THE MESSAGE OF THE BOOK OF MALACHI is authoritative for it is the Word of the living God (1:1). It is urgent because it expresses a burden. It is condemnatory since it deals with the grievous conduct of the people. It is brief but incisive, pungent and provocative, cautionary and corrective. It reveals the love and patience of the Lord God, the faithfulness of the prophet and the stolid indifference of the nation.
The basic spiritual conditions presented in Malachi characterize the period just prior to the first advent of the Lord. These conditions bear a striking resemblance to those which are said to prevail previous to His second coming, giving current significance to the message.
The framework of the presentation is built around seven sad indignities which the people heaped upon the Lord God.
- They questioned His love (1:2).
- They corrupted His worship (1:7).
- They profaned His name (1:12).
- They refused His entreaties (3:7).
- They robbed His treasury (3:8).
- They denied His sovereignty (3:12).
- They rejected His Word (3:14)
- They were ignoring the coming of Messiah (4:2).
This is unbelief in its fullest manifestation. This is rebellion in its ultimate provocation.
“Ye say”, “ye said”, and “ye have said” occur thirteen times.
Thirteen has a numerical connotation of rebellion, and this was precisely the attitude of the people toward the heaven-sent message and toward the Lord personally. The self-opinionated and presumptive have little desire for divine Revelation. They give themselves to picking a path through the jungle of reason. They are destitute of spiritual perception and unacquainted with “the path of the just. . . that shineth more and more unto the perfect day” (Proverbs 4: 18).
This was decadent Israel and Judah.
Spoken to the restored remnant after the 70 years' captivity, it seems almost inconceivable that the message of Malachi should be met with inattention, indeed with obstinate rebellion, but such is the record.
They longed for the land more than for the Lord.
“If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning . . . let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I prefer not Jerusalem ABOVE MY CHIEF JOY” (Psalm 137:5, 6) was the continuing emphasis. Their desire was for the physical, not the spiritual. They thought more of Jerusalem than of the Lord God.
It was a day of alarming spiritual declension. God's messenger faced an incorrigible people, self-justifying, argumentative and grossly indifferent to divine directives. Without fear or favor, Malachi countered their harsh objections with his familiar introductory “Ye say.” He assailed the leadership for its blatant departure from the truth and for its careless inattention to God-given responsibility, saying, “And now, O ye priests, this commandment is for you” (2:1). He spoke with equal firmness to the people at large.
His was not the voice of sheer austerity, but rather of sincere concern and earnest entreaty. “And now, I pray you, beseech God that he will be gracious unto us” (1:9), is a choice example. The welfare of all was the burden of his heart, but he knew the people could not rise above the leadership.
Those who worship God must do so “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24), and Malachi viewed with betrayed alarm the unscriptural and unacceptable procedure of the priests. He termed their offerings “polluted bread” upon the altar (1:7), reminiscent of the “strange fire” offered by the sons of Aaron (Lev. 10:1) which resulted in their untimely death by divine judgment.
The Lord desired first place in the affections of His people, but sadly revealed that, instead of the clusters, He received only “the grape gleanings of the vintage” (Micah 7:1). Concerning such pitiful disparity, still in evidence, Malachi asked pointedly if they would ingratiate themselves with some earthly dignitary by offering him such an unimpressive gift as they were presenting unto the Lord (1:8). He branded them agents of deception and warned that divine judgment would be visited upon all such (1:14).
Malachi had a comprehensive appreciation of the spiritual situation. He spoke of the southern kingdom as being “treacherous” in their sins against the Lord God, while the northern kingdom was “abominable” in its profanations and unholy alliances (2:11). The cancer of unbelief had well nigh run its course. The spiritual condition was critical.
The prophet castigated the people for their unavailing pretense as they wept at the altar, then forgot God in their daily activities (2:13). He saw only an insincere, external performance. He was a faithful messenger—devoted and dedicated, definite and determined, direct and decisive, daring and dauntless.