What does it say?
Malachi is the last of the prophets, probably uttering these prophecies either right before Nehemiah arrives in Jerusalem the first time, or more probably during the time of his visit to Persia before instituting the reforms we saw in Nehemiah 13. He is one of three post-exilic prophets along with Haggai and Zechariah.
Malachi opens from the starting point of God declaring his love for Israel (Mal 1). The people respond that they cannot see God’s love. What follows is a series of harsh condemnations or arguments as God answers their critical spirit by revealing their hypocrisy. In chapter 2 Malachi addresses the priests who should have been setting an example by their lives and were instead causing people to turn from God. Also in chapter 2 Malachi brings up their propensity to intermarry with their unbelieving neighbors or divorcing their wives to replace them with younger ones.
Malachi 3 announces a messenger that will purge and prepare the way for the Lord (lit. Jehovah). The Lord will suddenly come to his temple. Jesus himself identifies this messenger as John the Baptist. This also identifies Jesus as being one with Jehovah. The chapter also continues God’s charges against his hypocritical people. Chapter 4 announces the coming day of the Lord when God will right all wrongs. Partially fulfilled in his first coming, this is to be finally fulfilled in Christ’s coming again. The final 3 verses are a postscript not just to Malachi but also to the entire Old Testament era. Jesus also identified John the Baptist as the promised Elijah (4:5-6), but yet Israel rejected him and the verse looks to a still future fulfillment.
What does it mean?
We are just as quick today to accuse God of not being fair. Some tragedy happens and we blame God for not being loving. The real issue addressed here is the hypocrisy of his people. Carefully consider God’s many arguments to his people and see if you can identify similar statements and accusations that people make today.
How will I respond?
Do I ever blame God for being unfair or unloving? I may not say this verbally, but do I show it through my actions and attitudes? Is there one of God’s arguments against his people here that applies to me? Which one? What will I do in response?
Congratulations! You have just completed a chronological reading of the Old Testament.