Malachi: Warning to Backsliders
1:1-14, 2:, 3:1, 4:5-6 (Pastor Heo)
1 A prophecy: The word of the LORD to Israel through Malachi.
Israel Doubts God’s Love
2 “I have loved you,” says the LORD. “But you ask, ‘How have you loved us?’ “Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?” declares the LORD. “Yet I have loved Jacob, 3 but Esau I have hated, and I have turned his hill country into a wasteland and left his inheritance to the desert jackals.” 4 Edom may say, “Though we have been crushed, we will rebuild the ruins.” But this is what the LORD Almighty says: “They may build, but I will demolish. They will be called the Wicked Land, a people always under the wrath of the LORD. 5 You will see it with your own eyes and say, ‘Great is the LORD—even beyond the borders of Israel!’
Breaking Covenant Through Blemished Sacrifices
6 “A son honors his father, and a slave his master. If I am a father, where is the honor due me? If I am a master, where is the respect due me?” says the LORD Almighty. “It is you priests who show contempt for my name. “But you ask, ‘How have we shown contempt for your name?’ 7 “By offering defiled food on my altar. “But you ask, ‘How have we defiled you?’ “By saying that the LORD’s table is contemptible. 8 When you offer blind animals for sacrifice, is that not wrong? When you sacrifice lame or diseased animals, is that not wrong? Try offering them to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you?” says the LORD Almighty. 9 “Now plead with God to be gracious to us. With such offerings from your hands, will he accept you?”—says the LORD Almighty. 10 “Oh, that one of you would shut the temple doors, so that you would not light useless fires on my altar! I am not pleased with you,” says the LORD Almighty, “and I will accept no offering from your hands. 11 My name will be great among the nations, from where the sun rises to where it sets. In every place incense and pure offerings will be brought to me, because my name will be great among the nations,” says the LORD Almighty. 12 “But you profane it by saying, ‘The Lord’s table is defiled,’ and, ‘Its food is contemptible.’ 13 And you say, ‘What a burden!’ and you sniff at it contemptuously,” says the LORD Almighty. “When you bring injured, lame or diseased animals and offer them as sacrifices, should I accept them from your hands?” says the LORD. 14 “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. For I am a great king,” says the LORD Almighty, “and my name is to be feared among the nations.
2:17 You have wearied the LORD with your words. “How have we wearied him?” you ask. By saying, “All who do evil are good in the eyes of the LORD, and he is pleased with them” or “Where is the God of justice?”
3:1 “I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the LORD Almighty.
4:5 “See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes. 6 He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents; or else I will come and strike the land with total destruction.”
This is the last book of the OT, but we will not finish the study of the OT joyfully. The last word = “total destruction” – a curse.
This is a big burden.
- The OT finishes with the warning of a curse.
- But the NT Revelation finishes with “no more curse.”
Malachi is the last book of the OT – it is also the last book chronologically. His name appears in the whole Bible only one time, here, 1:1.
Malachi = “my messenger, my angel, a messenger of the LORD”
We know almost nothing about the person, Malachi – even his father’s name is unknown, but one thing we know is that he was a later contemporary of Nehemiah.
So, to see where Nehemiah and Malachi were in history, let’s review some history of Israel.
- Southern kingdom, destroyed by Babylonia in 586 BC. After captivity, God gave a promise through Jeremiah that they would return 70 years later. There were 3 returns.
- Zerubabbel – 538 BC – main mission = rebuild the temple (Ezra)
- Ezra – 457 BC = rebuild people’s mental, moral, spiritual state (Ezra)
- Nehemiah – 440 BC = rebuild the walls (Nehemiah)
- At once, quickly, they experienced the restoration of the temple, relationship with God, and worship. But shortly after, they backslid.
Warning to the Backsliders
In this situation, Malachi directs his message of judgment against the priests and their false sense of security in their relationship with God.
Using Q/A style, he probes deeply into their problems of:
- wrong worship service.
Honestly, preparing a sermon from Malachi in the last book of the OT, I felt a burden – because I have no choice but to give you a warning/burden (including me).
Warning: Good news or bad?
If an earthquake or hurricane, today’s warning = good, tomorrow’s = too late.
- Romans = “Everything that is written in the past was written to teach us a lesson, so that through the patience endurance and encouragement of the Scriptures we may have hope.”
- 1 Cor “Therefore, test yourselves to see whether you are in the faith.”
Malachi 1:1 = an oracle (this means “warning” or “burden”)
Actually KJV says “A burden…”
This burden is not given to the Gentiles, but to the Chosen people, the Jews – those who have backslid – God challenges them to return to him and he will return to them.
According to this book, there are three characteristics of the backsliders: Examine yourselves.
After receiving this burden, if you also feel a burden, it means you are normal, healthy, and we have hope.
3 Characteristics of Backsliders
1: They doubt God’s love
They do not believe God loves them absolutely, unconditionally, sovereignly, independently. Do you?
“I have loved you,” God says. They say, “How have you loved us?”
It looks strange when God says outwardly, “I have loved you, Jacob, but hated Esau.” What does this mean? Absolutely, God doesn’t “hate” anyone (John 3:16) – also he “wishes no one to perish but all to come to a saving understanding of his Son.”
Remember last week? We learned that Jesus said, “If you do not hate your mother, father, brother, sister, more than me, you cannot be my disciple.” Remember, this is about PRIORITIES. Who is #1? Who is first?
God does not show favoritism, but his love for US is absolute, unconditional. This is EMPHASIZING that.
Romans 9:13-16 “13 Just as it is written: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” 14 What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! 15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy.”
Please know that God does not love you because of WHAT you have done. Why not?
