At the close of the Old Testament we have these solemn words, "Lest I come and smite the earth with a curse." This little book brings us God's assessment of the condition of Israel and why He threatens to curse them.
Malachi was the last of the Old Testament writers. Last words are always important. In this book of four chapters we have God's final words to his earthly people before the promised Messiah arrived. They are words of rebuke as he points out their condition. They are words of warning and they are words of promise. Then God fell silent for four hundred years until He spoke in the giving of his Son (Heb. 1: 1-2). Malachi's prophecy was fulfilled (4:5) in the appearance of John the Baptist who came in the spirit and power of Elijah (Matt. 11:13,14; 17:10-13).
His day was much like our ours. It was the end of a dispensation and the next world event was to be the coming of the Lord. His coming then was TO his own (John 1:11) "and His own received him not." We await his coming FOR His own and all His own will respond. The days of Malachi parallel Laodicean days. Both are marked by departure. The majority are self satisfied, self deceived, and away from God, but there is a small, godly remnant that heard his voice and opened the door (Rev. 3:20). "They feared the LORD and spake often one to another" (Malachi 3:16).
The prophet brings seven charges against God's people. (1) They were questioning God's love (1:2), (2) they despised His name (1:6), (3) they polluted His altar (1:7), (4) they wearied their God (2:17), (5) they refused to return (3:7), (6) they robbed God (3 :8), (7) and they spake against God (3:13). They questioned each charge, showing they were insensitive to their true condition. Like the Laodicean church of Revelation 3:17, the people of Malachi's day were unappreciative of God's goodness and unaware of their true spiritual condition. They were self-deceived and saw no need of repentance. Let us consider ourselves in relation to these seven charges.
(1) They were questioning God's love (1:2)
In both Malachi and Revelation we learn that their condition was a result of not appreciating God's love to them. "We love him because he first loved us" (1 John 4:19), so if we aren't appreciating His love to us then our love to him will wax cold and service will become a drudgery. The Lord still asks, "Lovest thou me more than these? John 21:15). Can we honestly reply, "Thou knowest that I love thee" (v. 17). This is the root of all departure. No wonder we are exhorted to "Keep yourselves in the love of God" (Jude 1:21).
(2) They despised His name (1:6)
Do we despise His name? We claim to be gathered together in His Name (Matt. 18:20), refusing all other names, yet often the fear of God is lacking in our behaviour and we do not honour Him by giving Him the first place as we ought. How do we despise His name? By allowing other things to keep us from the gatherings, and by a lack of reverence and the fear of the Lord when we are together.
(3) They polluted His altar (1:7)
Often we are found "polluting his altar" by coming unprepared (sisters can do this too) and being lethargic in our attitude. God demands the very best we can offer, not reruns. Our efforts should come from the heart. We should come as prepared as we would if we were addressing someone of authority - we are!
(4) They wearied their God (2:17)
God is a God who "fainteth not, neither is weary" (Isa. 40:28), yet we can weary him by turning the grace of God into lasciviousness (Jude 1:4). We can presume upon the grace of God. "Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil" (Ecc. 8:11). We can sin and think we'll get away with it. God may chasten us and we're not exercised as to why (Heb. 12: 11).
(5) They refused to return (3:7)
When ministry is given, do we bow to it and let it make a change in our life? Do we excuse ourselves by saying "everyone else is doing it?" Are we content with the status quo or are we prepared to be different by bowing to the authority of the Word completely? Do we refuse to return? (3:7).
(6) They robbed God (3:8)
Are we robbing God? In the Old Testament God demanded one tenth. We are not under the law, yet grace should not give less. If God is not getting one tenth of our income (before taxes) then we are robbing God. Actually we are robbing ourselves because God is not able to bless us as he wishes to. The promise of Malachi 3:10-12 still holds true in this dispensation. Israel was not only obligated to bring God their tithes, they also added their offerings. This was what they willingly gave as an expression of their thanksgiving to God for his many blessings.
(7) They spake against God (3:13)
How can we speak against God? By our actions we reveal that we see no benefit in serving God. In chapter 1: 10 we find they would not do anything in the Lord's house unless they were paid for it. Does your hall need painting? Would you do it only if you were paid to do it? That is speaking against God! How about cutting the grass or doing janitorial work? Is your attitude "it is vain to serve God?" Beloved, let us allow the word of God to test us, and let us be prepared to make necessary changes. Thank God, "there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared" (Psa. 130:4).
Before we close this meditation we ought to note that even in those days there were, and will be, them "that feared the Lord (and) spake often one to another" (3:16). They continued to assemble themselves together and exhorted one another as they awaited the promised coming of the Lord (Heb. 10:25). His coming is sure and soon. May we strive to be numbered among those that receive his "Well done, thou good and faithful servant: ... enter thou into the joy of thy Lord" (Matt. 25:21).