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Malachi 1:1-1:14
Key Verse: 1:6a

Thank God for granting us the words of 1 Samuel up to chapter 17. He is the LORD Almighty and King generation after generation. He said, “Those who honour me will be honoured, but those who despise me will be disdained” (2:30b). Samuel, Jonathan and David honoured God, putting their faith him. They were honoured by God. God honoured them revealing himself to them through his words and giving them victory over powerful enemies. But Eli and Saul despised God: God said to Eli, “Why do you honour your sons more than me…?” and the priesthood in his family would not continue. To Saul, God’s message was this: “Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, he has rejected you as king.”

We are going to study the last book of the Old Testament, Malachi, as our preparation for 2016 Christmas, in which our main Christmas message will be taken from Matthew 1. The aim is to grasp the flow of transition from the Old Testament to the New Testament and go deeper into God’s to send his Son into this world. This is also a great opportunity to study the book of Malachi for our spiritual growth. In chapter 1 we can think of God, who is a great king and whose name will be great among the nations, and of how to give due honour and respect to him. This is actually a very significant theme of the Bible as we studied in 1 Samuel.

First, “I have loved you” (1-5). Look at verse 1. “An oracle. The word of the LORD to Israel through Malachi.” In KJV, “The burden of the word of the LORD to Israel by Malachi.” The word “oracle” refers to a threatening message, a burden that lay heavy on the heart of God and His prophet. “Pronouncement or utterance” is synonymous. An oracle, therefore, consists of “serious words of the LORD.” This word gives burden to the Israelites. The word of the Lord refers to a message that comes from the Lord with his full authority. Malachi was the messenger of the Lord.

Look at verse 2. “‘I have loved you,’ says the LORD.” The oracle by Malachi begins with the LORD’s love confession, “I have loved you,” “I loved you, and I love you.” It is very meaningful that the LORD made the love confession in this last book of the Old Testament. We could see God’s love for mankind in his creation, creating man in his image as the crown of his creation to rule the world. The Garden of Eden was another specific expression of his love. However, God’s love was doubted. Since then the history of God was the history of proving his love. God called one man Abraham in his grace to bless all peoples on earth (Ge 12:3). And God made Abraham’s descendants his own people bringing them out of the land of slavery, Egypt with his mighty power. As we studied in 1 Samuel, Samuel’s farewell speech was to ensure God’s love for them, saying, “For the sake of his great name the LORD will not reject his people, because the LORD was pleased to make you his own” (12:22; cf. Dt 7:7-8). The LORD said in Isaiah 43:4, “Since you are precious and honoured in my sight, and because I love you, I will give men in exchange for you, and people in exchange for your life.” The history of Israel was the history of God’s love for them. Although they had forsaken the LORD, turning away from him, the LORD God was faithful to them. He not only brought them out of Egypt but also liberated them from Babylonian captivity. Their living again in the Promised Land from Babylonian exile was the evidence of God’s love.

But here when the LORD said, “I have loved you,” they asked, “How have you loved us?” The rhetorical question of the Israelites shows that they were very much disappointed by their present life situation. They came back from the Babylonian Captivity, and tried hard to settle down in the Promised Land, expecting God’s abundant blessing. However, their expectation turned into their disappointment. Suffering made the returned exiles question God’s love. The Lord had promised to bring a golden age of blessing, but they were still under the foreign rule and life was hard. Once I said, “Life is hard, but God is good,” one young man responded, “God is good, but life is hard.” The contents are but, but the order of using words makes the message totally different. Here God seemed to be saying “I know your life is hard, but I have loved you,” then they seemed to be saying, “we know that God has loved us, but our life is hard.” They wanted to see the evidence of God’s love in their present situations. God’s love was there behind their hard life, but they could not see it. They could not appreciate God’s love. Rather, they became full of complaining and rebellious spirit. They were self-centred and present value-focused. They put much emphasis on the present. They assessed the past and the future on the basis of the present like existentialists, not with faith in God’s love.

