Malachi’s Seven Lessons For Today
Are there any areas where we are giving the Lord the leftovers?
“Too many hypocrites!” he cried out as I was speaking at a rescue mission. “God wants reality!” he continued. “He doesn’t want phonies!” I don’t know what this man’s motives were for sharing his opinion, but he was absolutely right! God does want reality – in our love to Him, our worship of Him and our service for Him. God’s desire for His people of any generation is that our lives honor Him in all we do and say! This is Malachi’s message in a nutshell.
Malachi was the last prophet heard from until John the Baptist appeared in the Gospels 400 years later. Not much is known about Malachi, whose name means “My messenger,” but the last book of the Old Testament bears his name. His contemporaries were Haggai, Zechariah and possibly Nehemiah. All three prophets described a low spiritual condition of God’s people. We’re not told where Malachi was from or even when God called him into service. But his message was clear and needed by God’s people. We are no different today! In fact, many of the same conditions of Malachi’s day exist today. We can learn seven lessons from his message to help us be real for God in our day.
1. Remember God’s Love
Malachi’s message begins where every departure from God begins – in the heart. The people of Judah lost appreciation for God’s love for them. Moses had told them: “You are a holy people to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth … because the Lord loves you” (Dt. 7:6-8 nkjv). Then Jeremiah told them: “I have loved you with an everlasting love” (Jer. 31:3). God had demonstrated His love for them by choosing them over Esau’s descendants, by helping them return and build the desolate places, and by allowing them to see His greatness shown to others beyond Israel’s borders (Mal. 1:2-5). All this, and yet they asked, “In what way have you loved us?”
We are no different today. Our hearts can easily grow callous to His love for us, and we forget that “in this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 Jn. 4:10). If we begin to lose sight of His great love for us we will slowly be attracted to other things. This is what happened to the church at Ephesus – they left their first love (Rev. 2:4). So many other things had crept in that their affections for Christ were gone. This is what happened to Judah in Malachi’s day. Looking for material blessings as proof of God’s love, they became blind to all that He had done. As Christians we must let the Word of God constantly refresh our hearts as to His love for us.
2. Respect God
As a result of losing sight of God’s love, they began to forget the greatness of God and they despised His name. Malachi 1:6-2:9 is directed to the priests who should have taught the people to honor God’s character and His reputation. Instead, they counted these things of little value. The Lord’s name sets forth all that He is – His attributes, deity, and majesty. Malachi used the phrase “My name” at least eight times to convict the priests that they were neglecting these things. When they asked, “In what way have we despised your name?” Malachi answered them in two ways.
First, these priests were giving the Lord what we might call the “leftovers” (Mal. 1:6-14). They were offering sick and lame animals that they wouldn’t even give to the governor. How did they dare give them to the Lord?
But before we come down too hard on them, let’s examine our own lives. Are there any areas where we are giving the Lord the leftovers? Do we count His name of little value? It’s easy to give Him Sunday and maybe one night during the week, but He wants us to be living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to Him, every day of our lives (Rom. 12:1). It’s easy to forget that every part of our lives should be consistent with His name.
Second, these priests were taking the best for themselves. They lost sight of the privilege of being God’s representatives, and they denied His Law (Mal. 2:1-9). Malachi 2:5-7 gives six essential characteristics for anyone desiring to represent God. First, we should have a reverential fear of God. If this is lost, our light will grow dim and we will have little effect for Him in this dark world. Second, we should know and proclaim the truth. We are encouraged to present ourselves diligently to God, workers who do not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. And we are told to preach the truth (2 Tim. 2:15, 4:2). Third, we are to turn away and stay away from sin: “Flee also youthful lusts” (2 Tim. 2:22). Fourth, we are to walk with God daily in His word and in prayer. Fifth, we should point others to Christ, not to ourselves. Sixth, we must never forget we are the messengers of the Lord. The priests of Malachi’s day failed in these six essential things and dishonored God. May the Lord help us grow in our respect for who He is and what He has brought us into.
3. Reevaluate Our Faithfulness
Malachi then challenged the whole nation to reevaluate its faithfulness to God in two areas. First, he pointed out that they were treating one another “treacherously” (Mal. 2:10) – that is, disloyally, unfaithfully and deceitfully. They were reminded of the common relationship they had been brought into and how untrue they were to it. We too need to be reminded of the common relationship we have as Christians. Paul challenges us: “Putting away lying, let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor, for we are members of one another.” He goes on to tell us to “be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you” (Eph. 4:25,32). We can be just as guilty of dealing treacherously with one another as the people of Malachi’s day.
Second, the prophet confronted the men of the nation about divorcing their wives and marrying ungodly women (Mal. 2:11-16). He called this treachery also. In fact, “treacherously” appears five times in chapter two. These men were breaking their vows to God and their wives, treating them as nothing. This also happens in many ways today, as the marriage relationship becomes of so little value in the eyes of so many. Malachi reminded them of four things that every husband needs to be reminded of today: first, he should stay with the wife of his youth; second, she should be his companion; third, she is his wife by a covenant relationship before God; fourth, God hates divorce (Mal. 2:14-16). Since none of these standards has changed, we should take heed. In other words, we should examine our relationships and make sure that we are faithful in thought, word and deed to our marriage partners.
