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Old Testament Overview - Malachi

God's strong and loving response to Israel's hardness of heart

(We know nothing about Malachi except that he wrote this book.)  (We also are not certain when Malachi wrote this book, but it was written during a time when Israel was hardened in their defiance of God.  There is agreement that it was written either in the time of Nehemiah or after.)  (The theme of the book is the hardness of heart of Israel. See 1:2, 6-7, 2:10, 14, 17, 3:7-8, 13)

Israel's hardened insensitivity to God's love (1:2-5)  (1) God's declaration of love for Israel. (1:2a) See also Deut. 10:15)  ("'I have loved you,' says the Lord. But you ask, 'How have you loved us?'" 1:2a)  (After all that God had done for them, God did not need to tell them that He loved them.  Their response reveals their hardness of heart.)  (2) God's defense of His love (1:2b-5)  (God uses Esau and his descendents as an example of how God has loved Israel—He describes how much better off the descendents of Jacob (the Israelites) are than the descendents of Jacob's brother Esau (the Edomites).  The Edomites lived in the mountainous wastelands to the southeast of Israel, while Israel had received the land of milk and honey.  Also, God predicts that Edom was going to remain a wasteland no matter what Edom did to try to build it up.)  (What does it mean in 1:2-3, when it 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 1:2-3)  It was a figure of speech describing someone putting one person before another person.  Jesus said something similar.  "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple." (Luke 14:26)  Jesus certainly did not instruct His followers to literally hate their parents.  Instead, He taught them that for them to be His followers they would need to put Him first above their parents.  So, God has put Jacob and his people first in His plans and He put Esau in a secondary position.)  (In Genesis there is no indication that God hated Esau. See also Rom. 9:13; Heb. 12:16; and Matt. 6:24)

Israel's hardened disrespect for God's honor (1:6-2:9)  (1) God's charge against Israel's priests: why do you despise me? (1:6a)  (If "a son honors his father and a servant honors his master," why do they not honor God?)  (2) The priests' response:  "How have we shown contempt for your name?" (1:6b)  (3) God explains His charge against them: "You have placed defiled food on my altar." (1:7a)  (4) The priests' continued hardness: "How have we defiled you?" (1:7b)  (5) God continues to explain His charge: "When you bring blind animals," "crippled or diseased animals" as sacrifices. (1:7c-14)  (They were disobeying what was taught in the Mosaic Law. See Deut. 15:21; Lev. 22:20-25)  (What if China had given to us a blind panda bear as a gift?  This is the way Israel's priests were dishonoring God.)  ("'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.'" 1:10 See Isa. 1:11-15)  ("'My name will be great among the nations . . . But you profane it by saying of the Lord’s table, “It is defiled,” and of its food, “It is contemptible.” And you say, “What a burden!” and you sniff at it contemptuously,' says the Lord Almighty." 1:11-13)  (Israel's priests had the greatest privilege in the universe—to serve the Lord of the universe.  But they saw it as a tiresome burden.  Can this also happen today?  Can we despise God by giving Him less than our best?  (5) If you continue to harden yourselves, I will curse you. (2:1-9)  ("'If you do not listen,'" "'I will send a curse upon you.'" 2:1-2)  (The curse is described. 2:3)  (The refuse from the sacrifices would be spread on them.  They would be like the waste of the sacrifice that was unacceptable to offer as a sacrifice.)  (The reason for the curse: to purify the Levitical priesthood. 2:4-9)  (The curse's purpose was to restore the priesthood to its original intent.)

The effect of their hardness on their marriages (2:10-16)  (1) It led to intermarriage with pagans. (2:10-12) See also Ezra 9:1-2, 10:1-4; Neh. 13:25-27)  (Israel's hardness: "Have we not all one Father?" 2:10)  God's response: When they married the pagans, they also married their gods.)  (2) Their hardness of heart led to wide-scale divorce. (2:13-16)  ("I hate divorce," 2:16a)  ("and I hate a man covering himself with violence as well as with his garment." 2:16b)  ("The reference is to the old custom of putting a garment over a woman to claim her as wife.  (Note particularly Deu 22:30; Ruth 3:9; and Eze 16:8)  Instead of spreading their garment to protect their wives, they covered their garments with violence toward their wives." Feinberg, The Minor Prophets.  In other words, they were physically abusing their wives.)

