Bible Experiment Malachi
This has been a very interesting thought experiment over the last couple years. A thought experiment that has marched me from Genesis all the way through the Psalms and now, finally, to the last book of the Old Testament, Malachi. I have been methodically going through each and every book of the Bible, reading it, and cogitating a bit… and then writing about it for, at the very least, a thousand words. And I’ve said over and over again, I didn’t come up with this idea myself. I originally was reading an Atheist who was doing the very same thing… but he stopped several books back, and unfortunately, never made it to the New Testament. Because, dang, I would have loved to hear his thoughts on the next couple books we are about to get to.
Malachi is an interesting book in that it is very similar to a lot (by alot I mean like 50%? Or more?) of the books in the Old Testament. The people of Israel were moaning and wailing about how bad they had it. How terrible life was. And the Prophet Malachi, speaking on behalf of God, called them out on their double mindedness and unfaithfulness to Him.
The opening of Malachi really transfixed me though. So much so, I want to break it down for you. It’s only a couple verses so just take a deep breath. Gracious. Heheh.
1The oracle of the word of the Lord to Israel through Malachi. 2“I have loved you,” says the Lord. But you say, “How have You loved us?”
Man this thing opens fast. Basically here’s what the book is saying: Malachi’s my prophet… yadda yadda, let’s jump straight to this because you are indicting me and I’m really not a fan. Why? Because I have loved you. And you say… WAH?!? You love us?!? How?!?
“Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?” declares the Lord. “Yet I have loved Jacob; 3but I have hated Esau, and I have made his mountains a desolation and appointed his inheritance for the jackals of the wilderness.”
Let’s go back to the beginning. You have two brothers. No? You have Jacob. And you have Esau. Compare for a second the lives that I have given to the family of Jacob. No? Esau I HATED. Jacob I have loved.
WHAT? So, let’s just jump back to Genesis for a minute where Isaac and Rebekah had two sons. Esau and Jacob. And it was even while they were both in Rebekah’s womb that God chose the Jacob over Esau. The younger over the older. Chose them for what? Oh, nothing, just to be the father of all the people of Israel. The people through whom the Messiah would come and the entire world would be given salvation. Jacob’s name even eventually became Israel. And it was Esau who became the father of the Edomites. So while being the father of a people called the Edomites is fairly uber, and is a blessing, it just wasn’t the blessing that it would be to be the father of Israel. Anyway, here’s the interesting part… well, to me anyway.
“4Though Edom says, “We have been beaten down, but we will return and build up the ruins”; thus says the Lord of hosts, “They may build, but I will tear down; and men will call them the wicked territory, and the people toward whom the Lord is indignant forever.”5Your eyes will see this and you will say, “The Lord be magnified beyond the border of Israel!”
This picture of a ruinous culture and a desolate nation isn’t specifically a picture of the Middle East… though it’s that as well. But it is us. We are the Edomites. We are the ones that have a hardened heart towards God. And whatever we attempt to stand up without God will be torn down. At the VERY LEAST moths, and rust will destroy it. At the very least, our deaths will end whatever legacy we think we have built up for ourselves. Wait, WHAT? We are the Edomites? Well, yeah. If you have a hardened heart towards God, then you are the spiritual descendant of Esau.
But that isn’t what this book is all about. It makes the comment about the Edomites, whom God Hates. And then moves on to a people that say that they love Him, and then they do all manner of duplicitousness. I will come back to the Edomites, and all those that despise God at the end of this book… but for now… we leave them and head towards the people of Israel.
This book is extraordinarily progressive for it’s day. The Prophet Malachi is calling the people of Israel out on their lack of social justice really at every level. Here, check this quote about Jews dissing on the “wife of their youth”…
Malachi 2:15-16 “Take heed then to your spirit, and let no one deal treacherously against the wife of your youth. 16For I hate divorce,” says the Lord, the God of Israel, “and him who covers his garment with wrong,” says the Lord of hosts. “So take heed to your spirit, that you do not deal treacherously.””
