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Malachi 1:1-2:9: God's Love and the Honor of His Name Print E-mail
Sunday, 09 May 2010

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We often spend the last days of a particular time period preparing for whatever is next.  Teachers spend their last few days at school getting ready for the next batch of students.  Athletes spend their last days in college getting ready for their professional careers.  Since it is Motherís Day, I should add that mothers often spend the last days of their pregnancy getting ready for their new baby, or as in our case preparing to be away for awhile as we waited for the phone call that Isaiah was about to be born.  Last days are often a time of preparation for whateverís next.

I bring this up to point out that Malachi is the last of the prophets.  Of course this is true in our Bibles (last book in the Old Testament), but it is also true historically (he was the last of the prophets to prophesy in history).  His being last does not mean that he is more important or more significant than the other prophets, but it is notable in that he is the last prophet to prophesy before the coming of Christ.  I think in many ways the book of Malachi is preparing us for what is next in redemptive history, namely the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Christ.  Of course it would be 400 years after Malachi prophesied before Christ would be born.  Yet, his message gets us ready for the arrival of our Savior.  It points to the end of the priesthood (as we will see this morning).  It points us to the coming of John the Baptist (see 3:1ff and 4:5).  And it points us to the very coming of Christ (see 4:5-6).  Yes his message was pertinent to his original audience, but it is also important for us as followers of Christ.  Thus, we need to hear his message and see how it points us to our Savior

Before we look at our particular text this morning, let me offer a few introductory words for the book as a whole.  Although the name ĎMalachií in 1:1 could be translated Ďmy messengerí, I take it to be an identification of the particular prophet that the Lord used to deliver His word to Israel.  As we have noted in our discussions of Haggai and Zechariah, the Lord had sent the people of Israel into Exile.  Yet, they had returned and rebuilt the Temple (as we see in those other books).  Malachi is writing several years after the Temple has been completed and sacrifice resumed.  He writes to correct the errors of Israelís worship and obedience to God.  Things had not gone as they thought they would after the Temple was complete, so it appears that many began to question and doubt God.  The book of Malachi contains six disputations where certain questions are answered concerning the peopleís service to God.  Our text this morning contains two of the six disputations, involving a question from the people and one from the priests.  I want to use these two questions as the outline for my message.  Letís begin with the question of the people.

The peopleís question to God: How have you loved us (1:2-5)?

Godís message to Israel begins with his love for them.  Look at 1:2a.  Israel had faced the just judgment of exile.  She had struggled in the building of the Temple.  She was facing a time of waiting and frustration.  Thus, God wants her to know that she is loved.  He cares for Israel just as He always has.  They are His beloved people and He is their God.

Yet, they are not convinced and they ask in verse 2b: ĎHow have you loved us?í  They looked around at their circumstances and saw no evidence of Godís love.  Nothing was going right.  Nothing was what they expected.  So how could God tell them that He loved them?  In short, they wanted proof of Godís love for them.

So how does the Lord respond?  Look at verses 2c-3.  Remember the story?  Esau was the oldest twin and was therefore deserving of favor.  His parents favored him and wanted to bless him.  Yet, the Lord chose Jacob: Jacob I loved and Esau I hated.  Malachi is using Jacob as a representative of Israel and Esau as a representative of Edom, who were the hated enemies of Israel.  The Lord reminds the people that Edom will be judged for its wickedness and never restored (see v. 4), which happened historically.  The people asked for evidence of Godís love for them and the Lord reminded them that they were His chosen people.  He has rescued them and would continue to rescue them from their enemies.

Yet, why?  Why would God choose Jacob over Esau?  And why would this be evidence of His love for Israel?  Listen to the reason given in Deuteronomy 7:6-8.  Why did God choose Israel?  Because He loved her.  The Lord chose Israel and loved Israel not because she was great or strong or powerful or anything else that had to do with her.  No, He chose her and loved her because He loved her.  In other words, His love for her was based upon His sovereign pleasure.  He loved her because He loved her.  One commentator notes: ďNo fuller explanation of Godís choice of Jacob can be found than that God delighted to love him (Dt. 10:15), insignificant though he was (Dt. 7:7,8).Ē1 

God chose Jacob (and Israel) because it was His sovereign will to do so.  His choice of Jacob over Esau was a great demonstration of His love for Israel.  It is vital for us to see the connection between Godís love and His election.  Think about it this way, Godís command to Israel to destroy the Canaanites is based upon His complete and fierce holiness.  His election of Israel (Jacob) is based upon His sovereign, divine love (an idea that Paul will speak of when he quotes Malachi 1:2-3 in Romans 9).  Thus, the Lord loves His people and wants them to know it before He begins to give them instructions, which is what He does next.

