Lesson 11 - Mal. 1:1-11 - I HAVE LOVED YOU
LAST WEEK: In Zech. 13:1-9, we studied God's end-time plan for the nation of Israel. Zechariah revealed a future day-the Day of LORD-when Israel would go through a cleansing process that the prophet compared to a fountain. At the Second Advent of Christ, the Holy Spirit will convict Israel to accept Jesus as their true Messiah, and at the moment this happens, a great national cleansing will take place in order to make Israel ready to enter into the Millennial Kingdom. And as part of this cleansing process, we learned that God will completely remove all idolatry and false teaching from the face of the earth to the extent that the people of Israel wouldn't even remember it. On the negative side, we learned that before the LORD returns, two-thirds of the nation of Israel will perish during the Great Tribulation period. The one-third remaining, after making their stand for Jesus Christ as their Messiah King , will be allowed to enter the Millennial reign of Christ on earth. In doing this, the nation of Israel will invoke God's covenantal blessing and YHWH will answer them.
THIS WEEK: We are introduced to Malachi, who was not only the last of the Minor Prophets, but also the author of the last Book in the Old Testament. Reference to the parallel events reported in the Books of Nehemiah and Ezra suggest that Malachi delivered his message between 435 and 430 B.C., which places him about 100 years after the time of Haggai and Zechariah. The name "Malachi" in Hebrew means "my messenger," which is appropriate because YHWH commanded him to bring His "word" to the people of Israel, which told them that the prophet himself wasn't the source of this revelation but was a messenger speaking for higher authority. By Malachi's time, the Temple had been rebuilt in Jerusalem and many Jews had returned to Judah; however, the people had over time become progressively indifferent toward God and obedience to His Law, both in terms of their worship practices and the immoral way many were living their lives. And perhaps worst of all, the Temple priests were doing nothing to correct the people's violation of God's Law. Through Malachi, God warned the people that they had seriously neglected their relationship with Him and called them to repent of their sin and serve Him faithfully according to the covenant made with their fathers.
Read Mal. 1:1 - THE PRONOUNCEMENT OF THE WORD
1 The oracle of the word of the LORD to Israel through Malachi.
v. 1: Just to refresh our memories, the term "oracle" in Hebrew (massa' [mas-saw]') as used in OT prophecy, literally means to take on a heavy burden or load, in this instance the literal "word" of YHWH, the LORD GOD of Israel, with whom the nation has a covenant relationship. We might say that this was the presentation of the prophet's credentials to speak on behalf of God. What will follow is evidence that Israel was in trouble with YHWH because they had failed to keep their covenant promises to Him, while YHWH had been completely faithful to keep His side of the covenant.
Read Mal. 1:2-5 - I HAVE LOVED JACOB; BUT I HAVE HATED ESAU
2 "I have loved you," says the LORD . But you say, "How have You loved us?" "Was not Esau 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 appointed his inheritance for the jackals of the wilderness." 4 Though Edom says, "We have been beaten down, but we will return and build up the ruins"; thus says the LORD of hosts, "They may build, but I will tear down; and men will call them the wicked territory, and the people toward whom the LORD is indignant forever." 5 Your eyes will see this and you will say, "The LORD be magnified beyond the border of Israel!"
v. 2: "I have loved you," says the LORD . But you say, "How have You loved us?" "Was not Esau Jacob's brother?" declares the LORD . "Yet I have loved Jacob;" - Right off the bat, we see that Malachi's prophetic style is argument-interrogation and reply-as a method of getting God's point across. In response to the people's skepticism over whether YHWH still loved them, the prophet asserts that YHWH had consistently shown "How" He has "loved" them by choosing them as the descendants of "Jacob" (i.e., Israel) over Esau. The implication of this verse is that although God loved both Jacob and Esau, He chose to give His sovereign blessing to Jacob before they were born. Even the most skeptical and backslidden Israelites would have to acknowledge that they belonged to a special people having a unique relationship with YHWH going all the way back to the Exodus.
v. 3: "but I have hated Esau, and I have made his mountains a desolation and appointed his inheritance for the jackals of the wilderness." - We need to do a careful word study of the verb "hate" as used in the context of this verse. God's "hate" did not mean that He disliked Esau in the personal sense or because Jacob was a morally a better man (he certainly wasn't), but 'hated' Esau because He chose not to bestow His blessing on him in the sovereign line of descent that would ultimately result in the Savior of the entire world. Even Jesus used the word hate in a similar context when He said: "If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple" (Luke 14:26). The point that Malachi is making to his audience is that their continued existence as the people of God was clear and convincing proof of His love for them as a nation.
