Today’s selected reading is found in the Old Testament prophetic book of Malachi, and more specifically, begins with the first verse of the first chapter, and continues through to the ninth verse of the second chapter. “The burden of the word of the Lord to Israel by Malachi”—this is how the prophetic book of Malachi begins and opens up Before even delving into the text and language that is contained within this prophetic book, it’s imperative and necessary to first consider the reality that Malachi is not only the final book within the Old Testament, but the prophetic word and voice of Malachi is the final one that would be present within the earth for a period of four-hundred years. In order to truly grasp and understand the weight and significance of the prophetic language of what is written within this book, We must understand that these words were written and spoken to a people who had not only returned from their captivity and exile in a strange and foreign land, but had also engaged in a tremendous process of restoration. RETURNING TO RESTORATION! It is absolutely fascinating that when the Jewish people returned to the land of their ancestors and forefathers, they returned to both rest and restoration. In all reality, what we witness and experience within the lives of all those who would dwell in the land of Israel after the seventy years of captivity had been completed is both an experience of rest, as well as a process of restoration. What’s more, is that it was in the returning that the process of restoration and rebuilding is made possible. Upon their return to the land of their ancestors and forefathers the Jewish people were not only responsible for the process of restoration, but also rebuilding. In all reality, the process of rebuilding was the process of restoration, for the restoration could and would not be completed without and apart from rebuilding. The work of rebuilding upon returning to the land not only included rebuilding their own individual houses, and ultimately their individual lives, but also the house of the Lord, as well as both the gates and wall of Jerusalem. When the prophet Malachi began prophesying the word of the Lord, he began prophesying to a people who had had the chance to re-establish themselves within the land, and even had the house of the Lord present among them within the land. What so grips me about the prophetic book of Malachi is not only the subject and language of the book, but also the fact that the prophetic voice of Malachi was the final voice to the people of God within the earth for four-hundred years. When Malachi uttered his final word, it would mark the beginning of a four-hundred year of silence when there would not only be no open vision from heaven, but also no prophetic word or voice from the Lord. What we witness after Malachi utters his final word—not only under the Old Covenant, but also within the Old Testament—is perhaps the direct fulfillment of what the prophet Amos spoke of which is recorded in the eighth chapter of the prophetic book which bears his name. Consider the words which the prophet Amos spoke concerning days to come in which the Lord would send something very specific within and upon the earth: “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord: and they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the Lord, and shall not find it. In that day shall the fair virgins and young men faint for thirst. They that swear by the sin of Samaria, and say, Thy god, O Dan, lieveth; and, The manner of Beer-sheba l iveth; even they shall fall, and never rise up again” (Amos 8:11-14). Not only would the words of Malachi mark the end of the Old Testament as the first portion of Scripture, but his words would also mark the end of the Old Covenant as well. The words of Malachi would be the final words that would be spoken under the Old Covenant until four-hundred years later when the angel Gabriel would visit Zechariah beside the altar of incense in the Temple of the Lord and reveal unto him the coming birth of John the Baptist. It’s ‘actually quite interesting to consider Malachi as the final prophetic voice of the Old Covenant, and John the Baptist as the first prophetic voice of the New Covenant. There is a part of me that can’t help but wonder if Malachi knew or was even aware of the fact that his voice would be the final voice that would be heard within the earth for four centuries. Imagine the significance and implications that surround the message which Malachi would speak unto the Jewish people, for his words would bring to an end the revelation of the Lord which we know as the Old Testament and the Old Covenant.
