“A pronouncement: The word of the Lord to Israel through Malachi.”
— Malachi 1:1 (CSB – Read the chapter)
While it’s popular today to talk about eating dessert first, I am more of a save-the-best-for-last kind of guy. I’d rather slog through the tough stuff at the beginning so I can sit back and savor the best stuff with even more time to enjoy it. Well, as our journey through the minor prophets comes near to its end as we land on the final book of Malachi, we have saved the best for last. Here’s a little preview of coming attractions.
Malachi has always been one of my favorite documents of the Old Testament, and not just because it is one of the shorter ones. Of everything written in the Hebrew Scriptures, Malachi comes off like something that could have been written in the New Testament. Not just that; it sounds like something that could have been written today.
Over and over again the prophet hits on issues that are ones we are dealing with today. They don’t look exactly the same because Malachi was writing roughly 2,400 years ago. But an incredible overlap of themes reveals that while much has changed about the world since then, people themselves have changed remarkably little.
Malachi was writing to a people who were disappointed and frustrated. They were disappointed that life on the other side of the exile wasn’t the parade of glories they had built it up in their minds to be. He was writing to the third generation since the return and the bitterness of their parents and grandparents had seeped into their hearts and was poisoning their outlook.
They felt abandoned by the Lord once again and had grown cynical about the whole religion thing. Their ancestors paid for their disobedience by being sent into exile. God had punished them. But here, on the other side of the return, life hadn’t really changed. So what did the exile accomplish? What good was it to go through the rigmarole I’d diligently keeping the Law? Let’s throw it a bone because we don’t want to make God mad, but let’s live how we please.
See any overlap at all there with where our culture is today? Religion, by most people, is seen as something you do in your personal life and otherwise doesn’t matter. It’s there to make you happy. If it doesn’t serve that purpose, why bother with it? And you don’t really need religion itself anyway. Just go with being spiritual and that’ll be enough. Religion is really a villain in the grand scheme. It is always there at the heart of what is wrong with society. Just throw God or god or the gods or the great spirit or what have you a bone and do your best to make your life what you want it to be.
Into all of this, Malachi had something to say. God was still there, He still cared, and there was still joy to be found when we pursue doing life His way. Honoring Him was still something that was worthwhile. It still mattered. Well, God is still here today. He still cares. There is still joy to be found in doing life His way through Christ. Honoring Him is still something worthwhile to pursue. Join me these next couple of weeks as we see how Malachi framed all of this for his audience and reflect together on what it means for us on this side of the cross.