A People Returned, A Rebuilt Temple, & Yet the Same Sins

Today’s selected reading is found in the prophetic book of Malachi, which is not only the final prophetic book in the Old Testament, and not only is it the final book in the Old Testament, but it would also be the final prophetic word from the LORD until the days and times of John the Baptist. More specifically, today’s passage is found in each of the four chapters which make up this prophetic book. Perhaps one of the greatest realities surrounding the prophetic book of Malachi is that in addition to it being the final prophetic book contained in the Old Testament, it would be the last prophetic word that would be released in the earth until the days and times of John the Baptist. As I sit here this morning I can’t help but think about and consider the awesome and incredible reality that the words which Malachi prophesied and spoke during the days in which the LORD raised him up would be the final words which would proceed from heaven before a period of four hundred years of silence would ensue upon the earth. I can’t help but wonder if Malachi was aware of whether or not his would be the final voice that would proclaim the word of the LORD until the time when the messenger of the Messiah would be raised up in the midst of the earth and would preach repentance and concerning the kingdom of heaven. Of course we know from Scripture that even before the voice of John the Baptist would be heard at the Jordan River and in the wilderness of Judaea there would be proclamations that would be issued in the earth which would set the stage for the events which would unfold. We know from the New Testament gospel narratives written by the apostle Matthew and the beloved physician Luke that the angel Gabriel would appear unto Zacharias while he ministered before the LORD in the midst of the Temple of the LORD in the holy place. It would be the angel Gabriel who would proclaim unto Zacharias that the LORD had heard his prayer and would grant his wife Elizabeth to conceive and bring forth a son in her old age. It would be there in the midst of the Holy Place the angel Gabriel would proclaim the birth  and ministry of the divine messenger of the Messiah whom Isaiah himself would prophesy when he spoke of the voice crying in the wilderness, saying, “Prepare the way of the LORD.” It would be the angel Gabriel who stood in the presence of the LORD who would powerfully proclaim unto Zacharias that he and his wife would bring forth a son who would go before the face of the Messiah in the spirit and power of Elijah.

            Upon continuing to read these two gospel narratives you will find that the angel Gabriel also appeared unto Mary who was espoused and betrothed unto Joseph to be his wife. It would be unto Mary the angel Gabriel would proclaim that she would conceive a child of the Holy Ghost as the Holy Ghost would overshadow and come upon her. It would be the Holy Ghost who would allow Mary to conceive the holy Son of God within her womb, and would allow her to bring forth the visible image and manifestation of the invisible God. Having already proclaimed unto Zacharias concerning the birth of John the Baptist, the angel Gabriel would now appear unto Mary and speak unto her concerning the birth of Jesus the Christ who would be the Son of God and would deliver men from their sin. What’s more, is that when Joseph discovered that Mary was pregnant he thought to put her away quietly so as not to disgrace or dishonor her the angel Gabriel would appear unto him in a dream, and would declare unto him that what was conceived within Mary was of the Holy Ghost, and that the child’s name was to be called Jesus. What a truly incredible and powerful reality it is to consider how the angel Gabriel not only appeared unto Mary, but would also appear unto Joseph in a dream encouraging him to not be afraid to take Mary as his wife, for that which was and had been conceived in her was not of man, but was of the Holy Ghost. Having already appeared unto Zacharias in the Holy Place of the Temple of the LORD in Jerusalem, the angel Gabriel would appear unto both Mary and Joseph, and would reveal unto them that Mary would conceive and give birth to a child which would be for the salvation of the nations, and who would deliver the people out of their sins. Oh how truly wonderful and amazing it is to think about and consider how after nearly four-hundred years of silence with no open vision or prophetic word from the LORD He would send Gabriel unto the land of Judaea that the births of John the Baptist and Jesus the Christ might be foretold and proclaimed.

