‘You have spoken arrogantly against me,’ says the Lord. ‘Yet you ask, “What have we said against you?” ‘You have said, “It is futile to serve God. What do we gain by carrying out his requirements and going about like mourners before the Lord Almighty?
Covenant love is a constant theme throughout the Old Testament and reaches it’s climax in the life and death of Jesus in the New Testament. The notion of covenant love is something that has always been under threat but some will say that it is more so now in western society than it has ever been. I remember the first time I was taken aback by its casual treatment in the early 1970’s when a colleague said of her marriage that when she got married she never expected or intended her marriage to last more than 5 years. You may wonder at my naivety at the time but such an attitude was in sharp contrast to those in my family upbringing.
In Malachi, God is despairing of his covenant relationship with his people. ‘I have loved you,’ says the Lord. But you ask, ‘How have you loved us?’ Malachi 1.2 Malachi means messenger and this has led to discussion as to whether Malachi is the actual name of the prophet or a title, and as to whether there is a single author, a group of prophets or clerks recording the prophet’s messages at a later date. Such arguments may satisfy academics but they shed little light on either God’s message or the relationship between God and his people.
Malachi was prophesying after many of the Jews had returned to Judah after the exile during the time of Nehemiah and Ezra. There is a considerable overlap between the issues in those books and the content of Malachi. God is in a long standing covenant relationship with his people, initially promised to Abraham and confirmed in much greater detail through Moses, a covenant of love. However, the people of God persistently and in a multitude of ways broke that covenant, they exhibit indifference, rather than committed love, and this was exhibited most by the priests whose responsibility was to represent the people to God and God to the people. The priests offered the worst of the produce to God rather than the best.v1.7 They brought disgrace to the Lord’s name, v2.1 they taught falsely, v2.8 they allowed and partook in marriage outside the people of God which led to idol worship, v2.11 they endorsed unfaithfulness in marriage and divorce leaving the wife destitute. v2,15 In short they had ‘wearied’ the Lord by declaring what is evil is good and there are no consequences for their behaviour. “By saying, ‘All who do evil are good in the eyes of the Lord, and he is pleased with them’. Or ‘Where is the God of Justice?’ “
God’s response was to put these words in the mouth of the prophet. “So I will come to put you on trial. I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers, and perjurers, against those who defraud labourers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive the foreigners among you of justice, but do not fear me,” says the Lord Almighty. v3.5
A remnant or smaller grouping responded to the Prophet’s message and covenanted to be faithful to the Lord. ‘Then those who feared the Lord talked with each other, and the Lord listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the Lord and honoured his name.’ v3.16 The book concludes with the promise of an Elijah figure. Christ’s ministry of reconciliation to the church prior to the final day of the Lord. (2 Corinthians 5.18-20.) ‘He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents,’ v4.5 In our time the same prophetic message as Malachi’s remains directed towards the church, to challenge the church wherever indifference and disobedience to God’s covenant love has entered the church. See the prophetic visons to the seven churches in Asia Minor in Revelation 2 and 3.
What experience have you had of God’s prophetic ministry correcting the relationship between the church and God?
Lauren Daigle – Light Of The World