MALACHI – LESSON ONE
DAY ONE: INTRODUCTION TO THE STUDY
A. GOD SENT A PROPHET TO EVALUATE ISRAEL.
We all have memories of our early school years. Some have good memories of favorite teachers, good friends and the fun of learning. Others may have bad memories of bullies, learning problems and trips to the principal’s office. Whatever our experiences, we all likely remember the tension we felt on the day the report cards came out! What will the teacher’s assessment of my progress be like? Will I feel good about the remarks about my behavior? Will I be able to challenge the grading if I think it is unfair? It is not uncommon to be surprised at some of the assessment.
Imagine the day Israel got a “report card” from God through the prophet Malachi. Their assessment or “grade” was surprising to them. Perhaps they thought God hadn’t noticed their unacceptable behavior or poor performance. Perhaps they thought their bad attitude had slipped by Him.
One of the interesting things we find when we study the twelve minor prophets is that each one has a unique style. Malachi has been called the Hebrew Socrates. He has what has been labeled a disputational style. He creates an imaginary dialogue with the people receiving the prophecy and enters into a debate or dispute about their behavior.
- First he makes a charge or assessment against the Jews for some behavioral choice or some offense.
- Then he presents the rebuttal that the Jews would make to refute the charge.
- Next he presents the evidence that supports the original assessment.
No one is exempt from appraisal — the people, the priests, the Levites, the husbands, the worshippers. Eight times Malachi brings up a charge and convicts the offenders in his imaginary debate. God is justified in wanting improvement. Malachi notes that repentance and improved behavior is especially important to prepare the way for the coming Messiah.
The study of Malachi provides opportunity for believers today to seriously consider their own performance and deportment in light of Jesus’ second coming when we will stand before Him for a personal evaluation. Malachi can be a very helpful study.
B. QUESTIONS FOR STUDY OR DISCUSSION
- Scan through chapter 1 to get a feel for Malachi’s style of writing.
- What does Paul say about a believer’s time of testing? (2 Corinthians 5:10)
- How does Paul encourage true believers about their judgment? (Romans 8:1)
- Jesus used a parable to illustrate our accountability. Read: Matthew 25:14-30)
- Explain how God is using you in the body of believers.
- How can your personal talents be used to “make disciples?”
DAY TWO: INTRODUCTION TO THE AUTHOR
A. SCHOLARS DEBATE THE IDENTITY OF MALACHI.
The author of this minor prophet bears the name of Malachi. This has created a dilemma for scholars because this person is unknown in Biblical writings. The name means “my messenger,” which leads some to suppose that the author is anonymous and Malachi is not a personal name. It has even been suggested that this title was meant to be a slam against the priests who were supposed to be the messengers of God’s word but had failed in the task.
However, none of the other books of prophecy have anonymous authors, and no one has come up with proof of a different writer. So, Malachi traditionally remains as a real prophet who has the distinction of being the last prophet in the Old Testament and the prophet who predicted the ministry of John the Baptist, forerunner of the Messiah.
B. MALACHI’S MESSAGE IS URGENT.
God’s people had returned home after their 70 years in Babylon, but the picture was not pretty. Life in Israel was hard and many had lost hope in God’s promises of a glorious kingdom. Malachi came along to remind the people of their covenant and God’s faithfulness. As they are reminded of God’s past, present and future workings with Israel, they have reason to renew their hope in their privileged position and their messianic hopes.
C. MALACHI’S STYLE IS UNIQUE.
Malachi acted out a supposed courtroom-style dialogue between God and His covenant people.
- First Malachi would take the role of God and throw out a statement, charge, or accusation regarding a problem in Israel – a message directly from God.
- Second he would take the role of the Jews and verbalize their expected objection to God’s statement in the form of a rebuttal.
- Third he would then offer proof from God that the statement was true.
God had a covenant or contract with the nation of Israel. His covenant blessings were based on their covenant faithfulness. If they were now unhappy and were feeling deprived, they needed to discover what had gone wrong in the relationship or the contractual agreement. Malachi’s unique style left no doubt where the people had failed.
D. QUESTIONS FOR STUDY OR DISCUSSION
- Look up the word covenant in a dictionary and record the meaning.
- How did the people respond when the Law was offered to them? (Exodus 19:7-8)
- As time permits, read Deuteronomy 28-30 to see the conditions of the covenant.
- What did the original covenant with Abraham promise? (Genesis 12:1-3)
- What has God promised to believers today? (Ephesians 1:2-3, 7; 2:8-10)
DAY THREE: INTRODUCTION TO PROPHETIC LITERATURE
A. PROPHETS PLAYED A KEY ROLE IN BIBLICAL HISTORY.
Have you ever wished that you could hear the very voice of God? Early on in Biblical history God communicated by voice to Adam and the patriarchs. But, beginning with Moses, God spoke through prophets. Everything God wanted man to know was clearly communicated through oral and written prophets. More than one-fourth (27%) of the entire Bible is prophecy. God revealed His wisdom of past, present, and future events through men who faithfully delivered what God put in their hearts and minds. They became His very voice.
As we begin a study of a minor prophet, we approach it as though God is speaking directly to us. He will help us to understand His workings with His people and His plan for the future.