            With all of this being said, we know that the four hundred years of silence would ultimately be broken when John the Baptist would begin preaching in the wilderness of Judaea and at the Jordan River when he would call men unto repentance and unto the baptism in the Jordan River. It would be John the Baptist who would be that prophetic voice and that divine messenger of the LORD who would not only break the four-hundred years of silence in the midst of the earth, but would also prepare and make ready a people for the appearance and manifestation of the Messiah. I have to admit that there is a part of me that can’t help but wonder if John the Baptist knew that his voice was the first voice that would be raised up in the earth since the days of Malachi. Moreover, I can’t help but wonder if Malachi knew that his voice would be the final voice of the prophets which would be heard in the midst of the earth. When Malachi was prophesying unto the people who had been restored in the midst of the land of Israel, did he know that his voice and his words would be the final ones that would be heard for four-hundred years? This is actually quite intriguing and captivating when you think about it, for if you are going to enter into a four-hundred period of silence in the midst of the earth, and if there is not going to be any open vision or revelation from heaven in the midst of the earth, what will your final words be? THE FINAL WORDS OF THE OLD TESTAMENT! THE FINAL WORDS OF THE OLD COVENANT! The words which we find in the prophetic book of Malachi are more than just the final words of the Old Testament as a portion of what we know as the Scripture and/or the Bible, for the words which this ancient Hebrew prophesied would be the final words of the Old Covenant. As the LORD was preparing to bring to a close and bring to an end the Old Testament and the Old Covenant He would raise up the prophet Malachi to proclaim the word of the LORD unto those who had been restored unto the land, and those who had rebuilt the Temple of the LORD. By the time Malachi had stepped on to the scene in the midst of the earth the Temple of the LORD had already been rebuilt and well established in the midst of the land of Judaea.

            If you study what is believed to be the time period Malachi was raised up by the LORD to proclaim the prophetic word of the LORD in the midst of Judaea you will find that it is believed that he prophesied around the year 397 B.C. There are a number of biblical scholars and historians who will cite Malachi as prophesying the word of the LORD seven decades and generations after the Jewish people had bee restored unto the land of their forefathers and ancestors, and several generations after the Temple was rebuilt among them in their midst. By the time Malachi had emerged on to the scene in the midst of the land of Judaea the Temple of the LORD would have been rebuilt, the priesthood would once more be established in the midst of the land, and the sacrificial system would be restored in the midst of the land. When Malachi emerged on to the scene in what is believed to be the year 397 B.C. he would be raised up during what might very well have been a time of tremendous religion which had crept into the hearts of the people within the land of Judaea. There is not a doubt in my mind that when Malachi was raised up in the midst of the earth and in the midst of the land of Judaea he was raised up during times and within a generation when the Temple of the LORD would have been well established in the midst of the earth, and when the priests of the LORD would have been ministering before the altar of the LORD in the midst of the outer court, and would minister the sacrifices and offerings of the people who would come unto the Temple. I have to admit that for the longest time I thought that Malachi prophesied around the same time as Zechariah and Malachi did, however, it is quite obvious that Malachi would prophesy several generations after these two prophets were raised up in the midst of the land. The prophets Zechariah and Malachi would be raised up in the midst of the land of Judaea during the times of returning, restoration and rebuilding, and yet Malachi would be raised up several generations after the restoration and rebuilding had been completed.

            By the time Malachi had been raised up in the midst of the land of Judaea the Jewish people would have been well established in the midst of the land. When this ancient and final Hebrew prophet would be raised up in the midst of the earth the Temple of the LORD would have been standing in the midst of the land of Judaea and within the city of Jerusalem for at least a century or more. Pause for a moment and think about the fact that when Malachi was raised up in the midst of the Jewish people and in the midst of the land of Judaea he would prophesy unto a people who had been well established in the midst of the land. Malachi wasn’t raised up to a people newly restored in the midst of the land, nor a people who were being called and instructed of the LORD to rebuild the Temple, nor was he raised up to prophesy the word of the LORD during times of rebuilding the wall of the city of Jerusalem and repairing the gates. There were prophetic voices who were raised up during the time of restoration and rebuilding, and yet Malachi was not raised up to be a prophetic voice during those days of restoration and rebuilding. In all reality, I would dare say that Malachi was raised up at the time he was to directly confront the religious system of that day and to confront the priests who ministered before the LORD. You cannot read the words found in the prophetic book of Malachi and not get the strong and overwhelming sense that he was a prophet who would directly confront the priests of that generation—and not only the priests, but also the people concerning the offerings, the gifts and the sacrifices they brought before the LORD unto His holy Temple and unto His altar. The more I read and consider the words and narrative that is found within the prophetic book of Malachi the more I can’t help but get the strong sense that it bears some striking similarities to the words which our Lord Jesus spoke concerning the scribes and the Pharisees. What’s more, is I would dare say that these words found in this final prophetic book of the Old Testament were words which would even closely resemble those words which John the Baptist would proclaim unto those who would come unto him to be baptized in the waters of the Jordan River. Consider if you will the following words which are found in the twenty-third chapter of the gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew, as well as the third chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the beloved physician Luke:

            ”…the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness. And he came into all the country about Judaea, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins; as it is written in the book of the words of Esaias the prophet, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD< make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God. Then said he to the multitude that came forth to be baptized of him, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and begin not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, That God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: every tree therefore which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, ad cast into the fire. And the people asked him, saying, What shall we do then? HE answereth and saith unto them, He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise. Then came also the publicans to be baptized, and said unto him, Master, what shall we do? And he said unto them, Exact no more than that which is appointed you. And the soldiersr likewise demanded of him, saying, And what shall we do?  And he said unto them, Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely; and be content with your wages” (Luke 3:1-14).

            “Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to His disciples, saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borned, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments, and love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, and greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi. But be ye not called Rabbi: for one is your master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. And call no man your father upon the earth: For one is your Father, which is in heaven. Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ. But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted. But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves. Woe unto you, ye blind guides, which say, Whosoever shall swear by the Temple, It is nothing: but whosoever shall swear by the gold of the temple, he is a debtor! Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gold, or the temple that sanctifieth the gold? And, Whosoever shall swear by the altar, it is nothing; but whosoever sweareth by the gift that is upon it, he is guilty. Ye fools and blind: for whether is great, the gift, or the altar the sanctifieth the gift? Whoso therefore shall swear by the altar, sweareth by it, and by all things thereon. And whoso shall swear by the temple, sweareth by it, and by him that dwelleth therein. And he that shall swear by heaven, sweareth by the throne of God, and by him that sitteth thereon. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cumin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous, and say, If we had been in the day of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets. Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets. Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers. Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?” (Matthew 23:1-33).

            Each of these passages bring us face to face with the direct confrontation which took place during the days of John the Baptist and Jesus the Christ, and how Jesus the Christ directly confronted the religious system of His day. You cannot read the four gospel narratives found within the New Testament and not encounter the awesome and incredible reality that Jesus continually and constantly found Himself at odds with the scribes, with the Pharisees, with the priests, with the Sadducees, and the like. With this in mind, it is also necessary that we consider the words which are found in the fifth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Mathew—specifically beginning to read with and from the seventeenth verse. It is here in Jesus’ famous Sermon on the Mount where we find Him first speaking of the scribes and Pharisees and demanding a righteousness which exceeds that of the scribes and the Pharisees during that generation. Even before He would proclaim the words which are found in the twenty-third chapter of the gospel of Matthew we find Him calling that generation to a greater righteousness than that of the scribe and Pharisees. It is absolutely necessary that we recognize and pay close attention to this, for it helps us shine a great deal of light on to the final prophetic message proclaimed by one of the Hebrew prophets in the midst of the land. It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand the words which are found within this passage of Scripture, for when you read and consider the words which the LORD would speak and proclaim in that final generation before four-hundred years of silence you will find Malachi seemingly confronting similar realities within and during that generation. It’s truly something intriguing when you read the words found in the prophetic book of Malachi and see how this ancient Hebrew prophet—this final prophetic voice before four-hundred years of silence—would directly confront the religious system during his day. What’s more, is that Malachi would not only confront the religious system during his day as it pertained to the priests, but he would also confront the people themselves and the offerings and gifts they would bring before and unto the LORD. With that in mind I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the fifth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew:

            “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one joy or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no wise enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:17-20).

            Perhaps one of the most striking realities surrounding the prophetic book of Malachi—in addition to the fact that it was the final prophetic word given before four-hundred years of silence—is that these final words at the end of the Old Covenant would essentially be an indictment against the religious system and establishment that had managed to find its way into the land of Judaea. In all reality, I would dare say that what we find in the prophetic book of Malachi is a powerful picture and portent of what we will find within and throughout the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ, as Jesus would continually find Himself—not only at odds with the religious system and establishment of His day, but also directly confronting it. What’s more, is that when you read the words found in the New Testament gospel narratives you will find Jesus entering into the Temple and unleashing a fury of anger and rage in the midst of the court of the outer court of the Temple. You cannot read the four gospel narratives surrounding the life and ministry of Jesus without finding Him entering into the Temple, observing the commercialization of sacrifice and offering that had taken place in the sanctuary and house of the LORD, and fashioning for Himself a cord of whips which He would use to not only overturn the tables of money, but also drive out the money changers which had set up shop and business in the midst of the Temple of the LORD. Within and during the days of Jesus we find the eternal Son of God becoming angry and frustrated with what had taken place in the midst of the sanctuary and house of the LORD, and how instead of the house of God being a house of prayer unto and for all nations, it had become a den of thieves and those who would dare rob the true and living God. It is truly something intriguing to read the gospel narratives of the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ and find Him entering into the Temple on at least one occasion and completely and utterly driving out the commerce, the economy and the merchandise found within the court of His Father’s house. Consider if you will the following narratives found within the four gospel accounts of the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ and His cleansing the Temple:

            “And Jesus went into the Temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the Temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves. And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves. And the blind and the lame came to Him in the Temple; and He healed them. And when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that He did, and the children crying in the Temple, and saying, Hosanna to the Son of David; they were sore displeased, and said unto Him, Hearest thou what these say? And Jesus saith unto them, Yea; have ye never read, Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise? And he left them, and went out of the city into Bethany; and he lodged there” (Matthew 21:12-17).

            “And they come to Jerusalem: and Jesus went into the Temple, and began to cast out them that sold and bought in the Temple, and overthrew the tables of the money changers, and the seats of them that sold doves; and would not suffer that any man should carry any vessel through the Temple. And He taught, saying unto them, Is it not written, My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer? But ye have made it a den of thieves? And the scribes and chief priests heard it, and sought how they might destroy Him: for they feared Him, because all the people was astonished at His doctrine. And when even was come, He went out of the city” (Mark 11:15-19).

            “And He went into the Temple, and began to cast out them that sold therein, and them that bought; saying unto them, It is written, My house is the house of prayer: but ye have made it a den of thieves. And He taught daily in the Temple. But the chief priests and the scribes and the chief of the people sought to destroy Him, and could not find what they might do: for all the people were very attentive to hear Him” (Luke 19:45-48).

            “After this He went down to Capernaum, he, and his mother, and his brethren, and his disciples: and they continued there not many days. And the Jews’ Passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem, and found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting: and when He had made a scourge of small cords, He drove them all out of the Temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers’ money, and overthrew the tables; and said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father’s house an house of merchandise. And His disciples remembered that it was written, The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up” (John 2:12-17).

            It is clear from these passages that there was a time when Jesus entered into the Temple and house of the LORD and found therein those who were selling oxen, sheep and doves—thus commercializing the sacrifice of the people of God, and commercializing the altar of the LORD. Stop for a moment and think about that which Jesus would find in the Temple, for what He would find therein was more than simply those who were selling sheep, and oxen and doves, but He found those within the Temple who were actually stealing from and robbing the people of God. As you read these passages you will find Jesus being absolutely infuriated and angry with the sight which He found in the midst of the Temple of the LORD, for there in the court of the LORD He found individuals who were seeking to use the sacrificial system of the LORD to their own selfish gain and their own profit. There were actually those in the midst of the court of the Temple of the LORD who would take the altar of the LORD and the gifts and sacrifices which were offered upon the altar, and would use it for their own monetary gain and profit. We dare not, we cannot and must not miss and lose sight of this awesome and incredible reality, for what we find in these passages of Scripture is those who would dare take the sacrificial system of the LORD and use it for their own personal and monetary gain. Jesus would enter into the Temple of the LORD and instead of finding it being a house of prayer, He would find it being a den of thieves where individuals would steal and rob from the people of God. It would be there in the Temple of the LORD Jesus would witness and behold the people of God being taken advantage of, and those who were robbed by others who cared nothing about pleasing the LORD, nor even about presenting sweet smelling offerings before the LORD, but only about lining their pockets. What’s more, is that these money changers and thieves would make it easy to offer gifts upon the altar without any personal sacrifice. What possible sacrifice would be required on your part if you could come to the Temple of the LORD and purchase a sacrifice and offering to present to the LORD while you kept what was yours, and perhaps even grew fat off what you chose to keep and withhold from the LORD? The money changers which were present in the midst of the Temple and house of the LORD did more than simply seek to line their own pockets, but would also make it easy to offer gifts before and unto the LORD without any personal sacrifice.