- Because if so, then his love is changeable – because our actions are changeable.
- But if he loves us because of his mercy, his love is unchangeable because his mercy is unchangeable.
Malachi 3:6 “I the LORD do not change…”
Jesus also says, “I am the same Yesterday, Today, and Forever.”
“God demonstrated his own love for us in this, that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
- Remember this, God loves us all the time, unconditionally, absolutely, sovereignly. If you doubt this love, it is the first sign of backsliding.
#2: Lack of basic characteristics in showing the Christian faith
Do you have faith? Do you have it in your heart/mind/spirit? This is unseen, but our unseen faith should be proved by something seen/visible.
If you don’t show BASIC responsibilities in the Christian faith, this is the second characteristic of backsliding.
“A son honors his father, and a slave his master. If I am a father, where is the honor due me? If I am a master, where is the respect due me?” says the LORD Almighty. “It is you priests who show contempt for my name. “But you ask, ‘How have we shown contempt for your name?’
8 When you offer blind animals for sacrifice, is that not wrong? When you sacrifice lame or diseased animals, is that not wrong? Try offering them to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you?” says the LORD Almighty.
10 “Oh, that one of you would shut the temple doors, so that you would not light useless fires on my altar! I am not pleased with you,” says the LORD Almighty, “and I will accept no offering from your hands.
3 “Because of you I will rebuke your descendants ; I will smear on your faces the dung from your festival sacrifices, and you will be carried off with it.
Emotionally, this means, with their worship service, God is VERY angry.
With their service attitude, God is EXTREMELY angry. He has feelings because he is a person. With this message of judgment, we should test our basic attitude toward our worship service honestly.
- Suppose you are a school teacher and your student is absent in your class, present, absent, absent, absent, present, present, etc. He is totally unpredictable. Can you be pleased with him? Can you give him an A+ (or even B+)? Even if he asks you for one?
- Imagine, if you have an appointment to meet with a human governor. A congressman, the mayor, etc. Will you be late? Or on time? You should appear first, and wait for him.
Some people say, “irregular or late attendance to church is better than never going at all.” Well, perhaps, according to some special cases. But remember, according to this passage in Malachi,
- Never coming to church = God is sad because the person doesn’t know there is a God.
- Irregular attendance = God is angry because the person KNOWS there is a God, but doesn’t respect him as God.
#3: Not giving tithes and offerings
8 “Will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me. “But you ask, ‘How are we robbing you?’ “In tithes and offerings. 9 You are under a curse—your whole nation—because you are robbing me. 10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.”
God calls him a robber, under a curse, who does not give tithe. “Robber” is actually WORSE than “thief.” This is worse than a petty one-time criminal, this is a career criminal.
Yes, we know there is sowing and reaping.
No matter how poor a farmer is, he does not eat ALL his seed – but he keeps some for later sowing and reaping.
- Remember: Giving tithes is not a matter of wealth/poverty, but HOW we trust in God OR money. You cannot serve God and money. But you can serve God WITH money.
- Giving tithe = a confession that everything I have is by/from God and expecting that God will continue to bless and provide.
Psalm “Unless the Lord builds the house, its laborers labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches the city, its watchmen watch in vain.”
Our effort, work, energy, is totally useless without God.
“Do not put the Lord your God to the test.” Then, why does THIS verse ask us to test him?
TEST God in your tithes.
God encourages us, pushes us to test him with tithes and “SEE if I don’t call down so much blessing on you that you need no more.”
This is an encouragement and challenge. This should be clear between YOU and God – not YOU and everyone else/pastor/etc.
“But, pastor, this is the OT. We are living in the NT. They used to be under the Law, but we are under Grace.”
Well, that’s true, we are free – but we are free to do/give MORE. If we are REALLY under Grace, we WANT to do more, much more, for God.
This is the key message of the WHOLE Bible.
- The OT says, “Do not kill. You are under the Law.”
- The NT says, “Do not hate. This is the beginning of killing. You are under Grace.”
- OT “Do not commit adultery – You are under the Law.”
- NT “Do not LOOK lustfully, this is the root of adultery – You are under Grace.”
- OT “Love your neighbors – You are under the Law.”
- NT “Love your enemies – You are under Grace.”
- OT “Pay eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth – You are under the Law.”
- NT “Bless those who persecute you – You are under Grace.”
- OT “Give full tithe – You are under the Law.”
- NT “ Give full tithe without neglecting mercy, faithfulness, justice – You are under Grace.” (Matt 23)
After giving this kind of serious warning/burden, God is SILENT for his people for the next 400 years – until he sends his Son in Matthew.
That’s why Malachi closes with a prophecy of the forerunner of the Messiah (John the Baptist).
“I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the LORD Almighty.
Matthew (fulfillment) 11:10-14
“10 This is the one about whom it is written: “ ‘I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.’ 11 Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. 12 From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been subjected to violence,and violent people have been raiding it. 13 For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John. 14 And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come.
“See, I will send the prophet Elijah (John the Baptist) to you before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes.”
“10 The disciples asked him, “Why then do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?” 11 Jesus replied, “To be sure, Elijah comes and will restore all things. 12 But I tell you, Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but have done to him everything they wished. In the same way the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands.” 13 Then the disciples understood that he was talking to them about John the Baptist.”
Let us take individual time – during our prayer before God – let us test ourselves.
3 signs of backsliding:
- Doubt God’s love
- Lack of Basic outward signs of faith
- Withholding tithe
Closing the study of the OT, my final encouragement is:
- Be thankful to God for the past because of his Love,
- Be faithful to the Christian Faith in the Present because of his Grace,
- Be hopeful to God in the Future because of his Faithfulness.