4. Respond to God’s Justice
How do we respond to the ways of God? Do we question the way He works in our lives? Malachi continued to challenge the people about this very thing (Mal. 2:17-3:6). Many of us have asked, “Why do bad things happen to good people and why do good things happen to bad people?” We can easily become like the people of Malachi’s day who justified themselves and blamed God for their circumstances. But we must remember that God says, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways … For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isa. 55:8-9).
The people asked, “Where is the God of justice?” Malachi answered by presenting two messengers – John the Baptist and the Lord Jesus. John the Baptist (Mal. 3:1; Mt. 11:10; Mk.1:2; Lk. 7:27) had the unique privilege of preaching at the end of the Old Testament and the start of the New. How did John the Baptist answer their question about God’s being just? He pointed Israel to Jesus as God’s Lamb (Jn. 1:29-31). When Jesus came into this world, He came as the substitute for sinners. On the cross He completely satisfied God’s justice (Rom. 3:21-26).
The second messenger of verse 3:1 is the Lord Himself. Malachi 3:2-6 speaks of the second coming of the Lord, when He returns to reign as King of Kings. He will come unannounced (Mt. 24:36) to purify an unprepared and unclean nation. In that day the Lord Jesus will come with an unsparing judgment against all that is unrighteous (Mal. 3:5). How does all this answer their question about God being just? Malachi is reminding them that God has a program that we cannot see. He knows the big picture and we only see one snapshot at a time. When questions come we need to remember that God is God. He doesn’t change and neither do His plans, His love, His grace, or His Holiness.
5. Refuse to Rob God
The fifth lesson Malachi taught is not to rob God. There are many ways that we can rob God of what is rightly His. While our time, talents and tithes all belong to God, Malachi challenges us as to the latter (3:7-12). A tithe was ten percent of the grain, fruit, animals or money (Lev. 27:30-34; Neh. 13:5). There were special storage rooms in the temple to hold the tithes. Tithing was considered an act of worship, even before the Law (Gen. 14:20, 28:22; Heb. 7). When anyone held back his tithe he was robbing God of worship. In the New Testament there is no direct command to tithe; however, 1 Corinthians 16:1-2 suggests that Christians give as much as they are able. In 2 Corinthians 7-9, giving is associated with grace. If we gave according to the grace we now enjoy, our giving would go way beyond ten percent. Another thing that Malachi points out is that whenever we rob God, we also rob ourselves of the blessings that God wants to share with us. These blessings may not be material (2 Cor. 9:6-15), but remember that God is no man’s debtor and we can never out-give God!
6. Reject the Temptation to Complain
One of the easiest things to do is complain. It takes no talent or gift to criticize others. One word of complaint has a great impact on all those around us. This is another lesson these people needed to learn. Their complaints were against God. They felt it was useless to serve the Lord: “What’s in it for me?” was their attitude (Mal. 3:13-15). Often we feel the same way, asking, “Why go to church? We keep hearing the same messages.” It is easy to criticize our spiritual leaders, but we need to
pray for those whom the Lord has raised up to lead us (Heb. 13:7,17).
The people also complained that the wicked were prospering, while they were suffering. From time to time we may get tired of serving Him, and we might begin to feel this way too. Then we need to look at the object of our faith, the Lord Jesus. He is the supreme example of what a servant of God should be. Our eyes should be focused on Him, so that we not only have strength to serve Him with gladness, but also that we can become more like Him!
Malachi gives us three things that will help keep us from being complainers. The first, the fear of the Lord, should motivate us always to give Him the priority in our lives – to think of Him, His feelings, and His rights. This is what it means to fear the Lord. A popular expression today is, “What would Jesus do?” If this question would become more than a cliche, it would really help us to fear the Lord. The second thing mentioned is that we should speak often to one another. It is important to have Christian friends to share Christ with. If we spoke more often to one another about Christ, we would have less time to complain and criticize. The third thing is to meditate on His name. The name of the Lord describes His character, His beauty and His greatness. The Lord Jesus is true, noble, just, pure, lovely and of good report. Only in Him can we find true virtue and something worthy of praise (Phil. 4:8). Let’s meditate on Him!
7. Rejoice in that Coming Day
The seventh and last lesson that Malachi teaches us is to look forward to that coming Day of the Lord. This is not the rapture – when the Lord comes for His own – but His second coming, when He comes to reign. As the Sun of Righteousness, the Lord Jesus is Israel’s hope. During this time the Lord Jesus will reign as King of Kings, and the Church will reign with Him. Every Christian should look forward to this day – to His Day!
What About Us?
Malachi’s message went straight to the heart of the problem and challenged the people to examine their lives closely in seven important areas. We might do well today to allow the Spirit of God to examine our hearts in this same way, to see if we are being real in all that we do for Him.
By Tim Hadley
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA. Website: www.gtpress.org