How did God help them? “Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?’ the LORD says. “Yet I have loved Jacob, but Esau I have hated…” In helping them who were questioning his love, the LORD did not tell them how much he poured out his love for them. Rather, he said, “I have loved Jacob, but Esau (his brother) I have hated.” What kind of love is this? Apostle Paul explained this love in Romans 9:9-13, “Not only that, but Rebekah’s children had one and the same father, our father Isaac. Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad—in order that God’s purpose in election might stand: not by works but by him who calls—she was told, ‘The older will serve the younger.’ Just as it is written: ‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.’” Esau was a greed person; Jacob, a deceiver. Esau had many problems, so did Jacob. Yet, God chose Jacob in his sovereignty. God’s love of his election is his unconditional love, irrespective of human conditions. If God’s love depends on human conditions, it cannot be unchanging but ever-changing. Then we cannot trust in his love. But wonderfully, his love is based on his choosing grace. We have nothing to be proud of or nothing to despair of because of his love. God sent his Son into this world to sow his unconditional love for sinners. John 3:16 describes it excellently, “For God so loved the world that he gave one and only Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal.” A hymn song says, “I’ve trusted, and tested, and tried it, And I know God’s promise is true.” As years go by, this promise of God is like music to our ears. Christ’s death on the cross for us sinners is the demonstration of God’s love, his unconditional love: “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Rom 5:8). Because of God’s love in Christ Apostle Paul could shout, “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Ro 8:37). Jesus said to his disciples, “You did not choose me but I chose you…” (Jn 15:16). It is true that God chose us and led us to Christ. We only thank and praise God for his love of choosing. It makes us ever-thankful and humble and strong. It motivates us to struggle more to grow in his love, and it is the source of strength to bear any hardship despite our shortcomings and weaknesses.

The LORD says continually in verses 3-4, “‘but Esau I have hated, and I have turned his mountains into a wasteland and left his inheritance to the desert jackals.’ Edom may say, ‘Though we have been crushed, we will rebuild the ruins.’ But this is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘They may build, but I will demolish. They will be called the Wicked Land, a people always under the wrath of the LORD.’” Israel was destroyed earlier than Edom, but Edom was restored more quickly. When the Israelites returned, Edom was already restored. Edom was the people who loved the world, but Israel, the people whom God had chosen out of the world. Edom was completely destroyed after Malachi. The Edomites tried to rebuild the nation, but they could not, because the Lord did not allow it. The Edomites suffered under the wrath of God; their suffering was without meaning and hope; finally they disappeared from the stage of history. But God treated Israel differently. So in verse 5 the LORD continues, “You will see it with your own eyes and say, ‘Great is the LORD—even beyond the borders of Israel!’” Israel still exists, and God will fulfill his purpose for her. In light of the whole Scriptures, the new Israel is the church of Jesus: “Crowns and thrones may perish, Kingdoms rise and wane. But the Church of Jesus constant will remain” in God’s unconditional and unchanging love.

Second, “Where is the honour due me? (6-10). Now in verse 6, “‘A son honours his father, and a servant his master. If I am a father, where is the honour due me? If I am a master, where is the respect due me?’ says the LORD Almighty.” Love is to be mutual; love is to be followed by due honour and respect. When parents love their children and the children honour their parents in return, that is a beautiful love relationship. God blesses such a relationship. “Honour your father and your mother” is one of the Ten Commandments and it is the first commandment with a promise—‘that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth (Eph 6:2). Also, when a servant honours his master, the relationship is beautiful and fruitful.

However, here, the likely implication is that God was treated so badly in spite of his love. When the LORD Almighty compared himself to a human father and a master, he was really lowering himself. The LORD Almighty was not treated even like a human father or a boss, although he is the Father of all and the Master of all people. There was no due honour and respect for the LORD Almighty. The LORD Almighty even said, “It is you, O priests, who show contempt for my name.” When God commanded Adam not to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, he wanted Adam to honour God as God. This command of God was not to restrict him, but was God’s heart desire for mutual love relationship, the relationship of love and respect. We can say that this is the sum of the teaching of the Bible.

Their questioning continued, “How have we shown contempt for your name?” When they heard, “You place defied food on my altar,” they ask again, “How have we defiled you?” Then in verses 7b-8, “By saying that the LORD’s table is contemptible. When you bring blind animals for sacrifice, is that not wrong? When you sacrifice crippled or diseased animals, is that not wrong?”…says the LORD Almighty. Blind, lame, and sick animals were unacceptable according to the Law (Lev 22:18-25; Dt 15:21). Though the priests were supposed to inspect them, they just let people offer such things. They thus showed their contempt for his name and defiled him. He wanted them to find their wrong in their sacrifice to God. God felt so offended and despised that he said, “Try offering them to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you?”

Some may have thought, “The LORD Almighty is a great God. He is so great that he does not care about whatever we bring to him. We can offer anything to him according to our convenience.” That’s not true. The LORD cares about what we offer and what we offer, and how we worship and how we live. He is great, and also he is sensitive and responsive. He is hurt or pleased with the attitude of those whom he loves. When they brought blind, crippled, diseased animals, he could not overlook this as a trivial matter but as an significant one, and was greatly disappointed because of the love relationship he had with them.

