By Joseph Ametepe
Malachi is the second of four books in the Bible that begins with the letter M (the first is Micah in the Old Testament, the third and fourth are Matthew and Mark in the New Testament). Malachi was the last Old Testament prophet who prophesied about a century after the Jews returned from Babylonian exile. The name "Malachi" means "my messenger." It is an appropriate designation of a prophet of God. Malachi 2:7 describes a faithful priest as the messenger of the LORD of hosts. Although Malachi's name and title of the end time figure in Malachi 3:1 (my messenger) are identical, they are not the same person. Malachi, a fifth century B. C. prophet, cannot have been the end time messenger who will prepare the way before the Lord, who is also described as "the messenger of the covenant "(3:1). Malachi had a strong sense of being God's mouthpiece as any of the prophets who had preceded him and he often spoke with the voice of God.
The book of Malachi is unlike any book of the Bible because several portions of it are written in a question and answer format. In fact, it is one of the most argumentative books of the Bible. The superscription of Malachi makes it very clear that the book is a communication from Yahweh to His covenant people Israel, (yisrael) through His chosen messenger, Malachi. Malachi was not only the last prophet of the Old Testament, but he was also the most obscure prophet in the Old Testament. Nothing at all is known of his personal life. The book does not mention the name of his father nor the place of his birth nor does it indicate the time he ministered. Although the circumstances of his life are entirely unknown, yet there are several significant lessons we can learn from his life and ministry. He was a humble servant of Yahweh. He was a man whose heart was set on honoring the Lord his God. He was also an honest messenger of Yahweh. He had a holy reverence for Yahweh. His hope was fixed on Yahweh alone. The book of Malachi was written to confront the complacent and careless spirit that had developed among the Jewish returnees. It was also written to call God's covenant people back to God. It was also written to comfort the godly remnant in Judah and to caution the nation of the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.
Bible commentator William shares this brief and blessed insight on Malachi: "Malachi, has distinction of being the last of the prophets and the bridge between the two testimonies, looking forward both to John the Baptist and the Lord Jesus Himself. It has been pointed out that Malachi is well-named, "my messenger" because in these four short chapters the prophet describes three messengers-the priests of the Lord (2:2), John the Baptist (3:1a) and our Lord Himself." Also, from the Nelson's Pocket Reference Bible Handbook comes this quotation: "The divine dialogue in Malachi's prophecy is designed as an appeal to break through the barrier of Israel's disbelief, disappointment, discouragement. God reveals His continuing love in spite of Israel's lethargy. His appeal in this oracle is for the people and priests to stop and realize that their lack of blessing is not caused by God's lack of concern, but by their disobedience of the covenant law." Bible Commentator Charles L. Feinberg adds: "Malachi's message is, for the most part, rebuke and condemnation. The spirit of the people manifested in his day developed into sects of the Pharisees and Sadducees. The moral and spiritual conditions of Israel in his day are those of professing Christendom today. The spiritual life of the remnant who had returned from Babylonian captivity is fully portrayed. They were insensible to the great love of God displayed toward them. They were unaware of the enormity of their departure from the will and way of the Lord. They lacked reverence for the Lord and actually despised Him. They were so lacking in spiritual perception that when their deeds were pointed out to them (and this is not mere literary), they saw no harm in them."
Clearly, the purpose of the book and the above quotations show how relevant the message of Malachi is for our times. Just as God called His covenant people to return to Him in the days of the prophet Malachi, so also He is calling His Church today to return to Him. Just as God comforted the godly remnant in Judah and Jerusalem in Malachi's days, so also God is comforting his godly remnant today. Just as God cautioned the nation of Israel of the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord, so also He is warning believers and unbelievers alike of the coming of Christ. God continually loved Israel in the days of Malachi in spite of their lethargy and complacency. He is faithfully loving believers today in spite of our failures and faults. Oh the love of God! It is enduring and unconditional. The prominent doctrines taught or illustrated in Malachi include: the person of God, the preservation of God, people of God, the purity of God, the punishment of God, the promise of God, the peace of God, the prophecy of God, the possession of God, the pleasure of God, the preparation of God, the persistent love of God.
Although Malachi is considered a minor prophet, yet his book contains several relevant spiritual lessons for God's believing people today. It is therefore my prayer that the Holy Spirit will enable us to listen very carefully to its timeless, tested, and trustworthy principles and precepts for our own spiritual growth and good. And that, in doing so, He will train and transform us more into the blessed likeness of our Lord Jesus Christ in such a time as this. May God richly bless you as you listen to the verse by verse exposition of the profound and practical prophetic book of Malachi!
Malachi's prophecy was received during the time in history when the Medo-Persia Empire was the dominant world power. The map below illustrates that.