Friday, October 10. Malachi 3-4; Matthew 1

As the Old Testament closes with Malachi 4, there is the promise of the return of Elijah.

While it will be a glorious day, it will not be glorious for everyone.  There will be great separation.  Evil doers will be separated from those who revere the name of God (meaning that revering the name of God requires doing good).

A thousand years had passed between Moses and Malachi, but the law of the Lord had not changed.  Though through Jesus God will make a new covenant with His people, the basic law of the Lord would not change.  In fact, Jesus said the law would not pass away until the end of the earth.

But before Jesus would come, a herald would appear in the spirit and power of Elijah.  We know him as John the Baptizer (Luke 1:17) and his job would be to ready people for the coming day of the Lord.
The “day of the Lord” is a day of division, sheep divided from the goats, evil doers from the faithful.  For some it’s a horrible day.  For others, the prepared, it is a blessing.  The old hymn asks: “Are you ready for that day to come?”

Thursday, October 10. Malachi

As you come to the end of chapter two and then into chapter three, put yourself in the place of the Jews.

Before the days of Babylonian captivity, God, though pointed in his condemnation of Judah, had promised a period of restoration: “I will restore the fortunes of Jacob’s tents and have compassion on his dwellings; the city will be rebuilt on her ruins, and the palace will stand in its proper place. From them will come songs of thanksgiving and the sound of rejoicing. I will add to their numbers, and they will not be decreased; I will bring them honor, and they will not be disdained. Their children will be as in days of old, and their community will be established before me; I will punish all who oppress them” (Jeremiah 30:18-20).

In captivity through Ezekiel the Lord promised: “My servant David will be king over them, and they will all have one shepherd. They will follow my laws and be careful to keep my decrees. . .They and their children and their children’s children will live there forever, and David my servant will be their prince forever. I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be an everlasting covenant. I will establish them and increase their numbers, and I will put my sanctuary among them forever. My dwelling place will be with them; I will be their God, and they will be my people. Then the nations will know that I the Lord make Israel holy, when my sanctuary is among them forever.’ ”

Now, over a hundred years after the return from exile, none of the promised grandeur had occurred. It led the people to a religious atheism: they believed in God and talked about Him, but no one regarded Him seriously. Evil prospered and the weak were crushed. Where was God?

God was (and is) where He always was. The problem was, so were His people. Little had changed. They still had little regard for and took advantage of the poor and helpless. Their morals were more like those of the world than those of heaven. People cannot expect that God will keep His promises to generations who wear His name live like children of Satan. The promise God did keep was to preserve His people, always giving them more time, more chances, more forgiveness. But even that will come to an end, for Malachi tells us a day of judgment is coming.

October 9. Malachi 1 – 4

    It was the purpose of the priesthood not only to facilitate the offering of sacrifices and other religious duties.  It was also to know the law of God and be sure that its instruction was passed on.  The Levites were to serve as examples of holy living so that all of Israel might follow that lifestyle.

    Though the Levites sided with the house of David at the division of the kingdom, and they often provided moral leadership, they also fell prey to the influence of the societies around them and time itself had a habit of calming their fervor.

    For these lapses in their calling, God’s punishment was certain.  Chapter two does not state that if they were to change their wicked ways, God would not send punishment.  Punishment was coming, and it had already begun.

    The people, of course, had a role to play in the apostasy of the Levites.  Lack of respect for the priesthood, attempts to change it and mold it into a more acceptable image to society at large, and ignoring their message totally were the weapons of choice.  Among the ways the teaching of the priests was ignored had to do with marriage.  The proliferation of divorce fulled the land with evil.

    Notice these words: “Has not the Lord made them one?  In flesh and spirit they are his.  And why one?  Because he was seeking godly offspring.”  Divorce undermines the notion of faithfulness to covenant.  It creates a faulty image of “father” and deprives children of the rounded and healthy nurturing of both parents.  The end is a society that does not know how to raise children, and children who do not know how to be holy – or why.  It takes two godly parents to effectively raise a child.  It’s the way God intended it to be.  There is no better way – nor another that is as good.

Reading Through the Bible, Monday, October 10. Malachi 1-4

    Malachi is the final book of the Old Testament in our English Bibles. In the Hebrew Bible, it is the concluding book of the prophets.  One way or another, Malachi has a  final say.

    Unlike most of the prophets, there is nothing in Malachi to give us a notion of its date.  There are echoes here of Isaiah, Jeremiah and Zechariah – particularly in the use of the name for God: “Lord Almighty” – which leads us to our main observation about the book: It is the message of a deeply offended God.

    In Malachi, God is offended because of the things His people have said:

*    God doesn’t love us.

*    The rituals of our religion are ‘beneath’ us: We don’t like that ‘old time religion’ of our forefathers.

*    There is no ‘one way,’ no ‘right or wrong.’

*    God won’t do anything to us – good or bad.

*    Serving God isn’t to our advantage.

    In Malachi God is offended because His people have not treated Him with honor.

    Malachi promises a day of reckoning.  A messenger from the Lord will come to herald the arrival of God Himself.  It will not, according to Malachi,  be a welcome sight.

    Malachi also promises a day of blessing, but before it comes, the lives of his people must change: ‘the hearts of the fathers must turn to their children.’  If they don’t, the day of blessing will be a day accursed.

    The arrival of John the Baptist, the fore-runner of Jesus, is often cited in the New Testament as a fulfillment of God’s promises through Malachi, but that is surely not all the book is about.  It speaks of honoring God with our lives and in our worship, and interestingly, the prophet focuses on our giving to the Lord as an example of the honor we show Him.

    Giving to God is not charity.  Giving to God is not showing our support for ‘worthy’ causes.  Giving to God is a means of demonstrating respect toward the Lord.

    As the people of God, we cannot divorce the way we live from our relationship with God.  If we live sorry lives that evidence dishonor, as people of God or not, we stand “cursed” by the Lord.

    Malachi ends, and the voice of God is still.  It will stay still for four hundred years until the messenger of God proclaims the coming of Jesus.  But the message of Malachi is for all time: God is watching and listening.  He longs to bless, but is far too often offended.  A final trumpet will sound, and a day of reckoning is will arrive, just as God “announced to his servants the prophets” (Revelation 10:7).  Readiness is in order.