Wednesday, November 7, 2018
The Messenger of the LORD of Hosts
By Dan & Brenda Cathcart
The video version of this teaching is available at: https://youtu.be/QCp36BprfK4
The book of Malachi may be very short, but it is full of prophetic significance. Malachi may not even be the proper name of the author of this book because the word is often used as a title and is from a root word which means ambassador, angel, king, or messenger.
The prophecies of Malachi were given during a time of relative peace in the land of Israel. Many of the Jewish people had returned to the land from captivity in Assyria, and then, later in Babylon. Although the people didn’t have complete autonomous rule of their historic homeland of Israel, the temple had been rebuilt, the priesthood was in place once again, and all was looking well… Or was it? The book of Malachi contains some very specific warnings to the priesthood and the people who have again failed to uphold their obligations under the Mosaic Covenant. And, once again we see the curse of Esau rise up as a thorn in the side of the nation of Israel. We see in the book of Malachi, in yet another generation, we see that the battle and animosity between the twin brothers of Jacob and Esau continues.
Malachi lived in the same general era as Ezra and Nehemiah and probably returned to the land of Israel among the first of many waves of Jews retuning to Israel following the downfall of Babylon. At this time the Temple was rebuilt under the leadership of Zerubbabel.
Ezra 3:8 NKJV 8 Now in the second month of the second year of their coming to the house of God at Jerusalem, Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and the rest of their brethren the priests and the Levites, and all those who had come out of the captivity to Jerusalem, began work and appointed the Levites from twenty years old and above to oversee the work of the house of the LORD.
It is widely accepted that Malachi, along with Zachariah and Haggai, form a triumvirate of important post exile prophets of the LORD. The exact dating of the writings of Malachi are not easy to determine, but were most likely penned around 440 to 430 BCE. During the time Malachi is writing, the rebuilding of the Temple is near completion, sacrifices were being offered as prescribed in the Torah, and Ezra and Nehemiah were in positions of leadership.
The opening verses of Malachi refer to Esau and Jacob, the twin sons of Isaac. This week’s Torah reading is titled Toldot from Genesis 25:19-28:9 and contains the story of Esau and Jacob. Esau was the firstborn and as such would be entitled to the double portion of the inheritance. But, we know the story, Esau sold his birthright to Jacob for a single meal.
Genesis 25:27-33 NKJV 27 So the boys grew. And Esau was a skillful hunter, a man of the field; but Jacob was a mild man, dwelling in tents. 28 And Isaac loved Esau because he ate of his game, but Rebekah loved Jacob. 29 Now Jacob cooked a stew; and Esau came in from the field, and he was weary. 30 And Esau said to Jacob, "Please feed me with that same red stew, for I am weary." Therefore his name was called Edom. 31 But Jacob said, "Sell me your birthright as of this day." 32 And Esau said, "Look, I am about to die; so what is this birthright to me?" 33 Then Jacob said, "Swear to me as of this day." So he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob.
Jacob ended up inheriting the double portion, but also the covenantal promise handed down from Abraham through Isaac. The Haftarah reading for this week gives some insight into God’s position on this.
Malachi 1:1-3 NKJV 1 The burden of the word of the LORD to Israel by Malachi. 2 "I have loved you," says the LORD. "Yet you say, 'In what way have You loved us?' Was not Esau Jacob's brother?" Says the LORD. "Yet Jacob I have loved; 3 But Esau I have hated, And laid waste his mountains and his heritage For the jackals of the wilderness."
But what is meant when God says that He loves Jacob and hates Esau? How are we supposed to understand this statement in light of a loving and just God? Does God really hate Esau and his descendants as we understand the word hate? Unfortunately, the text of Malachi doesn’t really give us much wiggle room or options. Let’s look at the Hebrew text. The word translated as love is #157 Ahav, a primitive root word meaning to have affection for; to be loved or liked. And counter to that, the word translated as hate is #8130, Sane; meaning to hate, an enemy or foe.
We can take this love and hate in a literal sense and would probably not be wrong in our interpretation. However, there is a deeper understanding. God chose to enter into a covenant relationship with Jacob or the nation of Israel and chose not to enter into a covenant relationship with Esau or the nation of Edom. In that sense He loved Jacob and hated Esau. This covenant relationship is on a national level and not an individual level.
From the time of Esau himself, The Edomites had always been a persistent enemy of the nation of Israel and, thus, of God. The enmity began with Amelek, Esau’s grandson.
Genesis 36:12 NKJV 12 Now Timna was the concubine of Eliphaz, Esau's son, and she bore Amalek to Eliphaz. These were the sons of Adah, Esau's wife.
Israel first fought Amalek in the wilderness at Rephidim.
Exodus 17:8-10, 13 NKJV 8 Now Amalek came and fought with Israel in Rephidim. 9 And Moses said to Joshua, "Choose us some men and go out, fight with Amalek. Tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the rod of God in my hand." 10 So Joshua did as Moses said to him, and fought with Amalek. And Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill… 13 So Joshua defeated Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword.
