Malachi: The Last Prophet
Malachi has the last word. Malachi is the final prophet
that shall introduce a prolonged silence of over four hundred years. His
name means "Messenger" or "One who has a message." The description of
conditions in his world seem to date his ministry to a period shortly
after Nehemiah, although this is in no wise certain.
Little did his contemporaries realize that they were
about to witness the conclusion of an era. Little did they appreciate the
importance of this final messenger or his message. All too often we assume
that there will be another sermon next week, or another opportunity will
knock at our door tomorrow. Often Godís servants are not appreciated until
they are gone. There is no guarantee that the God who pleads with us today
will even speak to us tomorrow. There is no guarantee that we will not run
out of chances, and that our children will be able to rekindle fires we
have allowed to die out.
Time and time again God restored the unfaithful
children of Israel. Time and time again they took God for granted, forsook
and forgot him. There always seemed to be a voice crying in the streets,
warning Godís people to "repent" and return to him. This last word was not
an impassioned appeal or religious hysteria, it was instead a sincere and
reasoned argument of a teacher. Different from all the other writings of
the prophets in style and approach , Malachi taught by asking simple
questions to provoke interest and then set out to prove his thesis. He
made a statement and a charge against his fellow Jews. Then, seemingly as
if to answer objections, he poses a hypothetical response in the form of a
question. "You have robbed God." "But ye say, ĎHow have we robbed God?í"
Lastly he proceeds to answer this question. This is called the
didactic-dialectic method of reasoning. God is always reasonable. Sin is
Divorce among Godís people was becoming common place
and comfortably accepted. A feeling of estrangement and alienation to God
was growing, as their love for God was dying. Offerings to God were
inferior and offensive as priests were sacrificing the sick,and the lame
animals instead of the best. The people called devotions a "drudgery" and
expressed a "weariness" in worship. The priests compromised their
integrity by calling evil good (2:17) and were secretly despised by the
very people they served. Godís chosen people were coming to believe that
it did not pay to serve God. They began to feel that evil-doers were just
as prosperous or even more successful than the righteous (3:15).
Spiritually speaking, Israel was never in a weaker state. More frightening
however, is how this awful description resembles conditions and attitudes
in many churches today.
Christians are breaking sacred marriage vows at an alarming rate and
thereby defrauding their marriage partners. God could not make it any
clearer than he has through his servant Malachi, he hates divorce (2:16).
It is amazing how man is trying to defend what God hates.
The second indictment had to do with theft. God was
robbed. God is being robbed every day still. To all who respond with the
teachers dialectic response, "How have we robbed God ?" the answer is
still "in tithes and offerings." To those who still wish to argue with
God, and insist that "tithes" are ancient tokens, Old Testament and
"legalistic," we simply continue to point to Godís charge found in the
larger word that defies measurement "offerings." We all know how big or
small a tithe is, but who can ever give an "offering"
large enough. And how can an offering be legalistic?
God keeps the books of the heart and he who embezzles the blessings of the
Almighty shall one day give an account when the "books are opened" (Mal.
3:16; Rev. 20:12)..
Offering God less than our best is not proof of our
devotion, rather it is evidence spiritual decadence. God knows a diseased
sacrifice when he sees one. Going through the motions of worship while
resenting faithís requirements, is like Judas planting a kiss on the cheek
of the Lord Jesus. God receives no enjoyment from hypocrisy.
Does it pay to serve and obey God? Many were expressing
their doubts about just that. "And now we call the proud happy; yea, they
that work wickedness are set up; yea, they that tempt God are even
delivered" (3:15). Faith does not wear a long face. Faith does not count
carnal things and compare itself with unbelievers. Faith does not weigh
itself on worldly scales nor attempt to balance the eternal with the
temporal. True piety does not walk through this world as if in mourning
(3:14), and carry faith as if it is a heavy load and burden.
Malachi, like a final voice of reason, appeals to the
Jews to return to their first love, but seemingly in vain. At last he
foretells the coming of another Malachi "messenger" who he calls Elijah
the prophet that will be the precursor to the coming and final judgment.
Sad to say the final word of the Old Testament speaks of a curse. "I will
come and smite the land with a curse" 4:6. And what a curse it was. It
began with four hundred years of silence, and then after the rejection and
crucifixion of Israelís only hope, the Messiah, the Jews would wander the
world for nearly two thousand years, wondering at the words of this book
and longing for an unobtainable peace.
No unfilled prophecy stands in the way of the second
coming. We may very well be hearing the final voices of the church age. It
could be a minute before midnight or a day before a dawn that is described
as the rising Sun of righteousness with healing on his wings (4:2).
Prophets spoke for God and of God. "And he said unto them, These are the
words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things
must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the
prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me" (Lk. 24:44).
To Modern Preachers and Teachers
Your voice may be the final voice some sinner may hear
before they step out into eternity. Your sermon or your lesson may be
their last. Great care should be given so we may be able to say with the
Apostle Paul, "I kept back nothing."