About Jesus Steve Sweetman
Introduction and Chapter 1
Commentary On The Book Of Malachi
commentary is based on the New International Bible, 1984 edition. Chapter
titles in this commentary correspond to that of the chapter titles in
the NIV which make for easier study.
goal in this commentary is to comment on the text of Malachi.
Another goal is to show how God felt about His people Israel, something He might well feel about the church in this 21st
century. Another goal in
this commentary is to point out the nature of God that does not change.
Some Christians may believe that God has changed between Old and
New Testament times, but that is not so.
These people tend to see the justice of God, His holy wrath in
Old Testament times while seeing His love in New Testament times.
But this is not the case as well.
If you look closely, you’ll see both God’s love and His
justice throughout the history of mankind.
has changed from Old Testament times to New Testament times is how He
relates to mankind concerning salvation, as can be seen in the New
Covenant. His agreement, or
covenant has changed but He Himself has not changed.
And to say that His New Covenant has change could be
misunderstood. The New
Covenant is simply part of His over-all plan of dealing with mankind.
God did not have a change of heart, or a change of mind by introducing
the New Covenant as one might think.
The New Covenant was not an after-thought with God.
people view the book of Malachi as the end of the Old Testament.
Although it is the last book in the Old Testament in actuality the Old
Testament continues on a bit into the New Testament.
John the Baptist was actually the last of the Old Testament
prophets. I view the
life and times of Jesus while He was on earth as a period of transition
between the Old and New Testaments.
I view New Testament times beginning at the Day of Pentecost.
name Malachi means “my messenger” and for that reason some suggest
that Malachi was actually a literary name and not the real name of the
author. Some suggest that
Malachi was really Ezra the scribe.
I believe Malachi was Malachi, and like all Hebrew names, they
all meant something special.
in times past was divided into
two kingdoms, the northern kingdom and the southern kingdom.
Ten tribes were in the north and two in the south.
(Benjamin and Judah) The
northern kingdom was pretty much annihilated while the southern kingdom
went into Babylonian captivity for seventy years. Those in Babylon
were allowed to return, but many didn’t.
They liked Babylon
too much to return and rebuilt
book of Malachi was written somewhere between 440 and 400 B.C. during this period of time, when Nehemiah
built the city walls of Jerusalem.
weren’t easy days for Israel. From prophetic passages
such as Ezek. 34, they expected good times, times of restoration, but
this was not the case. They
had misunderstood those prophecies, as we all tend to do.
Morel was bad, and even though they were in the process of
1 begins with the words “an oracle” in the NIV.
The KJV uses the word “burden” instead of the word
“oracle”, which in one sense of the word might well be a more
descriptive word due to the meaning of the Hebrew word it’s translated
from. Also these prophetic words from the prophets of old were in fact a
“burden” to them that they had to speak. The things they said
weren’t happy or positive words. They
were normally words of warning and words of rebuke. They were negative
by nature, something that many Christians today don’t consider
encouraging. In every age,
the prophetic word of a prophet is necessary, no matter how negative it
who has ever received a message from the Lord to speak to others
understands the word “burden”. The
longer one waits to deliver the message, the stronger the sense is
within the person to deliver the message.
The resulting feeling actually feels like a burden.
The burden only leaves when the message is spoken.
1 also says that this is “the Word of the Lord to Israel
through Malachi”. Notice, what God says in this prophetic book is
one as a Christian views the Old Testament is one of the most
misunderstood things in Christian circles, or so I believe.
It’s my thinking that what is said to Israel
was said to them, not to New Testament Christians.
I will not state my reasons for this here because I have written
extensively on this elsewhere. This
is important because some of the things God speaks in this book are
taken to be directed towards Christians by some.
Tithing is one of the things God speaks to
again, to be clear, you cannot substitute the word “church” for the
word “Israel” here in verse 1 or in any other verse in the book of Malachi.
Yet the principles behind what God says to
2 begins with the words “I have loved you, says the Lord”.
