Well, Hello December! How on earth is it almost Christmas?! It seems that time speeds up with each passing year, and I can hardly catch my breath during these weeks leading up to Christmas. You too?
I can’t help but think about what a stark contrast our hustle and bustle would have felt like to the recipients of the book of Malachi. That’s right, we’re jumping in, just like I promised a few weeks ago on social media. I’ve been studying this short, final book of the Old Testament, and I’ve been so eager to share with you all some things I’ve been learning.
Malachi is a short four chapters. You blink, and you miss it if you’re flipping through too quickly. It’s the final inspired message of the Old Testament to a group of people who were awaiting the promised Messiah. At the close of this short book, another 400 years would lapse before the Holy Spirit would inspire more words to be penned on the pages of Scripture. Four hundred years before the birth of Jesus. Four hundred years of perceived silence from God.
So, what is this final book about? What message is delivered through its words? What truths and principles and convictions can you and I pull from it today, a few thousand years later?
1. God always starts with love.
This final, prophetic message of the Old Testament is filled with words of warning and rebuke against the sins of God’s people. Through the mouth of Malachi, God addresses the disobedience of the priests, the people’s unfaithfulness to God, impending judgment for their sins, and he finishes with a final warning. At first glance, this book is a tough one to swallow with some particularly difficult verses packaged within it.
Still, you cannot miss the opening lines of this incredible book:
“I have loved you,” says the LORD. (Malachi 1:2a)
God starts with love. Take a deep breath, and let that message soak in for a minute. He begins His interaction with a wayward and wicked group of people with His love. It’s His character. Yes, He goes on to address their sin and warn them of continuing in it, but He starts the conversation with something that has the ability to soften their hardened hearts: His perfect love.
2. Elevate the message above the messenger.
We live in a celebrity culture, and the church is certainly not immune to it. Our humanness propels us to elevate people and things about God and His Word. We know little to nothing about the author of this book apart from his name, Malachi, and I find that incredibly fitting. Because it’s not about him. He’s just the messenger. It’s about the message. Out of the 55 verses within the book of Malachi, God is speaking in about 47 of them. Malachi knows his role, and it is one of a messenger. He’s just the tool being used.
It’s really easy for us to elevate the person who is delivering the message each weekend at church or in our women’s Bible study, but that person is not meant to be in the place of God. We are to follow the message, and the message is the Word of God. The message is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That is what we are to elevate, and Malachi sets a perfect example of this for us today. Let God speak. Let His voice be loudest in your life.
3. Worship the One True God alone.
If there is one more over-arching theme throughout Malachi, it’s this:
We have a loving and holy God who calls us to sincere worship of Him and Him alone.
He will never excuse our idolatry, not ever. The primary sin of God’s chosen people was simply that: idolatry. They continued to place lesser things in God’s place, and they repeatedly reaped the consequences of that sinful choice. How fitting that the final words of the Old Testament before a 400 year period of silence would be yet another reminder to turn from this sin and to put God back in His rightful place.
As much as we would like to distance ourselves from this sin, our current culture and society reeks of it, and once again, the church is not immune. Anything for which our hearts hold greater affection than Christ is an idol, and it must be torn down for us to live in harmony with God. If we could receive but one principle from the book of Malachi today, let it be this. Keep God in His rightful place. Worship Him alone. Not one single minute of the pursuit of Him will ever be in vain.