v. 4: "Though Edom says, "We have been beaten down, but we will return and build up the ruins"; thus says the LORD of hosts, "They may build, but I will tear down; and men will call them the wicked territory, and the people toward whom the LORD is indignant forever." - Here, the prophet is saying that YHWH not only chose Israel (Jacob), but had cared for them whenever they were in trouble. Using the example of Esau's line, the Edomites, who had ceased to exist as nation following the Babylonian conquest, the simple fact was that Israel had been protected and preserved down through the ages. God chose the line of Israel to be His kingdom of priests in the world, and He gave them the Scriptures, the Temple, the priests, the prophets, the covenants, and ultimately, the Messiah. Again, clear and convincing proof of His everlasting love for them despite the fact that they-the people of Israel-had failed Him though their disobedience over and over gain.
APPLICATION 1: God's sovereign choice to bless one individual over another does not ultimately depend on a person's character or worthiness. It is safe to say that God's sovereign choices fall into the category of a "mystery," insofar as they were predetermined by Him in eternity past as sovereign actions that would take place in future human history. The example of choosing Jacob over Esau as the family line that would ultimately result in Jesus Christ as Messiah is an excellent case in point. And in Malachi's time, the nation of Israel owed its continued existence to this fundamental truth.
v. 5: "Your eyes will see this and you will say, "The LORD be magnified beyond the border of Israel!" - The point of this and vv. 3-4, was to get the discouraged Jewish remnant of Malachi's day, who thought that YHWH had abandoned them, to think again. Even though they had reached a low point in their history, they needed to "see" the reality that God would keep His promises and restore them because of His covenant relationship with them. The prophet declares that they are going to see the greatness of God even "beyond the border" of their historical land. This phrase looks to a theme of this Book that speaks not only of blessings on Israel, but the salvation of the Gentiles and the coming of the Messiah who would ultimately destroy all the wickedness in the world. Clearly, the Jews of Malachi's day would not see all of this unfold, but they would see bits of it.
APPLICATION 2: God is faithful to keep His promises to His people because of His covenant relationship with them. The Jewish remnant of Malachi's name needed to see that YHWH was still their God and had not abandoned them. In fact, God had a plan to restore them even "beyond the border" of their historical land with the coming of a Messiah King in a new age under a new covenant who will not only bring salvation to the Jews but to all the Gentiles in the rest of the world.
Read Mal. 1:6-9 - PRIESTS WHO DESPISE MY NAME
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 hosts to you, O priests who despise My name. But you say, 'How have we despised Your name?' 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.' 8 But when you present the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? And when you present the lame and sick, is it not evil? Why not offer it to your governor? Would he be pleased with you? Or would he receive you kindly?" says the LORD of hosts.
Observation: Worship, then and now, is designed and intended 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-believers-to demonstrate their faith with genuine praise and thanksgiving. In Malachi's time, Israel was obligated to bring offerings to God, not because God needed them, but as an expression of their need for God. The refusal to offer gifts to God was the same as saying that God wasn't necessary for the prosperity of the people, when, in truth, they could not survive without Him. In the prophet's first sermon-directed primarily at the priests but also intended as a warning to the people-the prophet rebukes the priests for making a mockery out of worship by accepting inferior offerings.
v. 6a: "A son honors his father, and a servant his master." - Malachi begins his message with a couple of affirmations with which the people would wholeheartedly agree: that a son should honor his father and a servant his master? Why yes, of course they should.
v. 6b: "And if I am a master, where is My respect?' says the LORD of hosts to you, O priests who despise My name. But you say, 'How have we despised Your name?'" - Malachi then follows this line of thought with two rhetorical questions put to them by God. The implication is clear: Since they were neither honoring nor fearing God, they very obviously did not respect Him as their Father or their Master. In doing this, they have "despised" His name; in Heb. literally, made it worthless.
v. 6c: "But you say, 'How have we despised Your name?'" - This the priests' response. They thought they were doing everything right: saying the prayers and the blessings and making all the right sacrifices; so, what's the problem? Malachi now has their undivided attention and is ready to explain.
v. 7a: "You are presenting defiled food upon My altar." - The priests had despised the LORD by offering "defiled" sacrifices to Him (see Lev. 22 generally). Defiles sacrifices were not ritually clean or acceptable under the requirements specified by the Law, and by allowing this to happen, they had further despised the LORD by profaning the altar of God itself.
