Book of Malachi Chapter 1 Commentary by
Pastor Ron Beckham
The name "Malachi" ("My messenger") is not found elsewhere in Scripture and is thought to be a shortened form of "Malakyah" ("Messenger of Yahweh"). Malachi was likely a contemporary of Nehemiah and the most probable date for this book is about 430 BC, during Nehemiah's return to Persia. A Jewish tradition is that Malachi was a member of the Great Synagogue, a group that collected and preserved Scripture for future generations. Someday we'll meet him, but right now, little is known of Malachi the man.
Verse 1—"The oracle of the word of the Lord to Israel through Malachi."
The word "oracle" may also be translated "burden" or "prophecy," and truly this man was sent to address the Lord's people, the tribes of Israel, giving them words that come from God. In Verse 2 we find God's heart for His own: "I have loved you." And He does. Note that His people are indeed those we call the "Jews," but there is more: "You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus...and if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's seed and heirs according to the promise" (Galatians 3:26-29). Trust in the Lord and you will meet the God of Abraham. The words of Verse 2 in this chapter continue into Verse 3..."I have loved you,' says the Lord. But you say, 'How have You loved us? Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?' declares the Lord. 'Yet I have loved Jacob; but I have hated Esau, and I have made his mountains a desolation and appointed his inheritance for the jackals of the wilderness."
He loves those who are willing to merely trust in Him, to have faith in the Lord, but the tendency of many is to opt for a "do it yourself" religion like the priests of these verses instead of being simply—thankful. The references in Verses 2-3 reach back to Genesis 27 and the chapters that follow. With the encouragement of their mother, Jacob stole the blessing that otherwise would belong to his slightly older twin brother, Esau. The older son was a man's man, preferred by his father and admired by contemporaries. Humanly speaking, Jacob was more of a mama's boy who preferred to cook and tend sheep. The difference from God's perspective was about potential. Esau was outwardly strong but had little interest in the things of God. Loss can bring us to faith in the Lord, and also will reveal a tendency to reject Him. Jacob found faith...Esau did not. These verses are quoted by Paul in Romans 9:6-14. God chose Jacob over Esau, which made the one feel loved...and the other felt hated.
"Edom" the place came from Esau the man, who was a natural leader, gathering followers wherever he went. He and his sons were chieftains and Esau became the founder of a nation. Both faith and unbelief are contagious, spreading to those around us. Jacob's name was changed by God to "Israel" and his descendants also were a nation. "Israel" always contained people of faith in the Lord, whereas "Edom" was riddled with unbelief. God's view of "Edom" is seen in Verse 4—"Though Edom says, 'We have been beaten down, but we will return and build up the ruins;' thus says the Lord of hosts, 'They may build, but I will tear down; and men will call them the wicked territory, and the people toward whom the Lord is indignant forever.'" God withdrew His protection from Edom and the place was destroyed. That strong people tried to rebuild, but God was against them.
Israel needed to see that God's help extended far beyond both their borders and their understanding. You and I are to recognize His provision as well. Verse 5 is a message of hope for us: "Your eyes will see this and you will say, 'The Lord be magnified beyond the border of Israel!'" The Lord is helping us in ways outside of our experience. Just as God reached into other nations and was against Edom in order to help Israel, God is doing the unexpected on your behalf.
There have always been some in Israel willing to trust in the Lord, but many of Israel's religious leaders rejected simple faith...trusting instead their own efforts. The next few verses show us God's concern about the leadership provided by the priests of that nation: Verse 6 is a reminder that if we are leaders, we are to be led by God: "'A son honors his father, and a servant his master. Then if I am a father, where is My honor? And if I am a master, where is My respect?’ says the Lord of hosts to you, O priests who despise My name.' But you say, ‘How have we despised Your name?’" In their response to God through His prophets, the priests revealed a sad lack of faith. They performed ritualistic ceremonies, but missed the point of what they did.
