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Malachi 1:1-11 NOTES

Mal. 1:1-11 - T. Constable Expository Notes

I. INTRODUCTION 1:1:  The pronouncement of the word of the LORD to Israel through Malachi:  - This title verse explains what follows as the oracle of Yahweh's word that He sent to Israel through Malachi. The Hebrew word massa', translated "oracle," occurs 27 times in the Prophets (e.g., Isaiah 13:1; Isaiah 14:28; Nahum 1:1; Habakkuk 1:1; Zechariah 9:1; Zechariah 12:1; et al.). It refers to a threatening message, a burden that lay heavy on the heart of God and His prophet. "Pronouncement" and "utterance" are good synonyms.

   ▪ "The word of Yahweh" refers to a message that comes from Him with His full authority. "Yahweh" is the name that God used in relationship to Israel as the covenant-making and covenant-keeping God. What follows is evidence that Israel was in trouble with Yahweh because the Jews had not kept the Mosaic Covenant. Yahweh, of course, was completely faithful to His part of the covenant.

   ▪ "Malachi" means "my messenger." The prophet's name was appropriate since God had commanded him to bear this "word" to the people of Israel. The prophet was not the source of the revelation that follows; he was only a messenger whose job it was to communicate a message from Yahweh (cf. Malachi 2:7; 2 Timothy 4:2; 2 Peter 1:20-21). As many as 47 of the 55 verses in Malachi are personal addresses of the Lord. [Clendenen]

A. Positive motivation: the Lord's love 1:2-5

vv. 2-3:  2 "I have loved you," says the LORD . But you say, "How have You loved us?" "Was Esau not Jacob's brother?" declares the LORD . "Yet I have loved Jacob; 3 but I have hated Esau, and I have made his mountains a desolation and given his inheritance to the jackals of the wilderness." In replying to the people's charge, the Lord asked them if Esau was not Jacob's brother. The implication of the question is that these twins were both the objects of God's elective love. Yet God had loved Jacob, the younger, and hated Esau, the older. The evidence of God's hatred for Esau was that He had made the mountains of Seir, the inheritance that God gave Esau and his descendants, a desolate wilderness. Unstated is the fact that God had given Jacob a land flowing with milk and honey for his inheritance, which proved His love for that brother.

   ▪ "It was not a question of selecting Jacob for heaven and reprobating Esau to hell." [Note: Harry A. Ironside, Notes on the Minor Prophets, p. 187.]

   ▪ It is remarkable that God loved Jacob in view of the person Jacob was, and it is equally remarkable that God hated Esau, because in many ways he was a more likeable individual than his brother.

   ▪ "Someone said to Dr. Arno C. Gaebelein, the gifted Hebrew Christian leader of a generation ago, 'I have a serous problem with Malachi 1:3, where God says, "Esau I have hated." Dr. Gaebelein replied, 'I have a greater problem with Malachi 1:2, where God says, "Jacob, I have loved."'" [Note: Warren W. Wiersbe, "Malachi, 479.]

   ▪ Normally in the ancient Near East the father favored the eldest son, but God did what was abnormal in choosing to bless Jacob over Esau. God's regard for individuals does not depend ultimately on their behavior or characters. It rests on His sovereign choice to bless some more than others (cf. Romans 9:13). This is a problem involving His justice since it seems unfair that God would bless some more than others. However, since God is sovereign, He can do whatever He chooses to do (cf. Romans 9).

   ▪ Another problem that these verses raise concerns God's love. Does not God love the whole world and everyone in it (John 3:16)? Yes, He does, but this statement deals with God's choices regarding Jacob and Esau, not His affection for all people. When He said here that He "hated Esau," He meant that He did not choose to bestow His favor on Esau to the extent that He did on Jacob (cf. Psalms 139:21). He made this choice even before they were born (Genesis 25:21-34; Romans 9:10-13). To contrast His dealings with the twins, God polarized His actions toward them in this love hate statement (cf. Luke 14:26). God loved Jacob in that He sovereignly elected Him and his descendants for a covenant relationship with Himself (Genesis 29:31-35; Deuteronomy 21:15-17), as His special possession (cf. Deuteronomy 4:37; Deuteronomy 5:10; Deuteronomy 7:6-9). Often in Scripture to love someone means to choose to bless that person. Not to love someone means not to bless him or her.

   ▪ "Modern studies of covenant language have shown that the word 'love' (. . . 'aheb, or any of its forms) is a technical term in both the biblical and ancient Near Eastern treaty and covenant texts to speak of choice or election to covenant relationship, especially in the so-called suzerainty documents." [Note: Merrill, p. 391. See also Stuart, p. 1284; William L. Moran, "The Ancient Near Eastern Background of the Love of God in Deuteronomy," Catholic Biblical Quarterly 25 (1963):77-87; and J. A. Thompson, "Israel's Haters," Vetus Testamentum 29 (1979):200-205.]

   ▪ The fact that God gave Mt. Seir to Esau as his inheritance shows that He did love him to that extent. But He did not choose to bless Esau as He chose to bless Jacob, namely, with a covenant relationship with Himself. Similarly a man might love several different women (his mother, his sisters, his daughters, et al.) but choose to set his love on only one of them and enter into the covenant of marriage with her alone. His special love for the one might make it look like he hated the others. Again, eternal destiny is not in view here; God was speaking of His acts in history toward Jacob and Esau and their descendants.

   ▪ Did not God choose to bless Jacob because Jacob valued the promises that God had given his forefathers whereas Esau did not (cf. Genesis 27)? Clearly Jacob did value these promises and Esau did not, but here God presented the outcome of their lives as the consequences of His sovereign choice rather than their choices.   Clendenen believed God's love and hatred of Jacob and Esau was His response to their respective regard and disregard of His covenant promises. [Clendenen] Their choices were important, but the choice of God before and behind their choices that resulted in the outcome of their lives was more important (Eph 1; Rom 9).

   ▪ Some of God's choices, the really important ones (His decree), determine all that takes place to bring those choices to reality. If this were not so, God would not be all-powerful; man could override the power of God with his choices. Some of God's choices are stronger than others, as reflected, for example, in the words "will," "counsel," or "purpose" (Gr. boule) and "desire," "wish," or "inclination" (Gr. thelema). In some matters God allows people to influence His actions, even to cause Him to relent or change His mind from a previous course of action to a different one. Yet in the really important things that He has determined, no one can alter His will. [Note: See Thomas L. Constable, "What Prayer Will and Will Not Change," in Essays in Honor of J. Dwight Pentecost, pp. 99-113.] Yet God's choices do not mean that man's choices are only apparently real. Human beings have a measure of freedom, and it is genuine freedom. We know this is true because a just God holds human beings responsible for their choices. How humans can be genuinely free, to the extent that we are free, and how God can still maintain control is probably impossible for us to comprehend fully.

   ▪ The bottom line is that God chose to bless Jacob to an extent that He did not choose to bless Esau. This decision lay behind all the decisions that these twin brothers made. They were responsible for their decisions and actions, but God had predetermined their destinies (cf. Ephesians 1:3-5; Romans 8:28-30).

