Lesson 269: "The Final Old Testament Warning"
In the beginning, God made the heavens and earth and He said it was good. “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it” (Gen. 1:1-25, Ps. 24:1)! This may very well have been God’s last happy moment for over two thousand years. He created male and female to fellowship with Him and so they could populate His earth. They chose the ways of Satan! “The Lord was grieved that He had made man on earth and His heart was filled with pain” (Gen. 6:6)! God flooded the earth; wiped it clean; saved Noah and his sons and once again populated His earth and once again man went the way of Satan (Gen. 9:18-20). It seems man was destined to self-destruct! God gave them all He had but they continued to go their own way; the way of Satan through idol worship, disobedience and rebellion. From the beginning God has required worship from man. Worship is, or should be, a natural quality within the Creator-created relationship, not because He needs anything we have to give but because He gave us all we have (Acts 17:25). We cannot survive spiritually without worship to fill our hearts any more than we can survive physically without air to fill our lungs.
In vain Israel worshiped and turned a deaf ear to the Law. Even their prayers were detestable (Pro. 28:9). Throughout the Old Testament God’s wrath raged! No one could blame Him! He rescued His people from Egypt (Ex. 3:10), fed and clothed them in the wilderness (Ex. 16:4, 13-15, Deut. 29:5). He performed miracles upon wonders to bring His people to the Promised Land’ however they ignored the powerful works of God and continued to build idols at every turn. God sent prophets to guide them with His Words but the rebellious nation demanded a king (1 Sam. 8:5-22). Out of the thirty nine kings only four were listed as “good”. As you can see the people were sliding downhill at an alarming rate. Even before the reigns of the kings, in the days of the Judges, everyone did as he saw fit (Jud. 21:25). God began to send a string of prophets to warn His people of the coming judgment if they did not turn from their evil ways and return to Him but to no avail. “The truth had perished from the land” (Jer. 7:28)! Jeremiah prophesied that the people would be set free from exile and return to rebuild their land. The temple was being rebuilt, the walls of Jerusalem were reconstructed, and things were looking brighter, but Nehemiah left Jerusalem and temple worship fell apart.
During this time, when the Commandments of God were being ignored, God brought the prophet Malachi with His Word to Israel. This book would be God’s final prophetic Word before the coming of the Messiah. The ever complaining Israelites accused God of not keeping His promises to bless those who served Him. They claimed their services to Him were useless. With every statement from God that Malachi repeated to them, they argued, contradicted and questioned. “How have we wearied Him” (Mal. 2:17b)? “Where is the god of justice” (Mal 2:17c)? “How do we rob you” (Mal. 3:8b)? “What have we said against you” (Mal. 3:13b)? They had arrogant hearts, offensive language and an air of aloof contempt for the Lord. “You have said harsh things against me”, ‘says the Lord”’ (Mal. 3:13)! It was as if the people of Israel were having a bitter gossip session against God and denied knowing this was offensive to Him. They no longer found pleasure in worshiping God but were asking; “what do we gain by carrying out His requirements” (Mal. 3:14)? These arrogant people thought of a sacrifice as a burden and “sniffed at it contemptuously” (Mal. 1:12b). They grew lazy and stingy, bringing only the crippled and diseased animals to the altar. The priests were neglecting their duties, turned away from the ways of the Levite priests and were causing people to stumble. Everyone disregarded the marriage laws and were breaking the covenant of their vows. They were adulterers and perjurers; oppressed the widows, deprived aliens of justice and no longer feared the Lord.
Since their thinking was that He did not keep His promises of blessings that neither would He fulfill His warning of judgment. Some today are thinking the same way. The spiritual conditions confronted by Malachi in the post-exile Jerusalem are distressingly similar to some of our conditions in churches and Christians’ homes today. The message of Malachi was God’s last words to Israel before the coming of the Messiah. After Malachi, god did not speak prophetically to His people again for four hundred years, until “John the Baptist came preaching in the Desert of Judea” (Matt. 3:1). The warnings in the book of Malachi should be just as terrifying as they were in 435 B.C. and the hope of the Messiah’s Second Coming should be just as glorious as the hope the few had who feared the Lord and honored His name in Malachi (Mal. 3:16-18). The Lord is coming to refine and purge His people (Mal. 3:1-3) and the day of His coming will consume with a burning that will leave the ungodly neither root nor branch (Mal. 4:1). The trouble in Malachi’s age was later described by Paul, referring to the Gentiles; “although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God nor gave thanks to Him” (Rom. 1:21).
The people then and the people now simply fail to fear God! The Lord of Hosts was and is no longer being honored and revered. “Reverence is not the homage which weak minds pay to religious tradition and the status quo; it is rather the loving, sincere and practical recognition of the greatness of God” (John Benton”! “Why do you break the Command of God for the sake of tradition” (Jesus Christ – Matt. 15:3)?
When God bestowed the priesthood upon the Levite family of Aaron, He assigned responsibilities to them. One of these duties was to instruct the nation in the Law of Moses (Lev. 10:11). The priests were to play a critical role in seeing that Israel knew the Scripture and worshiped properly. In Malachi the priests were negligent in their duties and were forcefully rebuked. We Christians are; “a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God “(1 Pet. 2:9). We too, are called to the duty of telling the world about Jesus (Matt. 28:19-20). We are to be prepared in season and out to preach the Word of God (2 Tim. 4:2). Malachi was the final Old Testament warning to repent and come back to God. God has given us His all (John 3:16) and Revelation will be the final warning! There will be no second chance with this final warning to change your mind (Rev. 20:15). “Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion. They were not able to enter, because of their unbelief” (Heb. 3:15-19).