the Minor Prophets


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 God’s 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 God’s 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, ‘How have we robbed God?’" Lastly he proceeds to answer this question. This is called the didactic-dialectic method of reasoning. God is always reasonable. Sin is always insanity.

Divorce among God’s 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. God’s 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 God’s 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 faith’s 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 Israel’s 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."