In all of God’s dealings with Job, the why’s and wherefore’s, for his sufferings resolved into nothing less than God’ Sovereignty over all. Apart from knowing that God was testing his faith the reason for his great trials remained unknown, at least for the present, to this man of God.
In a much later age, after the Jews had returned from the Babylonian exile, God’s people were perplexed by His dealings with them.
The prophecy of Malachi was the last to be received by the Jewish people before a long silence of several hundred years until the coming of Christ whose coming he prophesied.
It was a last warning to the people and their leaders to change their ways or face the terrors of “The day of the Lord”.
God’s message is delivered by the prophet to the priests who seemed to have a chief hand in the grumbling and grousing. While they bore most of the guilt, there is no doubt a wider application here to the people at large. It was truly said in the past “like priest ,like people”.
It seemed that despite their observation of the form and ritual of God’s temple and maintaining His worship, something was still not quite right. The showers of blessings the people expected to receive from God had not eventuated. God it seemed was not fulfilling His great promises or paying what He owed them and therefore they felt cheated.
God had indeed brought them back to their homeland, yet it was in reduced circumstances, in the midst of enemies and under foreign rule.
The temple and its ritual had been restored and but it was now far less spectacular in comparison to its former splendor. Despite this the Jews continued their round of observances and endured their tediousness with no visible results and acknowledgment by their God.
The returned exiles even if they did not outwardly express it, began to question the reality of God’s love for them and wondered whether it was really worthwhile to worship Him in the face of His seeming neglect to acknowledge and bless their efforts.
It was to deal with this situation that God sent His word by the prophet Malachi. The burden of the prophet’s message was to address this seeming discrepancy and answer the people’s unspoken questions and grumblings.
The Jews in Malachi’s time were really questioning God’s love for them.
In the light of God’s great mercies, deliverances and blessings in the past, why were they now eking out their daily existence and existing as strangers and slaves in their own land.
The foundation upon which the prophet’s message rested was God’s past and continuing love for His people.
“I have loved you,” says the Lord. But you say, “How have you loved us?”Malachi 1:2
This love was based on God election of Jacob over his brother Esau based on His own will and purpose.
“Is not Esau Jacob’s brother?” declares the Lord. “Yet I have loved Jacob but Esau I have hated. I have laid waste his hill country and left his heritage to jackals of the desert.”Malachi 1:2-3
(In this day and age when preachers are telling a person that God has a purpose for their life, they should remember that there are more Esau’s than Jacobs in the World.)
When God places His love upon a person it does not fail, the Jewish people were loved for the sake of the Election and choice of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
For us today, our salvation is based on God’s choosing of his people in Christ from all eternity without any regard for supposed merit.
In answer to this declaration of Divine affection the people can only exclaim “How have you loved us?” Where is the proof? Why are we living on crumbs?
For every charge God made against them the guilty parties turn back against Him with a mock surprise as if all was well and God was mistaken and unfair in His charges against them.
What a terrible state of affairs when God’s own people set themselves up to judge Him. Yet how often do we do it still?
Malachi lays the reason for God’s withheld blessings at the door chiefly of the priests, who should have known better, and to the people generally.
It was because of the fundamental lack of reverence among them for God and His ordinances and worship.
The people had so little regard for God that anything would suffice for an offering. Instead of giving their best they gave the inferior and polluted. They regarded the temple service with contempt and exhibited weariness with what should have been “Their reasonable service”.
For us today,this is seen in the unending search by the Churches for novelty, excitement and variety in worship and by congregations being discontented with simple Bible teaching and unadorned worship services.
As a result they are half hearted and lackadaisical in their worship and withhold their best from God’s service until they “get their money’s worth”.
Mostly they go somewhere else where they can find the “spiritual highs” they crave.
There is nothing new “under the Sun”.
It was not only the consequences which befell the Jews as a result of their lack of reverence for God, but it had a far wider aspect in regards to God’s standing and the glory of His name among the Gentiles and unbelievers.
“For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name will be great among the nations, and in every place incense will be offered to my name, and a pure offering. For my name will be great among the nations, says the Lord of hosts”. Malachi 1:11
If God’s own people were contemptuous of His service then the Gentiles would be excused in thinking that The God of Israel was no more than just another deity of the sort they themselves worshipped.
Today if we believe that God’s worship requires “jazzing up”, worldly gimmicks or man pleasing teaching, what does it say of our idea of God? When we spend our time listening to the world and follow its trends instead of listening to His Word, what message does that send to the unbeliever?
Man already thinks he is the be all and end all,
The sinner wants a religion made to his measure. For the church to confirm him in this illusion makes it more difficult for him to ever come to the throne of God and hear the truth about his sinful state and need repentance and the genuine salvation found in Jesus Christ.
For the Believer to give less than his best for the service of God because it does not cater to his fleshly pleasure and desires or result in immediate and earthly benefits is a grave sin.
Our idea of what constitutes a blessing is often coloured by our carnal and worldly perspective.
We are already blessed far more abundantly than our inherent sinfulness deserves. Very often we are far more blessed in what God withholds as well as in what He gives.
For the priests as well as the people, God had a message which he expected to be listened to. He laid before them the alternatives, if they heard and obeyed they would be blessed in the highest and most enduring ways, if they did not listen and disobeyed they could expect more of the same curse only worse.
If anyone could be expected to adhere in faithfulness to God and His commands it should have been the priests. They were the ones who declared God’s truth, so when they went astray the nation was really off the tracks and heading for ruin.
So today, when many notable figures in the church are teachings doctrines foreign to God’s Word and many follow their lead ,we can expect the same dire consequences unless we remain firmly holding the truth.
There is much in the book of Malachi which repays study and it was appropriate that G.Cambell Morgan entitled his particular work “Malachi’s Message for Today”.