Malachi repeats these words from the Lord.
They are positive words, and probably needed to be spoken right
up front because there’s other words that don’t sound all that
encouraging, but would bring great blessing if responded to in a
has always loved Israel. He always loves us as well
today. He loves both the
sinner and the saint. God’s
love is foundational to His relationship to mankind, but His love does
not overshadow His justice, and that is clear from this prophetic book.
If God’s love overshadowed His sense of justice, most of this
book would not have been written. Because
God loves us, He rebukes us. His
rebuke stems from the fact that God is love and that He wants the best
for us. Yet if we fail to
obey Him, He will judge us, and He will dispense punishment according to
what we have done. This too
is the nature of God that we see in Malachi.
next phrase in verse 2 says, “but you ask, how have you loved us”?
We note here the style in which this prophetic book was written.
It was not written like the other prophetic books.
The style is conversational.
God says something, and
Israel’s response to God saying that He loved them is, “how have you loved
us”. The reason why they
ask this is because they are in a state of despair. Fifty thousand Jews
is often the case with us in New Testament times as well.
Things go bad and we wonder where God is.
The age old question is always asked by the skeptics, “if God
is a god of love, why does He allow such suffering in the world”.
This is the same question that
response to this question of suffering is normally to reject the
existence of God. Our
response should take into consideration that we really don’t
understand God, and in this lack of understanding is the answer.
Just because man has no answer to this age old question does not
mean God does not exist.
in verse 2 God answers Israel’s question. He says,
“was not Esau Jacob’s brother? But
I have loved Jacob, but Esau I have hated”.
This sentence is one of the most discussed sentences in the
Bible. God says that He loves one person and hates another.
What is this all about?
of all, some language scholars tell us that the Hebrew word for
“hate” here can easily be translated as “love less”.
If this is so, God loved Esau less than He loved Jacob.
But whether this is the case or not, this still doesn’t really
solve the mystery of God loving one person more than another.
It might lesson the problem from hate to love less, but the
question remains, “why would God love someone less than someone
in Old Testament Hebrew and New Testament Greek, the word
"hate" means "hate".
There is no getting around this.
To help us understand the word "hate" in the passage we
should understand the eastern people group that God was speaking to and
that from which Malachi was from. There
is a vast difference in the approach to life between eastern and western
people groups. Westerners
traditionally think and thus live more logically than easterners.
Eastern people groups think and thus live more from an emotional
basis. Because of this
exaggeration is often used to make a point.
Easterners understand what is meant but our western intellect
struggles with such exaggeration. So,
I say this. In comparison to
God's love for Jacob, it makes one think that God hated Esau.
taken God’s words here to be very negative, but really, God was saying
them for a positive reason. His
reason was to point out to Israel
that He actually loved them more than others.
first thing we should note here is this.
specifically asks God, “how have you loved us”.
God answers by saying “I loved Jacob and hated Esau”.
The nation of
leaving this sentence we should turn to Romans 9:10
and to get a New Testament perspective on this sentence.
Paul quotes these words. Paul
tells us that God, before Jacob and Esau were even born chose Jacob to
be more important. The seed
of Abraham would flow through Jacob and not Esau.
The descendents of Abraham would be traced through Jacob.
Paul says here in short is that God is sovereign and He can do what He
wishes with those of His creation. Normal
procedures back in Jacob’s day were that the oldest son would inherit
the special blessing and would take over once the father died.
But God chose not to follow this tradition. Jacob and Esau were
twins but Esau was born first, making Him older.
Also, Jacob was a deceiver, and even though we was such a person,
God still chose Him. Paul
says that this shows that God’s choices in all things pertaining to
mankind has nothing to do with any goodness that we may or may not have.
It’s all God’s choice, as it was with Jacob.
God is Creator. He
can do what He wants with what He has made.
3:16 tells us that God loves the whole world.
