Welcome back to the next instalment from Malachi!
Last time we learnt that the book of Malachi was written by Malachi, “the messenger of the Lord”, to the returned exiles. We also noted that it was written after the completion of the new temple.
Now let’s have a bit closer look at who these returned exiles were.
The people of Israel went into exile for 70 years for disobedience, having broken their covenant with God (repeatedly!). They were taken into exile by the Babylonians. When they returned, it was not because they were free from foreign reign. The Persians allowed them, and many other captive people, to go back to their former lands, but they were still very much under foreign rule.
The Jews who chose to return from exile (many didn’t, having settled in the foreign land) were expecting to see God’s promises that they had heard from the prophets. The prophets and their writings, such as Isaiah 40-45, had the people believing that the Messianic age/ their Messiah would come immediately. This belief was further fuelled by Zechariah and Haggai who proclaimed future blessings for the people of God.
Some of the blessings they were expecting included:
- The coming of the Messiah (Isaiah 40:3-5) as a military leader (Isaiah 40:10; 42:1-3).
- The nations will come under them/ ingrafting of Gentiles into their kingdom (Isaiah 41:25-42:9; Isaiah 43:1-21).
- Perfect restoration of the land (Ezekiel 35&36).
- Peace in the land (Isaiah 45:9-13).
- Prosperity in the land (Isaiah 41:17-20; Isaiah 45:14-17).
- Return of the glory of the Lord (Isaiah 40:5).
The original readers of Malachi were looking forward to blessings being rained down upon them, but instead they faced the curses of the covenant once again, such as pestilence and drought. Their reality was that they were not experiencing ANY of the promises! So you can understand why they were disheartened – they had been back in the land for about 100 years by this point!
Looking at the text (no cheating), what are some of the things that they have been facing?
Make your list first, then look at a few I’ve listed down here:
- Unrest and persecution
- Famine and drought
- Under Persian rule
- Even the new Temple elicited a mixed bag of emotion because it had nothing of its original glory, and the presence of the Lord did not descend upon it at its consecration.
They were a people in tough times and I think we need to be careful not to judge them too quickly without evaluating our own heart. The people used their circumstances as an excuse not to be committed to God and not to trust Him. But how quick are we to give up on God’s promises when they do not come quickly? What attitude does our heart take on when we have to wait? Does discouragement come in? Do we complain? Do we lose hope in seeing the promises come to fulfilment?
Do we look at Him and what promises He has already fulfilled in our lives, in order to gain courage to keep hoping for the future?
In sending Malachi, His aim was to rekindle the flame for Him amongst His people, and give the assurance that His promises are coming; He will bring righteousness and judgement.
We see as we get into Malachi that Israel was still in covenant with God. They needed to walk in obedience to receive the blessings. They needed to be holy, as they served our holy God. We will see God trying to reinstall fear of His name into Israel, in order to lead them to uphold His ways and honour Him.
- Hold to My promises
- Be holy
- Remember the covenant
- Fear me
- Honour me
So that is a fair amount of background to start us off. Next time we get into the meat as we start exploring the text!