Malachi 1:1-3, 6-9, 14 (HCSB)
An oracle: The word of the LORD to Israel through Malachi. 2 "I have loved you,” says the LORD. But you ask: "How have You loved us?” "Wasn't Esau Jacob's brother?” This is the LORD's declaration. "Even so, I loved Jacob, 3 but I hated Esau. I turned his mountains into a wasteland, and gave his inheritance to the desert jackals.” 6 "A son honors his father and a servant his master. But if I am a father, where is My honor? And if I am a master, where is your fear of Me? says the LORD of Hosts to you priests, who despise My name.” Yet you ask: "How have we despised Your name?" 7 "By presenting defiled food on My altar.” You ask: "How have we defiled You?” When you say: "The LORD's table is contemptible.” 8 "When you present a blind animal for sacrifice, is it not wrong? And when you present a lame or sick animal, is it not wrong? Bring it to your governor! Would he be pleased with you or show you favor?" asks the LORD of Hosts. 9 "And now ask for God's favor. Will He be gracious to us? Since this has come from your hands, will He show any of you favor?” asks the LORD of Hosts. 14 "The deceiver is cursed who has an acceptable male in his flock and makes a vow but sacrifices a defective animal to the Lord. For I am a great King," says the LORD of Hosts, "and My name will be feared among the nations.
Verse 1 - An oracle: The word of the LORD to Israel through Malachi.
• Malachi was the last prophet in the Old Testament. When Malachi finished his ministry, the Lord did not speak through another prophet for 400 years.
• Very little is known about the man Malachi. He might have been a priest. What is known is that he lived in a time in which people had begun to fall away from their faith.
• The word “oracle” is from the Hebrew word “masa” and literally means “a burden.”
• Malachi was burdened by what he saw in his society and felt compelled to try to help people see the error of their ways.
• Though sometimes prophets are seen as being judgmental, they are actually motivated by a deep burden over the pain they see in the lives of those who chose a lifestyle of sin.
• What sins do we observe in our culture that burdens us?
• What have we done to address those burdens?
Verse 2 - I have loved you, says the LORD. But you ask: How have You loved us? Wasn't Esau Jacob's brother? This is the LORD's declaration. Even so, I loved Jacob, but I hated Esau.
• The message that God told Malachi to give to Israel was one of love.
• Though Malachi was going to be showing “tough love,” it really was God’s love that Malachi was trying to convey.
• List one example of tough love we have had to show someone else: ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
• Most of us do not like tough love. But real love compels us to do what it takes to actually help others, not just what makes them (or us) feel good for the moment.
• The Israelites were struggling to hear God’s message of love because of the difficulties in their lives, so they asked Malachi how God had demonstrated His love for them.
• When we go through a hard time in our own lives, it is easy to begin to feel like God no longer loves us.
• It is easy to focus on the negative things in life and forget all that God is doing.
• What are some difficult experiences we are having right now in our lives?
· What are positive things God might be doing through the difficulties we listed above?
• Malachi used a unique illustration to point out to the Israelites how God had loved them.
• Malachi said that God loved “Jacob” but hated “Esau.”
• To understand this illustration we must know a little about history. The Jews descended from Jacob and though they were having a hard time, they had been able to return to their land and rebuild their temple and have a somewhat normal life. This was a demonstration of God’s love for them, even in the midst of their struggles.
• The Arabs descended from Esau, whose daughter had married Ishmael, and at that point in history had been utterly decimated as a people. They had not yet been able to rebuild their nation. It lay in ruins no matter what they had tried to do.
• Were the Jews better than the Arabs?
• Did the Jews deserve to be blessed more than the Arabs?
• No. Both groups had done wrong and both groups had received the punishment they had deserved.
• But God, in His mercy and grace, had chosen to help the Jews rebuild their nation.
• God demonstrated His love to them in this way.
• Life may not have been perfect for the Jews, but it was far better than many of the people around them.
• We have all done a lot of stupid things in our lives.
• We have all received the “rewards” for our mistakes and carry certain burdens as a result.