Moses warned the Children of Israel that the LORD would battle Amalek in every generation.
Exodus 17:16 NKJV 16 for he said, "Because the LORD has sworn: the LORD will have war with Amalek from generation to generation."
Amalek is not only an enemy of Israel, but also a vehicle of judgment on Israel for their disobedience throughout their generations. We read of wars with Amalek in Judges, in 1st Samuel, and 1st Chronicles. In each case, God allows Amalek to prevail against Israel because of Israel’s idolatry. The nation of Edom will also be a reminder to Israel of the greatness of God.
Malachi 1:4-5 NKJV 4 Even though Edom has said, "We have been impoverished, But we will return and build the desolate places," Thus says the LORD of hosts: "They may build, but I will throw down; They shall be called the Territory of Wickedness, And the people against whom the LORD will have indignation forever. 5 Your eyes shall see, And you shall say, 'The LORD is magnified beyond the border of Israel.'
In these opening verses of Malachi, God is reminding Israel that He had made a covenant with them and had chosen them to be His people and they were not to act like the Edomites.
Malachi then turns his attention to the priesthood. The priesthood was to be the intermediary between God and His people. The priests of Malachi’s time were guilty before God because they were breaking the special covenant that God had with Levi. God had set the Levites, including the sons of Aaron, apart for His service.
Numbers 3:45 NKJV 45 "Take the Levites instead of all the firstborn among the children of Israel, and the livestock of the Levites instead of their livestock. The Levites shall be Mine: I am the LORD.
Malachi points out their dishonor and disobedience of God using the analogy of a father and son as well as master and servant.
Malachi 1:6 NKJV 6 "A son honors his father, And a servant his master. If then I am the Father, Where is My honor? And if I am a Master, Where is My reverence? Says the LORD of hosts To you priests who despise My name. Yet you say, 'In what way have we despised Your name?'
Malachi was not introducing a new concept here. The people were already familiar with God being like a father and a master.
Deuteronomy 32:6 NKJV 6 Do you thus deal with the LORD, O foolish and unwise people? Is He not your Father, who bought you? Has He not made you and established you?
The Master Yeshua referred to God as His Father and our Father continually throughout His ministry, even in teaching us how to pray.
Matthew 6:9-10 NKJV 9 "In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. 10 Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven.
In Malachi 1:6 He poses a couple of questions as if God Himself is asking them. First is “Where is my honor?” the word honor is #3519 kavod meaning splendor, glorious or honorable. The other question was, if God was their Master, where is the reverence due Him? The word translated as reverence is #4172 mowra, meaning to fear from #3372 Yawray meaning to fear, but also to be held in reverence. Malachi pointed out that the priesthood was not regarding God in in fear and reverence. They were taking their duties lightly. He begins by identifying how they fall short.
Malachi 1:7-8 NKJV 7 "You offer defiled food on My altar. But say, 'In what way have we defiled You?' By saying, 'The table of the LORD is contemptible.' 8 And when you offer the blind as a sacrifice, Is it not evil? And when you offer the lame and sick, Is it not evil? Offer it then to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you favorably?" Says the LORD of hosts.
Defiled food would be inferior quality offerings. Malachi says that they were offering up evil sacrifices by bringing blind, lame and sick animals to the LORD’s altar. The opening chapters of Leviticus specify the nature of the offerings and sacrifices that are to be brought to the Altar of the LORD. These sacrifices were to be of specific animals without blemish.
Leviticus 1:3 NKJV 3 'If his offering is a burnt sacrifice of the herd, let him offer a male without blemish; he shall offer it of his own free will at the door of the tabernacle of meeting before the LORD.
The priests apparently didn’t care or didn’t understand that they were bringing defiled and evil offerings before God. In verse 7 they ask how they have defiled the altar. Malachi seems to say to the priests that if they don’t think their offerings to God are unacceptable, they should try to offer them to the governor! If such offerings were unacceptable to an earthly leader, how much more unacceptable are they to the LORD? The rebuke of the priesthood really hits hard in verses 9 and 10.
Malachi 1:9-10 NKJV 9 "But now entreat God's favor, That He may be gracious to us. While this is being done by your hands, Will He accept you favorably?" Says the LORD of hosts. 10 "Who is there even among you who would shut the doors, So that you would not kindle fire on My altar in vain? I have no pleasure in you," Says the LORD of hosts, "Nor will I accept an offering from your hands.
The LORD, through Malachi, is telling the priests that they should just shut up the temple and walk away. If they are not willing to repent and turn back to God’s covenant with them, it is better to make no sacrifice at all rather than a defiled one! In Malachi chapter 2, God says that a curse will be upon them if they continue their evil practices.
Malachi 2:1-3 NKJV 1 "And now, O priests, this commandment is for you. 2 If you will not hear, And if you will not take it to heart, To give glory to My name," Says the LORD of hosts, "I will send a curse upon you, And I will curse your blessings. Yes, I have cursed them already, Because you do not take it to heart. 3 "Behold, I will rebuke your descendants And spread refuse on your faces, The refuse of your solemn feasts; And one will take you away with it.
