Malachi means “my messenger.”
Perhaps it was his name or perhaps it was a way of describing himself. He was the last of the Old Testament prophets. A period of silence followed—a long period of 400 years; after which came the prophetic voice of John the Baptist about whose arrival Malachi had foretold.
The book is mostly in the form of a dialogue between God and His people. Like a lawyer in court, God counters the points made by the people. Malachi’s period witnessed spiritual life on the decline and religion had become formal.
His call to the people was to remember their covenant relationship with God and to keep their part of the agreement with God. This call came in the context of the Jewish people neglecting the things of God though they had been cured of idolatry through their exile and captivity in Babylon.
God’s Love for Israel (1:1—5)
God said, “I have loved you.” But the people questioned it. God answered by showing that Jacob was chosen by God and favoured over and above his elder brother Esau. This favouring was proof of His love towards them.
God’s Honour at Stake (1:6—14)
God speaks about a son honouring his father and a servant his master. But His people were not honouring Him. Instead they were showing contempt towards Him by offering animals with defects as sacrifice. God asked them to try offering them to their governor and see whether he would be pleased with it? God is not interested in accepting such sacrifices while the people reserved the best for themselves. Finally, in this section, God asserts Himself as a great king whose name is to be feared among the nations (see Psalm 114:3 also).
God Has a Case Against the Priests (2:1—9)
A priest has a high calling. It is described thus: “For the lips of a priest ought to preserve knowledge, and from his mouth men should seek instruction—because he is the messenger of the Lord Almighty” (Malachi 2:7 NIV). But the priests of those times showed partiality in matters of the law, turned away from God’s way, by their teaching made others stumble and did not set their hearts to honour God. Therefore God cursed their blessings.
Social and Married Life Polluted (2:10—16)
People were breaking faith with one another (possibly by breaking their word) (2:10). Matthew Henry comments, “It cannot be expected that he who is false to his God should be true to his friend.” The men of those times were marrying foreign women which God had prohibited in order that all Israel might be holy to Him. Not only did they marry foreign women but they were also divorcing their own Jewish wives.
Therefore God was not willing to hear their prayers even though they were flooding the Lord’s altar with tears. In this “the Lord is acting as the witness between you and the wife of your youth, because you have broken faith with her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant” (Malachi 2:14 NIV). God states plainly, “I hate divorce” (2:16).
The People Make a False Claim (2:17)
The people tried to find excuse for their ungodly behaviour by saying that the evil doers are prospering and if God were a God of justice, He was doing nothing about it. The people were thus showing that they were skeptics; people who doubted and questioned God.
The Messenger and the Coming of the Lord (3:1—5)
Prophet Malachi predicted the coming of John the Baptist who would prepare the way for the Messiah. And then suddenly the Lord whom they were seeking would come to his temple (3:1). The warning was that the Lord would come as Judge to execute judgement (v. 5). It would be difficult to stand in His presence on the day of His coming. This was God’s answer to their question, “Where is the God of justice?” (2:17).
The Lord Who Changes Not (3:6—18)
“I the Lord do not change” (3:6). Read also Hebrews 13:8. God speaks about His unchanging nature and also points out the fact that the people were also unchanging like their forefathers in their refusal to return to their God. Instead they were asking how were they to return? God’s answer was that they were robbing Him by withholding the tithes they were commanded to bring to His temple. Since they were robbing God the whole nation was under a curse.
Now God was giving them an opportunity to give. He asked them to bring the whole tithe into the storehouse. Then He said, “Test me in this.” If they contributed tithes faithfully then God promised them blessings by throwing open the floodgates of heaven—such an abundance of blessings they could not contain.
God also answered yet another charge that His people were making against Him: “It is futile to serve God” (3:14). But God remembers those who fear Him and honour His name. It is important to note that “a scroll of remembrance” was written in His presence concerning such. God promised that in compassion (see also Psalm 103:13) He would make them His treasured possession and then they will “again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not” (3:18)
The Sun of Righteousness (Chapter 4)
The Day of the Lord which will burn like a furnace is coming when the evildoers will meet their end. But for those who fear God, “the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings” (4:2). The wicked will be subdued. The final exhortation to the people is to remember the law of God’s servant Moses and the promise that God will send the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day. This is yet another clear reference to John the Baptist who ministered in the spirit and power of Elijah. Compare v.6 with Luke 1:17. Malachi, the last O.T. Prophet closes his prophecy with a curse, whereas the N.T. Closes with a blessing: “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen.”
Halley comments, “Its last word: `Curse,’ meaning that the plight of mankind would be hopeless should the Lord fail to come. Thus closes the O.T. 400 years elapsed. Then came the Messiah, whom the Hebrew nation had been born to bring forth. As through the centuries they had rejected the prophets of God, so when the Messiah arrived, they rejected Him. Since which time Jews have been homeless wanderers over the earth, the tragedy and miracle of the ages.”
Life Lessons from Malachi
This book teaches us to give God the honour due Him and to be faithful in human relationships, especially marriage. We are taught to give to God our best and not give to Him what we won’t give to others. We are exhorted not to rob God by not giving to Him, especially tithes. He is challenging you to test Him in this. If you give to God cheerfully and in plenty, God will also visit your with blessings that you cannot contain. This is the sure promise of God. And someday God will make a distinction between you who serve God and others who do not serve Him. GIVE TO GOD WHAT IS HIS!
Malachi 3:1a Messenger, Prepare the Way
Malachi 3:2 He Will Be like a Refiner’s Fire or a Launderer’s Soap
Malachi 3:18 Distinction Between the Righteous and the Wicked
Malachi 4:2 Sun of Righteousness, Rise, Healing in Its Wings