I don’t believe that God hated Esau in the strict
since of the word. The
word “hate” might well be directed more towards God’s calling of
Jacob and not Esau, meaning, that this hatred was more a thing of
calling than of personal dislike. Although
one might argue with that point because of the next few verses here in
have suggested that the mystery of all of this is not in why He didn’t
love Esau, but why He actually loved Jacob.
prove that God loved
we see God’s dealing with two nations,
my thinking that God still deals with nations in the same way.
The New Covenant is all about personal salvation, not national
salvation. So God may deal
somewhat differently with the individual, but not necessarily with
nations. Therefore, it is my
opinion that God still causes nations to rise and fall.
We just can’t see Him do it.
And it is clear that the world and the nations don’t see it
either. We therefore should keep this in mind with our present day
western nations. God can,
and might well be in the process of bringing judgment to our nations.
verse 4 God anticipates the response of
last part of verse 4 shows God’s response to Edom. God says that even if
question is this. “Has God
changed in New Testament times”? I
say no. His covenant with
mankind has taken on a new meaning, but His very nature remains the
same. God still demands
holiness and His wrath is still on those who do not live according to
in verse 5 tells Israel
that they will see these things with their own eyes and will confess,
“great is the Lord, even beyond the borders of Israel”. We should
remember that all of what God has said here was to support His claim
that God still loves
we should note that
God judging nations, He judges the church as well. The church is God’s
verse 6 God Himself quotes a common Israeli proverb of that day in age.
He says, “a son honours his
father and a servant his master”. Sons honouring their father and
servants honouring their masters is just the thing that should be done,
and this is what the Jews stated in one of their own proverbs.
understood the nature of honouring those who needed to be honoured.
problem from God’s stand point was that they weren’t honouring Him.
He says that “if I’m your Father and Master”, which He was,
then why don’t you honour and respect me.
We learn something about God here.
We learn that He is both our Father and Master and therefore He
wants us to honour and respect Him.
We will see later how Israel
did not honour and respect God. It
was basically because they did not give their best to Him, both in their
offerings and their way of living.
on in verse 6 God puts the blame solely on the priests of Israel, the Jewish leadership. I believe God views leadership is somewhat of a
different light than the people leaders lead.
You can see this clearly with Jesus’ relationship with the
Jewish leaders of His time. He
called them hypocrites, and was very displeased with them.
are to lead, and Christian leaders today are to lead in the way in which
our Lord would have them lead, but when this is not the case, He is just
as displeased with them as He was with the Jewish leaders in Malachi’s
says that the priests “despise His name”.
What does this mean? Anytime
we see “the name of the Lord”, or “the name of God” in the Bible
it has to do with the following. We
as God’s people represent Him. We’ve
taken on His name. He has a
good and highly respected name, so we should act in such a way that we
bring honour to His name. We
should not act in such a way that we disgrace His name.
But the Jews, and especially the priests in Malachi’s days were
living in such a way that it brought disgrace to God’s name before the
rest of the world. So many
times the Christian church as done the same over the years.
can recall the Jimmy Swaggart and Jim Baker scandals of the late
1980’s. All that was
associated with these scandals brought disgrace to God’s name.
Non-Christians mocked and made fun of God’s church and even God
Himself because of how these two men acted in a very public manor.
the last sentence of verse 6
God speaks what the Jews would
say in response to what He has just told them.
They ask, “how have we despised your name”.
You can see here how the Jews had gotten to such a place that
they didn’t know how they were despising their God.
They were so far away from what God wanted that they didn’t
have a clue about the state in which they were in.
Christians today really don’t know how they are despising God and His
name because they have not taken the time to know their God.
They are walking in their own ways and not paying any attention
to what God would have for them, thus they have no clue they are
despising God, but despising God they are.
We need to understand that ignorance does not seem to be a valid
excuse with God. They are
under His judgment despite their lack of understanding. Maybe
they’re under God’s judgment because they have put no effort into
attempting to understand what God would have for them.
