Today we begin a short 7 sermon series on the book of Malachi under the overall heading of – “From the ashes of failure to the anticipated future.” The practical application of the teaching will be worked out in the house groups.
“An oracle” – This is a message that like a heavy burden needs to be off loaded in terms of being spoken out.
“The Word of the Lord” – The oracle is not made up of human words, instead they are divine words, spoken with infallible authority.
“To Israel” – They are spoken to God’s very own people; the church of the day, who had recently returned to Jerusalem from exile in Babylon. The city walls and temple had been rebuilt, and a religious routine was in operation, but the people lacked spiritual vitality. The form was there, but not the reality and they were going through the motions, God not having filled the temple with his presence as predicted by the earlier prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah. The people were not in outright rebellion against God, they were simply half hearted and apathetic.
Pause 4 thought – Could this not be a general description of the church of today?
“Through Malachi” – A good name for a prophet, meaning “my messenger;” but other than that we know nothing about him other than that he ministered roughly between 460 & 400bc. Yet Malachi is an important book because as the final book in the OT it looks back, as well as looking forward to the NT. It is followed by the so called “silent years” where the prophetic voice was not heard for another 400 years until John the Baptist arrived on the scene at the start of the Gospel era.
In these first few verses we discover two facets of God’s greatness:-
1 – The Greatness of God’s Love (v 2 – 3.)
Of all the ways in which the book could have begun, it begins with these words – “I have loved you.” The first thing that God wanted his people to know was that he loved them. He had already proclaimed his love in the Scriptures (Jeremiah 31 v 3); he had demonstrated his love by choosing Israel and entering a covenant with them; and more recently he had delivered them from exile in Babylon.
Pause 4 thought – Marvel at the truth that God continues to love his church today despite it obviously falling so short of his expectations
But the people question God – “How have you loved us?” He replies – “I have loved Jacob, but Esau I have hated.” Check out Genesis 25 v 19 – 34 – NB – v 23 & Genesis 27 v 1 – 41 which tells the story of the two twin brothers and the rivalry and enmity between them, which began in the womb and continued during the early years of their lives forcing Jacob to eventually leave home. But God chose Jacob and rejected Esau, not because one was better than the other, but simply on the basis of his electing love.
In the same way God loves his church (Romans 1 v 7) today not because there is anything special about it, but because in Christ he has chosen to set his wrath and judgement on one side and to remember mercy (2 Corinthians 5 v 21) on individuals whom he has then welded into his chosen community that is the church.
2 – The Greatness of God’s Lordship (4 – 5.)
Out of the line of Jacob the nation of Israel was born, whom God loved; while out of the line of Esau the nation of Edom was born, whom God hated or rejected, calling them a – “wicked land” on the basis of their dealings with Israel. They had not allowed Israel to pass through their territory (Numbers 20 v 14 – 21); they had often fought against Israel (1 Samuel 14 v 47); and they had been treacherous when Israel had been exiled in Babylon (Psalm 137 v 7.)
In the light of such wickedness God pronounced judgement upon them – see Jeremiah 49 v 7 – 22 & Ezekiel 25 v 12 – 13 & Obadiah; and here again in Malachi they will be crushed, unable to rebuild and those who see it will declare – “Great is the Lord – even beyond the borders of Israel.” And sure enough in 312bc Edom was destroyed and removed from the map of human history.
Why was God able to destroy Edom? Well because according to Malachi he is – “The Lord Almighty” a description that he uses some 23 times! He is the all powerful God who is in charge of world events; he is the one who protected his people from their enemies, just as he protects his church today from its enemies, proclaiming that the gates of hell would not prevail against it.
Pause 4 thought – Looking at the world today, can it sometimes be difficult to believe that the “Lord Almighty” is in control and on the throne?
Theme: “How great is our God”
Reading: Malachi 1 v 1 – 5
Preacher: Chris Hughes
Led by: Chris Hughes