Malachi: The Last Old Testament Prophet
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 committed themselves to God. But when Nehemiah returned to Persia to resume his duties in the palace, it didn’t take long for the people and the priests to wander away from their faith. We are not exactly sure when God asked Malachi to deliver one last warning to His people, but it was probably during this time when Nehemiah was back in Persia serving the king. When they had returned to their land after the exile, the Jewish settlers kept expecting to receive the amazing blessings God had promised through prophets like Haggai and Zechariah (see #198 - Zerubbabel Returns to Rebuild the Temple). They kept looking for their Messiah and anticipating a time when He would destroy all their enemies. But the Messiah and His blessings did not show up. God sent Malachi to explain that this delay was not because He did not love His people. It was because of their sin.They were disobeying the laws God had given them and ignoring the covenants they had made. Once again, the men married women from other faiths and began to worship false gods. Their religious celebrations became nothing more than empty rituals where they offered unworthy sacrifices. They cheated on their tithes and neglected their offerings. Every time God explained how they were missing the mark, the people arrogantly responded, “Come on, God, it’s not that bad.” Even the priests were corrupt and focused only on themselves. God promised that if the Israelites repented and returned to Him with sincere hearts, He would pour out blessings from heaven on them. But their hearts were hard. They refused to listen to anything He said. 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 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 so easily all the good things God had done for them? Who would question His love and faithfulness and turn away from Him so quickly? Who would dare try to justify themselves to God?” But don’t we often do the very same things? God couldn’t bless the Israelites because their hearts became hard! What condition is your heart in?