            If you take the time to study the implementation of the sacrificial system in the Old Testament you will find that the LORD commanded and instructed men and women to take from among their own herd and their own flock a sheep, or an oxen without blemish which they would bring to the court of the sanctuary of the LORD. Upon bringing that gift and offering unto the sanctuary of the LORD they would then be responsible for wringing the neck and putting to death the gift and offering which they had brought before and unto the LORD. What these money changers, these thieves and these robbers were doing in the sanctuary and house of the LORD was make it possible for men and women to come unto the sanctuary of the LORD without a gift or offering, and instead purchase that which they would present and offer as a gift and offering which was pleasing in the sight of the LORD. Pause for a moment and think about how deadly and dangerous this would be, for what these thieves were doing in the house of the LORD was commercializing the gifts and offerings of the LORD to line their own pockets, as well as completely removing the sacrifice in bringing gifts and offerings before the LORD. NO longer would men and women have to take from their own herd and their own flock and sacrifice it before the LORD, but they would now be able to come unto the Temple and sanctuary of the LORD and actually believe and be deceived into thinking that they could please the LORD with that which they purchased and bought in the sanctuary of the LORD. It is something worth considering when you think about the fact that during the days of Jesus men and women would no longer need to sacrifice anything on their part in order to “please the LORD,” but would need only purchase that which they wanted to sacrifice and offer before the LORD. What I can’t help but think about and consider is how long this commercialization of the altar, and this commercialization of the sacrifice had been taking place in the Temple and sanctuary of the LORD. We know beyond a shadow of a doubt that it would take place during the days of Jesus, however, there is a part of me that wonders if it was not something that began in those years and generations leading up to the days of Malachi, or perhaps was something came about after Micah would fulfill his responsibility and mission in the midst of the earth.

            I sit here thinking about the words which are found in the prophetic book of Malachi, as well as the words which are found in the four New Testament gospel narratives concerning the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ, and I can’t help but encounter the awesome truth that what Jesus found within His days and in that generation did not simply manifest itself when He entered into the Temple. Scripture is entirely and altogether unclear how long this was going on for, but we do know that when Jesus entered into the Temple and sanctuary of the LORD He would form and fashion a scourge of cords with which He would use to drive out the money changers, and which He would use to overturn the tables of money. Jesus the Christ would enter into the house of His Father—a house which should be a house of prayer unto and for the nations of the earth—and instead of finding it as a house of prayer would find it as a place of thievery and robbery, as well as a place of commercialization and economy. Jesus Christ would enter into the sanctuary and the Temple of the LORD—the house of His Father in heaven—and rather than beholding men and women bringing their gifts and offerings from their own herd and flock to present unto the LORD, they would bring their purses and wallets to try and purchase that which they believed would please the LORD. It is something incredibly dangerous and deceiving to consider how these men and women came unto the Temple of the LORD with nothing more than their purses and wallets, and would buy and purchase their gifts and offerings which would be presented unto the LORD upon the altar. We cannot afford to miss the awesome and tremendous truth surrounding that which took place during Jesus’ day, for we know that when Jesus entered into the Temple and beheld the atrocities which were taking place therein, He overthrew and overturned tables, and drove out money changers. What Jesus did was more than drive out thieves and robbers from the house of the LORD, but He also drove out those who had treated sacrifice before and unto the LORD as something that was cheap and convenient. Jesus would enter into the Temple and sanctuary of the LORD and would completely and utterly drive out and overturn all those who thought and believed they could please the LORD without sacrifice, and without bringing unto the LORD that which cost them something from their own herd and flock.

            In order to help illustrate this point even further, I feel it is absolutely necessary to not only call and direct your attention to the words which the prophet Isaiah prophesied during the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, but also the words which the prophet Hosea and Amos would proclaim before the LORD in the midst of the earth. What’s more, is I can’t help but be reminded of the words which David prayed before the LORD in his prayer of repentance when he was confronted by the prophet Nathan after his sin with Bathsheba. Moreover, I am reminded of the words which Samuel declared and proclaimed unto Saul king of Israel when he disobeyed the word of the LORD and that which the LORD had instructed and commanded him to do. Each of these passages draw and call our attention to that which truly pleases the LORD, and that which the LORD truly does require—something which must also be considered and understood when reading the prophetic book of Micah. With this in mind, consider the following passages of Scripture beginning with the words of the fifteenth chapter of the Old Testament book of First Samuel:

            “And Samuel said, Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry” (1 Samuel 15:22-23).

