What do we do when things don’t go our way? Often, we look for someone to blame, and ultimately, we may end up pointing the finger at God. The last of the Old Testament prophets, Malachi, addressed a people who were disillusioned with their lives and their God. He urged them to understand their circumstances through the lens of a God who had not forsaken them, but rather loves them completely. It is during our times of difficulty and lack that we are drawn to consider more deeply God’s presence and love, and the ways we are to respond to him.
Malachi’s name means “messenger,” so we are unsure whether the term is a specific name or a description of his task. In chapter 3, we see that the “messenger of the covenant” will appear to purify and refine God’s people. He prophesied to the people of Judah, specifically to the priests and Levites, after they had returned from exile and were trying to rebuild their lives and their nation. Given the thematic similarities with the book of Nehemiah, it is possible, perhaps likely, that Malachi prophesied during his time as Governor of Judah. They had lowered their standards significantly both in their commitment to God and others, and in their state of spiritual compromise were having difficulty seeing the hand of God.
Malachi uses the “disputation method” for each of his messages. He asks a question (e.g. “How have you loved us?”) and then gives the answer. There are three major themes running through the entire book. First, God’s ancient covenant with his people still stands, and he expects them to comply. Though the pain of their current situation was more obvious than this covenant, Malachi insists that they live according to the truth of who God is rather than what they see. Second, spiritual compromise is expressed in many ways. In each of his short messages, he points out that specific ways that they were living for themselves and not for God. Third, God is faithful to send messengers to his wayward people to give them an opportunity to return to him.
Malachi is quoted by New Testament writers, especially the Gospels (Matthew 11:10; Luke 1:17). The final two chapters offer a fitting conclusion to the Old Testament and leave us waiting for the Messiah who will come to restore God’s people.
Can you think of someone in your life who has made great judgments? What stands out to you about their skill in discernment?
Do you tend to be a naturally trusting person or a cynic? In the world around us, how do you see a lack of trust expressed regularly?
Besides the idols of other religions, what are some common objects of worship in today’s world? How can one tell whether that thing is truly an object of worship?
Think of someone who has loved you well. If you were to give a percentage point regarding that person’s unconditional love for you (100% being completely unconditional), what would it be?