v. 7b: "But you say, 'How have we defiled You?' In that you say, 'The table of the LORD is to be despised.'" - This is the priests' hypothetical response: what did we do wrong? With this, Malachi sets up his second attention-getter.
v. 8a: "But when you present the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? And when you present the lame and sick, is it not evil?" - They were bringing animals for sacrifice that were diseased, crippled, and blind-worthless animals they could not sell or use; yet, they offered them to the LORD; and those who should know better, the priests, were letting them get away with it. In effect, they had been using God's altar as their garbage bin. The point: isn't this evil? Of course, and the priests knew it.
v. 8b: "Why not offer it to your governor? Would he be pleased with you? Or would he receive you kindly?" says the LORD of hosts." - In those days, Judah was a province of Persia with an appointed governor. This question is heavy with sarcasm. It would obviously be unthinkable to insult a high government official by offering him diseased food. The inescapable conclusion: they have despised God and profaned His altar, both the people and the priests, by allowing unacceptable sacrifices. The standard for worship from the beginning is that God always gets the best and the first. Now, what does this say to professed Christians who annually spend thousands of dollars a year on themselves, their families, and their friends, but give God a dollar a week when the offering plate is passed?
APPLICATION 3: In worship, we should never ever offer anything second-best to God in view of who He is. In Malachi's day it pertained to the deplorable quality of the ritual sacrifices brought to the Temple by the people and offered to God ceremonially by the priests. In our context of worship as Christians, it includes our service and giving in our churches, and anything else we do in ministries outside of our churches. Giving God anything less than our best is to "despise" Him.
Read Mal. 1:9-11 -MY NAME WILL BE GREAT ANONG THE NATIONS
9 "But now will you not entreat God's favor, that He may be gracious to us? With such an offering on your part, will He receive any of you kindly?" says the LORD of hosts. 10 "Oh that there were one among you who would shut the gates, that you might not uselessly kindle fire on My altar! I am not pleased with you," says the LORD of hosts, "nor will I accept an offering from you. 11 For from the rising of the sun even to its setting, My name will be great among the nations, and in every place incense is going to be offered to My name, and a grain offering that is pure; for My name will be great among the nations," says the LORD of hosts.
v. 9: "But now will you not entreat God's favor, that He may be gracious to us? With such an offering on your part, will He receive any of you kindly?" says the LORD of hosts." - This phrase "entreat God's favor," directed at the priests, is a metaphor for approaching God in prayer that is rich with irony because it isn't a call to repentance but a rebuke. God is saying that because of the priest's misconduct, conscious violations of the Law regarding sacrifices, He doesn't even hear their prayers. They're unable to intercede for anyone. The priests had knowingly rendered themselves useless, they had committed Levitical malpractice-dishonest worship. Point: God does not hear the prayers of those who dishonor Him by insulting His intelligence.
v. 10: "Oh that there were one among you who would shut the gates, that you might not uselessly kindle fire on My altar! I am not pleased with you," says the LORD of hosts, "nor will I accept an offering from you." - Malachi is saying that it's better to lock the Temple doors and keep the people out rather than allow them to "kindle fire on My altar"-offer sacrifices-that insult their LORD GOD. In other words, God says that no worship is better than hypocritical worship. God's crystal clear declaration "I am not pleased with you" is categorically the opposite of conduct that earns you "well done good and faithful servant" (Mt. 25:21). Ritualistic worship done out of compulsion is a waste of time because God rejects it.
v. 11: "For from the rising of the sun even to its setting, My name will be great among the nations, and in every place incense is going to be offered to My name, and a grain offering that is pure; for My name will be great among the nations," says the LORD of hosts." - What the prophet is presenting here is the end-result of shutting down the Temple system in order to prevent false worship from continuing. In other words, then what-what happens next? The implication is this: If Israel rejects the LORD, the "nations" will not. So, "from the rising of the sun even to its setting," means the Gentiles will worship Him. This was an early prediction of Gentile faith and the establishment of the church.
APPLICATION 4: God will honor believers who worship Him in Spirit and Truth. The people of Malachi's time-both the common Jews and the priests-were going through the rituals of keeping the Mosaic Law but had stopped worshiping YHWH for who He is-the one true and living God who created the heavens and the earth. They had made a mockery of His Temple. Today, there are impressive buildings all over the world that call themselves churches that are filled with people who don't worship God for who He is. To the woman at the well, Jesus said, "But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth." (John 4:23-24).