Friday, August 3, 2012

Malachi read-through

Now we turn to Malachi (the only Italian prophet in the bible... sorry, a seminary joke).

The dating of Malachi is unsure.  It is clearly post-exilic, and possibly before the reforms of  Ezra and Nehmiah.  Additionally, there are similarities between conditions witnessed in Malachi's prophesy and those described in Neh. 13:10-29.  A date near to BC 460 is possible.  

More importantly, with reference to Malachi, is the domestic condition of Israel.  Overall, Israel's worship of the Lord had become perfunctory.  They were not a sovereign country, as many expected post-exile, but still subjects of the Persian Empire and were no longer ruled by a Davidic king.  Complaining, corruption of the priesthood, disregard of the Sabbath, neglect of tithes, social injustice, and marriage to heathen wives, are just some of the things that characterized Israel in the time of Malachi's prophetic career.  In sum, the excitement about the return from exile and the rebuilding of the temple and its worship from the careers of Haggai and Zechariah had worn off.  This is the situation into which Malachi speaks. Moral, ethical, and covenantal apathy.

Main theme:
The covenant: Fundamental to Malachi's message is the covenant (1:2; 3:1).  The Lord still has plans to reach the nations with His name via His vehicle of blessings, namely Israel living faithfully in His covenant, and via the Messiah. The Lord, through Malachi, seeks to incite enthusiasm and faithfulness to Him and His covenant as was true of Israel in the period following the return from exile.  

                                                      Malachi and Today:

The state of Israel as described in Malachi also characterizes many eras of the church, but couldn't be closer to home as it is to our Western church, today.   The Lord has given us His Messiah, who died as a perfect sacrifice, resurrected from the dead so that He could be the first-born, and ascended to be in session at the Father's right hand. We live in this point of God's plan where we are witness of these things, and are not as Israel once was, namely hoping for the days we now see. So would we be characterized as those who complain, have corruption of the priesthood, disregard the Sabbath and its ministry, neglect tithes, commit social injustice, and see marriage to unbelieving spouses, among other things?  In sum, are we unfaithful to God's covenant and mission? It is sobering to think that this describes us so well, especially in light of redemptive history.   We are a holy priesthood, set apart for the mission of God.  We are promised His "helper", the Holy Spirit.  We are made new through Jesus.  These things are true, what are we now to do?  Return to the Lord in faithfulness to His mission and covenant.  Forsake our perfunctory worship.  And take up the banner of the Lord to reach the nations with His hope and change.  Only with Jesus!

"Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me.  And the Lord whom you seek  will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts."   Malachi 3:1

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