I have always stated that you never have a second chance to make a first impression, and with that being said, I would also make a statement now concerning final impression. I am convinced that the first impression is almost as important as the last impression. The prophetic words of Malachi not only serves as the bookend and conclusion to the Old Testament and Old Covenant, but it is also the final impression the Lord of hosts gave to His people before the earth entered into a period of four-hundred years of silence. There are times when the final words which are spoken seem to trump and carry far more weight and value than everything else that preceded it. Consider the fact that there are thirty-nine books within the Old Testament, and the prophetic book of Malachi is the final book within the Old Testament, as well as within the prophetic literature contained within the Old Testament. The prophetic words and voice of Malachi would be the final word the Jewish people would be left with as they entered into four-hundred years of silence in the earth. More often than not the final words which an individual seem to stick out and strike us more so than anything that came prior to that—such as is the case with the prophetic writing and words of Malachi. It’s actually quite interesting to consider that which the Lord felt was necessary and important to speak unto His people Israel before He would thrust the earth into four-hundred years of silence. Entering into the next four-hundred years of silence the Jewish people would have the writings of Moses, they would have the historical books—such as Joshua, Judges, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, 1 and 2 Chronicles—they would have the poetic writings, and they would have the writing of the prophets. I find myself wondering if the Jewish people knew that with the end and conclusion of the prophetic words and writing of Malachi the earth would be thrust into a period of four-hundred years of silence. What do you do if you know that you are about to enter into an extended period of silence where there is not open vision from heaven, nor any prophetic word or voice within the earth? Malachi was raised up to be the final prophetic voice within and unto the nation of Israel, and I can’t help but think of this in light of Josiah who was the final righteous king to sit upon and reign from the throne of David. THE FINAL RIGHTEOUS KING & THE FINAL PROPHETIC VOICE. Within the Old Testament we not only encounter the final righteous king to ever sit upon the throne of David, but we also find the final prophetic voice that would proclaim the words of the Lord unto the Jewish people.
When you begin reading the prophetic book of Malachi, you will quickly notice that Malachi doesn’t immediately begin speaking about the Jewish people, or even Israel as a nation and people. As you find yourself beginning to read the prophetic writings of Malachi you will encounter a statement and declaration or professed love, as the Lord emphatically declared unto Israel that He has loved them. “I have loved you, saith the Lord!” Pause for a moment and consider that reality and the full weight and significance of that for a moment, for at the very outset of the final prophetic book within the Old Testament and under the Old Covenant would be a powerful statement of love and affection toward Israel. Although Malachi would be the final Hebrew prophet to prophesy the word of the Lord under the Old Covenant, his message would begin with a reminder—and not only a reminder, but also a declaration—concerning the love of the Lord. The Lord of hosts knew that the words which Malachi spoke would be the final words Israel would receive and hear for a span of nearly four-hundred years, and He chose to begin this message with a statement of love. Before we encounter anything else from the prophet Malachi, we first encounter a statement of the Lord’s love toward and for His people, and their response to that love. What is actually quite astounding about this particular passage is that while the Lord declared His love for the people of Israel, they responded to that declaration of love with doubt and uncertainty. In all reality, I can’t help but get the impression that the people of Israel actually doubted the love of the Lord of hosts. Through the prophet Malachi the Lord declared unto Israel “I have loved you,” yet what we read after that is actually quite astounding. The Lord of hosts declares unto Israel that He has loved them, yet they respond to that statement with doubt—“Yet ye say, Wherein hast thou loved us?” Please don’t miss or lose sight of that reality—especially when you consider it in light of the fact that they were about to enter into four-hundred years of silence. It is a tragic thing to question and even doubt the love of the Lord, yet it is something even more tragic when you not only doubt the love of the Lord, but you then proceed to enter into and experience four-hundred years of silence.
ENTERING INTO SILENCE WITH DOUBT! ENTERING INTO SILENCE DOUBTING THE LOVE OF THE LORD! I can’t help but find the response of Israel to the declaration of the Lord’s love for them to be quite astounding, for while the Lord wanted to thrust them into those four-hundred years understanding and recognizing the love the Lord had for and toward them, they chose to doubt it instead. I can’t help but find it to be truly tragic, and perhaps even dangerous to enter into four-hundred years of silence doubting the Lord truly loves you. If you doubt the love the Lord has toward you prior to entering into four-hundred years of silence, and then you proceed to actually enter into those four-hundred years of silence, how much more deadly and tragic is that doubt? It’s one thing to doubt the love the Lord has toward you prior to entering into a period of suffering—it’s something else entirely to entering into suffering doubting and not believing the Lord loves you. It’s one thing to doubt the love the Lord has toward you in general—it’s something else altogether when you enter into affliction, anguish and sorrow believing the Lord does not love you. I can’t help but think about how many men and women right now are living in a very dark place where they doubt the love the Lord has for and toward them. The question that I can’t help but ask concerning the doubt Israel had concerning the love the Lord had for and toward them is what the actual basis and foundation of that doubt was. I could understand doubting the love of the Lord during seventy years of captivity and exile in a strange and foreign land, but the children of Israel had been returned and restored to the land of their forefathers and ancestors. I could understand doubting the Lord loves you, or is even concerned about you as you are sitting by the rivers of Babylon. It’s easy to doubt the love the Lord has toward you when you find yourself in the same place the Jewish people found themselves in as recorded in the book of the Psalms—“By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion. We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof. For there they that carried us away captive required of us a song; and they that wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion. How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land? If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning. If I do not remember thee, let my tongue clear to the roof of my mouth; if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy” (Psalm 137:1-6).