Note on vv 2-9:  "Malachi's first address is governed by the ironic exhortation in Malachi 1:10, 'Oh, that one of you would shut the temple doors.' It is directed against the priests of the postexilic temple. Despite their responsibility under the covenant of Levi (cf. Malachi 2:4; Malachi 2:8) to be the Lord's messengers of Torah (Malachi 2:7), they were dishonoring the Lord (Malachi 1:6), particularly in their careless attitude toward the offerings (Malachi 1:8). Failing to take their responsibilities to the Lord seriously, they had become political pawns of the influential in Israel who used religion to maintain respectability (Malachi 2:9). The priests are here exhorted to stop the empty worship and to begin honoring the Lord with pure offerings and faithful service. As motivation the Lord declares his love for them (and for all the people; Malachi 1:2-5) and threatens them with humiliation and removal from his service (cf. Malachi 2:1-3; Malachi 2:9)." [Note: Ibid., p. 244.]
   ▪ One's attitude toward and his or her relationship with God determine that person's health and wholeness as a child of God. They also determined Israel's national health and wholeness. This first address deals with this subject particularly: the theological issue of attitude toward and relationship with God.

v. 4:  Though Edom says, "We have been beaten down, but we will return and build up the ruins"; this is what the LORD of armies says: "They may build, but I will tear down; and people will call them the territory of wickedness, and the people with whom the LORD is indignant forever." - Even though the Edomites, Esau's descendants, determined to rebuild their nation after it had suffered destruction by the Babylonians, they would not be able to do so. They could not because almighty Yahweh would not permit it. He would tear down whatever they rebuilt, so much so that other people would view them as a wicked land (cf. the holy land, Zechariah 2:12) and the objects of Yahweh's perpetual indignation. The "holy" land was holy, sanctified, because God set it apart for special blessing, as He had the nation of Israel. Edom, on the other hand, was wicked because God had not set it apart for special blessing.

   ▪ "Israel needed to consider what her lot would have been if she, like Edom, had not been elected to a covenant relationship with Yahweh. Both Israel and Edom received judgment from God at the hands of the Babylonians in the sixth century (Jeremiah 27:2-8). Yet God repeatedly promised to restore Israel (because of His covenant promises, Deuteronomy 4:29-31; Deuteronomy 30:1-10), but He condemned Edom to complete destruction, never to be restored (Jeremiah 49:7-22; Ezekiel 35)." [Note: Blaising, p. 1576.]

   ▪ "The Judeans had Persian permission and support in their rebuilding campaign (Ezra 1:1-11; Ezra 4:3; Ezra 6:1-15; Ezra 7:11-28; Nehemiah 2:7-9; Nehemiah 13:6). That was God's doing. The Edomites had no such help, which was also God's doing and which sealed Edom's fate as a people forever." [Note: Stuart, p. 1289.]

v. 5:   And your eyes will see this, and you will say, "The Lord be exalted beyond the border of Israel!" Observing Yahweh's dealings with Edom, the Israelites would learn of His love for her and His greatness that extended beyond Israel (cf. Malachi 1:11; Malachi 1:14; Malachi 3:12; Malachi 4:6). They would eventually call on other people to appreciate Him too.

   ▪ "While Edom does not have the most space devoted to prophecies against it in total number of verses (Egypt has that honor, thanks to Ezekiel), it has the widest distribution among the prophetic books. From Isaiah 34 in particular it is clear that Edom can be used by the prophets to stand as a synecdoche for 'all the nations' (Isaiah 34:2)." [Note: Ibid., pp. 1281-82. For a list of oracles against foreign nations in the Prophets, see ibid., p. 1281.]

   ▪ The point of this section was to get the Jews of the restoration community, who were thinking that God had abandoned them and forgotten His promises to them, to think again. Even though they seemed to be experiencing the same fate as their ancient enemy, the Edomites, God would restore them because He had entered into covenant relationship with them. He would keep His promises, both to the Israelites and to the Edomites, for better and for worse respectively. This reminder of the Lord's love provided positive motivation for the priests to return to the Lord, and it should have the same effect on all God's people who read these verses.

v. 6:  'A son honors his father, and a servant his master. Then if I am a father, where is My honor? And if I am a master, where is My respect?' says the LORD of armies to you, the priests who despise My name! But you say, 'How have we despised Your name?' - This pericope begins like the first one, with a statement by Yahweh and a challenging response (cf. Isaiah 1:2-3). The priests were responsible to teach the other Israelites the Law, to mediate between Yahweh and His people, and to judge the people.

   ▪ Almighty Yahweh asked the priests of Israel why they did not honor Him since sons honor their fathers (Exodus 20:12; Deuteronomy 5:16), and He was their Father (Exodus 4:22; Isaiah 1:2; Isaiah 63:16; Isaiah 64:8; Hosea 11:1). Since servants respect their masters, why did they not fear Him since He was their Master (Isaiah 44:1-2)? Even though they were blind to His love they should at least have given Him honor.

   ▪ Speaking for the priests, Malachi gave their response. They denied having despised His name. The "name" of Yahweh was a common substitute for the person of Yahweh from early biblical times (cf. Exodus 23:21; Deuteronomy 12:5; Deuteronomy 12:11; Deuteronomy 12:21; Deuteronomy 16:2; Deuteronomy 16:6; et al.).      It became a virtual title for Yahweh by the end of the biblical period and increasingly so after that. [Note: See Walther Eichrodt, Theology of the Old Testament, 2:40-45.] By asking how they had despised His name, rather than saying, "We have not despised your name," the priests were claiming ignorance as to how they were doing this. However their question also carried a challenge; they resented the suggestion that they had despised His name.

   ▪ "Intimate familiarity with holy matters conduces to treating them with indifference." [Note: Alden, p. 711.]

Note on the situation of the priests' failure to honor the Lord 1:6-9:  The preceding section ended with a statement of Yahweh's greatness. The second one opens with a question about why Israel's priests did not honor Him. The theme of honoring or fearing the Lord appears several times in Malachi making it one of the major themes in this book (cf. Mal. 1:11; Mal. 1:14; Mal. 2:2; Mal. 2:5; Mal. 3:5; Mal. 3:16; Mal. 4:2). The first disputation (Mal. 1:2-5) is the simplest, and this one (Mal. 1:6 to Mal. 2:9) is the most complex.

   ▪ "God inspired Malachi to produce an excoriation of the priests, in the same overall disputation format that governs all the passages of the book, but incorporating terminology and themes from a famous blessing closely associated in everyone's mind with the priests [i.e., Numbers 6:23-27]." [Note: Ibid., p. 1297. On this page Stuart also showed the similarities between the two passages in a side-by-side chart. On page 1316 he did the same comparing Numbers 25:11-13 and Deuteronomy 33:8-11 with Malachi 1:6-2:9.]

v. 7:  You are presenting defiled food upon My altar. But you say, 'How have we defiled You?' In that you say, 'The table of the LORD is to be despised.' - The Lord responded through Malachi that the priests had despised the Lord by presenting defiled sacrifices to Him (cf. Leviticus 22:2; Leviticus 22:17-30; Leviticus 22:32). Defiled sacrifices were sacrifices that were not ritually clean or acceptable, as the Law specified. By doing this they defiled (made unclean) the altar of burnt offerings and the Lord. The Law referred to the offerings as food for God (Leviticus 21:6), though obviously He did not eat them. The use of "food" for "sacrifice" and "table" for "altar" continues the human analogies already begun in Malachi 1:6. Moreover, these terms also connote covenant relationships because covenants were usually ratified when the participants, typically a king and his vassals, ate a meal together.

