Malachi 4:4-6

Key Verse(s):

Malachi 4:4 (HCSB)

4 “Remember the instruction of Moses My servant, the statutes and ordinances I commanded him at Horeb for all Israel.

Reflection/Application:

The closing verses of Malachi offer a final command, guidance, and warning to Israel, and to us.

First is a reference back to Moses and God’s “instruction” given to him. Seems this would primarily be the Ten Commandments, which encompasses our relationship with God and with man. And considering the mention of “ordinances” it seems reasonable to assume that the whole of the OT law is referenced as well. Even though the writing of Malachi was pre-Christ, the premise that God’s law is permanent carries through here, and should be recognized.

Second is the promise of a return of Elijah prior to the Day of the Lord, that day of judgement. I don’t know if this is symbolic or literal, and I’m not sure it’s that important. Perhaps Elijah here is a reference to John the Baptist, as suggested in Matthew 11:13-14. I think the main idea is that there will be a sort of awakening, a response to God, and turning back. And we saw, and continue to see, that in the work of Christ.

Finally there is the warning in Malachi 4:6. This final warning is double-edged in a way. The obvious takeaway is that if we do not turn to God we face the land being “struck” and being “cursed”. And look closer, God says “I will come.” When the Creator shows up to strike the land it’s not a good thing. The second way to take this is that there is still a chance! God did not say, “I am coming to strike the land,” He said “otherwise.” And that remaining chance to be made right with God was Christ! Somehow in the midst of a warning God still can convey His message of hope.

Prayer:

Lord, thank You for Your message of hope for us! I pray that we would turn back to You, now and forever. I pray that we would place our hope and faith solely in Christ. Help us to repent, turn from our sin, and seek to honor and obey Your perfect law. Amen.

Malachi 4:1-3

Key Verse(s):

Malachi 4:1–2 (HCSB)

1 “For indeed, the day is coming, burning like a furnace, when all the arrogant and everyone who commits wickedness will become stubble. The coming day will consume them,” says the Lord of Hosts, “not leaving them root or branches. 2 But for you who fear My name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings, and you will go out and playfully jump like calves from the stall.

Reflection/Application:

This pericope is short, only three verse, and I’ve selected two of them as the “Key Verses”! There is much here, and much that is related and can be lost in by diving into the study of it, but I will be brief here.

After all the descriptions of how Israel has been revolting against God, the distinguishing between what is righteous, and of God, versus what is unholy and sinful, which happens to be what Israel has been doing, we get this vivid promise from God. The promise is that there will be a day that is coming when the righteous and unrighteous will face very different judgements. But let’s pause and focus on that word “is”. Do not mistake that this is a done deal, it is happening, write it in pen on the calendar. There is no “possibly”, “might” or “maybe”, it is coming, it will happen, and God already has it scheduled. People can be uncomfortable with the thought of this, that time is limited, that there is a point when the way things are now will end.

And what people can be even more uncomfortable with is what takes place at that time. This is when our picture of this timid, permissive, weak Jesus is shattered. God will judge. And God will punish. The “arrogant” and the “wicked” will face some nasty stuff. People don’t like that, it doesn’t fit their picture of God, all lovey-dovey and accepting of everything they could possibly think to do, no matter how offensive, arrogant, prideful, sinful, and evil it is. They will be “consumed”.

But the righteous, they have a different hope, and praise God for it! But look, it’s not because they are better than the rest. Look at Malachi 4:2… “you who fear My name.” That’s the difference! Placing our faith in Christ is what separates the lost from the saved, the unrighteous from the righteous, the consumed from the healed. And check that out, you know the saved are not perfect, that they are messed up just like the lost, because the “sun of righteousness” has “healing” in it… those that aren’t sick and wounded do not need healing!

This is a short but powerful passage, culminating all the previous distinctions God has made. We cannot, and will not be able to, say that we had no clue about what was to come. We have a choice: our pride and self, or God. He will judge accordingly.

Prayer:

Lord, thank You for saving us! Thank You for the promise of healing, of restoration. Thank You for standing against sin and evil, it should be a comfort to know that their time is limited, but You are forever. I pray that each of us would make our choice today, and that it would be You. It won’t mean that we are perfect, or righteous on our own, but it will mean that You have stood in our stead and covered our debt. Thank You! Amen.

