MALACHI – LESSON FIVE
MALACHI ENDS WITH WARNINGS AND HOPE
As we come to the final assessment of the Jews by Malachi, we are amazed at what we have learned about God! Despite the low marks the Jews have earned in all categories, God has remained loyal to His covenant, and He had remained faithful in trying to woo them back. He still loves them and has a plan for their future. He still wants them to become righteous and blessed. He wants them to be well prepared for the coming of Messiah.
In this last section we also learn some good news and bad news. There are two more areas of assessment where improvement is desperately needed, and there are warnings about a terrible time of judgment that is coming. The good news is that even now there is a faithful remnant who will be richly rewarded, and there will be a return visit from Elijah to perform great works in the nation. God’s messages always end in hope.
DAY ONE: JUDAH IS CHARGED WITH ROBBERY.
READ: Malachi 3:7-12
A. JEWS HAVE WITHHELD TITHES.
When a criminal is brought before the authorities, his “rap sheet” is presented to show his prior record. The Jews prior record from Malachi shows:
- They failed to love and honor God.
- They offered corrupt sacrifices.
- Their priests practiced hypocritical and prejudiced service.
- They broke their covenants of marriage.
- They defrauded the helpless.
Now they are accused of robbery. They have withheld from God what rightfully belongs to Him by covenant.
B. LAW OF MOSES REQUIRED TITHES AND OFFERINGS.
What were the people expected to pay to their nation?
- They were to bring a tenth of all produce and livestock (or the money equivalent) into the temple for support of the Levites. The Levites then gave a portion to the priests.
- They brought another tithe to the temple during special feast days. Every third year this tithe went to a benevolence fund in their hometowns for sojourners, orphans, and widows.
- All people over 20 were required to pay a half shekel temple tax whenever a census was taken.
C. ROBBERY BROUGHT CONSEQUENCES.
Failure to pay their tithes and offerings brought a curse. This is the third curse mentioned in Malachi.
- The individuals are cursed for defective offerings (1:14)
- The priests are cursed for defective service. (2:2)
- Now the nation is cursed for robbing God. (3:9)
D. REPENTANCE WILL BRING RENEWED BLESSING.
Their blessings have been cut off. Yet even now God promises – “Return to me and I will return to you.” God offers a challenge for the people to test Him. Bring your tithes and see what I will do.
- He will pour out abundant blessings in their fields.
- He will control the damaging predators.
- He will bless the vines with abundance.
- They will be called blessed by the nations for their prosperity.
E. CHRISTIANS ARE ALSO BLESSED IN GIVING.
We are not under the Mosaic Law with its specific rules for temple and priestly support, but we are also instructed to give for the support of the church and Christian workers. We are taught to give cheerfully as we have been prospered. A tithe is a good place to start; our love for God will prompt us to give generously, even sacrificially when needed.
F. QUESTIONS FOR STUDY OR DISCUSSION
- What was the promise to Israel in Deuteronomy 28:12?
- What is Jesus’ promise to Christians in Matthew 6:25-33?
- What is our instruction from the Sermon on the Mount? (Matthew 6:19-21, 24)
- What principle does Paul give in the following verses? 2 Corinthians 9:6; 1 Corinthians 16:2
5. Examine your record of giving. Are you robbing God?
6. Read Acts 20:35. How have you personally experienced this principle?
DAY TWO: THE PEOPLE HAVE SLANDERED GOD.
READ: Malachi 3:13-18
A. CARELESS WORDS ARE DANGEROUS.
James had much to say about the tongue in his epistle to Jewish believers. When harsh words fly out of our mouths, they can do untold damage. James compares it to igniting a forest fire. He tells us it is difficult to tame the tongue. From the tongue can come both blessing and cursing; but it should not be so (James 3:10). Our tongues must be guarded.
