So far this year we have read parts of 38 books in the Old Testament, and now we come to the 39th and final one. It bears the name of Malachi, the last prophet God sent to His people before four centuries of prophetic silence. Malachi, whose name fittingly means “messenger”, had a message of rebuke for Judah at a crucial time. It was a century after their return from exile in Babylon, but the people had slipped back into the same sins and attitudes of their grandparents and great-grandparents that had incurred God’s wrath in their day. The people were not worshiping God sincerely. The priests were corrupt. The men were divorcing their wives and marrying pagan women. It was a nation in jeopardy, and Malachi was God’s messenger to confront their sins and to restore their righteousness.
This chapter begins with one of the great Messianic passages of the Bible (v.1-5). The Old Testament contains hundreds of prophecies about the Messiah who would arrive in their future. Verse 1 indicates that just before Messiah comes, a messenger will precede Him, preparing the people for His coming. Matthew, Mark, and Luke all quote this verse in reference to John the Baptist, the messenger who prepared the way for Jesus. As a spiritual emissary, John told people to repent of their sins and prepare their hearts to receive the Messiah.
Malachi presents the Messiah as a purifier of religion (v.2-3) and a judge of sinners (v.5). The Lord certainly brought judgment in Malachi’s day, but this prophecy points forward in time to the day when Jesus will sit in judgment over the nations. On that day, only those who have come to Him for salvation will survive the judgment (see READ Revelation 20:11-15).
In verses 6-11, Malachi confronts a specific sin that was particularly dreadful. The people were robbing God of tithes and offerings (v.8). Instead of the immediate judgment they deserved, the people heard a series of gracious offers from God: “Return to Me, and I will return to you” (v.7); “Bring the tithes and I will pour down blessings” (v.10); “Obey Me and I will protect you from financial failure” (v.11). I believe this promise is still in effect for God’s people today. If we are willing to invest at least a tithe (10%) of our income in the work of the church, God will bless our finances and provide for our needs. To withhold your tithes and offerings is to dismiss God from your finances — and when God is not present in your finances, neither are His blessings.
The last section of this chapter records the reaction of some of the people to Malachi’s message (v.16-18). There was a righteous remnant of faithful believers in Judah who “feared the Lord”, meaning that they held Him in awe and worshiped Him as the Lord Almighty. These people met together to encourage and edify each other about their commitment to the Lord (v.16). This group of people who feared the Lord probably wasn’t a large one, and they may not have thought they were making a difference, but God was paying attention to them and keeping a record of what they said. He identified them as His “treasured possession” who would be spared from the impending judgment that Malachi was announcing (v.17).
Here at the end of the Old Testament I can look back and see God’s righteous remnant, that minority of faithful ones, God’s “treasured possession”: Noah, the preacher of righteousness in a sea of wickedness; Joshua and Caleb, the spies who believed God could conquer Canaan; little David, who faced an army alone; Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who stood for the Lord while everyone else fell before the idol. I look forward into the New Testament and I can see the band of disciples in the Upper Room — only 120 people, but God used them to turn the world upside-down. I want to stand with all of them, and with the group of God-fearing Jews in Malachi’s day. I choose to believe God, no matter what! Are you with me?