It is through the husband, and through the family’s sons that wives were taken care of. So if a husband decided to abandon his first love… it basically meant destitution for this poor woman. Right? God is saying, no. It is on you to take care of your wife. To provide for her. It is uncool to wander off, get a divorce, and abandon your social responsibility. This hate for divorce is so strong that Jesus even comments on it in the New Testament, in Matthew 19:
They said to Him, “Why then did Moses command to give her a certificate of divorce and send her away?” 8He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way. 9And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”
Wait, WHAT? Even in the New Testament Jesus upheld the idea of the spitefulness of divorce. Jesus made it clear that Moses screwed up in giving the people the idea of divorce. Wait, MOSES SCREWED UP? Well yeah. He was a murderer after all. He did beat the crap out of the rock to bring water out of it instead of talking to it like God told Him to. He wasn’t perfect by any means. So why is it so surprising that when Moses gave them the idea of divorce he was wrong?
But Malachi doesn’t stop with rights of wives, or women. He moves on and casts his net extraordinarily far. Here, let me show you:
Malachi 3:5-6 “I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers and against the adulterers and against those who swear falsely, and against those who oppress the wage earner in his wages, the widow and the orphan, and those who turn aside the alien and do not fear Me,” says the Lord of hosts. 6“For I, the Lord, do not change; therefore you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed.
Sorcerers, Adulterers, Liars, Awful Bosses, Those that build walls on the Mexican border, Oppressor of Orphans and Widows. Social justice. God is about social justice. Which is intense, seeing as though for the last few years I’ve been a landlord, and although the law has always been on my side, I have to pay attention to the verses here and take a moment to consider how to act respectfully to my tenants that drive me out of my mind sometimes. Right? Is it better to be right by the law, or to be right before God? Yeah.
Return to Me
The entire Old Testament is 100% about one thing. So many people get caught up in weird craziness that happens in these books. But it really is a simple concept that has been coming back to me over and over and over again as I’ve read it and written about it. It’s completely, and entirely about the God of the universe calling us all… the Edomites, the Israelites… everyone, back to Himself.
RETURN TO ME.
RETURN TO ME.
RETURN TO ME.
Don’t buy what I’m selling? Here, here is the call once again. And sure, in the Old Testament, the call was primarily to the Jews, but there were plenty of examples throughout these 39 books of non-Jews not only coming to know God, but also through whom the Messiah would come from. Let that sink in for a moment. Christ has numerous “heathens” in his lineage. It’s all there in the Gospels, listed out for us all to see in black and white. So he is calling all of us:
3:7“From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from My statutes and have not kept them. Return to Me, and I will return to you,” says the Lord of hosts. “But you say, ‘How shall we return?’
Do you feel yourself moving up onto your tippy toes? Leaning in? HOW SHALL WE RETURN?!? We’ll get to that in the next book we cover. Because it’s a great story. But know, even though we are idiots. And we have despised the God of the universe… He has made a way for us to return. Here, let’s look and see how the entire Old Testament ends. That might give us a bit of a tip as to how we can return? Maybe just a hint?
Final Admonition for 400 years
“Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord. 6He will restore the hearts of the fathers to theirchildren and the hearts of the children to their fathers, so that I will not come and smite the land with a curse.”
That? That is the last word from God for 400 years… until the Christ comes? Wait, what? Come on, just tell me what they are saying in English! Got it. Elijah was a powerful prophet that called the people to repent. To turn away from sin. To this day Jews keep an empty seat at the table during their Seders for Elijah. Literally. But was it literal? No. Jesus tells us in Matthew 11 that this prophesy is in reference to John the Baptist who came as a forerunner for the Christ and called the people to repent. (It’s also mentioned in Mark 1, Luke 1, and Luke 7 if you’d like to crosscheck me there.
But there are also a couple other things going on here. We get a prophesy about John the Baptist. But we also get a view of two different arrivals. The first of Christ on a donkey, coming in peace to restore the people’s hearts to God. To give repentance through the salvific (yeah, I just threw salvific down on you all. hahaha) work of Christ on the cross. But it also, and primarily, calls out His second coming – which will be on a white stallion. Coming in war, to bring justice, and judgement. But we’ll get to that later, trust me. Oh will we get to that.
Completion of the Old Testament
So I’ve already told you the larger, the biggest, take aways of the Old Testament. And that is, Return To Me. If only given three words to explain the Old Testament those would be the best three I think. Maybe God Love You? But nah, that’s better for the New Testament. Return To Me is pretty good. So if God went out of His way to send the message to us all that we ought to return to Him… shouldn’t we? Shouldn’t we realize just how lost and hopeless this world is? How short, flawed, and awful it is? And shouldn’t we draw close to the one thing that actually means something?
Next time? Next time we dive into the New Testament and we wrangle with this Jesus guy and see what He has to say about this life experiment we are living. Can’t wait.