The children of Israel had not only been removed from their captivity and exile, but they had also been brought back to and restored to their land. What’s more, is that they now had present among them in their midst what was perhaps the single greatest expression of the Lord’s love toward them—the Temple of the Lord of hosts. The children of Israel had been brought back to and restored in the midst of their land, and upon their return they were responsible for rebuilding the Temple of the Lord. Pause right there and consider the fact that the Lord could have returned and restored the children of Israel to the land of their ancestors and forefathers, and could have done so without calling for the rebuilding of the Temple, yet the Lord required of them the rebuilding of the Temple in their midst. It would be the rebuilt Temple that would not only serve as a direct declaration the Lord desired to be inquired of and worshipped by them again, but also as the sign that the Lord had returned unto them. A rebuild Temple among them in their midst would be the sign and manifestation that the Lord desired to dwell among them once more. The Jews weren’t returned to their land without and apart from a place to worship and draw near to the Lord, but were charged with rebuilding the Temple and the altar to worship the Lord their God. The love of the Lord for and toward them was not only demonstrated and manifested in returning them to their land, but also in the rebuilding of the Temple which once stood in their midst. THE TEMPLE AS A SIGN OF LOVE! THE TEMPLE AS A MANIFESTATION OF LOVE! Tell me—when was the last time you thought of or even considered the possibility that the Temple was and could be a demonstration and manifestation of the love the Lord has toward His people. LOVE MANIFESTED IN RETURNING! LOVE MANIFESTED IN RESTORING! LOVE MANIFESTED IN REBUILDING! The Lord’s love for and toward His people was demonstrated in what He Himself did—namely, returning them from their captivity and exile, and restoring them to and within their land—yet His love was demonstrated in an even greater way than that. The Lord’s love toward His people could be seen each and every day when they came to the Temple of the Lord to present their gifts and offerings.
In all reality, I would dare say that one only presents their gifts and offerings unto a God whom they believe truly loves them. In fact, I am convinced that what we read in this particular passage is not only doubt in the love of the Lord, but the direct connection that doubt had on their worship of the Lord. There are those who may very well come unto the house of the Lord and present gifts and offerings out of a sense of duty and responsibility, while there are those who present their gifts and offerings unto the Lord out of a profound sense of love for and toward the Lord. What’s more, is that one is far less likely to present their gifts and offerings unto the Lord if they doubt the Lord even loves them. When reading the prophetic book of Malachi, I am completely and totally convinced that it was this doubt that the Lord loved them that directly impacted and affected their worship of the Lord. What you will find in the prophetic book of Malachi is not only a people who doubted the love the Lord had for and toward them, but we also find that doubt directly affecting their worship of the Lord. If you read the words and language contained in this prophetic book, you will find that it is a book that speaks a great deal about worship—the presenting of gifts and offerings unto the Lord. There is not a doubt in my mind that what we read in this passage of Scripture is the direct correlation and connection—not only between our own love for the Lord and our worship, but also between our belief in the Lord’s love for us and our worship of Him. Whether we want to believe, acknowledge and/or even accept it, our worship is shaped, is formed and governed by our perception of the love the Lord has for and toward us. If we are living in a continual and perpetual state of doubting the Lord’s love for us, it will not only directly impact our worship of Him, but it will also directly impact whether we worship Him at all. I have heard worship also described as “worth-ship,” thus speaking of worship as an act we engage in based on the Lord of hosts being worthy, and the worth we esteem Him as having within our hearts and lives. The more I consider the words that are found in this prophetic passage of Scripture, the more I can’t help but see it as a book that is not only centered upon love, but also worship—and not only worship, but worship as a direct expression and manifestation of love.