The English “curse” is used twice here in verse 2 but there are two different Hebrew words. The second word translated as curse is #779 Awrar. It is a primitive root meaning to execrate or bitterly curse. It is a stronger word than just to curse. This is the same Hebrew word used in verse 14 of the previous chapter.
Malachi 1:14 NKJV 14 "But cursed be the deceiver Who has in his flock a male, And takes a vow, But sacrifices to the Lord what is blemished-For I am a great King," Says the LORD of hosts, "And My name is to be feared among the nations.
This kind of curse is severe. The same word and concept are used in Deuteronomy chapter 27 where the Levites speak to all the men of Israel, pronouncing curses from Mount Ebal.
Deuteronomy 27:14-15 NKJV 14 "And the Levites shall speak with a loud voice and say to all the men of Israel: 15 'Cursed is the one who makes a carved or molded image, an abomination to the LORD, the work of the hands of the craftsman, and sets it up in secret.' And all the people shall answer and say, 'Amen!'
The curses of Deuteronomy 27 are or will be the resultant judgment for covenant unfaithfulness. As with the curses of Deuteronomy 27, Malachi’s pronouncements in verse 3 are generational! The priests of Malachi’s day were not only offering the wrong things with the wrong attitude, they were breaking the covenant that God made with the priesthood through Moses and bringing generational curses on Israel.
First Fruits of Zion in their work Torah Club Vol. 3 – The Haftarah summarizes the fallen state of these priests.
“…If they persisted, the priests could only expect to experience some of the promised troubles specified in Deuteronomy to come upon them. God had no choice but to act with that threat because He was covenantally bound to do so.”[i]
Malachi 2:1 says in part “If you will not hear, And if you will not take it to heart.” The word hear is sh’ma, a word we know quite well. It is #8085 meaning to hear with intelligence with the implication of attention and obedience. The priests were the one class of Israelites who would be closest to the Torah of God. They were the keepers of the Torah and teachers to the people, yet these priests chose not to hear with intelligence and obey!
Malachi also points out that the priests were teaching a corrupted Torah.
Malachi 2:4-9 NKJV 4 Then you shall know that I have sent this commandment to you, That My covenant with Levi may continue," Says the LORD of hosts. 5 "My covenant was with him, one of life and peace, And I gave them to him that he might fear Me; So he feared Me And was reverent before My name. 6 The law of truth was in his mouth, And injustice was not found on his lips. He walked with Me in peace and equity, And turned many away from iniquity. 7 "For the lips of a priest should keep knowledge, And people should seek the law from his mouth; For he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts. 8 But you have departed from the way; You have caused many to stumble at the law. You have corrupted the covenant of Levi," Says the LORD of hosts. 9 "Therefore I also have made you contemptible and base Before all the people, Because you have not kept My ways But have shown partiality in the law."
The priesthood was failing in its duty as teachers of the law in the time of Malachi. This is not unlike Yeshua’s day when He continually rebukes the scribes and Pharisees about their misuse of the Torah. Matthew’s gospel records a series of woes that Yeshua proclaims against the Scribes and Pharisees for essentially the same failure that Malachi pointed out.
Matthew 23:13-14 NKJV 13 "But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in. 14 "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you devour widows' houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. Therefore you will receive greater condemnation.
Malachi’s prophecies deal with the nations of Israel and with Edom. We get a picture of a sovereign God who choses who He will make covenant with and with whom He will not. God holds those in covenant with him to a higher standard. The priests and Levites were charged with teaching the people the ways of the LORD and were consequently held to an even higher standard than the people of the other tribes of Israel. The apostle Paul also wrote of these same principles but applied on an individual basis.
Romans 9:22-23 NKJV 22 What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory,
This Haftarah teaches us that when we enter into covenant with God it is a serious business. We are never to take our responsibilities lightly. We are always to approach God and our salvation with fear and trembling. He is a sovereign God, but He is just and faithful to those who are His chosen and to all those who call on the name of the LORD.
1. Compare Malachi’s instruction in Malachi 1:9-10 with the apostle Paul’s words about bringing false or inappropriate sacrifices before God. How does Paul’s teaching about a “living sacrifice” apply?
2. The Edomites were a continual thorn in the side of the Israelites from the very beginning, even before they entered the promised land. How does Edom play a role in the time of Yeshua?
3. The Haftarah portion spoke of the generational curse placed on the descendants of Esau, the Edomites. Discuss the generational curse described in Exodus 34:6-10 among other places. How are these curses broken?
4. Malachi 1:10 askes if there is one priest who will recognize the grave sin being perpetrated by the offering of defiled sacrifices on God’s altar and shut the doors of the Temple so that no defiled sacrifice can be made. The vest verse Malachi 1:11 speaks about God’s name being “great among the Gentiles.” How do the Gentiles make “a pure offering” before God.
5. The name Malachi literally means “My Messenger.” Read Malachi 3:1 (not covered in this Haftarah) Discuss how Malachi may be a type of John the Baptist.
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