The Messenger of the Covenant

MALACHI -Twelfth in a series

Malachi 3:1 Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the LORD of hosts.
We read of two messengers, the first who prepares the way of the second. The first is a reference to John the Baptist, as delineated in the New Testament. (Mat 11:14; Mark 9:13; Luke 1:17) The second is "the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in."

To reflect on this, we might ask, which covenant? Three covenants were referred to in Malachi 2: First, the one pledged to Phineas, a Levite whose devotion refrained God's hand of judgment (Mal 2:8); second, the covenant of God with the nation of Israel (Mal 2:10); and third, the marriage covenant of man and wife (Mal 2:14).

Certainly, the covenant characterized by a messenger and a forerunner would refer to the one that God made with Israel, initiated with Abraham (Gen 17:4), continued with Isaac (Gen 17:9), then with Jacob (Ex 2:24); that was testified in circumcision (Gen 17:10) and then through law keeping (Ex 19:5; Ex 34:27-28), with many promised blessings (Lev 26:3-12), yet ensured by mercy even when Israel failed to live up to their side of the arrangement. (Lev 26:45; Mal 3:6)

Next we could ask: How should we understand the phrase, "whom ye delight in"? Who delighted in this messenger? The priests and Levites? Yet they did not uphold the Levite covenant nor their own marriage covenants, so why would they delight in this messenger of the covenant between Israel and the Lord?

Was he, the coming Messiah, their delight because of their expectation that he would vindicate and honor Israel when he came? Would he not deliver his chosen people from enemy occupation, and exalt them to rule with him in his new kingdom that they read about in Isaiah? (Isa 25:8-9)

Malachi puts an end to their delusions of grandeur.
Malachi 3:2, 3 But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner's fire, and like fullers' soap:
And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the LORD an offering in righteousness.

When Christ would come suddenly to his temple, the very temple the priests were desecrating by their ruinous ways, he would teach Truth that would make men uncomfortable. Those who were led to repent, purified, could then reflect his likeness, and their offerings would be accepted. The Son of Man would teach and command a higher way than the priests enforced.

Malachi 3:4 Then shall the offering of Judah and Jerusalem be pleasant unto the LORD, as in the days of old, and as in former years.
If there were true repentance, the worship services could be as in some former times when there was peace and fellowship between the Lord and his people. However, as we know, this did not occur. The Temple rulers did not repent but instead called for Christ's crucifixion. But after his death and resurrection, many priests did commit their hearts to Christ. (Acts 6:7)

There is an aspect of prophecy that does not state what the future holds, but how it might be, if certain conditions are met. God already knows which course will come to light.

Malachi 3:5 And I will come near to you to judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against false swearers, and against those that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow, and the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger from his right, and fear not me, saith the LORD of hosts.

It's true, Jesus rebuked the Pharisees and made pointed statements, for example, And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your sons cast them out? therefore shall they be your judges. But if I with the finger of God cast out devils, no doubt the kingdom of God is come upon you. (Luke 11:19-20)

This passage might be applied to Christ as a swift witness against the sorcerers.

Yet, on balance, Christ's words preserved for us in the Gospels are gracious and wonderful (Luke 4:22) much more than words of fierce accusation. The one caught in adultery was told to go and sin no more rather being condemned to hell (John 8:7-11); the teaching about ignoring the stranger, for example, is within a parable (Luke 10:33-36), not directed to specific wrongdoers.

In view of this, Malachi 3:6 makes perfect sense: For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.

God's laws never change: sorcery, adultery, false swearing, oppression of the vulnerable, discounting the stranger, and lack of fear of God are warned against from generation to generation. God's nature cannot change either. He is long suffering toward us, not wanting any to perish (John 3:16; 2 Pet 3:9).

The messenger of the covenant is calling. Today if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts. (Ps 95:7-8; Heb 3:7-8; Heb 3:15; Heb 4:7)

Crocodile tears and coverup

MALACHI -Eleventh in a series

Malachi 2:11-12 Judah hath dealt treacherously, and an abomination is committed in Israel and in Jerusalem; for Judah hath profaned the holiness of the LORD which he loved, and hath married the daughter of a strange god.
The LORD will cut off the man that doeth this, the master and the scholar, out of the tabernacles of Jacob, and him that offereth an offering unto the LORD of hosts.

In verse 11 of Malachi 2, Malachi gives credit to the Jews for loving God; at least there was some record of this in their past. But now they married foreign women, profaning his holiness (Lev 21:14). This was a sin both of those who held positions of leadership, the masters— the priests, and their underlings, the scholars who learned their ways.

Both would be cut off for this practice. God is no respecter of persons.

The next verse is interpreted in varying ways by commentators:
Malachi 2:13 And this have ye done again, covering the altar of the LORD with tears, with weeping, and with crying out, insomuch that he regardeth not the offering any more, or receiveth it with good will at your hand.

One interpretation is that the priests invited the wronged wives to cry out to God and their tears figuratively covered the altar of the temple. Their tears were regarded, but the offerings of the priests were not.

The other idea is that the priests cried out for answers to prayers with profuse tears, because God did not regard their offerings nor answer their prayers for the people. In this view, the tears were "crocodile tears."

