Thursday, January 18, 2018

Malachi 1:6-2:9

II.      The priests despised the Name of God, 1:6-2:9
With God’s love as the backdrop, Malachi now addresses the priests.  It is impossible to be precise as to a date for the writing of Malachi.  But it is clearly in the time of the Medo-Persian rule as he refers to a governor (1:8).  There is no reference to the building of the second temple so it is likely after 515BC.  And it is possible more time passed as the corruption of the priesthood pictured here became a reality as time wore on.  The High Priest and the priestly family gained political prominence, a factor evident in the time of Christ.

Here then is the problem.  The priests dishonored God.  Malachi anticipates the question: In what way have we despised Your name?  The answer is that they offer defiled food on the altar.  Again, the rebuttal is anticipated: In what way have we defiled You?  With that we get to the specifics: contrary to the Law of Moses (Lev. 22:22; Deut. 15:19-23) and to common sense (no son would treat his father like this, nor a servant his master) they were offering defective offerings to the LORD.  This is not hard.  We just need to think about our gifts to anyone.  We always try to give something that tells the recipient they are loved or appreciated.  God loved Israel, giving her the best; this is how she responded.

·        Common sense says: try offering this to your governor, 1:8.  Perhaps the priests (and the worshipers) were taking advantage of the love of the God they could not see while honoring the governor they dealt with day to day.  Do we ever do that?

·        God’s response is clear: I have no pleasure in you.  Be sure you note His reason: My name shall be great among the Gentiles (twice in v11).  What Israel is doing even the Gentiles would not do for their gods.  Israel is God’s testimony to the world of the fact that their God is God Most High.  What does the world hear when they see this shameful worship.

·        Again God argues His greatness, 1:12-2:1.  What a shame that God must proclaim His own greatness because it is not so proclaimed by His people.  We must hear this today.  How we serve God, what we offer to Him as a sacrifice (Rom. 12:1), says something about what we think of Him.  Because of this God announces He has already cursed the blessings of the priests!

·        The priests of the day proclaimed their own greatness but were in fact were nothing compared to their father, Levi, 2:2-6.  On two occasions, the time of the golden calf (Ex. 32:25-29) and at Baal-Peor (Num. 25:1-13), Levi and his descendents took up the sword against their own people to proclaim the honor of the LORD.  In Malachi the priests were a shameful excuse for the special position they held.

·        Even worse, the priests who were to teach the law were a stumbling block keeping people from obeying the law, 2:7-9.  Remember Malachi’s name: My Messenger.  2:7 has the noun form of the word: the priests were to be God’s messenger so that people would seek God’s law.  Thus these priests who treated God with contempt were themselves debased by God and became contemptable.  Again we are confronted today with this truth: are those who are to be God’s messengers, opening His word and proclaiming His word, are they by their lives a stumbling block to the people they lead?

Malachi is right on for his day and ours.  Let us hear and heed the burden of the word of the LORD.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Malachi 1:1-5

As we come to the last of the prophets in the Old Testament we again see his message is the burden of the word of the LORD.  Malachi’s name means My Messenger (i.e. the LORD’s messenger); he speaks for God.  So let us be clear, the One with the burden for Israel is the LORD.  Certainly the prophet felt his message strongly; but it is because he is one of the people and thus identifies strongly with them.  

Malachi’s message is in a question/answer format.  He makes a statement (e.g. v2, I have love you, says the LORD).  He anticipates the question from the people (e.g. v2: in what way have You loved us).  Then he gives the answer (e.g. v2b-5).  In the process he fulfills the prophetic mandate, making strong and clear calls to repentance.  And while he speaks to Israel, the application for us will be strong and clear as well.

Like the other so-called Minor Prophets Malachi is privileged by the LORD to reveal some powerful Messianic prophecies, some of which have already seen fulfillment in the First Advent but all of which have final and complete fulfillment in the Second Advent.  Of particular note is the end of the book where Malachi, who is the last of the OT prophets, predicts the coming ministry of John the Baptist (Elijah; 3:1 and 4:5-6) who is the next of God’s prophets.