How hardness of heart wearies God (2:17)  (They wearied God with their empty words. 2:17a)  (They wearied God by saying that God is pleased with evil.  Hardness is the ability to rationalize away even the most obvious evil.)  (They wearied God by thinking that they were getting by with evil.  "Where is the God of justice?" See Rom. 2:1-6; II Pet. 3:3-7)

The One who will come will purify Israel from its hardness (3:1-5)  (1) He will purify Israel so that Israel will have men to "bring offerings in righteousness" that will be "acceptable" to God. See Rom. 12:1-2)  (Who is this messenger who will prepare the way as it is described in 3:1?  The messenger who came before Christ's coming was John the Baptist. Compare this verse to Matt. 3:3 and Isa 40:3 Compare 3:1 with Matt. 11:10  Also see Mk. 1:2-3; Lk. 1:76, 3:4, 7:27; and Jn. 1:23)  (This messenger will be the Elijah who will prepare the way for Christ's second coming. See Mal. 4:5-6)  (Who is the "messenger of the covenant"?  Clearly this is a prediction of Jesus Christ, for He will come to "his temple."  The former messenger will prepare the way "before me." 3:1  The second "messenger" is "the Lord you are seeking.")  (When "the Lord" comes, "he will be like a refiner's fire or a launderer's soap" to cleanse Israel. See Ezek. 48:11; Zech. 13:8-9; Isa. 4:11; I Pet. 1:6-7(2) At that time, the wicked will be judged. (3:5)  (God will judge the "sorcerers, adulterers," "perjurers," the defrauders, and the oppressors. See Ex. 20:16, 22:18, 21-24; Lev. 19:13, 35-36; Deut. 19:16-20)

The effect of Israel's hardness on the giving of tithes (3:6-12)  (1) God's plea: "Return to me, and I will return to you." (3:6-7a)  (The primary purpose of the book of Malachi is a plea for Israel to return to God.  (2) Israel's hardness: "How are we to return?" (3:7b)  (3) God's charge: though men cannot rob God, "yet you rob me." (3:8a)  (4) Israel's continued hardness: "How do we rob you?" (3:8b)  (5) God continues to explain: You rob me by withholding your "tithes and offerings." (3:9-12) See Lev. 27:30-33; Numb. 18:21-32, and Deut. 12:5-8, 14:22-29)  (You are under a curse because you are robbing God. 3:9)  (But if you give your whole tithe, God will "open the floodgates of heaven" and they would have so much they would not have room for it all.)

The effect of the hardness on what they say about God. (3:13-15)  (1) God's charge: "You have said harsh things against me." (3:13a)  (2) Israel's hardness: "What have we said against you?" (3:13b)  (3) God's explanation: "You have said, "It is futile to serve God." (3:14-15)  (They thought they got nothing from serving God; but instead, it was the evil who were prospering.)

Yet, God is listening to those who fear Him (3:16-18)  (1) As those who fear God talk together, God is listening and will spare them from being judged. (3:16-17)  (God hears and empathizes with those who fear God as they encourage each other in their struggles against the wicked and wickedness.)  (2) And there will again be a clear difference between those who serve God and those who do not. (3:18)  ("And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not." 3:18)

At the Day of the Lord, God will purify their world for its sin toward Him (4:1-3)  (1) The evil will be purified with fire. (4:1) See Zeph. 1:18, 3:8-9; Matt. 13:40-42; II Pet. 3:10  (2) The righteous will experience healing, joy, and victory. (4:2-3)  (Healing: "the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its rays." (4:2a) See Ps. 84:11)  ("Just as the rays of the physical sun give light and heat for the growth of plant and animal life, so the Sun of righteousness will heal the wounds inflicted upon and borne by the righteous.  The beams of the sun are here spoken of as wings because of the speed with which they spread over the earth." Feinberg, The Minor Prophets.)  (Joy: ". . . . And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall." 4:2b)  (God's people will be released from a world controlled and pervaded by evil, and they will leap for joy!)  (Victory: "'Then you will trample down the wicked; they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day when I do these things,' says the Lord Almighty." 4:3)