• But sometimes God chooses to bless us in spite of ourselves as a demonstration of His love.
• List some blessings God has given to us in spite of some mistakes we have made:
• We should never doubt the love of God in our lives even when things are not going well.
• We do not have to look far to find someone in far worse shape than we are.
• Whatever we have, as little as it may seem at the moment, is a gift of love from God.
Verse 6 - A son honors his father and a servant his master. But if I am a father, where is My honor? And if I am a master, where is your fear of Me?
• God calls those of us who believe in Him, His children.
• Read John 1:12 and write the main thought of that verse below:
• Children are supposed to honor their parents.
• Read Ephesians 6:1-2 and write the main thought of those verse below:
• Unfortunately, the Israelites had forgotten to honor God as their Heavenly Father.
• List one example of a time we forget to honor God? What was the result?
• God calls Christians to reorder our priorities and to follow Him.
• Read Luke 9:23 and write the main thought of below:
• The Israelites had left God off their priority list and were following their own ways, not God’s.
• Do we ever follow our own way instead of God’s way? Do our priorities get messed up?
Verse 8 - When you present a blind animal for sacrifice, is it not wrong? And when you present a lame or sick animal, is it not wrong? Bring it to your governor! Would he be pleased with you or show you favor?
• The Jews protested Malachi’s strong words.
• They did not see their failure to love God nor did they see their failure to follow God’s ways.
• Malachi points out just one example of how they had failed to love God the way they should have.
• The Old Testament had very strict guidelines about what the people could bring to sacrifice when they worshipped the Lord.
• They were supposed to bring a healthy lamb or goat that was at least a year old and looked perfect.
• The whole point was that it was supposed to cost them something. After all, a sacrifice is not supposed to be free.
• Instead of doing that, they had been bringing sick animals that they could do nothing else with anyway and giving that as a sacrifice to the Lord. This was really not a sacrifice at all.
• Malachi points out that if they had tried to pay their taxes with such a sickly animal, the governor would have rejected it. Yet they thought such a sickly animal would be good enough for God.
• We often think we can give God our leftovers and that it will please Him. List an example of how people in our modern times try to give God leftovers:
• We should be offering God our best because we love Him and we want to serve Him.
• If we gave our spouse or our best friend the kind of love we give God, how long would that relationship last? If someone offered that kind of love to us, how would it make us feel?
Verse 14 - The deceiver is cursed who has an acceptable male in his flock and makes a vow but sacrifices a defective animal to the Lord.
• God was not trying to be mean and demand more than the people could give.
• God would not have been upset if they had given their best, and their best was not as nice as someone else’s.
• God was sad because clearly they could have done better but they tried to deceive God.
• God knows our hearts and sees through all our motivations.
• God knows when we have given our best and when we have given just enough to try to look good in front of others.
Verse 9 - And now ask for God's favor. Will He be gracious to us? Since this has come from your hands, will He show any of you favor?” asks the LORD of Hosts.
• Malachi was trying to help the Jews understand that if they did their least for God, then they should not expect God to bless them.
• God does often bless us in spite of our behavior, but we should not think we “deserve” those blessings.
• Too many people think of God as a cosmic ATM machine. They want to drive by the Lord and make a withdrawal anytime they want to.
• That is not how spirituality works. But even if it did work that way, why would we think we can withdraw something from an account that was already empty!
Verse 14 - . . . For I am a great King, says the LORD of Hosts, and My name will be feared among the nations.
• Malachi explains that the Lord is a great King.
• The Lord’s people are supposed to be a great people.
• If God’s people do not act great, it makes God look bad too.
• Sometimes God has to give His people tough love so that they can get back in line and live right. But it is still love.
Conclusions from Lesson One:
• God always loves us, even when we are going through difficult times.
• God expects us to give Him our best. God knows our inner motivations and whether our effort really is our best or not.
• We cannot live in ways that do not honor the Lord and still expect God’s blessings on our lives.
• We must live in a way that proclaims God’s greatness to those around us.
This is an excerpt from the book Malachi: Finding Hope in the Midst of Adversity. You can find the book on Amazon.