And it is for this reason that they are ignorant.
Their ignorance is not based on not being able to understand, but
it is based on them not wanting to understand, much like the church
is the situation with many church people today.
They fail to look into the Bible to see what God would want for
them. Because of this
failure, they don’t understand the ways of the Lord.
Because they don’t understand, they simply live in their own
humanity, according to a man-made humanistic way of thinking. Like the
Jews of old, God is not pleased with such ignorance.
verse 7 God answers how
again God anticipates Israel’s response. Once again
they ask how they have defiled God in verse 7.
They still don‘t get it. They
are so far removed from God’s way that they don’t even know the
basics. How true this is
with parts of the so-called church today.
then answers these people by saying they are making the Lord’s table
contemptible. This means
that they are despising God’s table, meaning, the altar.
In verse 8 He tells them just how they are doing this.
8 says that the Jews were bringing blind, diseased, and crippled animals
to the Lord’s altar for offerings.
These would have been animals that had no value, so why not bring
them to the temple. They’re
only going to be burned anyways. The
problem is that God’s Law demands Israel’s best. God even says
that if you brought such sacrifices to a civil governor, “he’d not
accept you”. Notice that
God doesn’t say that the governor would not accept a second best
animal sacrifice,. He says
that the governor would not accept “them”.
The governor would both reject the sacrifice and the one doing
the sacrificing, and that is the same with God.
verse 8 God just says that “this is wrong”.
How often do we as Christian give Him our second best.
We claim that attending a Sunday morning church service is very
important, but if we sit back and think of other things during the
service we’re giving our second best.
If our meetings are structured in such a way that we don’t
allow people to participate, but only sit and listen, we’re offering
God our second best. God is
not happy with this.
verse 9 God says, “now implore
God to be gracious to us”. The
word now suggest immediately coming before God.
he word “implore” means to pray or ask with much earnestness.
9 continues by saying, “With such offerings from your hands, will He
accept you”. The question
to be asked here is, “who is speaking these words”?
The next phrase says, “says the Lord”, which suggests that
God is saying these words. But
the sentence structure itself does not indicate this.
It seems like someone else is actually saying these words, most
likely Malachi. To date in
this chapter Malachi has been speaking, but He has been speaking as if
he were God speaking. Here
he is speaking as if it is his own words that he is saying, but
attributes them to God.
words “will He accept you” are in reference to the words in verse 8
where the same words are used. In
verse 8 the words refer to the governor.
In verse 8 the thought is implied that the governor would not
accept you if you offered him damaged sacrifices.
Here in verse 9, as the governor would not accept you, so God
would not accept you either for such sacrifices.
again we note, that God does not just reject the sacrifice, but He
rejects the one doing the sacrificing. There are two problems in the
eyes of God. The sacrifices
that second rate is only a result of a more fundamental problem and that
is the heart of the one doing the sacrificing.
If the individual was right with God, his sacrifice would be
right. These Jews were
hypocrites. They went
through the motion of worship, but their hearts weren’t in it.
There worship was pure tradition.
Jesus said the same of the Pharisees many years later when He
told them that they worship God with their mouths, but their hearts were
far from them.
of this, in verse 10 God wished that someone would actually shut and
lock the doors of the temple so no one could come in and offer second
best heartless offerings. This
is amazing. God would rather
have no offerings, no worship, and worship that is merely routine.
The same would apply for us today.
God has not changed. If
whatever we do in the service of the Lord is simply routine, without our
heart felt affections, it means nothing to God.
It may make others feel good, or even yourself feel good,
but it doesn’t make God feel good.
A Sunday morning meeting that is strictly routine and traditional
is not acceptable to God. You
might as well stay home as God told the Jews in this verse.
last part of verse 10 simply says that “God will accept no
offerings” from the hands of these Jews.
They’re going through the motions and they’re going through
the motions in vain. It’s
verse 11 God says that “my name will be great among the nations”.