The priestís question to God: How have we despised your Name (1:6-2:9)?

After reminding the people that He loved them, the Lord moves to dealing with the priesthood.  Look at verse 6.  The Lord accuses the priests of not loving or fearing Him.  Rather, they are despising His Name.  Of course they respond: ĎHow have we despised your name?í  The Lord answers them in verses 7-8.  Look at those.  They were offering blind, lame and sick animals in sacrifice.  They knew that the Lord commanded them to only offer the best animals for sacrifice, but they were deliberately accepting the worst.  And they even seemed to think that God would still show them favor (see v. 9), but He makes it clear that it would be better if they just stopped offering sacrifices altogether than for them to keep doing what they were doing.  Look at verse 10.  These half-hearted, convenient, donít-cost-me-anything sacrifices were a reflection of the priestsí heart and attitude toward God.  They did not honor Him as a Father or serve Him as Lord.  This is not just about getting the sacrifices right.  No, this is about not despising the Name of the Lord.  The sacrifices simply reflected their broken relationship with God. 

Yet, the Lord tells the priests that He will raise up the nations to honor His name.  Look at verses 11-14.  Even though these priests had lost their reverence for God, that did not mean that the Lord did not have a plan.  No the Lord was going to raise up worshippers from the nations.  Now, how exactly was the Lord going to do this?  Some argue that God is simply going to accept the worship of other nations and other gods as long as it is sincere (an approach that C.S. Lewis seems to take in the last book of the Chronicles of Narnia, The Last Battle).  Yet, such an interpretation disagrees with every passage that speaks against idolatry, not to mention this passage which involves Godís rebuke of the priests for Ďfalse worship.í  No, God is going to raise up worshippers from the nations in another way, which we will consider in a moment.

Malachi goes on in 2:1-9 to contrast what the priests should be doing with what they are doing.  They should be honoring the Lordís name by offering true sacrifices.  They should fear the Lord and keep the covenant that they had made with Him as Levites.  They should offer true instruction.  They should walk with Lord in peace and turn many from iniquity (v. 1-7).  But this is not what they were doing.  Rather, look at verse 8.  They were not doing any of the things that they should have been doing.  They were despising the Lord and His Name.  Thus, the Lord will make you despised and abased before all the people, inasmuch as you do not keep my ways but show partiality in your instruction (v. 9).  The priests were not honoring the Name of the Lord and the Lord would curse them just as He had promised (see Deuteronomy 27-28).

In one sense, we know that the curses promised in 2:1-9 were realized.  No longer does the priesthood exist.  Sacrifices are no longer offered.  Yet, we know that there is more to the story.  We said earlier that the Lord would raise up the nations to worship Him.  The raising up of the nations and the ending of the Levitical priesthood were both realized in the coming of the Great High Priest.  This is what the author of the book of Hebrews is telling us.  Jesus came as both Priest and Sacrifice.  He offered Himself in our place.  No other sacrifice is needed or required.  His was once for all (see Hebrews 7:26-28).  And by His sacrifice men and women from every tongue, tribe, and nation are being reconciled to God through the gospel.  The nations are fearing the Lord and honoring His Name by turning from their sins and trusting in Christ.  Malachi prepares us for these events and these truths.  The message that he spoke in his day comes to us as a clear arrow pointing to Jesus, the Great High Priest for the nations.

Malachi teaches us about Godís love, His sovereign electing love.  Likewise, we see that such love should result in our honoring the Name of God.  So then, let me close by asking you a question: are you honoring the Name of God with your life and worship.  If you have never repented of your sins and trusted in Christ, then you must begin there.  You cannot honor the Name of God if you are rejecting His Sonís sacrifice for your sins.  As we said, there is only one sacrifice that is acceptable for your sins to be forgiven: the sacrifice of Christ.  Your works canít save you.  Your good deeds canít save you.  Just simply being sorry for your sins is not enough.  No, only one sacrifice can save.  So I plead with you to repent and believe in Christ. 

If you are a follower of Christ this morning, then let me ask you about your worship of the Savior.  Do you find yourself just going through the motions?  Do you find yourself being half-hearted in your following after Christ?  Do you only serve Him when it is convenient and not costly?  Do not make the mistake that the priests in Israel made.  Rather, in light of Godís overwhelming divine love, serve Him with everything you are, not to be saved but precisely because He has already saved you.  May His glorious love lead you to honoring His Name with all that you are.  Amen.

1  Joyce G. Baldwin, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi TOTC (Downersí Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1972), p. 222.

~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Thursday, 20 May 2010 )

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