For an introduction to this series, click here.
Nov. 29, 2006
The short book of Malachi has very little prophecy as we think of it - foretelling the future - except for the last chapter. It is mostly about the sins of Israel, many of which we see in our own lives and churches today. Malachi was the last book of the Old Testament, written about 300 B.C., at least 50 years after Haggai and Zechariah. Chapter 1 deals with the bad offerings the people were offering the Lord:
"You bring what has been taken by violence or is lame or sick, and this you bring as an offering! Shall I accept that from your hand? says the LORD. Cursed be the cheat who has a male in his flock, and vows it, yet sacrifices to the Lord what is blemished. For I am a great King, says the LORD of hosts, and my name will be feared among the nations." (1:13-14, ESV)
Malachi 2 speaks of how the people have profaned themselves by false teaching, by marital unfaithfulness and divorce, and by simply ignoring the Lord.
Chapter 3 is about how the people have robbed God by their lack of giving. This is a tricky subject, because Malachi mentions repeatedly their neglect of the tithe, and lots of pastors and churches use the tithing commands here in this chapter to apply to Christians. In fact I would say that if it weren't for the tithing passage, many preachers would never preach from Malachi at all.
Any reading of this passage in context and a reading of the Law will clearly show that the tithe was meant for the maintenance of the Lord's house, as a sacrifice, and as a provision for the Levites. Nowhere in the New Testament are Christians commanded to tithe. Obviously we are commanded to give; that is in a whole host of places. But trying to enforce a tithe upon the New Testament church is the same as trying to enforce the Jewish dietary laws. It just doesn't apply. I don't know if preachers think they can't raise enough money if they don't teach tithing or what. Whatever their reasoning, it doesn't justify teaching false doctrine. Teach the truth, and God will move the people to give what is needed.
Chapter 4 is the prophecy of the future coming of Christ, and also has the prophecy of the coming of Elijah. Of course Jesus said that John the Baptist came preaching "in the spirit and power of Elijah." Whether John is the ultimate fulfillment or just a shadow of the appearance of a reincarnated Elijah, I leave to others.
This will conclude our study of the prophets. I'm planning on doing a chapter-by-chapter study through the New Testament starting in a couple of days.