BACKGROUND: The Jews as a nation were back in the land of Canaan for approximately 100 years since the Babylonian captivity. This had been a period of disappointment, disillusionment, and discouragement for the people as nothing seemed to be going right for them. They were still very prone to sinning and going their own way which was contrary to the way of Jehovah. It is the belief that Malachi wrote this book around the time of Nehemiah’s visit to Babylon in 433 B.C. The Temple had been rebuilt, Mosaic sacrifices were being offered, and a Persian governor was ruling the Jews at the time. The main subjects of Malachi’s message are: the love of God: the sins of the priests and people: judgement for sin: blessing for righteousness. The prominent feature is the pattern of discourse between God and His people, which appears in the text in the form of: the charge or accusation; the charge questioned; the charge verified.
CHARGE #1: God’s love doubted. “I have loved you, says the LORD. But you ask, `How have you loved us?’ . In what way has your love been displayed to us?. Why do you love us?. What is your reason?. Such are the questions of mankind today, we doubt God and feel that He expresses His love to us with some hidden agenda. Let us look at His answer to these questions. “Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?” the LORD says. “Yet I have loved Jacob, but Esau I have hated” . My love to you is not what you deserved, God says, it is not demonstrated because of who or what you are; I do not love you because you are better than anyone else! We are the recipients of God’s love as a result of His sovereign will and action. It was God’s sovereign choosing (election) that Jacob was chosen over Esau: not because of anything that either of the two boys had done or were about to do; considering the fact that God’s choice was made before they were born. We should also be aware of the fact that God’s choosing of Jacob over Esau had to do with service, not eternal salvation. Both boys were given the same opportunity for eternal salvation, but Esau chose to go his own way in disobedience to God and his parents. That choice has been given to each and every one of us, and our perception of God’s love is dependent upon the choice we make. The main reason behind all of God’s dealings with mankind is that: “The LORD will be magnified [exalted]..(KJV); Great is the Lord” (NIV) . There are many recorded incidents where God is exalted: <see Psa. 21:13; Psa. 47; Psa. 57:11; 99:5; 108:5; 118:28; Isa. 12:4; Isa. 25:1; Isa. 33:5>God will be exalted in us because of His great love and salvation promised to us in the person of His Son, and this promise will never fail . And in spite of all that we are His love will endure to the end, and one day He will gather us and present us as His jewels to His praise and glory. He will be exalted!
CHARGE #2: Unworthy sacrifices dishonour God. In the light of the previous charge God now issues the second challenge: “A son honours his father, and a servant his master….. where is the honour due me?…….where is the respect due me?” says the LORD Almighty” . The honour and respect of a son for his father was not evident especially among the priests. The nation was always rebellious and Isaiah describes this in ch.1:2‑3as “Israel does not know, my people do not understand” ‑ “a sinful nation” – “a people loaded with guilt” ‑ “a brood of evildoers” ‑ “given to corruption”. Leviticus 20:9 declares that a son that dishonours his father is to be put to death: and Luke 6:46 states that a servant should be obedient to his master in doing as his master commands: but the priests were showing contempt for God’s name; there was no honour or respect.“But you ask, `How have we shown contempt for your name?” . Here God is charging the priests for the condition of the nation. They had shown contempt for His great name as a result of their actions, which had caused the people not to revere God’s name.“You place defiled food on my altar”. . One of the thoughts related to the ancient sacrifices was that it was “food for the deity”. Israel was reminded, in relation to Jehovah, that this was not the case . But with this thought in mind, God challenges the priests: ” When you bring blind animals for sacrifice, is that not wrong? When you sacrifice crippled or diseased animals, is that not wrong? Try offering them to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you?” says the LORD Almighty”. . How do I rate in my honour and respect to God. In consideration of the percentage of my: time – abilities (talents, profession) – service (commitment) – possessions; how much do I give to God? How much do I give to this world’s system? Do I offer the best to God, or do I give to Him what is left over?. We come into God’s presence through the Lord Jesus Christ only. “Oh, that one of you would shut the temple doors, so that you would not light useless fires on my altar! I am not pleased with you,” says the LORD Almighty, “and I will accept no offering from your hands.” . The actions of God’s priests were so abominable, God says it would be better to close the doors to the Temple and extinguish the fire on the altar, rather than continue with such great sin. Our unworthy sacrifices only show contempt for God, they neither honour or respect Him. “For I am a great king,” says the LORD Almighty, “and my name is to be feared among the nations.” ; 12 “But ye have profaned it…” (KJV). By their actions and their speech they profaned and despised God’s name. How am I in this regard, how do I measure up?. Do others see the goodness of God through my actions and glorify His name, or do I bring reproach to His Holy Name?.What kind of sacrificial offering do I bring to God? Am I striving to please Him on my own: i.e. am I serving Him in my own way or do I wait before Him for His guidance and seek His will? Am I consecrated (committed) to His service? Do I recognize His sovereignty in every area of my life? Am I for ever conscious of the covenant between God and myself?.
CHARGE #3: God’s fellowship scorned. “But you ask, `How have we defiled you?’ “By saying that the LORD’s table is contemptible.” . The Lord’s Table speaks of fellowship. It was at such a table that the priests shared in the fellowship offering. Do I appreciate and look forward to fellowship with the Lord around His table, remembering that my fellowship is with God first and then with my fellow believers? How do I prepare myself for that time of fellowship? Do I come before Him in thankfulness and praise for what He has done and for His invitation to His table? In v8 God asks whether the governor would accept such an offering or conduct. How would I conduct myself if I were to sit at the Prime Minister’s or some other notable person’s dinner table? Would I show little or no interest or have little or nothing to say? That kind of behaviour would definitely not be accepted. Surely God deserves the best! He deserves my undivided attention!
CHARGE #4: Because the Priests failed to honour God; the people, having a no standard to follow, are unfaithful. ” Another thing you do: You flood the LORD’s altar with tears. You weep and wail because he no longer pays attention to your offerings or accepts them with pleasure from your hands. You ask, “Why?” It is because the LORD is acting as the witness between you and the wife of your youth, because you have broken faith with her” . There is no doubt that God has withheld His blessings from our nation; and one of the reasons is that family values are no longer important in our society. As believers, do we constantly stress upon our children the seriousness of marriage and the consequences of believers marrying unbelievers? Believers as well as unbelievers should recognize the sanctity of the marriage vows especially as today’s society is rapidly moving away from these values. The admonition to the priests in Ch.2:1-9 should remind us of our responsibilities as “priests” to present a “godly standard” in the community of believers and unbelievers in which we live and function.