B. HARSH WORDS HAVE OFFENDED GOD.
The Jews have been talking “behind God’s back.” But He had heard and is not pleased. Although they try to deny it when confronted, God gives them direct quotes as evidence. Their words have been cutting to their God who loves them. These are their accusations:
- “It is useless to serve God.” (Verse 14) Their current discipline for disobedience in being felt, and they are blaming God.
- “What profit is it that we have kept his ordinance?” (Verse 14) They, in fact, have not kept His ordinances. That is their problem.
- “What profit is it that we have walked as mourners before the Lord of host?” (Verse 14) They have mourned in sackcloth but it has resulted in no monetary reward. They expected a payback for their meaningless ritual.
- They have concluded – “So now we call the wicked blessed, for those who do wickedness are raised up; they even tempt God and go free.” They are accusing God of doing opposite from what is written in His Word.
God’s principles of blessing and cursing are clearly taught in Psalm 1:
“Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers, but his delight is in the law of the Lord and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.
Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.”
Of course this applies to both Jews and Gentiles. One day there will be a payday. Even now these people are being disciplined for their evil actions and their hurtful words.
C. GOD STILL HATES HURTFUL WORDS.
There are many verses in the Psalms and Proverbs that speak of God’s blessing on clean conversation. We can choose each day to use our speech to bless, encourage and build up or to curse and tear down. Proverbs 21:23 promises – “Whoever guards his mouth and tongue keeps his soul from troubles.”
D. QUESTIONS FOR STUDY OR DISCUSSION
- What does James tell us about our speech in James 1:19-20?
- What does Jesus say about your words in Matthew 12:37?
3. Read and record as many of these verses as time permits:
- 1 Peter 3:10
- Psalm 15:1-3
- Proverbs 10:32
- Proverbs 12:19
- Proverbs 15:1-2, 4
- Proverbs 15:23
- Proverbs 16:23-24
DAY THREE: MALACHI TOOK NOTE OF THE FAITHFUL REMNANT.
READ: Malachi 3:16-18
A. A FAITHFUL FEW HAVE RESPONDED.
God is never left without witness in the world. There is always a remnant to preserve the truth and carry forth God’s plan. The story of Elijah in the Old Testament is well known. He was the famous prophet who challenged the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. When he ran for his life in deep discouragement, he felt that he alone in all of Israel remained faithful to God. But God revealed that there were 7,000 who had not sold out to idols. Now Malachi revealed that there are some faithful ones amid the unfaithful that he has been chastising in his day.
B. SOME ISRAELITES STILL FEARED THE LORD.
To fear the Lord is to highly respect Him and hold Him in awe for who He is. The writer of Proverbs tells us that fear of the Lord is the beginning knowledge. We acknowledge that he is creator and giver of life. From His Word we learn that God has standards of obedience that lead to life or death. He is the final judge who controls eternity – heaven or hell. God tells us how to walk in righteousness and receive blessing.
Those who do not fear God will openly defy his commands and ignore His warnings. A healthy fear is a good thing.
C. GOD RECORDS THE GODFEARERS.
The faithful remnant spoke to one another about things of God. God recorded their names in His Book of Remembrance. These people are pleasing to God and will be rewarded for their suffering and for standing firm when their leaders and most of the people are defying God. They are God’s jewels or treasured possession. On that day, it will be plain to see how God deals with the righteous and the wicked.
D. QUESTIONS FOR STUDY OR DISCUSSION
- What does Psalm 58:11 reveal about the destiny of these righteous ones?
- Daniel 12:1 is giving encouragement to the faithful Jews. What book do you think he is referring to?
- What does it sometimes cost to stand against the crowd?
4. God hears the way we speak of Him in our private conversations. Read Matthew 12:33-34. How should this change the way you speak?
5. Pay close attention to your words this week. Try to deliberately speak words that build up and encourage.
DAY FOUR: JUDGMENT IS COMING.