God’s name would be great in two senses among the nations, a
positive sense and a negative sense.
The negative sense has already be seen in Edom. God would destroy them.
This destruction would show how great God is.
In the positive sense the Gentile world would also be granted the
opportunity to become the people of God as the Jews were meant to be.
speaks of the greatness of His name throughout the world in verse 11.
I don’t believe that this has come about as yet.
Restorationists believe that this will happen before the return
of Jesus. I believe it will
take place during the thousand year rule of Jesus on earth.
If so, this verse suggest that there will be some rituals,
burning of incense and sacrifices made during this time period.
This has been a divisive thought.
Some suggest that this can’t be, because Jesus’ sacrifices
ended all sacrifices. Others
suggest that if there are to be sacrifices made in this thousand year
rule of Jesus, it’s more like our Lord’s Supper.
It’s not an offering made for sin.
It’s an offering made to remember what Jesus did because of our
sin. Also, it’s possible
that this sacrifice is only
to be made by Jews, not Christians.
The words "pure offerings" are used in verse 11 in the NIV. Many translations and commentators say this is the "grain offering" due to the wording in the Hebrew. This means that the pure offerings spoken of here are not animal sacrifices. This might well relieve some of the controversy over the idea that animal sacrifices would be offered to God during the thousand years of peace.
might be a certain segment of Christian thinking that says verse 11 is
speaking of the age of grace where the Gentiles have opportunity to be
joined into the people of God. In
this God’s name will be spoken of as great throughout the whole world.
In the Old Testament when you see the word “nations” it is in
reference to all the Gentile nations.
So in one real way, because of Gentiles coming into God’s
family, God’s name is seen as great throughout the world.
Yet even after saying that, you need to ask, “has God’s name
really become that great because of Gentiles becoming Christian”?
12 says, “but you profane it…”
The word “it” refers back to the previous verse where God is
speaking of His name. The
Jews, and many Christians do today, “profane the name of God”.
This is not merely saying bad words or swear words. People
profane God’s name by misrepresenting Him.
The Jews back then, and Christians today, are to be good
representatives of God to the rest of the world.
But when we half-heartedly represent Him, the world does not see
God as they should. We are
giving the world a false representation.
God has never, and will never be pleased with this.
the rest of verse 12 and verse 13 God points out the fact that because
the offerings are polluted, the table of the Lord, and the food on the
table has become polluted. As
a matter of fact, all that is associated with temple worship has been
polluted because the Jews have profaned it all with their bad offerings
and their bad hearts.
12 and 13 read as if it were the Jews that say the table and the food
are contemptible. I’m not
quite sure what to make of this. I’m
not sure that the Jews might be beginning to think that God is right in
the second half of verse 13 God asks the Jews again.
He asks them if He should accept their second best offerings.
The answer is clearly seen in verse 14.
verse 14 God says, “cursed is the cheat who has an acceptable male in
his flock and vows to give it, but then sacrifices a blemished animal to
the Lord”. The word
“cursed” means that the one offering a blemished sacrificed should
be cursed, or cut off from and His people.
God calls such a man “a cheat”.
He is cheating God. When we give God our second best, we are
of the problems we see here with the Jews, and with many Christians
today, is that both Jews and Christians have promised God their best,
but in reality they give far from the best.
should we all offer our best to God.
The last sentence of this chapter tells us why.
It’s because God is a great King.
He is the greatest of Kings, and all nations should know that His
name is to be “feared”. I
don’t think we should lesson the word fear by interpreting it as
“reverence”. Fear and
reverence are not the same. God’s
name should be “feared”. Man
cannot stand in the presence of God.
As the writer of Hebrews says, “it’s a fearful thing to fall
in the hands of the living God”. (Heb.
10:31) Too often we take God
and Jesus for granted. We
act as if we’re great buddies, and in one sense of the word we are.
God is both our Father and the one we fear.
Jesus is both our brother and our Lord.