Possibly around 450 B.C.
‘You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles' wings and brought you to myself. Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ – Exodus 19:4-6
Malachi has a distinctive style that you will easily pick up. In the first verses a rhythm is introduced: “I have loved you,” says the LORD. But you say, “How have you loved us?” “Is not Esau Jacob's brother?” declares the LORD. “Yet I have loved Jacob but Esau I have hated…” This cycle of accusation-retort-response is used effectively at least seven times in Malachi.
There is no timestamp on the oracle of the word of the LORD that came to Malachi, but it is almost certainly after the time of Zerubbabel, and likely as late as Ezra and Nehemiah, because there is a functional temple in place. Otherwise, nothing is known of this prophet, but we will deduce much about the setting into which he preached.
Indeed, the prevailing concern that runs through the first chapter-and-a-half is propriety in Temple worship. In chapters 1 and 2 He condemns the priests for defiling the altar with imperfect sacrifices and in leading the people astray. The LORD ridicules their weariness of duty and asks if they would treat their governor with such contempt.
In the middle of chapter 2 the LORD moves on to the population of Judah, leveling two accusations against them: their marriages to the daughters of foreign gods, and their faithlessness to the wife of your youth. Listen carefully to how the LORD drills deeply into this accusation. It is the voice of one who has been quite attentive to life in Judah.
The book turns toward the future in chapter 3: Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the LORD whom you seek will suddenly come to His temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts. This is, however, more warning than encouragement, as the LORD declares: “Then I will draw near to you for judgment.” Listen to the list of those He will witness against, and remember the law that was given to them through Moses.
Read all the way to the end, through the refiner’s fire and the windows of heaven and the book of remembrance, because there is one final promise in store as the prophetic canon is closed.
Our verse for this week is James 4:7: Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
The prophet Malachi. Now let’s read it!
1:1 The oracle of the word of the LORD to Israel by Malachi.
“I have loved you,” says the LORD. But you say, “How have you loved us?” “Is not Esau Jacob's brother?” declares the LORD. “Yet I have loved Jacob but Esau I have hated. I have laid waste his hill country and left his heritage to jackals of the desert.” If Edom says, “We are shattered but we will rebuild the ruins,” the LORD of hosts says, “They may build, but I will tear down, and they will be called ‘the wicked country,’ and ‘the people with whom the LORD is angry forever.’” Your own eyes shall see this, and you shall say, “Great is the LORD beyond the border of Israel!”
“A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am a father, where is my honor? And if I am a master, where is my fear? says the LORD of hosts to you, O priests, who despise my name. But you say, ‘How have we despised your name?’ By offering polluted food upon my altar. But you say, ‘How have we polluted you?’ By saying that the LORD's table may be despised. When you offer blind animals in sacrifice, is that not evil? And when you offer those that are lame or sick, is that not evil? Present that to your governor; will he accept you or show you favor? says the LORD of hosts. And now entreat the favor of God, that he may be gracious to us. With such a gift from your hand, will he show favor to any of you? says the LORD of hosts. Oh that there were one among you who would shut the doors, that you might not kindle fire on my altar in vain! I have no pleasure in you, says the LORD of hosts, and I will not accept an offering from your hand. For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name will be great among the nations, and in every place incense will be offered to my name, and a pure offering. For my name will be great among the nations, says the LORD of hosts. But you profane it when you say that the Lord's table is polluted, and its fruit, that is, its food may be despised. But you say, ‘What a weariness this is,’ and you snort at it, says the LORD of hosts. You bring what has been taken by violence or is lame or sick, and this you bring as your offering! Shall I accept that from your hand? says the LORD. Cursed be the cheat who has a male in his flock, and vows it, and yet sacrifices to the Lord what is blemished. For I am a great King, says the LORD of hosts, and my name will be feared among the nations.