READ: Malachi 4:1-3
A. GOD ANSWERS JUDAH’S CHALLENGE.
At times we hear people question the idea of justice in the world. It often seems that evil is spinning out of control. Life doesn’t seem fair. This is not a new problem. David had questions about justice (or God’s lack of quick judgment on evil) as he poured out his heart in the Psalms. They martyrs under the altar questioned about when they would see justice (Revelation 6:9-11)
B. GOD REVEALED THE FUTURE.
The Day of the Lord is coming with a fierce intensity – like a burning oven. It will be a time of fierce judgment on the whole earth. God will give final warnings and final opportunities for repentance, but finally all of the prideful evildoers who defy God will burn like stubble. This judgment is so complete that nothing is left – neither root nor branch.
At that time He will provide justice for the righteous. The savior will return in brightness to shine on the believers and heal all of the hurts they have suffered. At that time the righteous will prosper like never before. They will never be abused by the wicked again. Their nation will be brought back to God.
“Then the eyes of the blind will be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then will the lame leap like a deer and the mute tongue shout for joy. Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert.” Isaiah 35:5
“And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son. On that day the weeping in Jerusalem will be great, like the weeping of Hadad Rimmon in the plain of Megiddo. The land will mourn, each clan by itself, with their wives, the clan of the house of Nathan and their wives, the clan of the house of Levi and their wives, the clan of Shimei and their wives, and all the rest of the clans and their wives.” Zechariah 12:10
In that day God’s critics will be silenced. Psalm 2:9 says they will be dashed to pieces like a potter’s vessel.
C. QUESTIONS FOR STUDY OR DISCUSSION
- Read Isaiah 63:1-6 of the final triumph of the Messiah.
- How does Zephaniah 1:14-18 describe the great day of the Lord?
- What is the title for Jesus in 2 Peter 1:9?
- What is His title in Revelation 22:16?
- How do you think the Jews would have felt after learning of God’s great plan for the future?
6. How does it make you feel to read about God’s final judgments on earth?
7. When have you complained about injustice?
8. Read what is said about God’s timetable in 2 Peter 3:9?
DAY FIVE: MALACHI GIVES A FINAL WORD.
READ: Malachi 4:4-6
A. JUDAH IS ADVISED TO OBEY.
God never leaves His people without hope. He is always open to repentance and new beginnings. Malachi has addressed Judah’s problems clearly. He has revealed God’s fury in judgment openly. He has presented life or death as Moses did at the end of Deuteronomy. The choice is theirs to make.
B. MALACHI GIVES THE SIMPLE SOLUTION.
They are told to remember the Law of Moses. The law was the path to a good life. The law would place the people in right relationship with God and put them in the place of great blessing.
C. MALACHI GIVES FINAL INSTRUCTIONS.
It will be 400 years before God sends another prophet. The next thing on their calendar will be the coming of the forerunner or Messiah. This was fulfilled in a spiritual sense in John the Baptist (Luke 1:16-17; Matthew 17:10-13). It will be fulfilled in another sense before the second coming of Jesus.
Elijah will have a ministry of reconciliation in the nation of Israel. The people of Malachi’s day were abusing each other and destroying families. One day their relationships will be healed.
It is not too late for God’s beloved children. He invites them back with open arms. After seeing God’s love and His character and His beautiful plan, we, too, should long for a deeper relationship with our awesome God.
D. QUESTIONS FOR STUDY OR DISCUSSION
- Review the subtle slide into sin the people of God have taken:
- Disrespecting God
- Defiling worship
- Defiling marriage
- Defrauding God in their giving
- Slandering God in their speech
- Which of these sins are most prevalent today?
- Which attributes of God are most clearly revealed in this book?
4. How can I best honor God’s name in my life this week?
In Malachi’s day the leaders and the people were living in a state of self-deception. They were going through the motions of serving God while despising their roles and despising their hard lives. They were unaware that they were the problem because of half-hearted obedience. Take note all who call yourselves Christians today.
PRINCIPLE FOR THE WEEK
Careful obedience to God’s instructions will pay royal dividends now and in the future.
Evaluate your current lifestyle choices. Is there any area where you could become more obedient so that God can richly bless you?
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