Malachi 1:1-5 – Being responsive!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
December 4, 2011 AM
My Mom used to play mind games with us kids when we did something bad. A lot of mothers do this. Here’s what I mean: Right in the middle of scolding us over our bad behavior, she would innocently ask, “Don’t you love your dear old mother?” Or she would declare, “I work and I slave and what thanks do I get?” It was a form of psychological warfare to get a response from us and to have us think about the consequences of our actions. It’s called guilt.
Malachi is kind of like my mother. His message is for God’s wayward children. Didn’t they love God? Didn’t God love them? If that were true, then why were they acting the way they did? Had they gotten spiritually soft? God’s chosen people had gotten so lackadaisical about their faith that they forget what their relationship to God meant! Malachi’s message from the Lord is to illicit a response from his people. Malachi’s message applies to us as much as it did for the spiritually lax Israelites of his day. They needed to be responsive to God and what he continually did for them. The same is true for us today, let’s discover how…
Malachi ministered in the fifth century BC, about 100 years after the Persian King Cyrus had issued the decree in 538 BC which permitted Jews to return from exile to Judah. Life was not easy under the political rule of Persia. Most hearts were indifferent or resentful toward God. Both the priests and the people were violating the stipulations of the Mosaic Law regarding sacrifices, tithes, and offerings. Much like today, their hope in God’s promises had dimmed, as evidenced by their (a) intermarrying with nonbelievers, (b) divorces and (c) general moral apathy. They needed to respond to God’s love. Let’s discover what occurred and perhaps find a proper response for our day and age. We discover that…
I. God’s people need to respond to Malachi’s message! (V. 1)
1. One man’s message is another man’s burden!
1) Malachi had a spiritually heavy message he had to share with his people. The word mas-saw’ (“burden”), which this book begins, sets kind of a sober mood. The NIV translates this word as “An oracle.” In the prophetic books mas-saw’ introduces messages of a threatening nature and this gives the prophet’s entire message a sense of anxiety and foreboding. Contrary to many modern religious pundits God’s messages are not always welcome and can often be sinister in nature! Especially if we know how we have been acting and we know how we should be responding! Notice that this spiritually heavy message was from God Himself! Traditionally Malachi, “My messenger”, has been viewed as the last prophet of the Old Testament period before John the Baptist, whose ministry Malachi predicted (Malachi 3:1). Nothing is known of his family and he is not mentioned by name elsewhere in the Bible. However, his message is so personal and intimate that the contents clearly indicate it was written by an actual person. Malachi was God’s voice speaking a heavy message to God’s spiritually lax people. Using a series of questions and answers, Malachi engages his listeners in a debate many would have rather ignored, but God’s people from all ages need to respond to Malachi’s message because it is a “word of the Lord” for his people!
EXAMPLE: My Dad always knew when I wasn’t listening to him when he was getting after me. I would let my eyes kind of glaze over and roll back in my head. Perhaps the blank expression on my face also gave me away. My father knew I wasn’t listening to him and he would confront me about it by declaring, “Young man, you haven’t listened to a single word I said to you!” I would try to play innocent, but we both knew better and the clincher would be when he would say, “All right, tell me what I just said to you.” He wanted me to respond appropriately and I knew I was in real trouble when he would finish by telling me, “This is going to hurt me more than it does you.” This is kind of the way God deals with Israel and us through Malachi. However, our sin and its consequences often hurt us more than it does God. Yet God’s people need to respond to Malachi’s message!
We can forget that while God is love, his love demands a response from us. Not that we can earn his love because God indeed always does love, but that we need to realize that when we fail to respond the way we should to his love we are rejecting what he has done for us! Malachi reminds us of…
II. Our failure to respond to God’s love! (Vv. 2-5)
1. An appropriate response to love is devotion!
1) Malachi brings the claim of God’s love for Israel (1:2a)! God had always loved Israel. In fact, He could have chosen anyone else but He chose Israel. The Lord’s claim over Israel was vindicated by two considerations. His love expressed in his free choice of his election of Jacob and his rebuff (hatred/rejection) of Esau. Yet, like a spoiled child, Israel’s questions God’s claim (1:2b)! How had God loved them? What a question to ask! God had deliberately decided not to follow the prescribed law of choosing the eldest son Esau over the younger brother. Instead God chose, out of love, Jacob! While Jacob had his deceptive faults, we soon learn Esau was willing to give up and cave in to his own natural sin rather than follow God. The Hebrew words here for “love” and “hatred” do not refer to emotions but rather actions. How can a child question a parent’s love when it was shown so dramatically? Yet, spoiled Israel did. Can we be like that as well? Yes! God has loved us and shown his love through Jesus Christ. In fact that Bible tells us that “God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son”! (John 3:16 NIV)
2) The vindication of God’s love claim is given by him (1:2c-5)! The verbs “I have loved” and “I have hated” (vv. 2b-3a) are in the perfect tense and therefore express not only God’s past relationship with Israel and Edom but also His historical and present dealings (in Malachi’s day) with these people. This then provided the second consideration which vindicated God’s claim of love. Israel needed to consider what her lot would have been like if she, like Edom, had not been elected to a covenant relationship with Yahweh. God restored Israel and not Edom. In fact, God would turn Edom’s “mountains into a wasteland” and leave “his inheritance to the desert jackals.” Edom may try to rebuild, but God would not allow it. They would be called “A Wicked Land,” as opposed to God’s “Holy Nation.” God tells spoiled Israel that if she doesn’t believe it, “You will see it with your own eyes and say, ‘Great is the LORD—even beyond the borders of Israel!’” Israel was guilty, like Edom, perhaps like we often are, of failing to respond to God’s love! What about you this morning, have you failed to respond to the love of God?
EXAMPLE: I remember my mother giving me the parent’s curse. It goes something like this: “One of these days I hope and pray you have children just like you.” While God’s declaration through Malachi isn’t quite like this, it is similar in that he tells Israel, “You dare question my love after all I have done for you? Let me tell you something, Buster, there will come a time when you will see my love with your own eyes and recognize it for what it is.” That time would come through Jesus Christ. Paul says not only will spoiled Israel ultimately recognize God’s love, but every wayward child of God will: “Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:9-11).” We can be guilty of failing to respond to God’s love in our lives!
Perhaps you have forgotten just how much God loves you or like Israel, you may question God’s love. Let me remind you that God loves us with an everlasting love and proved it by sending Jesus into the world. Paul reminds us that “at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly” and that “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6 & 8 NIV) The heavy spiritual message of Malachi is just as valid this morning. God is telling us, just like he did when Israel questioned his love that he does indeed love us and has proven it through Jesus. How will you respond?
Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 25 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2011 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.