            “Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hideen parts thou shalt make me to know wisdom. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice. Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy Holy Spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit. Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee. Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, thou God of my salvation: and my tongue shall sing aloud of thy righteousness. O LORD, open thou my lips; and my mouth shall shew forth thy praise. For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise” (Psalm 51:6-17).

            “Hear the word of the LORD, ye rulers of Sodom; give ear unto the law of our God, ye people of Gomorrah. To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? Saith the LORD: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats. When ye come to appear before me, who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts? Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting. Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them. And when e spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood” (Isaiah 1:10-15).

            “Wherewith shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before the high God? Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings, with calves of a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? HE hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God” (Micah 6:6-8).

            “For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings. But they like men have transgressed the covenant: there have they dealt treacherously against me” (Hosea 6:6-7).

            With this in mind, and before we delve into the words which are found in the prophetic book of Malachi—this final prophetic word which would be manifested in the earth before the coming of the Messiah—I am convinced it is necessary that we consider two more passages of Scripture found within the New Testament gospel written by the apostle Matthew. It is within the ninth and twelfth chapters of this gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew we find Jesus taking these words spoken by the prophet Hosea and using them to speak directly unto those during His generation. Consider the following words which are found in the ninth chapter of the gospel narrative of the life of Jesus written by the apostle Matthew beginning with the ninth verse:

            “And as Jesus passed forth from thence, He saw a man, named Matthew, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he saith unto him, Follow me. And he arose, and followed him. And it came to pass, as Jesus sat at meat in the house, behold, many publicans and sinners came and sat down with Him and His disciples. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto His disciples,. Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners? But when Jesus heard that, He said unto them, They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick. But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Matthew 9:9-13).

            “At that time Jesus went on the sabbath day through the corn; and his disciples were an hungred, and began to pluck the ears of corn, and to eat. But when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto Him, Behold, thy disciples do that which is not lawful to do upon the sabbath day. But he said unto them, Have ye not read what David did, when he was an hungred, and they that were with him; how he entered into the house of God, and did eat the shewbread which was not lawful for him to eat, neither for them which were with him, but only for the priests? Or have ye not read in the law, how that on the sabbath days the priests in the temple profane the sabbath and are blameless? But I say unto you, That in this place is one greater than the Temple. But if ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day” (Matthew 12:1-8).

            The more I think about and consider the words which are found in the four gospel narratives which were written concerning the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ the more I can’t help but find within them a powerful picture of that which Malachi cried out against when the LORD raised him several decades after the Temple and sanctuary of the LORD had been completed within the land. When the LORD raised Malachi up as that final prophetic voice during those days—and not only during those days, but also of the entire Old Covenant—He did so calling him to cry out against some of the very same things Jesus the Christ would cry out against during His days and generation. You cannot read the words which are found in this prophetic book and not see some of the very things which Jesus the Christ would see, cry out against and confront during His days. The prophetic book of Malachi is a book which contains incredibly powerful language concerning the Temple and sanctuary of the LORD—and not merely the Temple and sanctuary of the LORD, but the gifts and offerings were being presented upon the altar, and the priests who were given charge over the courts of the LORD, over the offerings of the LORD, and who were responsible for teaching the people the commands, the statutes and the decrees which were found in the book of the Law of the LORD. By the time Malachi emerged on to the scene the Temple of the LORD had well been completed, and the Jewish people would have by this time been settled in the midst of the land. We cannot miss the timing of the emergence of Malachi, for his emergence and manifestation in the midst of the Jewish people would come more than a century after the prophetic voices of Haggai and Zechariah were raised up in the midst of the land. It is believed that Haggai and Zechariah were raised up around 520 B.C., and we know that they were raised up to strengthen the hands and hearts of the people of God to finish the work of rebuilding the Temple. Even if they prophesied for three years before their assignment and mission would be completed that would still leave a full century before the emergence of Malachi. We know that both of these Hebrew prophets were raised up during the second year of the reign of Darius the Mede, and that after they had been raised up to prophesy in the midst of the people of God they would prophesy for roughly four years, as the Temple would be completed in the sixth year of the reign of Darius.