When you come to the sixth verse of this chapter you will find the Lord directly confronting and dealing with this reality, for the Lord confronts both the concept of honor and fear. “A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master: If then I be a father, where is mine honour? And if I be a master, where is my fear?” (Malachi 1:6). The prophetic book of Malachi begins with a statement of the Lord’s love toward His people, and then shifts to a comparison between the love the Lord had toward Israel, and yet how He hated Israel. Immediately after the Lord finishes comparing Esau to Israel, the Lord then proceeds to directly confront the issue of honor and fear, as He was neither feared nor honored. Is it possible that even our honor and fear of the Lord is directly connected to our belief in His love for us? Is it possible that if we doubt the Lord’s love for and toward us, it can directly hinder our honor of and our honor toward the Lord. Think about it—how can you honor someone who you don’t love yourself, nor believe even loves you? What’s more, is how can you fear someone you don’t love yourself, or even believe loves you? The Lord of hosts not only directly confronted their doubt of His love for and toward them, but He also directly confronts their lack of honor and fear. Thus, within the first six verses we encounter a people who doubted the Lord loving them, and how living in that place can cause our fear and honor of the Lord to be drastically diminished. I am completely and totally convinced that worship has as its foundation—not only our belief the Lord loves us, but also our love for the Lord Himself. Furthermore, our worship of the Lord is directly impacted by the honour and fear we display and show toward Him. Within this passage of Scripture the Lord speaks of Himself—not only as a Father, but also as a Master, which speaks of His direct relationship to His people Israel. In all reality, I am convinced that while it is true that we must see, address, and even approach God as Father, we must also address and approach Him as Master. This same reality holds true of coming near and approaching Jesus as Savior, but also addressing Him as Lord. There are a number of men and women who want to address and approach God as Father, yet are unwilling to address and approach Him as Master. The same holds true of those who have no problem addressing Jesus as Savior, yet never seem to be able to make the transition from addressing Him as Savior to addressing Him as Master.
As you continue to progress through this passage, you will encounter the worship that was being presented by the people, and which was being offered by the priests. “Saith the Lord of hosts unto you, O priests, that despise my name. And ye say, Wherein have we despised thy name? Ye offer polluted bread upon mine altar; and ye say, Wherein have we polluted thee? In that ye say, The table of the Lrod is contemptible. And if ye offer the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? And if ye offer the lame and sick, is it not evil? Offer it not unto thy governor; will he be pleased with thee, or accept thy person? Saith the Lord of hosts. And now, I pray you, beseech God that He will be gracious unto us: this hath been by your means. :Will he regard your persons? Saith the Lord of hosts? Who is there even among you that would shut the doors for nought? Neither do ye kindle fire on mine altar for nought. I have no pleasure in you, saith the Lord of hosts, neither will I accept an offering at your hand. For from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same my name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in every place incense shall be offered unto my name, and a pure offering: for my name shall be great among the heathen, saith the Lord of hosts. But ye have profaned it, in that ye say, The table of the Lrod is polluted; and the fruit thereof, even His meat, is contemptible. Ye said, also, Behold, what a weariness is it! And ye have snuffed at it, saith the Lord of hosts; and ye brought that which was torn, and the lame, and the sick; thus ye brought an offering: should I accept this of your hand? Saith the Lord. But cursed be the deceiver, which hath in his flock a male, and voweth, and sacrificeth unto the Lord a corrupt thing:for I am a great King, saith the Lord of hosts, and my name is dreadful among the heathen” (Malachi 1:6-14).