   ▪ "What does this say to professed Christians who spend hundreds of dollars annually, perhaps thousands, on gifts for themselves, their family, and their friends, but give God a dollar a week when the offering plate is passed?" [Note: Wiersbe, p. 480.]

v. 8:  And when you present a blind animal for sacrifice, is it not evil? Or when you present a lame or sick animal, is it not evil? So offer it to your governor! Would he be pleased with you, or would he receive you kindly?" says the LORD of armies. - Furthermore the priests were offering blind, lame, and sick animals as sacrifices. These were unacceptable according to the Law (Leviticus 22:18-25; Deuteronomy 15:21). The Lord asked them if this was not evil. Of course it was. They would not offer such bad animals to their governor because they would not please him, but they dared offer them to their King. The governor in view would have been one of the Persian officials who ruled over the territory occupied by Judah. Nehemiah held this position for a while, but others preceded and followed him in it. The Book of Malachi seems to date from Nehemiah's leadership of Israel, but Nehemiah refused to receive offerings from the people (Nehemiah 5:14; Nehemiah 5:18). So the governor in view here was probably not Nehemiah. Elnathan, Yeho'ezer, and Ahzai were evidently the governors of Judah between Zerubbabel and Nehemiah. [Note: N. Avigad, "Bullae and Seals from a Post-exilic Judean Archive," Qedem 4, p. 34.]

   ▪ The main point here is that anything second-rate that we offer to God is inappropriate in view of who He is. This includes our worship, our ministries, our studies, physical objects, anything. The Lord is worthy of our very best offerings to Him, and we should give Him nothing less. To give Him less than our best is to despise Him. Shoddiness is an insult to God. Shoddy holy is still shoddy.

v. 9:  "But now, do indeed plead for God's favor, so that He will be gracious to us.  With such an offering on your part, will He receive any of you kindly?" says the LORD of armies. - How foolish it was to pray for God to bestow His favor on the priests when they were despising Him in these ways.

   ▪ "This is irony. God will not hear the prayers of those who dishonor him." [Note: Burton L. Goddard, "Malachi," in The Wycliffe Bible Commentary, p. 915.]

   ▪ "Over the years, I've participated in many ordination examinations, and I've looked for four characteristics in each candidate: a personal experience of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ; a sense of calling from the Lord; a love for and knowledge of the Word of God; and a high respect for the work of the ministry. Whenever we've examined a candidate who was flippant about ministry, who saw it as a job and not a divine calling, he didn't get my vote. Whether as a pastor, missionary, teacher, choir member, or usher, being a servant of God is a serious thing, and it deserves the very best that we can give." [Note: Wiersbe, p. 481.]

C. Command: stop the pointless offerings 1:10-11

v. 10:  "If only there were one among you who would shut the gates, so that you would not kindle fire on My altar for nothing! I am not pleased with you," says the LORD of armies, "nor will I accept an offering from your hand. - The Lord ironically wished the priests would shut the temple gates and stop offering sacrifices since they had so little regard for Him. He was displeased with them and would not accept any offerings from them. They might continue to offer them, but He would have no regard for them. Obviously the Lord had ordained the offering of sacrifices under the Law, but He preferred that the priests not offer them rather than offering them when they were meaningless, simply as an obligation. "I am not pleased with you" is the opposite of "Well done, good and faithful servant" (Matthew 25:21).

   ▪ This verse is the chiastic center and the heart of the first hortatory discourse dealing with the importance of the priests honoring the Lord (Malachi 1:2 to Malachi 2:9).

v. 11:  For from the rising of the sun even to its setting, My name shall be great among the nations, and in every place frankincense is going to be offered to My name, and a grain offering that is pure; for My name shall be great among the nations," says the LORD of armies. - It was particularly inappropriate for Israel's priests to despise Yahweh because the time would come when people from all over the world would honor His name (i.e., His person; cf. Isaiah 45:22-25; Isaiah 49:5-7; Isaiah 59:19). Incense accompanied prayers (cf. Revelation 5:8) and grain offerings were offerings of praise and worship (cf. Hebrews 13:15-16). In that day people from many places would offer pure offerings. This refers to worship in the Millennium (cf. Malachi 3:1-4; Isaiah 11:3-4; Isaiah 11:9; Daniel 7:13-14; Daniel 7:27-28; Zephaniah 2:11; Zephaniah 3:8-11; Zechariah 14:9; Zechariah 14:16).

   ▪ "Others argue that this verse legitimizes sincere pagan worship as really being directed to the one true God. However, such a notion is antithetical to the militant monotheism that permeates Israel's Yahwistic theology." [Note: Robert B. Chisholm Jr., Handbook on the Prophets, p. 478. See also Baldwin, pp. 227-28.]

Malachi 1:1-11 - Ross ( Commentary

1. God's Faithful Covenant Love (Malachi 1:1-5)

v. 1 - Introduction: Author and Date:  The Book of Malachi begins with: "A burden, the Word of Yahweh to Israel by the hand of Malachi." And that is all the information we have on this prophet. Other prophetic books often tell when the prophet wrote, that is, during the reigns of certain kings. As we shall see, though, there were no kings in Israel when Malachi delivered his messages--they were a thing of the past. So how can we date this book? What are the clues that we have?

To answer some of these questions we can only look at the contents of the book and make an estimation of the date of its composition. A quick read through the book will tell us that the messages are intensely practical about sacrificial worship, priestly ministry, marriage and divorce, tithing, and anticipation of the coming of Yahweh to judge the world and fulfill the promises of the golden age. We can conclude from this general survey that there was no problem with idolatry--it was a thing of the past. In fact, there is no mention of the judgment on Israel for idolatry, the Babylonian captivity. That was a thing of the past as well, long since forgotten by these folk. There is no reference to any king, only a governor. But they did have a temple and a functioning priesthood, even though it was not functioning correctly. On the basis of these observations we would date the book in the post-exilic period.

The exile in Babylon ended in 536 B.C. Many of the people returned to the land under the leadership of Zerubbabel, the heir apparent to the throne if there ever was one to inherit, Joshua the High Priest, and the prophets Zechariah and Haggai. By 515 B.C. they had rebuilt the temple in Jerusalem, a major triumph for the people of God, but also a disappointment for those old enough to remember Solomon's temple. As the people settled in to the land and tried to make a life for themselves, they became discouraged and disillusioned because the glorious prophecies about their re-gathering to the land seemed not to be fulfilled. And so in time their commitment to the covenant began to lag as well.