Please don’t miss the awesome significance of this, for that would mean the prophet Malachi would be raised up nearly a century after the last prophetic voices were raised up in the midst of the land. The LORD would raise up Haggai and Zechariah as prophetic voices to strengthen the hands and hearts of the people of God as they encouraged them to finish and complete the sanctuary of the LORD. Nearly a century later—nearly a century after the prophetic voices of Zechariah and Haggai had faded into the background—the LORD would raise up one final prophetic voice among them in their midst. This final prophetic voice would be raised up among them to speak directly to that which would take place in the courts of the LORD—and not only in the courts of the LORD, but also in the very Temple and sanctuary of the LORD. If you read the first two chapters of this prophetic book you will find Malachi crying out against a restored and settled people—not concerning the rebuilding of the Temple and sanctuary of the LORD, but concerning the gifts and offerings they brought before and unto the LORD. The prophet Malachi would be raised up “for such a time as this” and at an appointed time to cry out against—perhaps some of the very same things Jesus Himself would cry out against. We know that it was during the four-hundred years of silence the scribes, the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the religious system within Jerusalem would emerge in the midst of Judaea and the city itself. What we don’t know—but what we can most likely deduce from reading the words found in the prophetic book of Malachi—is that these various sects within and among the Jewish people might even have begun in the days before Malachi emerged on to the scene as that last and final prophetic voice. There is not a doubt in my mind that some of the groundwork, and some of the framework that would create the environment for the Pharisees and the other religious sects in Judaea might very well have been laid during the days and times into which Malachi emerged. I have to admit that I still cannot escape the awesome reality that Malachi would be the final prophetic voice that would emerge in the midst of the land of Judaea, and among the Jewish people themselves—a people who had been restored and settled in their land, and a people who had not only rebuilt the Jewish Temple, but would also worship in the courts therein.

When we read the words which are found in the prophetic book of Malachi we find that the final prophetic voice which would be raised up during the days of the Old Testament and Old Covenant would be raised up to cry out and confront the evil which was taking place in the courts of the LORD in His holy sanctuary. As the final prophetic voice which would be raised up by the LORD in the midst of the land of Judaea before four-hundred years of silence we find this ancient Hebrew prophet crying out against the altar and the gifts and offerings which were being offered upon it—not merely because of what the priests were doing, but because of that which the people were bringing before and unto the LORD during those days. For roughly one-hundred years there would be no prophetic voice in the midst of the land of Judaea, and we aren’t entirely sure what the ministry of the priesthood was like in terms of teaching and instructing the people according to the Law of Moses. We know that the Temple of the LORD would be rebuilt, and we know that the priests and Levites would serve once more in the midst of the sanctuary of the LORD, but pause and think about the absence of the prophetic voice, as well as [potentially] the absence of the priestly voice(s) which would teach and instruct the Jewish people concerning the commands, and the statutes, and the decrees of the LORD their God which He outlined in the Law. I would absolutely love to know what the political and religious climate was like during the days and times of Malachi—and even the days leading up to his emergence in the midst of the land of Judaea—for that which the LORD had raised him up to confront was no small task or assignment. The LORD had indeed raised Malachi up after a period of roughly one-hundred years of silence, and before four-hundred additional years of silence would ensue in the midst of the earth. THE PROPHETIC VOICE WHICH WOULD BREAK THE SILENCE, THE PROPHETIC VOICE THAT WOULD INTRODUCE THE SILENCE! What I find truly astounding about the prophetic book and ministry of Malachi is that his voice would be the first voice of a prophet of the LORD heard in the land after roughly a century, but his voice would also be the final voice which would in all reality introduce those four-hundred years of silence.

Imagine being the final prophetic voice in the midst of the land, and think about that which you would be called and instructed to prophesy and proclaim in the midst of the land. Pause and think about what type of message the LORD would and could have for the people of God after roughly one-hundred years had passed since the last prophetic voice, and before four-hundred years of silence would grip and consume the land [perhaps the famine for the word of God and for the word of the LORD which Amos had prophesied and spoken about]. We know the prophet Amos would prophesy of days to come when a famine would strike and consume the land—a famine not for bread, nor for water, but a famine for hearing the words of God. Consider if you will the following words which are found in the eighth chapter of the prophetic book of Amos beginning to read with and from the eleventh verse: “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” (Amos 8:11-12). There is absolutely no mistaking that which Amos saw, for he would see days coming when the LORD would send a famine upon the land—a famine for hearing the words of the LORD. It would be during those days and at that time men and women would wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, and would run to and fro to seek the word of the LORD. Despite all their searching, however, they would not find any prophetic word, nor any prophetic voice of the LORD, but would find only silence. I can’t help but wonder if the famine in the land which the LORD warned about was the four-hundred years of silence which would began after the final words of Malachi would be spoken. It is absolutely incredible to think about and consider the fact that Malachi would be raised up as that prophetic voice which would end roughly a one-hundred year drought for the word of the LORD, and would set in motion a four-hundred year drought that would last until the angel Gabriel would emerge on to the scene and would proclaim the births of John the Baptist and of Jesus the Christ. The prophetic voice and message of Malachi would be the final one that would be heard in the midst of the land for four-hundred years, and the message he would prophesy would be on that would speak to and directly challenge the religious system of his day and generation. Consider if you will the following words which are found within the prophetic book of Malachi beginning with the first chapter of the book:

