Malachi ‘closes’ the book of the twelve minor prophets, written probably in the postexilic period after the reconstruction of the temple. After Malachi, the voice of God was not heard through a prophet for some 400 years. The return of the exiles to Jerusalem pointed to the beginning of God’s restoration of His people but in fact, they had to wait for the consummation of that restoration. The Messiah appeared on the scene many years later after the appearance of ‘Elijah’ (referring to John the baptist coming in the spirit of Elijah); the final coming of the great day of Yahweh and the final judgement is yet to come and God’s people are told to wait with expectation and to remain faithful and obedient to the Lord.
We are reminded of what Apostle Peter wrote: “The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. Instead He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
As we live in these turbulent times, in the midst of persecution, tribulations and the intense spiritual attacks of the evil one and his minions, we must take note that God is still on the throne and the times are in His hands. Ultimate judgment and restoration is sure; God would definitely fulfil His promise. In the meantime, we are not to lose heart and to doubt His faithfulness.
What is relevant is to recognise that what Malachi addressed in the problems seen in God’s people at that point of time seem to surface again and again among God’s people and even in our current situation.
The book of Malachi is structured around a series of ‘dialogues’ or ‘disputations’ between God and the people in Jerusalem. Six dialogues begin with an introduction, followed by a response, and a conclusion.
The first dialogue focused on God’s love for His people. The people apparently doubted God’s love for them and received God’s declaration of HIs love for them with scepticism.
They then disputed God’s claim that they had not honoured Him and had ‘corrupted’ their worship of Him. In fact, there were those who found worship of God boring and they were indifferent.
The Lord God then pointed to their unfaithfulness in keeping His covenant relationship with them and this was seen particularly in their deeds and actions.
They queried “Where is the God of justice?” when they focused on the situations they were in and could not see God’s justice in them.
God accused them of ‘robbing’ Him and urged them to repent. They withheld the best in their sacrifice to God and held back their tithes to Him
The people lamented that it was no use serving and worshipping God; the wicked and disobedient seemed to ‘prosper’.
If we are honest, we can see these same grumblings and complaints among God’s people today and in our midst. We easily doubted God’s love for us when we face setbacks and difficulties in our contexts. We ‘corrupted’ our worship of the Lord when we approach Him with indifference and irreverence and we withhold our best ‘sacrifice’ to Him by giving Him our ‘leftovers’ and serving Him with less than enthusiasm and zeal. We complain when we see non-believers’ living an apparently blessed life while we seem to get the worst end of the ‘bargain’. What is the use of serving God, we often lament and we find it a breeze to just go through so-called spiritual activities and secretly feel it so boring and not meaningful.
We find it ever so easy to break our covenant with God; we drift into sins, immorality and excuse ourselves rather quickly and rationalise that God did not help us to become holy.
The call to repent is loud and clear from God; God reminds us that He sees all things and knows all things. He would honour those who obey Him and He would definitely judge those who are disobedient and hypocritical. The faithful will be delivered; this is God’s assurance and promise. Those who practise righteousness and justice are noted by God and will not be abandoned.
In the meantime, know that there will be a time of refining and purifying for the world and God’s people. The tares will be taken away and burned. The faithful will be like a “sun of righteousness with healing in its wings”.
The call to repentance is followed by a call to perseverance and endurance, waiting for the Lord’s timing and intervention.