Malachi: An Introduction

Have you ever questioned God before? Perhaps you were in a trying situation and you wondered if God still loved you or kept His promises. Have you ever argued with God? Maybe you didn’t agree with His ways, or something didn’t go as you had originally planned. Last question: Have you ever become careless in your worship? We all have. As important as our worship life is, and I wouldn’t say that we don’t view it as insignificant, we typically read our Bibles, say a 5 minute prayer and attend a local church on Sundays (and possibly during mid-week). If we lose our focus on what worship is really all about, we will begin to question God, and we will find ourselves disagreeing with Him – sometimes leading to arguing with Him. We must not lose focus in our worship life and consider it as mundane. That’s what the book of Malachi is all about. The Jews have become careless in their attitude and worship toward God. God graciously and fatherly confronts them on this; He doesn’t leave them in their apathetic state.

Historical Background¹

Malachi’s ministry took place nearly a hundred years after the decree of Cyrus in 538 B.C. (2 Chron. 36:23), which ended the Babylonian captivity and allowed the Jews to return to their homeland and rebuild the temple (on the Babylonian Captivity, see 2 Chronicles 36:18-21 for a summary). After the return from exile, Judah remained an almost insignificant territory of about 20 by 30 miles, inhabited by a population of perhaps 150,000. The Jews acutely felt their subjugation to a foreign power (Neh. 1:3), and they suffered persistent opposition from their neighbors (Ezra 4:23). They were no longer an independent nation and were no longer ruled by a Davidic king.

Book Outline

I. The Priests Are Exhorted to Honor the Lord (1:2-2:9)

They failed to take their responsibilities to the Lord seriously.

II. Judah Exhorted to Faithfulness (2:10-3:6)

The people blamed their economic and social troubles on the Lord. God exhorts them to faithfulness by reminding them of His covenant with them, but warned of the coming judgment.

III. Judah Exhorted to Return and Remember (3:7-4:6)

God commands the people to remember His laws, and stop being disobedient and start being obedient. There are great blessings for being obedient.

Major Themes²

I. God’s Love

God loves His people even when they ignore or disobey Him. Because God loves so much, He hates hypocrisy and careless living. What we give and how we live reflects the sincerity of our love for God (See 1:2; 2:4; 3:6).

II. The Sin of the Priests

The priests were God’s representatives, they knew what God required, but their sacrifices were casual. If leaders go wrong, how will the people be led? We are all leaders in some way—God wants leaders who are faithful and sincere (See 1:6; 2:7-8).

III. The Sin of the People

The people had not learned the lesson of the exile, they had disobeyed God’s commands. God deserves our very best honor and faithfulness—in every area of our lives: devotion/church life, money, relationships, and family (See 2:10-11).

IV. The Lord’s Coming

God’s love for His people is demonstrated by the promise of the Messiah, Jesus. The day of His coming would be of comfort and healing for the faithful, but of judgment and fear for those who reject Him. Jesus came to the earth once, but upon His return, He will expose and condemn those who are unprepared. But right now, forgiveness is available to all who come to Him (See 3:17-18; 4:1).

Structure

This book is structured in a very interesting way. It is written in the form of a debate between God and the Jews. Typically in this book, you see first that 1) God voices an indictment of His people for their behavior, 2) then the people are pictured as asking God how this charge is true, 3) finally God replies to their objection(s), and expands the charge against them. So if you’ve ever found yourself apathetic about serving God, this study is for you. Stay tuned for more each week as we study this fantastic book verse by verse.


1. Adapted from The ESV Study Bible(Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2008), 1171-1773.
2. Adapted from the Life Application Study Bible(Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2004), 1317.
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