About 455 B.C. Ezra returned to the land and promptly began a revival to bring the people back to faith. The results of that spiritual work did not last very long, for in 444 B.C. Nehemiah was sent as governor and he found the same sins being committed that Ezra tried to correct. Nehemiah had to continue the reforms as well as rebuild the walls of the city of Jerusalem. Nehemiah was called back to the palace about 433 or 432 B.C. and remained there a few years. It seems most plausible to put the ministry of Malachi in this time of Nehemiah's absence, because the messages address the same problems that Nehemiah had been working to correct. In Nehemiah we find that many had taken alien wives (13:23), and so too do we find this in Malachi (2:11); in Nehemiah the people were withholding their tithes (13:10), and so too in Malachi's time (3:8); Nehemiah had to deal with divorce of legitimate wives (13:23, 27) and so did Malachi (2:15,16); and Nehemiah spoke of the neglect of temple service (13:4, 5, 11), and so did Malachi (1:12,13). We may conclude that while Nehemiah was there his reforms took hold, but when he was recalled there was a relapse, for he returned to find things in a mess again.

Malachi stepped forward to assist in bringing about the reforms permanently. He found a spirit that would later be expressed in Pharisaism and Sadduceeism, a spirit of outward perfunctory service with no inward repentance or devotion. There was widespread skepticism and resignation. The people complained that the earlier prophetic promises had not been fulfilled, and they were impatient for God to judge their enemies, especially the Gentiles.  So,  Malachi had serious issues to address--but was exactly the right man for the job.

All this would mean, then, that Malachi wrote between 430 and 420 B.C. He was the last of the prophets to write, and his writing predicted the next great prophet who was to come to prepare the way of the Lord, John the Baptist. But we must remember when we say he was a post-exilic prophet that he came on the scene a good hundred years after Zechariah and Haggai, and almost a generation after Ezra. Malachi is the last of the twelve Minor Prophets--but those twelve prophets stretch over a period of 400 years, about the time from Shakespeare to today in our literary history. When Malachi came preaching it had been some time since a prophet was heard, and the people to whom he preached reacted with antagonism and skepticism.

But we still have no information about the man himself other than his name is Malachi--in Hebrew mak'aki (pronounced mal-ah-key). Some commentators even think that was an abbreviated name from Malachiah, "Messenger of Yah,"1_ftn1 or that the name might have even been a pen-name. But the prophets did not do that, as far as we know. The name most likely was as it appears, "My messenger." And the name will provide a major unifying theme of the book: the prophet is a messenger, the priests are messengers, the forerunner is a messenger, and the Messiah Himself is a messenger.

The style of the Book of Malachi is clear and direct; it is the style of prophetic sermons with a few predictions included. Malachi may not have the lofty style and poetic imagination of an Isaiah, but he is nonetheless eloquent and effective. He is more a reasoner than a poet--and that is what was needed for these people. His style is simple, smooth, concise, and forceful--and at times eloquent. His description of the ideal priest in 2:5-7 is powerful as well as poetic; and his description of the coming of the Lord in 4:2 and 3 includes some of the most beautiful imagery found in the prophets. Because Malachi's audience was skeptical, he chose to use interrogation and reply as the way of getting through to them. In each point he knew what they were thinking and what they were about to say, and so he anticipated them with both the questions and the answers.

The title of the book characterizes this prophecy as a "burden." In other words, the oracles included here will be heavy and stern, warnings and rebukes. But the messages are also consolatory: they are not "against" Israel, but "to" Israel. And there are hopeful notes of forgiveness and blessing and joy--if the people will heed the warnings.

v. 2a:  The prophet declares God's special love (1:2a):  The book opens with the declaration of the word of Yahweh: "I have loved you." This affirmation of God's choice of and affection for the nation provides a powerful beginning to the oracles, for on the one hand it will soften the tone of the messages--they will be delivered in love, but on the other hand it will underscore the nations ingratitude. Even though God has loved them, they had failed to show any appreciation for it, or any response to it. In fact even when the prophet declared this message, the response was a skeptical challenge for the prophet to convince them that God loved them.

 • If people are in any way open to the word of God, the constantly repeated message of God's faithful love for his people should inspire greater devotion and service. But the appeal of Malachi will be even wider than that, for the object of God's love in this passage is the whole nation, some unbelievers and some believers. Even the unbelievers would have to acknowledge that they were part of a special people that God loved and desired to use, if they would only believe and follow His word. So Malachi begins with the most powerful motivation that he can use to appeal to the people--the love of God.

vv. 2b-3a:  God's love was realized in his choice of Israel.  The people were not immediately convinced of this declaration; to them, because of their state of spiritual rebellion, it sounded good but was not convincing, not convincing because things had not worked out to their satisfaction. "How have you loved us?" they asked. And the prophet's response reminded them of their status as the chosen people of God: "Was not Esau Jacob's brother?" Yahweh says. "Yet I have loved Jacob, but Esau have I hated."

• To our word "love" ('ahab [ah-have]) we now add the antonym "hate" (sane' [sah-nay]). A careful word study of each of these terms will show that choice is a part of the meaning for love, and reject (or not choose) is at the heart of the word for hate. Even Jesus used the word hate with this basic meaning when he called for his disciples to hate father and mother--he called for them to choose to follow Him and that involved a radical break with families. With Jacob and Esau we know that the choice was made for Jacob even before the two boys were born, when the mother was pregnant and sought an oracle about the twins. And that oracle was not about two boys, but about two nations (Gen. 25). The loving and hating was not personal, but providential. That is why Paul refers to the same event in Romans 9:13 as a sample of divine election. God's love for Jacob was a distinguishing love; it meant that the line from Jacob, i.e., the Israelites, was chosen for a special purpose in the world--to be the channel of blessing to the nations and the source of the Messiah. The Edomites, the descendants of Esau, were not chosen. This, of course, does not mean that individual Edomites could not come to faith in the LORD; it means that the line of the Edomites was not the chosen line.

• The point that Malachi was making to his audience was that their existence as the people of God was the clearest evidence of the love of God on any nation. God chose the Israelites to be his kingdom of priests in the world. He gave them the Scriptures, the temple, the priests, the prophets, the covenants, and ultimately the Messiah. And His love for them was an everlasting love--even though they failed Him again and again, He still retained His covenant with them and chose to use them in a glorious way. That is--those who believed in Him and were willing to serve Him.

vv. 3b-4:  God's love was demonstrated in His care for Israel (1:3b-4).
Not only did God choose Israel ("Jacob"), but He also cared for the Israelites whenever they were in trouble. The simple fact was that Israel was protected down through the ages, and the Edomites were not. Israel's expectations were being fulfilled; Edom's were not. This also should have told Malachi's audience that the love of God was genuine.

• The Edomites, mostly descendants of Esau but also a number of tribes that were included, lived in the region to the south and east of Israel, across the great rift of the Jordan Valley, and south of the Dead Sea. At one time it was heavily wooded and well watered. When the Israelites, their cousins, came up from Egypt, the Edomites would not let them pass through their land, but made them go all the way around into the eastern desert. But God would not let the Israelites fight them, for they were relatives.  Even so, down through the history the Edomites from time to time attacked the people of Israel or supported others who attacked them.

