“But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings” (Malachi 4:2). The last book of the Old Testament comes with a stern and serious message and warning for the people who had returned to Jerusalem from the captivity in Babylon. Interestingly, it is the last message in the Old Testament to the Jews before the first coming of the Lord Jesus Christ on earth, and then God was silent for about 400 years. There was another 400-year period, when the Hebrew people were in Egypt (read Acts 7:6 and Genesis 15:13).
Earlier in the outlines of the minor prophets, it was suggested that most of these prophets had some things in common. Several of them had visions, several of them had genealogies, i.e. whose son they were and where they came from. Others had the word of God spoken to them. When we look at the meaning of the names of the prophets, we can generally know what the prophet is speaking about, and what the message is about. The prophets’ messages related to Israel, the ten tribes that have been scattered throughout the nations, and also to Judah (and Benjamin).
When we come to Malachi, there is no genealogy or vision that the prophet has. It is not even mentioned that Malachi was a prophet. In fact, the opening words of Malachi states that the word of the Lord is a burden and it is to Israel. The previous books of Haggai and Zechariah are post-captivity books, meaning that the prophets prophesied in the time when a small number of the Jews returned to Jerusalem after the captivity of Babylon had ended. The prophecy of Malachi fast-forwards about 100 years since the first group of people returned to Jerusalem. It has been said that the Jews never went back to idol worship as they were doing before captivity, but their spiritual state was far worse.
The name Malachi comes from the root ‘Malach’, meaning angel or messenger. Therefore, the prophet Malachi was a messenger and delivered the last words to the Jews 400 years before the first coming of Christ. God was not speaking to the people anymore through visions, and the people were no longer interested in the genealogy of a prophet, so God sends Malachi to speak to their hearts for the final time in the Old Testament. The temple had already been rebuilt, but throughout the book of Malachi, the Jews were just doing the sacrifices routinely and without a heart-felt sense of God’s presence. We too are in danger of ‘going to Church’ in a routine way without a deep sense of appreciation for what the Lord has done with us. May the Lord help us to appreciate His love more day by day.
One peculiar feature in Malachi is the eight questions of the people, which clearly shows their evil condition toward God who had taken them out of captivity and brought them back to their land. There is no time to look at these questions, but the people kept asking “how” instead of “why”. The eight questions are:
- How have you loved us? Chapter 1:2.
- How have we despised Your name? Chapter 1:6.
- How have we polluted You? Chapter 1:7.
- Why? (after God had said to them that that He will not regard their sacrifices). Chapter2:14.
- How have we wearied Him? Chapter 2:17.
- How shall we return? Chapter 3:7.
- How have we robbed You? Chapter 3:8.
- What have we spoken against You? Chapter 3:13.
All of these utterances of the Jews shows what is in their hearts and their entire malice toward their God who was gracious and merciful to them.
Malachi’s last message to the people is a plea for repentance lest the Lord come and smite the earth with a curse. This is the last word in the Old Testament, which means destruction. If we compare the New Testament, the last words of Revelation is that the same Lord, Jesus Christ, will come for His saints, all true believers in Christ, and the last word is “Amen” in response to His coming again!
In Malachi, we see a messenger in chapter 3:1, “Behold, I send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me; and the Lord whom ye seek will suddenly come to his temple, and the Angel of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he cometh, saith Jehovah of hosts.” This verse speaks of John the Baptist who appeared on the scene about 400 years later to prepare the way for Christ. John is also spoken of as the Elijah who is to come in chapter 4:5. The Lord Jesus testified of John in Matthew 11:10-14 as the Elijah who is to come. Christ is seen in Malachi 4 as the Sun of Righteousness arising with healing n His wings. This is a picture of His appearing on earth.
Malachi can be divided into four sections, but these are not equally divided into the four chapters.
- Chapter 1:1-5 is an introduction where we see God’s love for Israel.
- Chapter 1:6 to chapter 2:16 we see God’s words to the people against the unholy offerings, the wrong behaviour of the priests and the wrong way of life of the people.
- Chapter 2:17 to chapter 4:3 shows God admonishing the people and pleading with them to repent. There will be judgment, but there is also a call to repentance, and references to the day of the Lord is shown in this section.
- Chapter 4:3 to the end describes characteristics of Moses and Elijah.
This outline is adapted from Arend Remmers and Arno Gaebelein’s notes and outlines of the book of Malachi. The full outline and notes from the above authors are available on www.biblecentre.org, a website highly recommended and full of rich resources.