Malachi 3:13-18

Key Verse(s):

Malachi 3:14–15 (HCSB)

14 You have said: “It is useless to serve God. What have we gained by keeping His requirements and walking mournfully before the Lord of Hosts? 15 So now we consider the arrogant to be fortunate. Not only do those who commit wickedness prosper, they even test God and escape.”

Reflection/Application:

This is an interesting pericope. It starts out just like the last couple, with God making a statement of Israel’s failure, and Israel replying by questioning the validity of God’s statement. And yet again, God provides for the example, He states what Israel has, in this case, spoken against Him.

And let’s pause and look at that. In Malachi 3:14-15 we see that man has determined that following God is useless, that the “arrogant” are doing just fine, and the “wicked prosper”. So rather than follow God’s law, rather than seek to honor and glorify Him, Israel has sought the way of fallen man, the way of sin, and all the temporary, worldly rewards that go with it. This sounds like something that could be written today! A culture that is self-absorbed, measuring fortune by worldly gain rather than right-standing with God and righteousness. A culture that places jobs, finances, the economy, above everything else in importance… and this despite being the wealthiest nation in the world. And on a day where we ushered in a new POTUS, in his speech at the inauguration, I heard a focus on money: we will bring back our money, we will bring back our jobs, we will be wealthy again. Shouldn’t our focus, at least the focus of those of us who claim to be Christians, not be wealth and prosperity, but be righteousness and right-standing with God?

What is really interesting here though, is that God does not provide an example of the opposite, or some punishment that looms ahead for those that participate in the sin. There is no threat of judgement and punishment. Instead, we read that those that are still faithful, that still seek to honor God, wrote a book to remember. That should be our attitude, a desire to not forget what is truly important. And God honors that heart, and we see the promise that there is a difference between those who are righteous and those who are wicked, and it will be seen. It may not be noticeable in how the world judges things, but in God’s economy it will be.

Prayer:

Lord, thank You for honoring righteousness, and thank You for clothing us in Your perfect righteousness, imparting it to us through faith. I am sorry for putting the things of the world before You, and for embracing wickedness at times to gain in empty riches. I pray for a renewed heart, one that seeks You and Your eternal gifts first, and operates under Your economy. Amen.

Malachi 3:7-12

Key Verse(s):

Malachi 3:10 (HCSB)

10 Bring the full tenth into the storehouse so that there may be food in My house. Test Me in this way,” says the Lord of Hosts. “See if I will not open the floodgates of heaven and pour out a blessing for you without measure.

Reflection/Application:

Robbing God. That’s what this passage says the Israelites are doing. The passage also gives insight into what it might look like when Israel does not rob God. There is obvious practical application here for us today.

Malachi 3:10 is one of those “go to” verses when there is a sermon on tithing. God lays down the challenge, and we are, or should be, motivated and inspired to boost our giving… at least for the next week or two. But let’s not get bogged down with that single verse, let’s explore the beginning of this pericope, what is said prior to God’s challenge. Prior to the big challenge, God accused Israel of robbing Him. Wait, robbing God? That was the Israelites reaction as well. And yes, robbing God. That’s a perspective of tithing, of giving, that we easily lose. When we do not give we are not just keeping for ourselves, or, at worst, slowing the renovation plans for the sanctuary or making the pastor drive his car for just one more year. No, it’s not that small, it’s not that localized, it’s not that “harmless”… we are robbing, stealing, taking what is His without permission… we are doing that to God. If we would keep that thought in our minds, that alone might change the giving behavior of many of us.

But it gets “better”. Check out what the result is of robbing God: “You are suffering under a curse.” If you rob God, you suffer a curse. It seems sort of like common sense, but again, we don’t think about withholding from giving as robbing God. And to top it all off, we are cursed, yet we continue to rob God! Maybe the curse is greed… or an increase of it, a turning over to it, a removal of God’s protection from greed. Maybe that’s why it’s so easy to stop tithing, and so hard to start, for so many of us? Whatever the curse is, it’s not good, else it would be called a “blessing”!

So when we do accept God’s challenge, when we do give according to His plan, then what happens? We get that blessing poured out all over us! Maybe that looks like a breaking free from greed. Maybe it creates new relationships, opens our eyes to needs and struggles we never saw before, frees us up to pursue God more… who knows, but it’s good! And just as God stated in Malachi 3:7, the relationship is restored between us and God when we give according to His plan. And it makes sense, because God demands to be first in our lives, as He deserves to be, so until money can take a backseat to Him there will be a rift in our relationship with God.