Final instructions to the righteous (4:4-6)  (1) Remember the law of my servant Moses." (4:4)  (Even though Israel had forgotten the law of Moses, God had not forgotten it.  So, they needed to remember it.)  (2) Before the Day of the Lord, God will send Elijah. (4:5-6)  (He will come to reverse Micah 7:6—divisions in families.)  (Who is this Elijah?  Feinberg gives us this answer:  "Commentators are divided into two distinct camps on the subject of whether Elijah is meant personally or ideally (representatively) through John the Baptist.  Those who take the reference ideally of John the Baptist point to passages like Matthew 11:14 and Luke 1:17, where John is said to have come in the spirit and power of Elijah, and where he is spoken of as representing Elijah to them, if they would receive him.  This view explains the denial of John 1:21 as referring only to the personal sense of the term, that is, he was denying that he was Elijah literally.  Matthew 17:10-13 is also explained in such a way as to give the force that Elijah had come in John the Baptist. . . . Jewish commentators and Christian interpreters generally have taken it to refer literally to Elijah the Tishbite.  With this view we are in agreement.  John the Baptist himself testified that he was not Elijah (Jn. 1:21).  He knew by the Spirit that he was referred to in Malachi 4:5 (Lk. 1:17), yet he knew also by divine illumination that he did not completely fulfill all the conditions and requirements of this prophecy.  There is a future fulfillment.  Even after the transfiguration experience, the Lord in Matthew 17:11 speaks of Elijah's coming as still future, although in the person and ministry of John the Baptist he had come in a certain sense.  The mention of the Day of the Lord shows that John cannot be meant exclusively here, for his ministry preceded the day of Christ's grace and not the day of His judgment.  As John the Baptist came in the spirit and power of Elijah before the first coming, so Elijah will come in person before the second coming." Feinberg, The Minor Prophets.)

Key Verses:  1:2-3, 12-13, 2:4-9, 13-16, 17, 3:1-4, 8-12, 16-17, 4:1, 2-3, 5-6

Key Teachings:  Hardness of heart toward God is described throughout Malachi—it is the result of choosing to justify doing evil by questioning God and His word.  God confronts this hardness throughout the book of Malachi by exposing it for what it is and by promising that they are heading for a sure judgment of God.  If we return to God, though, He will return to us. (3:7)  We are to put giving tithes to God first, and He will prosper us. (3:8-12)  It is not futile to serve God. (3:14)  God empathizes and sides with those who fear God. (3:16)  The Day of the Lord will purify like fire. (4:11)  God's people will be healed, will rejoice, and will be victorious on that day. (4:2-3)  Elijah will come prior to the Day of the Lord.   (4:5-6)

Old Testament Overview Studies

Old Testament Overview
Table of Contents
Old Testament Overview Outline
Old Testament Overview Genesis
Old Testament Overview Exodus to Deuteronomy
Old Testament Overview Furniture of the Tabernacle
Old Testament Overview Dress of Priests and High Priest
Old Testament Overview Dress of High Priest
Old Testament Overview Canaan: What Can it Teach Us?
Old Testament Overview Israel, God's Kingdom
Old Testament Overview Moses—Failure the Backdoor to Success
Old Testament Overview The Mosaic Covenant
Old Testament Overview The Ten Commandments
Old Testament Overview The Offerings
Old Testament Overview Uncleanness
Old Testament Overview The Priesthood
Old Testament Overview The Festivals
Old Testament Overview The Nazirite Vow
Old Testament Overview Joshua to Ruth
Old Testament Overview Prophecies of the Redeemer—Genesis to Ruth
Old Testament Overview I and II Samuel
Old Testament Overview Saul and David Compared
Old Testament Overview Jonathan and David Compared
Old Testament Overview The Davidic Covenant
Old Testament Overview I And II Kings
Old Testament Overview Israel's and Judah's Kings
Old Testament Overview Divided Kings who Divided
Old Testament Overview Criticisms of God's Actions in the Old Testament
Old Testament Overview Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther
Old Testament Overview Ruth and Esther Compared
Old Testament Overview Job to Song of Solomon
Old Testament Overview Proverbs: Wise Man or Fool?
Old Testament Overview Isaiah
Old Testament Overview Jeremiah
Old Testament Overview Daniel
Old Testament Overview Hosea
Old Testament Overview Joel
Old Testament Overview Amos
Old Testament Overview Obadiah
Old Testament Overview Jonah
Old Testament Overview Micah
Old Testament Overview Nahum
Old Testament Overview Habakkuk
Old Testament Overview Zephaniah
Old Testament Overview Haggai
Old Testament Overview Zechariah
Old Testament Overview Malachi