Malachi was one of the minor prophets of the Old Testament. The name Malachi means “my messenger.” The prophet makes no reference to his personal life and gives no dates for his ministry. Malachi prophesied when the Captivity was little remembered, and after the Temple had been restored and its worship had for some time been instituted. The abuses condemned by Malachi resemble the same abuses that were present during Nehemiah’s absence from Jerusalem at the Persian court (Neh. 13:6). Therefore, it is possible that the book of Malachi was written about 425 b.c.
In contrast with Zechariah’s prophetic outline of the incredible possibilities that lay before the Jews upon their return from exile, Malachi’s prophecy, a century later, presents a sad scene of the people’s continual spiritual decline. The exiles had returned from the land of their captivity to the Land of Promise, but still harbored disobedient hearts. They failed to fulfill the divine purpose in their lives. Even the priests dishonored the worship and service of God (ch. 1:6, 13). Although the Lord was displeased with their worship (chs. 1:10, 13; 2:13, 17), He continued to work with them.
God’s patient attempts to show the people their mistakes and their denial constitute the theme of the book of Malachi. The Lord sent His prophet to give a stern warning of rebuke and call His people to return to His covenant relationship. Eight times the Lord addresses the people and their religious leaders, graciously and patiently calling them out of apostasy, but they denied their fallen state and would not repent (chs. 1:2, 6, 7; 2:13, 14, 17; 3:7, 8, 13, 14).
The message of Malachi is applicable for the church today, and is comparable to the Laodicean message of Rev. 3:14–22. Like the Laodiceans, the Jews of Malachi’s day were utterly insensitive to their true spiritual condition and felt their “need of nothing” (Rev. 3:17). They were “poor” in heavenly treasure, “blind” to their errors, and “naked,” or not clothed with the perfect character of Jesus Christ.
Malachi ends his prophetic book with a hopeful message that in spite of the spiritual apathy of the world, the Lord will raise for Him special believers like Elijah who will sound the alarm and prepare the world for His second coming: “See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents” (ch. 4:5).
In His service,
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