• When the Babylonians invaded the land and sacked Jerusalem and carried off the people, Edom was left in misery along with the many other little states. The destruction of the Edomites was a part of the prophetic message from God to the region (Obadiah). And even in Babylon the people remembered the way that Edom had dealt with them (Ps. 137:7). After the exile the Jews were restored to their land, but the Edomites were never again a force in the desert. They were an easy prey for the Persians, and then the Nabateans--Arab tribes who drove them out of their land. They settled more to the south of Israel, and became known as the Idumeans. But they were subjugated by the Maccabeans, then the Macedonians, and finally the Romans. The only sore spot for Israel was that in the days of Jesus the Romans installed on the throne a client king, Herod the Great--an Idumean, a descendant of Esau.

• In this passage God makes it clear to the nation that the Edomites have been left to the desert jackals. This was their state after the exile was over--their lands were barren, and they were subjugated. Moreover, God said through Malachi that even if the Edomites tried to rebuild, He would destroy their work. The only conclusion that was left from these themes is that the Edomites would always be a people under the wrath of God,2_ftn2 and they would be known as the boundary of wickedness.

Therefore, God was judging the Edomites for the treachery that they showed to Israel throughout their histories. Not only had God protected Israel from the treatment they received from Edom, He also in the end restored Israel to her land and left the mountains of Edom a wasteland. This too was a clear demonstration of God's love for his people.

• In a similar way the Church can look back over human history and see how the love of God has been demonstrated to them. God loved us; He chose us to be His people, to be a kingdom of priests; and He has preserved and protected us down through the ages, although so many in the world have tried to destroy the people of God one way or another. But Jesus said that He would not allow the gates of hell to prevail against His Church. And when the Church begins to doubt the love of God, they simply have to take stock of who they are and how they came to be. It was the love of God. But now, because of that love, the Lord will speak sternly to His people.

Conclusion:  Malachi ends this little introduction with a final word from God: "You will see it with your own eyes and say, Great is Yahweh, even beyond the borders of Israel" (1:5). The people may have thought that God had not fulfilled all His promises to them, at least not as fast as they would have liked. But God declares that they will see the greatness of God, even beyond the land. This word anticipates the themes in this book that speak of the blessings on Israel, the salvation of the Gentiles, and the coming of the Lord to destroy all the wicked. Clearly, not everyone in Malachi's day would see all of this--they would see bits of it. But true to the prophetic style, "you" refers to the people of God in general, and not just the immediate audience.3

II. Worship That God Rejects (Malachi 1:6-14)

Introduction:  Worship is supposed to be a celebration of being in covenant fellowship with the living God. It is a time set aside for the members of the covenant, the believers, to demonstrate their faith with genuine praise and thanksgiving. And God arranged the worship of Israel in a way that praise and thanksgiving would be most natural for the people--he arranged it for the three great harvest festivals ion the land, barley in the spring, wheat in the summer, and summer fruits in the fall. Because the harvests were a gift from God, the people were by duty bound to bring tokens of their thanksgiving to offer to God at the feasts of Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles. And because these were harvest celebrations, they were natural times for the farmers to rejoice--the work was over for the season. Only those who grew up on a farm would know how hard the work is, and how much joy there is when the harvest was finally in.

When the Israelites came up to Jerusalem top worship, they were to bring animals from their flocks, wheat and fruit from their fields, and whatever other gifts of gratitude they wanted to give to God. God did not need the food to survive (see Ps. 50); Israel was to bring the offerings to God not because he needed them, but as an expression of the Israelite's need of God. To refuse to offer the gifts to God was to say that God was not necessary to the success of the people, when in fact without him they could not survive.

When the people came to worship, God did not require a great deal of them in the way of offerings--tokens, really, of their herds and their crops--a handful of grain, or an animal for the family. But what they brought had to pass two important tests, and in many cases only they and God would know if they passed them. What they brought had to be the first and the best. Nothing else mattered. It had to be the first-born animal, or the first fruit of the crops or the orchards. God gets his share first, because he is the most important. But it had to be the best--the best firstborn or first fruit offering. To bring God an inferior gift would say that one did not think much of God, for the quality of the gift indicates the value the giver places on the one receiving the gift. That is true in any human relationship, and it certainly is true in the spiritual relationship we have with the Lord.

But people are always falling short of pure worship, or at least pure worship on a sustained level. And so the prophets came on the scene in Israel to rebuke, reprove, correct, and exhort the people. In the earlier periods the prophets had to deal with idolatry and pagan corruptions in Israel's worship. After the exile that was no longer a major problem. But instead, worship was being corrupted by the indifference and selfishness of people. And so Malachi had to address a whole different set of problems in the nation. His first sermon, directed at the priests but certainly speaking to the worship of the people, deals with their making a mockery out of worship by bringing inferior offerings. God was not pleased with that kind of worship.

vv. 6-8:  Those who offer God worthless gifts despise the name of the Lord 

  • The Charge of Despising the Name:  Malachi begins his message with a couple of affirmations that the people would probably agree with wholeheartedly, but that he would use to lead into his rebuke. He declares, "A son honors a father, and a servant his master." They would respond, "Yes, this is what the Law said, and this is how things ought to be." The word "honors" indicates that the son would give his father, and the servant his master, the proper weight of authority (the verb is from kabed, to be heavy").

But Malachi follows this with two rhetorical questions from God: "If I am a father, where is my honor; if I am Lord, where is my fear?" says Yahweh of armies to you, O priests, who despise my name." This would have overwhelmed the people; they thought the message was going to be on the human relationships he introduced, but he turned it to their spiritual relationship with God. The accusation is clear: they were not honoring nor fearing the Lord, and so they did not really consider him their father or their master. He still has not stated what the problem is, but whatever it is it can be summarized that they do not honor the Lord and they do not fear him--and yet they are priests and worshipers! It is possible to be in attendance in a worship service, go through all the ritual and sing all the hymns, and yet despise the Lord.

            • This is the point the prophet makes by saying that they despise his name. The message is addressed to the priests directly, but as we shall see, because of their failures, the nation was also guilty of not honoring and fearing the Lord. They are also the ones "who despise my name." The word "despise" means to look down on something as if it is worthless, to despise or treat with contempt. The Lord says the priests are "despisers of my name," the participle form emphasizing the nature of the word as their nature. And the "name" in the Old Testament refers to the Lord himself, his person and his works.

            • The priests thought they were doing everything right, saying the prayers and the blessings, and making all the right sacrifices; so they responded (at least Malachi knows how they would respond), "Wherein have we despised your name?" Even if they made a mistake here or there in the service, it did not mean that they despised the name of the Lord, did it?--so they would reason. But Malachi said the Lord said otherwise.

            • This is a very serious charge even as it stands; the seriousness is signaled by the title of God, "Yahweh of armies" [hosts], a judgment title meaning that God has all the heavenly and earthly armies at his disposal to judge the people. And so now that Malachi had their attention, he could explain what was happening.

