Good morning. Today we will look at the final book of the Old Testament. Of course, I could have covered so much more than I did, but we will take more time once we get to the New Testament. I hope you have enjoyed our quick trip through the Old Testament.
"An oracle: The Word of the Lord to Israel through Malachi. 'I have loved you,' says the Lord. 'But you ask, 'How have you love us?' 'Was not Esau Jacob's brother?' the Lord says. 'Yet I have loved Jacob, but Esau I have hated, and I have turned his mountains into a wasteland and left his inheritance to the desert jackals." (Malachi 1:1-3)
Wow! I can't believe the Lord just said that! Apparently the Lord has never heard my mother in law say; "You've got to love everybody! The Bible says so!" This is some tough scripture to digest. Now, by saying that "he has hated Esau" God was speaking in past tense. This doesn't make this any easier, but it implies that the damage has been done. The damage was to Edom, Esau's ancestors. This all indicates to Israel that God's love for the Israelites was not due to any specific merit on their part, but solely from God's mercy. As far as the Edomites, they were an ancient enemy of the Israelites.
The Book of Malachi as a whole does not focus on Israel's enemies. Malachi is more about the complaint of abuse in the Second Temple. Yes, the temple is functioning again, but it has also had time to once again fall into disorder. The priests are bored, (1:13) the laity are cheating one another (3:5) and mixed marriages and easy divorce are common. (2:10-16) Once again, the Lord is not happy. "It is you, O priests, who show contempt for my name. But you ask, 'How have we shown contempt for your name?' 'You place defiled food on my altar.'" (Mal. 1:6b-7) The priests were taking blind and crippled animals and sacrificing them to the Lord while keeping the best for themselves. My Dad was a truck driver. He hauled grain and cattle. He would often deliver cattle to feed lots in Kansas where the animals would be fed, fattened, and "finished off." One evening we were eating beef that my mom had purchased at a local grocery store. I can still hear my Dad say, "I sure don't know where that beef that I haul to the feedlots is taken to, but it sure doesn't end up in our local stores." (Insinuating that what he hauled to Kansas was a lot better than what we were eating.) They were giving God they leftovers and keeping the best.
I want to look at three more particular passages from this book. "So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth. 'I hate divorce,' says the Lord God of Israel." (Mal. 2:15b-16a) Often, Malachi is known for the passage that we will look at in a minute, but it says so much more. This is the strongest condemnation of divorce expressed anywhere in the Old Testament. Although divorce is permissible in the OT the Bible makes it clear that marriage is a holy covenant. Remember, Israel's relationship with Yahweh is often described in terms of marriage. I know there are times when folks just have to part ways. But, I must tell you...I never like hearing the news.
"Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. 'But you ask, 'How do we rob you?' In tithes and offerings." (Malachi 3:8) This is the verse that speaks of tithing. The people were withholding from God that which belonged to him. Are we supposed to tithe today? Sure. I wonder if any church would have financial trouble if every member tithed? If one can't tithe perhaps one could work on a plan to increase their offering until they get to ten percent.
The last verse I want to look at is very interesting. It is the very last verse of the Old Testament. "He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse." (Malachi 4:6) O.K., so the last verse is not so much what I want to look at as the last word of the verse. The last word of the Old Testament is "curse." Now, you can look if you want, or wait until we get there in our study, but I wonder what word the New Testament ends with. (Or group of words)
After Malachi we go to the New Testament. Tomorrow we will begin the Gospel of Matthew. Between the Old and New Testament there was a period of four hundred years in which God did not speak through the prophets. By the time Jesus arrives the people are eager for God to speak to them again. they are waiting, and they are hoping for God to be revealed to them. Are we? They were. And, God revealed himself. But, were their eyes and ears open? Are ours? Who knows when, how and where God will appear? I'll bet you one thing...(I know we are not supposed to bet)...they were not expecting him to come in the form that he took. Oh, we are in for such a great time during our upcoming study of the New Testament. Please join me daily Monday through Friday beginning....Tomorrow. -Pastor Rick