OFFER THE BLIND FOR SACRIFICE! OFFER THE LAME AND SICK! BROUGHT THAT WHICH WAS TORN, AND THE LAME, AND THE SICK! CURSED BE THE DECEIVE, WHICH HATH IN HIS FLOCK A MALE, AND VOWETH, AND SACRIFICETH UNTO THE LORD A CORRUPT THING! It would be incredibly easy to overlook the language that is contained within the prophetic words of Malachi, yet if we aren’t careful, we will most certainly miss that which the prophet was speaking unto the people of God. What began as a statement of love and then an acknowledgment of Israel’s doubt of that love would eventually translate into how they approached and came near the Lord, for their doubting the Lord’s love would impact their view of Him. Their doubt of the Lord’s love for and toward them would cause them to abandon and forsake their fear and honor of Him, and when He would seek to be loved as Father and served as Master, they did not engage in either. As if this wasn’t bad enough as it was, their doubt of the Lord’s love for them would translate into their worship of the Lord. If you read these passages of Scripture, you will not only notice what they did bring unto the Lord, but you will notice that which they didn’t bring unto the Lord. The prophet Malachi addressed their doubt of the Lord’s love toward them, and how that doubt directly impacted their worship and translated into offering unto the Lord that which is blind, that which is torn, that which is lame, that which is corrupt before the Lord. What’s more, is that the prophet Malachi not only spoke concerning that which they did bring unto and present before the Lord, but that which they withheld as well. The challenge I find when reading the prophetic book of Malachi is how directly connected our love for the Lord truly is—and not only our love for the Lord, but also our trust, our confidence, and our belief in His love toward us. Our worship of the Lord is directly impacted by our trust in His love toward us, and if we find ourselves doubting His love toward us—regardless of how small and minute that doubt might be—we will find our worship not only directly impacted, but also suffering tremendously. Show me an individual who is doubting the Lord’s love for and toward them, and I will show you an individual whose worship has been dramatically altered. That individual who has begun to, or has consistently doubted the Lord’s love for them will find themselves holding back from the Lord when they come to His altar. That man or that woman who is at the point in their life when they doubt the love of the Lord for and toward them—if they don’t abandon the altar altogether—will find themselves altering that which they bring unto the Lord as a gift and/or offering.
The final prophetic book of the Old Testament and of the Old Covenant is not only a statement of the Lord’s love for and toward the nation of Israel, but also an indictment toward their worship which has reached the point of formality, duty and obligation rather than love. There is not a doubt in my mind that the Lord raised up the prophet Malachi because He knew His people doubted His love for and toward them, and He knew that reality was directly impacting their worship of Him. The Lord raised up the prophet Malachi to not only reaffirm His love for them, but to bring correction to their worship of Him—worship which had become routing, obligatory and menial. What’s more, is that you will even read of those among them as speaking of worship as becoming a weariness unto them—“Ye said also, Behold, what a weariness is it”—thus indicating that worship had not only become obligatory, but also wearisome among them. What an incredibly dangerous place it is when worship of the Lord becomes routine, obligatory and is done out of duty rather than love, honor and four. Let me ask you this question—what shapes your worship? What governs your worship? Is your worship governed by your love for the Lord, and your belief in His love for you? Is your worship governed by your honor of the Lord, as the Lord is viewed as a loving Father who is crazy about you? Is you worship governed by your fear of the Lord as a Master, as you delight in serving Him with all your heart, with all your strength, with all your mind? What are you bringing unto and what are you bringing before the Lord, and what are you placing upon His holy altar? The people of Israel were about to spend four-hundred years living in silence, and the Lord wasn’t willing to allow their worship to be dictated and governed by a lack of fear, and/or a lack of honor. What’s more, is the Lord wasn’t willing to allow them to enter into those four-hundred years without hearing one more time that I loved them. Oh how many men and women simply need one thing right now—they need to hear one more time that the Lord loves them? How many men and women need to hear—even if it’s one more time—that the Lord loves them? How many men and women have been living under the dark cloud of doubt in the Lord’s love for them, and as a result, their worship has dramatically suffered and been altered? The prophetic book of Malachi confronts our trust and our confidence in the Lord’s love for us, and how our worship is shaped and governed by that belief. OH that we would read these words and truly allow our hearts and minds to be challenged to the core in order that we might recognize and understand the true nature of our worship before and our worship of the Lord.