Do crocs really cry? A bit of lore, to explain the phrase:

The 16th Century slaver John Hawkins and his crew observed crocodiles in the Carribbean and reported that they would "cry and sobbe like a Christian body". In doing this, it was claimed, they would lure sympathetic victims into range, before surprising them and devouring them. The imagery behind the story is so powerful that belief in it continued well into the 18th and 19th Century. (ref)

The weeping priests were insincere, attracting attention of the dupes who believed them to be in agony.

This latter explanation seems on target as we continue to the next verse:
Malachi 2:14 Yet ye say, Wherefore? Because the LORD hath been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth, against whom thou hast dealt treacherously: yet is she thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant.

The priests protested they did not "get it"— Wherefore? Malachi thus points them to the truth of Scripture, that the wife each took in pledge when young was the companion approved by the Lord. This is elaborated in the next verse:
Malachi 2:15 And did not he make one? Yet had he the residue of the spirit. And wherefore one? That he might seek a godly seed. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth.

Malachi reminds the priests that God created man (humankind), Adam and Eve, from one substance (Gen 1:26-27; 2:23-24). They were a unity by design, which Jesus also refers to as he teaches the meaning of adultery (Mat 19:4-6). Importantly, man— both the husband and the wife, Adam and Eve, had the "residue of the spirit." The word "residue" means something left or parceled from a larger base of the same substance or type. The mode of creation reflects the purpose of God in joining only one man with only one woman, namely that they would rear godly children by the help of the Spirit.

Going further, Take heed to your spirit is repeated for warning and emphasis:
Malachi 2:16 For the LORD, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away: for one covereth violence with his garment, saith the LORD of hosts: therefore take heed to your spirit, that ye deal not treacherously.

John Calvin states that the men thought they might cover their violent treatment of their wives by retaining them in the home while adding new ones. Such treachery was cruel and filthy.

Nevertheless, they pretend not to understand the Lord's accusations:
Malachi 2:17 Ye have wearied the LORD with your words. Yet ye say, Wherein have we wearied him? When ye say, Every one that doeth evil is good in the sight of the LORD, and he delighteth in them; or, Where is the God of judgment?

Now we turn to apply the last half of Malachi 2 to Christians today. In the same way as the 5th century Hebrews were indifferent about their sin, even going so far as to believe God accepted their practice of divorce or polygamy since he had not exiled them from their land as he had in the past, do we believe God is lax in judgment? Are we comfortable in sin because he is long suffering?

What would Malachi say about the Supreme Court decision to permit homosexual marriage?

How long will it be before three can get a marriage license or two from the same family, or child and adult? Not long, for the slippery slope cannot be maneuvered; it can only serve as a chute.

Who was Malachi?

MALACHI -Tenth in a series

A change occurs between verses 9 and 10 of the second chapter of Malachi. Up to verse 10 Malachi's words have been the first person singular (or trinitarian as it were) of the Lord. In verse 10 to the end of Chapter 2, he speaks as Malachi, Malachi himself.

We often see this juxtaposition in the books of prophecy. It is not a great contrast of subject matter or tone, yet it is a great difference of persons. One is the Creator, the other, the created; one is the King and Sovereign, the other, the servant and subject; one is God Almighty, the other, a human, limited in knowledge and wisdom.

God speaks through his prophets, not only in his own words, but in their words as they speak on his behalf, and not simply as he gives them utterance. This may at first sound troubling; after all, is not the whole of Scripture inspired? Are not all of its words God's words? Yes, indeed, but in the course of the narratives, we hear "Thus saith the Lord," and we also hear the messengers confirming his statements in their own words. Thus, two witnesses testify, as is required by the Law. (Deut 19:15; Mat 18:16)

Theologians note that we know nothing about Malachi, not his hometown nor parentage nor work, yet in the last eight verses of Malachi 2, we do gain a clear picture of who he was.

Malachi was an Israelite in whom there was no guile. (Ps 32:2) He was not slack in carrying out duties, nor treacherous or deceitful, and was somewhat childlike in his perceptions.

Let's consider verses 9 and 10 of Chapter 2 where the change in speakers occurs:
Therefore have I also made you contemptible and base before all the people, according as ye have not kept my ways, but have been partial in the law. (vs 9)
Have we not all one father? hath not one God created us? why do we deal treacherously every man against his brother, by profaning the covenant of our fathers? (vs 10)

God criticizes the priests in verse 9, and his words are elaborated in Malachi's line of questions in verse 10 in which he identifies with the sinful priests, "Why do we…".

Evidently, distinctions were being drawn and favoritism shown, probably between the richer and poorer, or in other ungodly ways. Malachi does not set himself above the priests but considers that he, too, is an ungodly man.

Brothers with one Father ought to treat each other with evenness and charity in obedience to the Law; otherwise they profane God's covenant with their patriarchal fathers: If ye walk in my statutes, and keep my commandments, and do them… I will walk among you, and will be your God, and ye shall be my people. (Lev 26:3, 12) …and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God? (Micah 6:8)

No treachery allowed! We are all brothers. (Mat 23:8)

What sort of person would remind the priests that those they served were their brothers? One with a loving heart who was intent on honoring God and winning back the prodigals who were far from home.

God called and established Malachi to shine a light on sin in the community, lovingly, and to encourage revival and strengthen hearts against the Enemy's assaults as the years drew near for Messiah to come.

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