This is the last book of the Old Testament and it is a great one. I have spent the last week studying and reading this little book and it was not a waste of time. As I studied and meditated on this book, it became clear that God was calling His people back to Himself and back to genuine faith.
The name “Malachi” is an interesting name because it is only found in this little book. Nowhere else in the whole of Scripture is his name mentioned. The name literally means “my messenger” and speaks to the heart of the book. Malachi stands as God’s messenger for the people of Israel.
We don’t know anything about Malachi from the Bible itself. All we have are traditions and the views of the early church. Jewish tradition holds that Malachi is to be remembered with the prophets Haggai and Zechariah as men of the Great Synagogue. The Targum (An Aramaic translation of the Hebrew text) says that Malachi was the leader of the Great Synagogue during this time period. It also says that he was a Levite from the village of Sopha in Zebulun.
What we can learn about Malachi is important. As we read Malachi several hints arise that give us some insights into the man himself. He speaks like someone who was familiar with the sacrificial system but from the outside which makes sense for a Levite. He was clearly a man of great piety, who grasped the importance of God’s holiness and the seriousness of sin among the people. He was likely a man of position and courage since he doesn’t hesitate to call out the powerful priesthood and social elites (1:1-14; 2:1-4; 3:2-4). Perhaps the most important is that he demonstrates a serious understanding of the importance of the heart and motive over form and function. Repeatedly, he calls out their absence of anything genuine; the absence of taking it to heart (2:2).
Why was Malachi’s message needed? The conditions of this time are serious and often overlooked. While the second temple has been completed, apathy, doubts, fears, and disillusionment run rampant. They are discouraged and doubting God. The great revival promised by Haggai (2:20-23) and the material blessings (2:6-9) didn’t happen. The stream of former Jews flowing back to Jerusalem wasn’t happening (Zech. 8:1-8), and the completion of the temple didn’t usher in a new Messianic age (Mal. 3:6-12; Zech. 8:9-23). Their ideas of a restored Israel, an Israel as great as it was under David, are quickly fading, and the stark reality of Persian rule resulted in them losing faith in God.
For all intents and purposes, life was tough and trusting in a God they couldn’t see didn’t make sense. This was compounded by the fact that trusting in God didn’t seem to benefit them. Faith seemed to mock them especially when the harsh realities of daily life had to be confronted.
These people needed to be reminded that God still loved them, they needed a message that would encourage them to keep trying to follow God’s will and restore their hopes of a better day ahead.
Let me encourage you to read this great little book again. Read it with an understanding of the discouragement and disappointments of the people. Read it like you’re the one struggling to trust God and the answers are found within the book. It will change the way you read it and hopefully, it will encourage you as God intended.