Week 8 – Lessons from the Prophets Cont’d
Day 3 – Malachi: Setting the Stage
Malachi, the last book of the Old Testament. As stories go, this “final chapter” would be similar to that of a children’s book that I once read. The fair maiden is trapped in the castle tower, held prisoner by the villain. The young hero tries to rescue her but is thwarted in his attempts and must leave her there until he finds a new plan of rescue – AND while the reader awaits the next book. It leaves you with the sense that something really big is going to happen – has to happen – but you must wait to find out what it is! Waiting for the next book, may require a few months, maybe even a year or two. For the Jews, however, the waiting would go on for four hundred years. Perhaps it is for this reason that the message of this book is so strong. It’s words had to carry the people, whether still in rebuke over their sin or in giving hope of the Messiah to come, it had to carry them through all those years.
The book of Malachi is composed of a series of statements or questions, followed by a question from the other party, after which the first assertion is firmly nailed down by a statement of proof. For example:
“I have loved you, saith the Lord” (1:2) Assertion
“Yet ye say, Wherein hast thou loved us?” (1:2) Question
And the next three verses are spent proving God’s love toward Israel over Edom. But, before we get caught up in the semantics of the chapter, stop and think about the statement and subsequent question – the seriousness of it all! God says, “I have loved you” and they say “Oh yeah, How?” This immediately tells us that once again, the Jews have fallen into a sad state. (Not to get off the subject, but don’t we do this sometimes? Don’t we question His love, even though the proof of it is all around us?)
The next series of thoughts is just as powerful and important:
“A son honoreth his father, and a servant his master: if then I be a father, where is mine honor? and if a master, where is my fear? Saith the Lord of hosts unto you, O priests, that despise my name.”
“And ye say, Wherein have we despised thy name?” (1:6)
From here the Lord follows up with eight verses of explanation. The sum of it all is that their sacrifices prove their disrespect and disregard for the Lord. He gives a very practical illustration. In essence, He says, “If you gave to your governor the sacrifices that you have been giving me, would he be pleased?” God doesn’t want the leftovers. He doesn’t want the lamb that is blind or lame. He wants us to give Him our best.
It is interesting that we have reached a point at which some of the questions or thoughts put forward are not answered by the books of the Old Testament that lay behind, but rather by those of the New Testament which at the time lay far, far ahead. In verse eleven, we find the prophecy that the Gentiles would come to believe on the Lord and that His name would be great among them. It is balanced by Romans 11:16-24 where we are reminded that if the natural branch was cut out so that we could be grafted in, we too can be cut off.
We have the background in the Old Testament of what God’s desired sacrifices were – the letter of it. We also have His statement in I Samuel 15:22 that “to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.” He tells us also that “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken spirit and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.” Psalm 51:17
They were offering sacrifices, but they weren’t the ones that God desired. We can do the same thing in our own lives. Sometimes we are guilty of giving Him second best. Sometimes we are guilty of giving Him one thing when He really wants another. I remember one Sunday in Russia being extremely worn out and feeling a great need to spend extra time with the Lord. I planned that after church I would spend the entire afternoon in prayer and Bible reading. Then someone asked me to go with them to visit a lady who had just lost her husband. The immediate response of my heart was, “No, I’m going to spend time with the Lord.” The Lord’s response was “I’m going to spend time with that lady are you coming with me?” It is very important that our hearts be attuned to what the Lord wants us to do, not to what we think our sacrifice should be.
The conclusion of the chapter has no velvety coverings about it. God has already made the comparison of offering these sacrifices up as gifts to their governor, now He puts things in perspective. He is no mere governor; He is a great King. His words are strong:
“But cursed be the deceiver, which hath in his flock a male, and voweth, and sacrificeth unto the Lord a corrupt thing: for I am a great King, saith the Lord of hosts, and my name is dreadful among the heathen.”
What are we offering Him? That which He requires, that which He desires or our own version of it?
Up Next: Day 4: Dung on Your Face
For More Information on FTN, Check out our website at: www.forbidthemnot.com
Follow us on Twitter @forbidthemnot or Facebook
Also Check out Rachel Miller’s Book: The King’s Daughter: A Story of Redemption