I.      God’s love for Israel, 1:2-5.
God proclaims His great love for Israel through the way He treated Jacob (Israel) versus the way He dealt with Esau.  Paul, in Rom. 9, uses this passage to point out God’s love for Israel and we want to be sure we accept the point.  Paul is right (of course) that God chose Jacob over Esau before either had done any right or wrong.  At the same time we know that Scripture also teaches that Esau got what he asked for (Heb. 12:16-17).  In the story (Gen. 33:16-18) it appears Esau lived where he wanted to live.  But in Malachi it is God’s doing.  We see in Scripture what is typical: a mysterious connection of God’s will and man’s will.

There is a reason God used this illustration of His love.  Edom had come under severe condemnation for the way he intended to take the land of Israel for his own when they were taken captive.  As Ezekiel put it, Esau’s ancient hatred for Jacob resurfaced (Ezek. 35).  Thus, at this time in Israel’s history, God makes a powerful point: even when Israel was being judged God was at her side, securing the promise to Abraham that the land belonged Jacob.  Notice the powerful end of v5: The LORD is magnified beyond the border of Israel.  Even today we should remember this; every nation exists to glorify God.

So the beginning point is: GOD LOVED ISRAEL!  This is the backdrop for calling Israel to repentance.  The same is true for us.  God has loved us in Christ.  That love for us is the strong encouragement to us to no longer live for ourselves but for Him who died for us and rose again (2 Cor. 5:14-15).

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Zechariah 14:16-21

VI.     Jerusalem will again be the center of worship for the world, 14:16-21.
In Jesus’ day Jerusalem sat on two mountains.  Mount Zion was the seat of government.  Mount Moriah was the place of worship, the location of both temples (Solomon’s and the Second Temple), the place where Abraham and Isaac illustrated God’s plan of salvation for Israel and the Nations (Gen. 22).  Zechariah 14:1-15 has shown us the restoration of Zion; now in 14:16-21 we see the restoration of Moriah, the Mountain of the LORD (Gen. 22:14; Zech. 8:3).

Note that this is the worship of the LORD by the entire world.  Often people have the idea that worship was ever somehow relegated only to Israel.  Even in Old Testament times God’s intent was that Israel would be His witness to the nations.  The nations would see the true God and seek Him as they saw how He blessed His people.  Israel’s disobedience and idolatry deprived them of God’s blessing; and Israel’s pride led them to despise the nations.  Of course, God’s plan worked to perfection when Israel’s rejection of Christ became salvation for the Nations (Rom. 11).  God’s faithfulness will also be evident in that He will restore and save Israel that they might be the witness to the world He intended.

Why is the feast of tabernacles emphasized?  Tabernacles was one of the three major feasts of Israel (Ex. 23:14-19, called the Feast of Ingathering).  Unleavened Bread (Passover) emphasized deliverance from Egypt (Christ delivering from sin).  Feast of Harvest (Firstfruits) called upon God for His blessing (Christ’s resurrection and the hope of Kingdom blessings).  Tabernacles, at the end of harvest, was a time of thanksgiving and remembrance of all God’s blessings (the realization of Kingdom blessings in Christ).  It involved the enjoyment of those blessings (at the risk of being disrespectful, it was a week-long national barbecue in honor of God’s goodness; cf. Num. 29:12-40).  AND it was a feast for the stranger, the nations!

Thus it has an important place in the Kingdom of Messiah when His blessings are being experienced.  Every year there will be a grand thanksgiving for all that He has provided for the world.  It makes sense as well that those nations that will not come will experience a plague of drought, a denial of His blessings.

One other question has to do with the final sentence of Zechariah concerning no Canaanites being in the temple.  This sounds like a limitation in the offer of the gospel to the world.  But we believe the understanding of this is in the context.  The point of v20-21 is that holiness will characterize the LORD’s house and the worship of the LORD.  The Canaanites, a term that describes the people of the land when Israel crossed over under Joshua, were idolatrous and had become so debased that God had determined to remove them from the land.  Israel was to have no inter-mingling with them, not in business, marriage and certainly in worship.  Thus they stand for the unholy in the Kingdom age; they will not be permitted to join in the joyful worship of the temple.

Do you remember Zechariah’s name?  It means God Remembers.  What a message of His remembrance there is in this book.  How encouraging it must have been to God’s people in the post-exilic time when they were reduced in size and significance.  Let us not ignore God’s faithfulness. God remembers.