1I am Malachi. And this is the message that the Lord gave me for Israel.
The Lord's Love
2 Israel, I, the Lord, have loved you. And yet you ask in what way have I loved you. Don't forget that Esau was the brother of your ancestor Jacob, but I chose Jacob 3instead of Esau. And I turned Esau's hill country into a barren desert where jackals roam. 4Esau's descendants may say, “Although our nation Edom is in ruins, we will rebuild it.”
But I, the Lord All-Powerful, promise to tear down whatever they build. Then everyone will know that I will never stop being angry with them as long as they are so sinful.
5Israel, when you see this, you will shout, “The Lord's great reputation reaches beyond our borders.”
Judgment against Priests
6I, the Lord All-Powerful, have something to say to you priests. Children respect their fathers, and servants respect their masters. I am your father and your master, so why don't you respect me? You priests have insulted me, and now you ask, “How did we insult you?”
7You embarrass me by offering worthless food on my altar. Then you ask, “How have we embarrassed you?” You have done it by saying, “What's so great about the Lord's altar?”
8 But isn't it wrong to offer animals that are blind, lame, or sick? Just try giving those animals to your governor. That certainly wouldn't please him or make him want to help you. 9I am the Lord God All-Powerful, and you had better try to please me. You have sinned. Now see if I will have mercy on any of you.
10I wish someone would lock the doors of my temple, so you would stop wasting time building fires on my altar. I am not pleased with you priests, and I refuse to accept any more of your offerings. 11From dawn until dusk my name is praised by every nation on this earth, as they burn incense and offer the proper sacrifices to me. 12But even you priests insult me by saying, “There's nothing special about the Lord's altar, and these sacrifices are worthless.”
13You get so disgusted that you even make vulgar signs at me. And for an offering, you bring stolen animals or those that are lame or sick. Should I accept these? 14Instead of offering the acceptable animals you have promised, you bring me those that are unhealthy. I will punish you for this, because I am the great King, the Lord All-Powerful, and I am worshiped by nations everywhere.
Here we are at the last book in the Old Testament. God’s people have returned from exile in Babylon. The temple and the city walls have been rebuilt. In spite of all that progress, the enthusiasm of the people for the things of God seems to have melted away. Malachi makes it clear that their leaders, especially the priests, bear much of the responsibility for this tragedy.
So Malachi reminds them of God’s love for them. They seem to have forgotten the story of how God chose Jacob as the seed of promise and the one who would inherit God’s blessing. Down through their history God has continually affirmed his covenant with his people. God expects their religious practices to reflect the Law and to honour his name. But the priests have failed in their responsibilities both to God and to the people. God is not offered the respect he deserves nor is he given the appropriate sacrifices. The offerings placed on the altar are not even good enough for their governor, why should God accept them? God says it would be better that the doors of the temple be closed because all they seem to be doing is going through the motions.
The Bible reminds us that God is love and loves us with an everlasting love. Love always solicits a response, either to reciprocate that love or to turn it away. How do we respond to God’s love for us? The priests of Malachi’s day display more contempt for God than love. I wonder if we do any better with our lives?
God, who loves all people, you know what I do and what I think. Help me to love you as you deserve so that others may see you in me. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.