God showed his pained heart continually in verses 9 and 10, “‘Now implore God to be gracious to us. With such offerings from your hands, will he accept you?—says the LORD Almighty. “Oh, that one of you would shut the temple doors, so that you would not light useless fires on my altar! I am not pleased with you,” says the LORD Almighty, “and I will accept no offering from your hands.”

Honouring God as God is concrete, not abstract. What we offer to God is a practical thing, and it matters to God. The LORD Almighty is a responsive God, as well shown in this passage, questioning and answering again and again. He is a practical God. He wants our hearts to be expressed through visible offerings to him as our honouring him. Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Mt 6:21; Lk 12:34). We remember a poor widow’s offering of two small copper coins. Jesus praised her, saying, “…she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on (Mk 12:42-44; Lk 21:2-4). We also remember the offering of the Magi, who, in worshipping the baby Jesus, opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh (Mt 2:11). This was their pure and whole-hearted worship, which pleased God.

God wants our best that is given by faith, not that builds up our own righteousness. As for me, I know that there are many great messengers and great messages. But God wants my best in my message preparation, as I offer it to him as my five loaves and two fish with the prayer, “How far it will go among his people?” Sometimes we think that we can honour God in doing great things or through great events. Yet, whether great or small, he wants our hearts. From our hearts, we can give him our best and serve his people with the best. In Genesis Abraham opened his house and served those who came to his house with the best willingly, while Lot served so poorly and reluctantly. One missionary in Mongolia told the story of one Sunday worship. Right when they were about to begin the worship, a young girl came in hurriedly, covered in sweat. The missionary asked what had happened to her. She said that she had been looking for an ox that left her house, but when it was time to attend worship service, she decided to come to the worship service, giving up seeking the lost ox. The girl was a young Christian. Hearing the story the missionary’s heart was moved. Of course, she worshiped God wholeheartedly. Then a miracle happened. When she came out of the worship, her lost ox was right there. God was very pleased her worship and blessed her. When we worship God, sacrificing our time and other precious things, God is pleased with our worship. For us Christians our worship is life-line. We need to worship God offering our best to him as our expression of our and honour for him.

In the gospel of John after restoring his love relationship with Simon Peter, the risen Jesus said to him, “Simon son of John do truly love me more than these?” When Peter said, “You know that I love you,” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” Feeding Jesus’ sheep is to the response to his love and in this way, the love relationship can be mutual. Apostle Paul said concerning himself and his ministry in Romans 15:16, “to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles with the priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel of God, so that the Gentiles might become an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.” In this way, he would love and honour Jesus.

Third, “My name will be great among the nations” (11-14). Look at verse 11. “‘My name will be great among the nations, from the rising to the setting of the sun. In every place incense and pure offerings will be brought to my name, because my name will be great among the nations,’ says the LORD Almighty.” Now the LORD was despised and his table was contemptible even in a small country Israel. But the LORD could not be silent but had to confess how great his name is at this point: “My name will be great among the nations, from the rising to the setting of the sun, meaning from the eastern countries to the western countries. Surely it is through the preaching of the gospel. At the time of Jesus’ birth, an angel of the Lord said, “…I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people” (Lk 2:10). After resurrection, Jesus said to his disciples, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation…” (Mk 16:15) and “Go and make disciples of all nations…” (Mt 28:19). And apostle Paul wrote in Romans 16:25-26, “…the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all nations might believe and obey him.” In Revelation, we read, “with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation” (5:9). And it is written in Revelation 8:4, “The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of the saints, went up before God…” certainly the prayer of the saints from every place in the world. It is meaningful that the greatness of God’s name is written in Malachi, the last book of the Old Testament.

And then God says again, “But you profane it by saying of the Lord’s table, ‘It is defiled,’ and of its food, ‘It is contemptible.’ And you say, ‘What a burden!’ and you sniff at it contemptuously,’ says the LORD Almighty. ‘When you bring injured, crippled or diseased animals and offer them as sacrifices, should I accept them from your hands?” says the LORD. “Cursed is the cheat who has an acceptable male in his flock and vows to give it, but then sacrifices a blemished animal to the LORD. For I am a great king,’ says the LORD Almighty, ‘and my name is to be feared among the nations.” The LORD had to confess again how he became contemptible and was offended, yet, he is a great king, who name is to be feared among the nations. He is a great king, because of his great name as the LORD Almighty and he is great because of his love.

In this study we thank for his love, which is unconditional and unchanging. His name is great and he is a great king to be honoured and feared among us and among the nations. May we trust in his love, his unconditional and unchanging love, and give him our due honour and respect love as our response to his great love.

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