B. PROPHETIC KNOWLEDGE IS MIRACULOUS.
Prophecy is a miracle of knowledge. It may reveal divine insight about the past or present – revelation that can be known only as God chooses to reveal it. It may reveal what will happen in the future – known only by an all-knowing God who sees the beginning and the end of all things. Whatever the message, prophecy should always be seen as a miracle. God is speaking what we need to know and what we cannot discover on our own.
C. PROPHETIC CONTEXT IS VITAL.
In order to accurately understand prophecy, we need to place the writings in their historical context. Some of the major and minor prophets wrote prior to the exile in Babylon. Many of their pre-exile writings included warnings about the coming captivity as well as the return and restoration after 70 years. Some of the prophets wrote during the captivity and gave encouragement about God’s sovereignty over the nations during this difficult time. Some of the prophets wrote after the return from captivity when life was hard and their independence had been taken away from them.
Malachi wrote after the return from Babylon. The Jews were under foreign rule and were very slow to rebuild and return to faithful living in this new hardship.
D. QUESTIONS FOR STUDY OR DISCUSSION
- Record the meaning of a prophet from a dictionary.
- What was the Biblical test of a true prophet? (Deuteronomy 18:21-22)
- What was the judgment of a false prophet? (Deuteronomy 18:20)
- In a general sense a prophet is a spokesman for God. Who could be considered God’s spokesmen today?
- How faithful are you to test every prophet by testing the message against Scripture and by testing the lifestyle of the messenger?
- What is our ultimate source of truth today? (Acts 17:11)
DAY FOUR: INTRODUCTION TO MALACHI’S WRITING.
A. OUTLINE OF THE BOOK
The outline of this unique book is built around several statements or revelations from God that deliver a needed message to the discouraged and derelict people.
- Introduction: God has a Burden. 1:1
- First Statement Regarding God’s Love 1:2-5
- Second Statement Regarding Disrespect 1:6 – 2:9
- Third Statement Regarding Faithfulness 2:10 – 2:16
- Fourth Statement Regarding Complaining 2:17 – 3:6
- Fifth Statement Regarding Disobedience 3:7-12
- Sixth Statement Regarding Blasphemy 3:13-18
- Conclusion: Day of the Lord is coming. 4:1-6
The people of God needed a report from God to help them see themselves as God saw them. They needed to find a reason to renew their hope in God’s program in order to prepare for the coming of the Messiah.
There may be dark days for the people of God, but there is always hope for the future.
B. QUESTIONS FOR STUDY OR DISCUSSION
- As time permits, read these chapters from Ezra and Nehemiah to get a feel for the “climate” in Israel after they returned from Babylon:
- Ezra 9 – 10
- Nehemiah 8 – 9
- What stands out to you in these chapters?
- Describe a time when you were very discouraged.
- What spiritual discipline or activity brings you great joy?
DAY FIVE: MALACHI’S SPEAKS URGENTLY TO THE PEOPLE.
READ: Malachi 1:1
A. GOD’S MESSAGE IS CALLED AN “ORACLE.”
The beginning of Malachi’s prophecy is sobering because it says that he is revealing a “burden” or oracle. There is a problem in Israel that is troubling God. The priests who are supposed to be God’s caretakers need to pay attention – as do we!
There are times when we may look at the behavior of our own children and become troubled. We may see them drifting into relationships that pull them away from God. We may see them experimenting with mind-altering substances that can lead to destructive addictions. We may see them beginning to bow to the allure of the world with all of Satan’s promises of fun, fame or fortune. We may see them becoming hostile to authorities who try to guide them well.
B. GOD’S MESSAGE IS DIFFICULT TO DELIVER.
It is difficult to confront anyone who is behaving dangerously. We run the risk of destroying a relationship or of being rejected. It was no different for God’s prophets. They were compelled to speak God’s mind to God’s errant children, but they were often rejected and sometimes even killed. But love compels God and us to ignore the risk and speak the truth when loved ones are in grave danger.
Malachi bravely jumps in to confront the discouraged Israelites. The message includes rebuke for behavior that can lead to the path of ruin, but it also includes hope that God is still on the path to great victory. He is still in control even in this hard period of waiting and preparation.
C. QUESTIONS FOR STUDY OR DISCUSSION
- What does Paul instruct believers to do? (Ephesians 4:15))
- What does Proverbs 15:23 say about a friend’s advice?
- What is the dictionary definition of oracle?
- Who in your family or circle of friends has embarked on a dangerous path?
- How can you pray for that person or persons?
- Will you pray for courage to confront when opportunity arises?
Malachi began his prophecy with a revelation about God. God cares enough about His children to be deeply troubled when they are going off into a wrong path. God has been faithful to teach them well regarding the righteous path, and He is faithful to discipline them when necessary. He is also faithful to warn them before their lives are irreparably sabotaged. He uses divinely inspired prophets to send His messages.
Their messages have timely warnings for believers today. It is easy to be subtly drawn off course by cultural norms. PAY ATTENTION! We will be held accountable.
PRINCIPLE FOR THE WEEK
God’s prophets help us understand subtle temptations we might otherwise miss.
Study Malachi with “ears to hear and eyes to see” truths for today.
Thank God each day this week that He cares enough to warn us of hidden dangers.
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