And of course the thing we should remember throughout this pericope is that everything is God’s to start with. When we withhold our tithes, our offerings, we are withholding God’s stuff from God… sounds like a thief.

Prayer:

Lord, thank You for the countless blessings You pour out on us daily, especially the single most important one, that being the gift of eternal life as Your child. I am sorry for, all too often, allowing money or possessions to take Your place in my life. Help me to always remember that everything is Yours, and that nothing is as valuable as the relationship You offer us. Amen.

Malachi 2:17-3:6

Key Verse(s):

Malachi 3:6 (HCSB)

6 “Because I, Yahweh, have not changed, you descendants of Jacob have not been destroyed.

Reflection/Application:

The beginning of this pericope leads with a challenge of God and His justice. While man revels in evil, they simultaneously accuse God of being absent and failing to exert justice. The whole idea is ironic and absurd. But note that things have not changed too much… anytime something tragic or evil occurs there are those who oppose God that question His motives, power, justice, and very existence. What is odd about the whole thing is that bad and evil things happen not because of God, but because of our sin, and either the consequences of that sin, or the perfect justice of God.

The passage then continues on with what appears to be a prophecy concerning John the Baptist (“My messenger”) and Jesus. And this is a prophecy telling of exactly what the Israelites are asking for: justice. His coming, seemingly Christ’s second-coming, will refine and cleanse. And the result? God’s people will present offerings to God in righteousness. Man will be made righteous, not by himself, but by Jesus. The relationship between God and man will be restored, as shown in Malachi 3:4.

And it could be easy to overlook the last verse of the pericope, but there is an amazing truth packed in there, and a great hope for us. God is unchanging, and that is the reason Israel had not been totally and completely obliterated by His justice, His judgement. Whenever we might think God is out to get us, that He is not looking out for our best interests, we can look to this verse. What a great hope we have in Him, to know He is not changing, that He loves us now, and tomorrow, and the next day, and the next, just as much as He did yesterday, the day before, and before. A perfect love that has always been, and will always be.

God’s judgement should be terrifying, but only for those who stand against God. For the believer it is a restoration of our relationship with Him, perfected and refined by God.

Prayer:

Lord, thank You for being eternally perfect and never changing! I am sorry for my sin, for questioning You at times. Help me to hold on to Malachi 3:6 and be your child. Amen.

Malachi 2:10-16

Key Verse(s):

Malachi 2:16 (HCSB)

16 “If he hates and divorces his wife, ” says the Lord God of Israel, “he covers his garment with injustice,” says the Lord of Hosts. Therefore, watch yourselves carefully, and do not act treacherously.

Reflection/Application:

This pericope has a theme concerning marriage throughout it, and the unfaithfulness of Judah. What is interesting is that there are two separate pictures used, one seemingly quite literal, and the other a sort of spiritual marriage of the nation.

Malachi 2:13-16 seem to be pretty clearly a literal picture of a husband and wife marriage, and how the men of Judah have failed to uphold and observe the holy covenant before God. And that is the key here, marriage is a covenant from God, and made before Him. It is not something that man has the power to define, or choose to apply at his own discretion, it is a permanent institution from God. Yet the men of Judah have ignored it and profaned it. Rather than observe and adhere to the covenant, they “acted treacherously against” their wives, and divorced them. And the result? The husband “covers his garment with injustice”. The husband has broken the covenant before God, and his sacrifice is no longer “respected” by God. Because remember, God is not after the sacrifice, we do not appease God through gifts, He is after hearts. The man who ignores the marriage covenant is not displaying a heart for God. And as a side note, surely this passage is not suggesting there are no grounds for justified divorce, it is addressing the divorce of convenience. There are other passages that address conditions that justify divorce, this passage is concerned with the heart of His people in the context of divorce and the marriage covenant.

