Explore the Bible Series
August 26, 2007
Malachi 3:1-5, 8-10, 16-18
2:17 expresses one of the central themes of the book, “You have wearied me with
your words.” God had grown weary of the
complaining, excuse-making dialog among the Jews, and; yet again, Jehovah
by throwing her words back in her face.
As before, Judah
seemed startled at the Lord’s offense, “How have we wearied him?” The people had lost their spiritual
discernment, and their callousness rendered them oblivious to the things of the
Lord. Their plea of ignorance, however,
was met with a clear, decisive answer.
In effect, the people of Judah
accused God of injustice. God, they
claimed, delighted in evil, and, according to their logic, there was no justice
in the land.
Much of the Book of Malachi centers on this acidic dialog
between God and his people. They
considered, in their hearts, an aberrant theology, and, as always, their errant
theology finally made its way to their mouths.
Earlier in this treatise the people had questioned the love of God (1:2);
now, however, they accuse God of injustice. At some level, these seem
contradictory indictments against God.
On the one hand they accuse Jehovah of an unloving hardness toward them;
then, they charge him with overindulgence of the wicked. Amazingly, Jehovah evidenced great patience
with his recalcitrant people by answering their indictments (we will encounter two
other examples of this patience in Chapter Three).
As Malachi observed, the final challenge Judah aimed at
God related, again, to God’s justice (See 3:13f). Jehovah observed their hard words against
him, but, as before, they feigned ignorance of their transgression. The adamant hearts issued in hard words.
Furthermore, they had a “profit” model
for the service of God; that is, they worshipped God to attain some desired
end. If that end did not materialize,
they surmised that it just didn’t pay to serve the Lord. Our lesson passage for this week challenges
that model. Men and women should worship
God because of their apprehension of his worthiness of the creature’s
adoration. That understanding must serve
as the bedrock motive for all Christian worship and service.
Above all, Malachi called the Jews back to the true worship
of God, a worship that proved impossible in the bitter disillusionment that
at this point. Worship, as depicted in
Malachi, is not a matter of adopting a certain style of music or following some
liturgical tradition. Instead, worship
issues from the heart, the heart moved
by some apprehension of the truth about the character of God. One may be an informed theologian and miss
the heart of worship, but one cannot properly worship God if the heart is
disengaged from sound understanding of the character of Jehovah.
Outline of the Lesson
Indictment Concerning God’s Justice (2:17-3:5): As stated earlier, Judah made a
horrible accusation against the Lord. In
their minds, God had treated them unjustly, and they were, therefore, justified
in their disregard for integrity of worship (offering infirmed animals, failing
to tithe, etc.). God offered the following defense to their accusation (Again,
I find God’s patience remarkable, at this point).
promise of the two messengers (v. 1): In answer to Judah’s accusation, God promised
that he would send two messengers. The
first messenger, the prophet predicted, would prepare the way for the second.
Malachi referred to the second herald as “the messenger of the covenant.” It appears that this text predicted the
preparatory ministry of John the Baptist and the coming of the Messiah.
ministry of the messenger of the covenant (vv. 2-5): Remember that this passage refutes the
accusation of the Jews concerning God’s justice.
will purify Judah
and refine the tribe of Levi like the fire of the metallurgist and the soap of
the fuller. This purification will produce acceptable worship to the Lord.
will draw near to bring judgment on the sorcerers, adulterers, false witnesses,
oppressors of the poor, and those who do not fear the Lord.
God’s Accusation Concerning Judah’s Theft of Tithes and
Lord’s gracious patience with Judah
(vv. 6-7): Judah
had confused God’s patience with his indifference to sin. The Lord assured Judah that he had always exercised
patience with their fathers, and he invited her to return to him. The Jews,
however, asked, “How shall we return?”
theft of the tithe (vv. 8-15): At least one thing stood between Judah and the
Lord. The Jews refused to honor the tithe, the giving of ten percent to God. The tithe predated the Mosaic Law and was
codified after the Exodus (See Leviticus 27:30; Numbers 18:26; Deuteronomy
14:22-29). The first and best belong to
the Lord; yet, the people did not bring their tithes into the storehouse. They consumed what did not belong to them. The prophet called the Jews to bring the
tithes to the Lord, and see if the Lord would not provide for their needs. Jehovah promised to open the windows of
heaven and make Judah
the envy of the nations.
final observation on the justice of God (vv. 16-18): Righteous men needn’t
worry about the justice of God. Those
who fear the Lord will be gathered to the Lord as a treasured possession. Eventually, all men will see the distinction
God makes between the wicked and the righteous.
The Great Day of the Lord (4:1-6); Malachi concluded
his prophecy with a reminder of the great and terrible Day of the Lord.
fate of the wicked (v. 1): The wicked will be consumed like fire devours dry
stubble, leaving neither root nor branch.
blessedness of those who fear the Lord (vv. 2-3): The sun of righteousness, a
Messianic reference, will rise with healing in his wings. The righteous will
experience great joy and will tread upon their enemies like a man walks over
final promise of the forerunner (vv. 4-6): Malachi called the people to careful
obedience to the Law of Moses as they awaited the coming of the forerunner to
the Messiah. Before the day of the Lord, God promised to usher in the kingdom
by sending a man in the spirit of Elijah.
the New Testament teach proportionate giving?
If so, what application does the Old Testament teaching on the tithe
have for Christians?
does God vindicate his justice in these two chapters?
does this passage emphasize the coming Day of the Lord and the ministry of the
John the Baptist? What did John’s ministry foreshadow?