The Warnings of Malachi
Malachi prophesied among the Jews not long after their return from Babylon. After the lessons of Judah’s fall and captivity, it should have been a time of spiritual strength and devotion. Yet once again God had to raise up a prophet to confront the people with their failures.
Skimming through this short book reveals a number of sins among Malachi’s countrymen that can also become problems for us. Consider a few.
Contempt for God’s Table
Malachi first confronted the priests. They were offering lame, sick, and blind animals as sacrifices, in defiance of the Law (cf. Leviticus 22:17-25). By their disobedience they proclaimed, “The table of the Lord is to be despised” (Malachi 1:7). Their Persian governor would never accept such an offering; why should God (verse 8)? Because of their disregard for Him, the Lord rejected their worship (verse 10).
What about me? Does my approach to worship show God reverence or contempt? When a Christian woman comes to services dressed immodestly, she shows disregard for His commands (1 Timothy 2:9). When quarreling brethren can barely stand to be in the same building together, their hearts cannot praise the Lord (Matthew 5:23-24). When men forsake divine instruction and worship as they please, is it any more acceptable than the blemished sacrifices of the Jews? “‘Where is My reverence?’ says the Lord of hosts” (Malachi 1:6).
Weary of Worship
The Jews’ unfit sacrifices merely reflected their general feeling toward the worship of God: “You also say, ‘Oh, what a weariness!’ And you sneer at it,” says the Lord of hosts. (Malachi 1:12). Their fire of devotion had gone out; to them, worship had become something dull and tedious.
What about me? Do I look forward to the assemblies with eagerness or dread? Honestly, some folks in the pews look as if they’d rather be in the dentist’s chair. Of course, it’s easy for us to lay blame elsewhere. The prayer was too long. The songs were too slow. The sermon was too dry. But how much do you put into worship? Do you participate? listen carefully? Do you open your mind to the words of each hymn and each prayer? to the message of God’s word? Quoting another prophet, Jesus said, “These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me” (Matthew 15:8). Let it not be said of us.
Perverting Divine Principles
Beyond their worship, Malachi’s people were twisting God’s precepts in many areas of life. Priests taught the law with partiality, causing people to stumble (Malachi 2:7-9). Men divorced their wives and married pagans, violating the Law and trampling the covenant of marriage (Malachi 2:14,16; cf. Exodus 34:16). The people had grown skeptical, questioning the Lord’s authority and justice (verse 17). At every turn, God’s principles were mangled, broken, and forgotten by people who should have known better.
What about us? Do we apply God's teaching only as we see fit? For those who teach, let’s realize the great responsibility it brings; if our instruction causes others to stumble, we put our own souls in jeopardy (James 3:1; Luke 17:1-2). For all disciples, let’s be asking how we can better serve God instead of asking how much He will let us get by with. We are called on to please God, not ourselves (Galatians 1:10). Let’s be on guard against substituting our own preferences for His commands (see 1 Corinthians 3:19).
God chastised these Jews for their neglect in giving tithes and offerings; they were robbing Him, He said (Malachi 3:8). What about us? The obvious application is in monetary giving. Do I give as I have prospered, or just whatever I have left (1 Corinthians 16:2)? Cheerfully or grudgingly (2 Corinthians 9:5-7)?
Consider another application. Does God come first in my planning (see James 4:13-16)? How much time do I give Him? A week has 168 hours; does the Lord get only four hours on Sunday and Wednesday, if even that much? Do my scheduling priorities reveal that I’m seeking His kingdom above all else (Matthew 6:33)?
Perhaps the most fundamental problem of Malachi’s generation was this: “You have said, ‘It is vain to serve God; what profit is it that we have kept His ordinance, and that we have walked as mourners before the Lord of hosts?’” (Malachi 3:14). In spite of all that God had done for them throughout their history, they were unable or unwilling to see the value of serving Him. Their failures in worship, teaching, family life, giving, and other areas all grew out of this spirit of complacency and selfishness.
What about us? Do we pursue righteousness or just dabble in it? Is discipleship a lifestyle or merely a hobby? “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it” (Luke 9:23-24).