The second picture we get a glimpse of is that of the nation of Judah being the husband who “has married the daughter of a foreign god.” This, although I suppose could be interpreted to be addressing the same scenario already discussed above, I think, carries a national spirituality aspect to it. As a nation, Judah has left God, its first love, to chase and marry with a false god. I find it interesting that Judah, or God’s people, is described as marrying the daughter of a foreign god. God’s church as a whole is generally referred to in the feminine, and if we look at this description as Judah could have been married to God rather than the daughter of a false god, then might we think Judah would have been the feminine partner in such a marriage? And if so, does that not feed into this “treacherous” and “detestable” thing that Judah has done? Just a thought. Anyway, the point here is that there is spiritual devastation when Judah “divorces” God and is adulteress with a false god. Judah’s descendants are then cut off as well, and their offerings are fruitless. Perhaps this is intimating that the apostasy will flow down to the descendants, or perhaps it is literal in that the punishment and its effects ripple beyond just the present generation. Either way, the result is not good.

In the end we see that the marriage covenant, which in so many ways mirrors our relationship with Christ, is holy and is a sign of the heart of His people. Apostasy against it leads to separation, while enjoying the gift of it leads to harmony and fulfillment.

Prayer:

Lord, thank You for the gift of marriage. I pray that we would enjoy the gift as You designed it to be enjoyed. Help us to lift it up, cherish it, and protect it. And spiritually, I pray, we would always be joined to You alone, never forsaking You for false gods. Amen.

Malachi 2:1-9

Key Verse(s):

Malachi 2:7 (HCSB)

7 For the lips of a priest should guard knowledge, and people should seek instruction from his mouth, because he is the messenger of the Lord of Hosts.

Reflection/Application:

The heading in the HCSB is, “Warning to the Priests” for this pericope, and that’s exactly what this is. There are two sub-themes here: a) the description of the curse placed upon the priests, and b) a contrasting of the current spiritual state of the priesthood with the past.

Although the passage begins with the description of the curse, I want to start with the look back upon the priesthood and how it contrasted with the current one. God refers back to Levi, and how that past generation of priests walked with God, speaking truth, and kept the covenant with God. I think we can learn from this, and not just in the obvious way of keeping God’s covenant. We live in a time where Christianity is constantly being bombarded and attacked. And, as a result, we are seeing the church being compromised in many areas. Tenets that were rock solid 10 or 20 years ago are now shaky at best, and flat out reversed in many cases. Scripture that is clear and should be unquestionable, is now questioned, revised, or flat out ignored in favor of “modern sensibilities”. But when we read something like Malachi 2:4-7 we should take pause. This seemingly constant “progression”, it would seem, may not always be the right thing, what is in line with God’s covenant. Just as the priests in Malachi’s time had “progressed” and now operated under their own rules much of the time, we ought to be careful that we are observing God’s will rather than our own.

As for the curse… surely we do not want to suffer the same fate of having animal waste spread on our faces! I don’t know if that is literal or if it is some sort of phrase suggesting the priests will be buried under waste, or simply just a euphemism to convey the fact that they will be unclean, thereby out of God’s presence. I suspect ultimately it is that last notion, the uncleanliness, that is what is the important point here. We can defile ourselves so much that we separate ourselves from God! It is not a good place to be when God makes us “despised and humiliated”.

Finally, I want to look specifically at Malachi 2:7. This is a great verse for anyone in pastoral leadership, teaching, ministry, etc. Anyone who is impacting others spiritually really, but especially those with influence. I love the word picture of “guarding knowledge”. We don’t generally think about us, as a society, losing knowledge, after all, we are always progressing, pushing into new undiscovered territory, right? Yet God paints a different picture here, and I think it holds true. We are losing knowledge in many instances. Our churches, overall, are becoming more empty. We, as a society, are becoming more and more distanced from God. We are losing our knowledge of the Bible, we are tremendously Biblically illiterate. It is our leaders, or spiritual influencers, that have been entrusted with this knowledge, knowledge handed down from the previous guardians, through the ages. Knowledge that does not change with each generation, but is implemented accordingly in each generation. And when that does not happen? We “cause many to stumble.” We must recapture the truth of God’s word, and convey it to the world around us. That needs to start with me, and with you, each of us being God’s priest, expanding His kingdom, rather than watching people remain lost, or even worse, hastening their eternal demise.

Prayer:

Lord, thank You for Your permanent, unchanging, truth. I pray that I would stand firm on Your foundation, and not twist it and pervert it into something self-serving. Help me to speak Your light and truth, Your saving message of grace and love, into the darkness in the world, for Your glory and the salvation of Your children. Amen.