JULY 26 - Nº 207 Nehemiah 13; Malachi 1 – 4
The Jews who returned to Judah from Persia had rebuilt the Temple with the help of Zerubbabel. They had completed the walls of Jerusalem under the leadership of Nehemiah. They had heard the teachings of Ezra the priest, and they had committed themselves to God. Now it was time for Nehemiah to leave Judah and return to Persia to resume his duties in the palace. Unfortunately, once Nehemiah left, it didn’t take long for the people and the priests to wander away from their faith. They stopped obeying the laws God had given them and ignored the covenants they had made. Once again, the men married women from other faiths and began worshiping false gods. Religious celebrations quickly became nothing more than empty rituals with unworthy sacrifices. The people cheated on their tithes and neglected their offerings. Even the priests became corrupt—focusing on themselves rather than the people they were supposed to serve. Yet the Jewish settlers were upset that they weren’t experiencing the amazing blessings God had promised through prophets like Haggai and Zechariah (see #198 - July 17). They kept waiting for their Messiah to come and destroy all their enemies, and they were annoyed that God was taking so long. God sent one last prophet to warn His people to return to Him. Through Malachi God explained that this delay was not because He had stopped loving them. It was because of their sin! But God’s words fell on cynical ears. Every time He explained how sinful they had become, the people arrogantly responded, “Come on, God, it’s not that bad.” God promised that if the Israelites repented and returned to Him with sincere hearts, He would pour out His blessings from heaven. But their hearts remained hard, and most of the people refused to listen to anything God said through Malachi! Fortunately, Malachi’s message made sense to a few people. They decided to write their names on a scroll. They wanted God to remember that they had chosen to honor Him. God explained that a great day of judgment was coming. On that day, the wicked who refused to listen to Him would be destroyed, but those whose names were written down would become His treasured possession. Their lives would be filled with joy. God also promised that when it was time for the Messiah to come, He would send a messenger to prepare the world so that everyone could be ready to greet him. Then God stopped communicating with His people for 400 years! Scholars refer to this time in Israel’s history as “The 400 Silent Years.” During these years, not a single prophet of God spoke or ministered in Israel, and God chose not to reveal Himself in any way. But He was not absent. Behind the scenes He was moving in great and sometimes mysterious ways to prepare the world for the coming of His Son—Jesus, the Messiah of Israel. At the end of “The 400 Silent Years,” John the Baptist appeared on the scene in the wilderness of Judah. He was the messenger God sent to prepare the world for the Messiah.
It’s easy to read Malachi and think, “Who could forget all the good things God had done so quickly? Who would question His love and faithfulness and turn away from Him so easily? Who would dare try to justify themselves to God so belligerently?” But don’t we often do the very same things? God stopped blessing the Israelites because of their hard hearts. Before we question God’s goodness, we need to examine the condition of our hearts!