God wanted them to understand, providing examples of their shortcomings to help them. Verses 7-8 are his words to priests: "You are presenting defiled food upon My altar. But you say, ‘How have we defiled You?’ In that you say, ‘The table of the Lord is to be despised.’ But when you present the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? And when you present the lame and sick, is it not evil? Why not offer it to your governor? Would he be pleased with you? Or would he receive you kindly?' says the Lord of hosts." The King James calls it "polluted bread" in Verse 7, but the words actually are about the flesh of animals offered on the altar. God told them "You are presenting defiled food" to which they responded "How have we defiled You?" The command in Leviticus 22:19-25 spelled out that sacrifices were to be "without blemish," taking us ahead in time to the Messiah, who is "without sin" (Hebrews 4:15). And yet here they were, offering "blind...lame and sick" animals, revealing a lack of concern for the Lord. "Why not offer it to your governor? (a Persian ruler)" God asked with irony, knowing they would not dare do such a thing.
Verse 9 observes they would treat an earthly ruler with honor, but not Almighty God. They were ruled by Persia, but God was their true King, just as He is yours. He asks, "Will you not entreat God’s favor, that He may be gracious to us? With such an offering on your part, will He receive any of you kindly?' says the Lord of hosts." What is your attitude during communion, baptism and other means of worshiping our Lord? Are you bored during the sermon? Do you want the speaker to hurry up so you can leave? We don't offer literal animal sacrifices during our services, but the idea of Verse 10 is for all of us: "'Oh that there were one among you who would shut the gates, that you might not uselessly kindle fire on My altar! I am not pleased with you,' says the Lord of hosts, 'nor will I accept an offering from you.'" His comment is essentially: "If you don't want to worship Me, why not just shut the doors of your church and go home? If you won't delight in the Lord, take your money and your time and go someplace else!"
Verse 11 is the basis of a recent Christian worship song: "'For from the rising of the sun even to its setting, My name will be great among the nations, and in every place incense is going to be offered to My name, and a grain offering that is pure; for My name will be great among the nations,' says the Lord of hosts." The "incense" of that verse is about prayer, as in Revelation 5:8, revealing "golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints." The "grain offering" is about Jesus Christ, "the bread of life" (John 6:48).
Our worship is not to be about the rituals—we are to see the realities behind outward events. Baptism is not about washing in water, but instead is a picture, a parable that we die with Christ to this world, and come alive "in newness of life" (Romans 6:3-4). The sacrifices in Israel's Temple looked ahead to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ who died in our place so we might live. God continues through the prophet in Verses 12-14—"But you are profaning it, in that you say, ‘The table of the Lord is defiled, and as for its fruit, its food is to be despised.’ You also say, ‘My, how tiresome it is!’ And you disdainfully sniff at it,' says the Lord of hosts, 'and you bring what was taken by robbery and what is lame or sick; so you bring the offering! Should I receive that from your hand?' says the Lord. 'But cursed be the swindler who has a male in his flock and vows it, but sacrifices a blemished animal to the Lord, for I am a great King,' says the Lord of hosts, 'and My name is feared among the nations.'"
The real problem with the priests was this: Their hearts were not right before God. Like Esau, they looked good on the outside, but God saw they were riddled with unbelief. God sees us also and like the priests in Malachi One, we are defined by what we do. We can find ourselves within two lists seen in Galatians 5. Verses 19-21 list the "works of the flesh" and Verses 22-23 show us the "fruit of the Spirit." Prayerfully study the words of those verses and ask God how He sees you. Go to Him and let His "name be great" for you. Go in holy fear...then let your flaws bring you to His Son...who gives new life.
Lord, I see that I fall short of the glory of God. I am a sinner and must repent. I entrust myself to You, Lord Jesus. I am Yours. Save me; I need You so. Forgive me and be gracious to me. Fill me with Your Holy Spirit and give me peace. Let my heart be right before You. In Jesus Name. Amen.