  • The Charge Explained:  The Lord said through the prophet that they were offering on the high altar defiled food. The altar was the place of sacrifice, of course; and the charge was that what they were offering to God did not measure up to the standards. The "food" that they brought was defiled or polluted. That the sacrifices were called food was both symbolic and practical, symbolic because when they were burned on the altar it was as if God "consumed" them, and practical because some of the sacrifices were to be eaten by the priests and the people as communal meals.

• This was a serious charge because of the requirements in the Law. They were supposed to bring sacrifices that were perfect--healthy animals, without any blemish at all. There were two very important reasons for this. First, the sacrifice was a gift that was to be offered to God. As noted above, the kind of gift that someone gives indicates what they think of the person they are giving it to. For example, if a husband gave his wife a gift for Valentines Day, say a new mop, the gift would certainly not be well-received because it would not be special and because it would speak volumes of what he thought of her. Or if someone gave another person a gift that was old, used, worn out, and of no use any more, it would be an insult. They would just be pawning off some junk on the person. So to bring a gift to God that was defiled was a real insult--no matter how much the priests protested the charge.

• Second, theologically the animal sacrifice was for atonement, signifying that the perfect animal would be offered in place of the sinner. Since the animal represented God's provision for the sins of the worshiper, it had to be without blemish itself. This principle came to fulfillment in the sacrifice of Christ on the cross: he was the sinless Lamb of God who gave his life for the sins of the world. If Christ had been defiled, a sinner, his death would have been no better than our own deaths. The only one who could redeem us from sin was the only one who was sinless.

• So to bring defiled offerings was serious. And they knew it. But they challenged this as well: "Wherein have we defiled you?" Note, in anticipating what their response is, Malachi changes the object--they were not just bringing defiled offerings, they were defiling God." If the sanctuary were holy, if the altar was holy, if the sacrifices were to be holy, then to bring in defiled gifts would be to defile everything about worship. How so? Because, as Malachi answers this charge, he says that in effect they are saying that the table of the Lord is contemptible! Here is the word "despise" again--not only do they despise the name of the Lord, they think the table, that is the altar, is worthless. Because the people brought defiled gifts they did not think the altar and the ritual was worthwhile.

• How exactly did they despise the altar and offer defiled things? Here then are the specifics. In verse 8 the prophet says, "When you offer the blind for a sacrifice, is that not evil? And when you offer the lame, and the sick, is that not evil?" He is talking about animals. The people knew they had to bring animal sacrifices to the sanctuary for their worship--an animal for a sin offering, another animal for the burnt offering, a third animal for the peace offering--three animals for the family group every time they came to the sanctuary! That could get expensive, of course. And so they brought the animals that were diseased, crippled, blind, and worthless, animals they could not sell or use, but they could offer them to God. After all, God was only going to burn them up anyway. So this was a very practical thing to do--so they thought--fulfill the ritual, and get rid of the crummy livestock at the same time.

Malachi challenges them: "Offer them to your governor; see if he will be pleased with you, or respect you"--says the Lord of armies. Try paying your taxes to the government by giving it worthless things. No, the government gets its hand into the paycheck first and takes its share right off the top. Always. But God is more important than the government; so why do people think they can get away with giving him inferior gifts?

And the people in Malachi's day are not the only ones guilty of this. When I was growing up people used to collect things for missionaries or disaster relief, and they often found that people had given junk, things that they could not use any more. What happened to sacrificial giving? This was cleaning out the attic. And, when people give to the Lord in worship, it is often what is left over after they plan everything else that they want to do with their money. The standard in worship from the beginning is that God gets the first and the best. The first-born animal, the first fruit from the trees and the field, go to God; and whatever is given to God has to be perfect, it has to be the best. This is true of physical gifts as well as spiritual service. Our money, our time, our service--God's people must give the best they have to him; and in all things he must have the pre-eminence (Col. 1:18).

vv. 9-11:  Those who are guilty of worthless worship must seek God's favor to continue to be his people
• The Instruction to Find Favor
In the next section the prophet instructs the people what they should do. They have a choice. If they feel that they have violated the holy things, then all they can do, and do quickly, is pray to the Lord for forgiveness (v. 9). "Now, entreat the face of God that he may be gracious to us." The expression is bold, but simple--they have to pray for divine favor (the face of God usually represents his favor). The motivation is that God may be gracious. The word "gracious" implies that they do not deserve God's favor, but rather his judgment, for "grace" is undeserved favor.

• The reason for the urgent prayer is that the people are guilty: "this is from your hands" is an idiom in the book that means, "this is what you have produced." Will God be pleased or will he respect those who do this? The implied answer to the rhetorical question is that God has no pleasure in or respect for the worshiper who offers to God something that is ruined or worthless.

The Need to Prevent Vain Worship:  But on the other hand, if they are going to keep worshiping like this, the prophet declares, "O that someone would shut the doors so that you might not kindle fire on my altar gratuitously." Malachi thinks it is better to lock the doors of the temple and keep the people out. If they continue to worship this way, then the fire they light on the altar will be worthless. In stating this the prophet uses the word "gratuitously, without a cause"; it forms a word play on their seeking God's grace, for it is from the same root (khanan). "Grace" is undeserved merit; "gratuitous" is for no reason, without a cause. In this passage, the latter meaning applies, for their worship would be worthless, pointless, for no reason, a waste of time. God takes no pleasure in worthless worship; in fact, he rejects it! If people do not do it with love and devotion, but only out of compulsion to follow a ritual, their gift will be worthless, and they will be rejected.

The Prophecy of Gentile Worship:  What would be the outcome of shutting down the temple and keeping false worship out? Turning to the Gentiles. In verse 11 we have one of the early predictions of Gentile faith: if the Israelites reject the Lord, the nations will not. So, from the rising of the sun to its setting, the Gentiles will worship him. This is a figure of speech called merism, two opposites are stated for the meaning of the totality. Rising of the sun is in the morning, setting is in the evening-all day; the rising is in the east, the setting in the west-everywhere. All day long and everywhere the nations will worship and magnify the Lord. Moreover, they will burn incense and offer pure sacrifices to the Lord. The burning of incense goes with offering prayers, and offering pure sacrifices goes with the obedience of faith, for to do that they would have to prepare for the worship. In time this is what happened, God turned to the Gentiles. And when the Gospel went to all nations, people celebrated the pure offering, the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the Righteous.

Conclusion:  The Lord Jesus Christ told the woman at the well that the Father was seeking worshipers who would worship in spirit and truth. Worship must be honest and spiritual; the worshipers must put their heart into it and offer to God the best that they have, and the best that they can do. To get to this point they have to grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord so that they will appreciate more who he is and what he has done. The greater the knowledge of the object of worship, the greater the worship. But if people do not venture there in their faith, but live selfish and self-indulgence lives, then the worship will be a drudgery and their gifts perfunctory and worthless.