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? 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 LORD is contemptible. And if ye offer the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? Offer it now 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 LORD 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).

And  now, O ye priests, this commandment is for you. If ye will not hear, and if ye will not lay it to heart, to give glory unto my name, saith the LORD of hosts, I will even send a curse upon you, and I will curse your blessings: yea, I have cursed them already, because ye do  not lay it to heart. Behold, I will corrupt your seed, and spread dung upon your faces, even the dung of your solemn feasts; and one shall take you away with it. And ye shall know that I have sent this commandment unto you, that my covenant might be with Levi, saith the LORD of hosts. My covenant was with him of life and peace; and I gave them to him for the fear wherewith he feared me, and he was afraid before my name. The law of truth was in his mouth, and iniquity was not found in his lips: he walked with me in peace and equity, and did turn many away from iniquity. For the priest’s lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek the law at his mouth: for he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts. But ye are departed out of the way; ye have caused many to stumble at the law; ye have corrupted the covenant of Levi, saith the LORD of hosts. 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” (Malachi 2:1-9).

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? 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. 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. Yet ye say, Wherefore? Because the LORD hath been a witness between thee and the wife of thy youth, against whom thou hast dealt treacherously: yet she is thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant. 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. 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” (Malachi 2:10-16).

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?” (Malachi 2:17).

As I bring this writing to a close it is absolutely necessary I draw your attention to the words which this final Hebrew prophet would prophesy and proclaim during the days and generation in which he was raised up, for he would be raised up to cry against specific things. Upon reading these words you will find the prophet Malachi confronting and indicting the priests for offering polluted bread upon the altar—and yet, not only would he cry out against and indict the priests for offering polluted bread upon the altar, but he would also cry out against the people themselves for that which they would bring unto the sanctuary and courts of the LORD. The prophet would cry out against the people who would have a gift, an offering, and a lamb without blemish in their flock, and yet instead of bringing that gift and offering to the LORD would withhold it from the LORD. The underlying danger that is found during these days was not only in the presenting of that which was polluted, but also in the holding back of that which was which good. HOLDING BACK THE GOOD, PRESENTING THE EVIL! The sins and wickedness which were being committed during these days was a people who would have among them in their midst that which would please the LORD, and that which the LORD had indeed required, and yet would hold it back while offering something inferior which the LORD would not be pleased with, nor would He honor. What’s more, is the priests themselves would violate the covenant which the LORD made with Levi and would not faithfully serve before the LORD and execute the office of the priest in the courts of the LORD and among the people. Furthermore, you will find the LORD calling out and crying out against divorce which would run rampant in the midst of those days, as well as the robbing of the tithes and offerings of the LORD. If Malachi’s message was the final message before four-hundred years of silence, and before the emergence and coming of the Messiah, then I am powerfully convinced that the words which we find here within this book aptly describe the days and generation in which we are living. There is absolutely no doubt we are living in the last days and those days leading up to the days of the Messiah—and with that being said, we must realize and recognize the words which are found within this prophetic book have tremendous implications within this generation and within the days in which we are living. We cannot for one moment deny the tremendous truth that divorce is rampant within our culture and society, nor can we deny that men and women are continually robbing and stealing from the tithes and offerings of the LORD. What’s more, is we cannot deny the tremendous truth that altars in the sanctuary of the LORD within and throughout this country are being polluted and defiled by priests who are violating the covenant of Levi, and by a people who are holding back the good while presenting and offering the evil. It is absolutely necessary that we read the words which are found within this prophetic book and examine our hearts, our minds and our souls, and truly ask ourselves whether or not we are walking in faithful obedience, holiness and righteousness before the LORD, for there is coming that moment when He who was pierced is going to suddenly appear, and will take and gather unto Himself all those who have walked in righteousness and holiness before Him.

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