Malachi as he speaks to the nation of
Israel after the exile.
Written between 557-525 B.C. this book is a written account of God's accusations
of wrong doing on the people of Israel and their rebuttal of his claims.
In 14 separate instances God accuses Israel of sin and Israel returns with
a "smart mouth" reply to the creator? For example, in 1:2 God
says "I have loved you" and the people ask "wherein have
you loved us?"
At 1:12 God charges that the people have polluted his table but the people
fired back that the things of God are contemptible and in verse 13 added
that they were "weary" or tired of the whole situation.
At 2:17 Malachi says "ye have wearied the Lord" and the people
answered "Wherein have we wearied him?" The most famous of Malachi's
charges and the people's reply comes at chapter 3:8 "Will a man rob
God?" and the people deny they have robbed God and ask how? In all
Malachi spoke against many of the sins of the people, 32 of which he listed
in his short book of prophecy. Their sins included: dishonoring God, irreverence,
despising his name, showing contempt for his table, insincerity, deception,
adultery, refusing to tithe, and tempting God.
Making Malachi's job even harder was the fact that the people he spoke
to looked very religious. They had worked hard to rebuild the temple. They
were closer to the ideal than other nations and they believed themselves
to be doing the right thing. They took offense to the prophet of God suggesting
that what they were doing was not acceptable to God. They spoke quietly
among themselves asking: "When have we robbed God?" "When
has God shown us love?" God overheard their conversations and revealed
it to the prophet who publicly answered their questions.