EW:  Malachi 1:1-11 - "I Have Loved You

A. God's love for a rebellious Israel.
(1-2a) God declares His love for Israel through the prophet Malachi.

The burden of the word of the LORD to Israel by Malachi.  "I have loved you," says the LORD.

a. To Israel by Malachi: Malachi spoke to the exiles some 100 years after their initial return, after the days of Zechariah and Haggai. Malachi served God either at the time of Nehemiah or immediately after that book ended.

   i. We know this because in Malachi's day the temple was already rebuilt (Malachi 1:13, 3:1, 3:10).

   ii. We know this because the Jews were under a civil ruler (the governor of Malachi 1:8), and Nehemiah was the last civil ruler over Jerusalem.

   iii. We know this because the sins that Malachi rebuked were the same sins Nehemiah rebuked.

  • The priesthood was defiled (Nehemiah 13:29, Malachi 1:6-2:9).
  •  Marriage was corrupt in Israel (Nehemiah 13:23-25, Malachi 2:14-15).
  • The tithe that should go to the Levites was kept from them (Neh 13:10-11, Mal 3:8-12).

   iv. By now, the temple was rebuilt, sacrifice and feasts had resumed but the dramatic promises of the prophets like Haggai and Zechariah were still far from fulfillment. This left the nation discouraged and disappointed in what they thought were unfulfilled promises. This led them towards a low regard for God. Israel needed an assurance of God's love and a challenge to their disobedience.

b. "I have loved you," says the LORD: Malachi would bring a lot of specific correction for Israel, but before God corrected them, He assured them of His love. This set a foundation for their obedience, because if they loved Him, they would keep His commandments (as in John 14:15).
  i. Morgan translates this as "I have loved you, I do love you, I will love you," says the Lord.

(2b-5) Their first question: How has God demonstrated His love to Israel?

"Yet you say, 'In what way have You loved us?' Was not Esau Jacob's brother?"  Says the LORD.
"Yet Jacob I have loved; But Esau I have hated, And laid waste his mountains and his heritage
For the jackals of the wilderness."  Even though Edom has said, "We have been impoverished,
But we will return and build the desolate places," Thus says the LORD of hosts:  "They may build, but I will throw down; They shall be called the Territory of Wickedness, And the people against whom the LORD will have indignation forever.  Your eyes shall see, And you shall say, 'The LORD is magnified beyond the border of Israel.'

a. In what way have You loved us: This is the kind of question rarely spoken, but often kept in the heart. It asks, "God, if you really love me, then why are things the way they are?"

   i. The prophecy of Malachi is built around seven questions the people asked God. These questions revealed their doubting, discouraged, sinful heart.

  • In what way have You loved us? (Malachi 1:2)
  • In what way have we despised Your name? (Malachi 1:6)
  • In what way have we defiled You? (Malachi 1:7)
  • In what way have we wearied Him? (Malachi 2:17)
  • In what way shall we return? (Malachi 3:7)
  • In what way have we robbed You? (Malachi 3:8)
  • In what way have we spoken against You? (Malachi 3:13)

b. Yet Jacob I have loved; but Esau I have hated: God asked Israel to find assurance in His election, His choice of them. He wanted them to understand that they were chosen and remained His chosen and favored people. When the people of Israel compared themselves to their neighbors the Edomites (the descendants of Esau), they saw that God chose to preserve Israel and He punished the Edomites.

   i. Obadiah promised judgment against the land and people of Edom. Apparently by Malachi's time it had happened, and God's choice of Israel assured His love for them.

   ii. Understanding our election can bring a wonderful assurance of God's love. It means that God chose us before we existed and that the reasons for His choosing and loving us are based in Him, not in us. Knowing God chose us gives us a sense of boldness and confidence in our walk with Him.

   iii. Understanding our election gives assurance of love but since the finished work of Jesus we have a new demonstration of love: But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).

c. Jacob I have loved; but Esau I have hated: The choice of Jacob over Esau is a strong and classic example of God's election. God chose Jacob instead of Esau to carry the blessing promised to their grandfather Abraham. In some ways, Esau was a more likely candidate because though Jacob and Esau were twins, Esau was born first. Nevertheless, Jacob was chosen, and chosen before he and Esau were ever born (Genesis 25:23).

d. Jacob I have loved; but Esau I have hated: God did not hate Esau in the sense of cursing him or striking out against him. Indeed, Esau was a blessed man (Genesis 33:9, 36:1-43). Yet when God chose Jacob, He left Esau unchosen in regard to receiving the blessing given to Abraham.

   i. In his commentary on Romans (where Paul quoted this Malachi passage in Romans 9:13) Leon Morris cited examples where hate clearly seems to mean something like "loved less" (Genesis 29:31-33, Deuteronomy 21:15, Matthew 6:24, Luke 14:26, John 12:25). Yet he agreed with Calvin's idea that the real thought here is much more like "accepted" and "rejected" more than it is like our understanding of the terms "loved" and "hated."

   ii. We should remember the reason why election is brought up here: not to exclude, but to comfort and reassure. "A woman once said to Mr. Spurgeon, 'I cannot understand why God should say that He hated Esau.' 'That,' Spurgeon replied, 'is not my difficulty, madam. My trouble is to understand how God could love Jacob'" (William Newell in his commentary on Romans).

   iii. Malachi isn't teaching double predestination. "Malachi is not speaking of the predestination of the one brother and reprobation of the other; he is contrasting the histories of the two peoples represented by them... Both nations sinned; both are punished; but Israel by God's free mercy was forgiven and restored, while Edom was left in the misery which it had brought upon itself by its own iniquity" (Pulpit).

   iv. Our greatest error in considering God's election is to think that God chooses for arbitrary reasons, as if He made choices in a random way of choosing. We may not understand God's reasons for choosing and they may be reasons He alone knows and answers to, but God's choices are not crazy, without reason, or capricious. They make perfect sense knowing everything God knows and seeing everything God sees.

   v. Some consider God's election as conditional, in the sense that it is based upon foreknowledge. Others consider God's election unconditional, based on God's sovereign choice. Here, it seems that the election of Jacob was unconditional. Though God knew what sort of men Jacob and Esau would become His election was not based on that.

vi. One might say, "I don't believe in Jesus; therefore I must not be chosen." That is fine, but then that person must not blame God at all for not choosing them if they refuse to choose Him.

f. And laid waste his mountains and his heritage for the jackals of the wilderness: The idea of God's preference for Jacob over Esau also extended to their descendants. The nation descended from Jacob (Israel) was conquered by the Babylonian Empire, and so was the nation descended from Esau (Edom). Yet God restored Israel from exile and at this point Edom had not been restored. God chose to show greater favor to Jacob and his descendants.

g. They may build, but I will throw down: God promised that Edom would be permanently ruined, and that their status as "unchosen" would not change. As a reflection of God's steadfast commitment to Israel, this was a comfort to God's people - once He chose Israel they stayed chosen, and God would not forsake them and choose another.

B. Sacrifices dishonoring to God are exposed and condemned.
1. (6-8) Second and third questions: How have we despised the LORD? How have we defiled His ministry?

