The book of Malachi closes out the Old Testament. The prophet’s name is mentioned in 1:1, but nowhere else in the Bible. His name is descriptive and quite appropriate for his message. Malachi means “my messenger.” He focused on the duties and failings of the Levitical priests of his day, whom he described as “the messenger of the LORD of hosts” (2:7). In 3:1, Malachi foretold the coming of John the Baptist, identified as “My messenger” who “will prepare the way before Me” (cf. Mark 1:1-4). And then in the latter portion of 3:1, Malachi spoke of Jesus as “…the Lord, whom you seek … even the Messenger of the covenant…”
In Malachi’s day (mid-400s BC) Jerusalem, its walls, and the temple had been rebuilt, but the inhabitants of the land were not faithful to the Lord. Their unfaithfulness is displayed through a series of disputes between God and His people.
Dispute #1 (1:1-5): God expressed His love for Judah, which they immediately questioned. God had established a covenant with their forefather Jacob, while the posterity of Esau was laid waste and made desolate. He had cast down Edom but magnified Israel.
Dispute #2 (1:6-2:9): God accused His people of failing to give honour and reverence to the Lord and His name. They retorted, “In what way have we despised Your name?” The people brought defiled sacrifices to the Lord and the priests had departed from His ways.
Dispute #3 (2:10-16): God indicted the people for profaning their worship and dealing treacherously with their wives. Of course, they denied it, but the LORD supplied the proof—they had been divorcing their Hebrew wives and marrying daughters of foreign gods. In doing so, they broke their covenant with God and profaned the institution of marriage.
Dispute #4 (2:17-3:5): The people had made false charges against the Lord, namely that He wasn’t a God of justice, that He allowed injustice to prevail. To demonstrate His justice, He would send a messenger to prepare the people for the Messiah’s coming, and that the Messiah would refine and purify them. Though the LORD was patient, a time of judgment was imminent.
Dispute #5 (3:6-12): Though He was patient with them, God called upon the people to return to Him. Again, they disputes the need to return, “In what way shall we return?” The LORD proceeded to rebuke them for their failure to bring their tithes and offerings as they should. If they would serve Him according to His word, they would be blessed.
Dispute #6 (3:13-18): Once more the people claim serving God has no benefit to it—why should they walk as mourners before God while the proud and wicked prosper? The problem was their failure to discern between good and evil, but God revealed a time was coming when there would be a book of remembrance for those who fear and serve the LORD; these would be spared and be blessed by God.
Chapter 4 closes the book by focusing on the purification spoken of in the fourth dispute. The Messiah would come in righteousness “with healing in His wings,” The wicked would be brought to dust, but those who kept the law of God would be exalted. The final words are a reminder of the forerunner who would come before the Messiah, “…Elijah the prophet..” Not Elijah literally, but one who came in the spirit of Elijah—John the Baptist. He would come to correct and focus the people so they would be ready when the Messiah arrived.
Our next book summary will be of Matthew’s gospel.