"A son honors his father, And a servant his master.  If then I am the Father, Where is My honor?   And if I am a Master, Where is My reverence?  Says the LORD of hosts To you priests who despise My name.  Yet you say, 'In what way have we despised Your name?'  You offer defiled food on My altar.  But say, 'In what way have we defiled You?'  By saying, 'The table of the LORD is contemptible.'  And when you offer the blind as a sacrifice, Is it not evil?  And when you offer the lame and sick, Is it not evil?  Offer it then to your governor!
Would he be pleased with you?  Would he accept you favorably?" Says the LORD of hosts.

a. Where is My honor: Through Malachi, God asked the priests of Israel why they showed so little respect and honor to Him in their sacrifices. They called God Father, they called Him Master, yet they did not honor Him and show Him reverence with their sacrifices.

b. To you priests who despise My name: The priests of Israel brought the sacrifices and it was their duty to uphold the honor and dignity of the sacrificial system. Yet they offered defiled food to God, and offered animals that were blind, lame, or sick.

i. Passages such as Leviticus 22:20-23 and Deuteronomy 15:21 clearly prohibited offering blemished sacrifices.

c. In what way have we despised Your name: The priests weren't even aware that they despised God with their actions. This meant that it came by degrees; they probably did not know the extent of their offense and simply carried on as before. They slowly slid into despising God's name.

   i. In ministry, it is easier than many people think to blindly continue serving God and His people while in sin, and to do it in mechanical indifference. God wanted Israel's priests to think about their service to Him, and He wants today's ministers to think just as carefully.

   ii. Richard Baxter, a great Puritan writer, carefully considered the walk of the minister: "But consider plainly that the great and lamentable sin of ministers of the Gospel is that they are not fully devoted to God. They do not give themselves up wholly to the blessed work they have undertaken to do. Is it not true that flesh-pleasing and self-seeking interests - distinct from that of Christ - make us neglect our duty and lead us to walk unfaithfully in the great trust that God has given us? Is it not true that we serve God too cheaply? Do we not do so in the most applauded way? Do we not withdraw ourselves from that which would cost us the most suffering? Does not all this show that we seek earthly rather than heavenly things? And that we mind the things which are below? While we preach for the realities which are above, do we not idolize the world? So what remains to be said, brethren, but to cry that we are all guilty of too many of the aforementioned sins. Do we not need to humble ourselves in lamentation for our miscarriages before the Lord?" (Richard Baxter, The Reformed Pastor).

d. You offer defiled food on My altar: The altar was the place of sacrifice, and it belonged to God. Yet the priests of Malachi's day disgraced God and His altar by offering defiled food to Him. Ministers today must never present defiled food to God in their ministry.

   i. If the pastor's sermon is filled with funny jokes, clever anecdotes, and emotional stories but it lacks God's word - this is like defiled food. To throw in a few Bible verses here and there to illustrate or back up the preacher's stories, but to really make the sermon all about the preacher is to offer defiled food. If the sermon isn't about Jesus, if it isn't about God's Word, then the preacher is setting defiled food on God's altar.

   ii. If the pastor's sermon is sloppy, without doing the work in the study when there was the opportunity to do that work, that is like offering defiled food before God. When the preacher will not labor in prayer and meditation over God's word and seek His message for the people, the sermon can be and offering of defiled food. If the preacher does not hold fast the pattern of sound words and rightly divide the word of truth, it is all like setting defiled food on God's altar.

   iii. If that preacher's sermon is cold, refusing to show any concern or passion in the pulpit; if his passion is reserved for other things in life, then the sermon can be like defiled food. If the preacher can pontificate or argue with the best of them, but his messages have no deep passion for God or your people, the message may be like defiled food. If the preacher does his job and collects his paycheck but with a heart for Jesus that is cold, that preacher sets defiled food on God's altar.

e. The table of the LORD is contemptible: The priests weren't grateful for their ministry, for their work before the LORD. They complained about what the people gave and the trouble of being a priest.

f. Offer it then to your governor! The priests and the people tried to give to God things that the government wouldn't accept as taxes. King David had a completely different heart, saying nor will I offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God with that which costs me nothing (2 Samuel 24:24).

2. (9-11) God will be glorified but will it be by His present people?

"But now entreat God's favor, That He may be gracious to us.  While this is being done by your hands, Will He accept you favorably?"  Says the LORD of hosts.  Who is there even among you who would shut the doors, So that you would not kindle fire on My altar in vain?  I have no pleasure in you," Says the LORD of hosts, "Nor will I accept an offering from your hands.  For from the rising of the sun, even to its going down, My name shall be great among the Gentiles; In every place incense shall be offered to My name, And a pure offering; For My name shall be great among the nations," Says the LORD of hosts.

a. Entreat God's favor, that He may be gracious to us: This phrase is rich with irony. Moffatt's paraphrase gives the sense: Try to pacify God and win his favour? How can he favour any one of you, says the Lord of hosts, when you offer him such sacrifices?

b. Who would shut the doors: God thought it was better to shut the doors rather than to continue worthless worship. Not everything that is offered to God as worship is accepted by God as worship. Sometimes He would prefer that it just stop and simply says, "I have no pleasure in you."

   i. We are often concerned with church growth, evangelism, and planting churches. Yet in some cases the best thing we could do for the cause of the LORD is to shut the doors on many churches.

   ii. "I am more afraid of profanity of the sanctuary than I am of the profanity of the street." (Morgan)

c. My name shall be great among the Gentiles: Yet, God will not go without worship. If the priests and people among the Jewish people would not worship Him in Spirit and in truth, God would find worshippers among the Gentiles.

d. In every place incense shall be offered to My name: This is a glorious promise that the true worship of God will extend all over the earth. Jesus' command to spread the Gospel and to go to every nation is part of God's way of fulfilling this promise.

   i. "It is, therefore, inconceivable that a prophet should suggest that the nations of his own day were worshipping the Lord under another name (Isaiah 42:8). Rather is he proclaiming that the nations will come to know the God revealed in the Scriptures." (Baldwin)

3. (12-14) God promises to curse shallow, selfish, false worship.

"But you profane it, In that you say, 'The table of the LORD is defiled; And its fruit, its food, is contemptible.'
You also say, 'Oh, what a weariness!'  And you sneer at it," Says the LORD of hosts.  "And you bring the stolen, the lame, and the sick; Thus you bring an offering!  Should I accept this from your hand?"  Says the LORD.  "But cursed be the deceiver Who has in his flock a male, And takes a vow, but sacrifices to the LORD what is blemished-For I am a great King," Says the LORD of hosts, "And My name is to be feared among the nations."

a. Contemptible... Oh, what a weariness: Their selfish, insincere worship was also unsatisfying to the worshippers. Because they did not meet God in their worship it was as hollow for them as it was for God. True worship is never contemptible or a weariness.

b. Cursed be the deceiver: In bringing God less than their best, they were deceivers, like Annanias and Saphira who pretended to surrender everything to God but really did not (Acts 5).

c. I am a great King: They simply did not treat God like a great King, one to be feared and honored. When we offer shallow, insincere worship to God we don't honor Him as a great King.