The Old Testament Presents... Reflections of Christ
by Paul R. Van Gorder
With the prophecy of Malachi, God brought to a close the Old Testament revelation of Himself to His chosen people Israel. For more than 400 years, the heavens would be silent until the stern voice of John the Baptist would thunder the message of repentance in preparation for the coming of the Messiah. Israel would suffer much during those years, and a look at Malachi will reveal the cause of that suffering.
This concludes our study of how Christ is reflected in the 39 books of the Old Testament. ''Malachi'' means ''the messenger of the Lord.'' His prophecy deals with the sad spiritual condition of Israel. He wrote in the period following the days of Haggai and Zechariah, an era which corresponds in so many ways with the close of this present age because of coldness toward God and professionalism among the spiritual leaders. We must remember that man-- wherever he is placed and however hard he may try to lift himself up-- is a wretched failure. Then, as now, the masses of the people were ''lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God, having a form of godliness, but denying the power of it'' (2Timothy 3:4,5).
The prophecy of Malachi was given shortly after the time of Nehemiah. Read the book of Nehemiah and you will find the setting of this prophecy and this threefold description of the corruption in Israel:
  1. The priesthood defiled (Nehemiah 13:7-9,29).
  2. The nation had an idolatrous alliance with the heathen nations around them (Neh 13:23,24). This resulted in the mixed language.
  3. The support of the house of God was neglected (Neh 13:10-12). The Levites were not given their inheritance by the people of Israel. They looked after the temple service and were to be supported by the tithe. But they were working in the fields to provide for themselves, and the house of God was neglected.
At the time when these deplorable conditions prevailed in Israel, God raised up Malachi. He soon began to hurl maledictions at Israel for her sins. Some thought the prophet was old-fashioned; others said he was a troublemaker; still others thought he should keep quiet.

The sad part of the story of Malachi is that the people were not aware of their awful condition. This is noted in seven questions the Jews asked throughout the prophecy. We will look at them more carefully.
  1. In what way hast Thou loved us? (1:2).
    Israel was almost insolent in asking this question. They were so blind that they could not see any indications that God was displaying His love. All Jehovah had to do was ask them to compare themselves with their neighbor, Edom, the descendants of Esau. God had not shown His particular favor to Esau and his descendants, but to Jacob and his children. The fact that Israel failed to see this illustrates the blinding effect of sin.
  2. In what way have we despised Thy name? (1:6).
    Jehovah reminded the Israelites that a son honors his father and a servant honors his master, but that they had no fear of Him in their hearts. How much like today! People profess to be the children of God, but they do not act like it. Their very demeanor indicates that they are bringing disgrace to His name.
  3. In what way have we polluted Thee? (1:7).
    They had been offering animals that were lame and sick and blind for sacrifice. They offered the most contemptible things to their great Creator and Provider. No human governor would ever tolerate such action. Men would not even treat their employer like Israel was treating God. Malachi's words to Israel are certainly applicable to professing Christians today.
  4. In what way have we wearied Him? (2:17).
    Note the context of this question. It has to do primarily with family life, and particularly with the marriage relationship. ''For the Lord, the God of Israel, saith that He hateth putting away [ie., divorce]'' (v.16). The prophet speaks of the judgment that will fall because of this, but the people don't believe it. They don't think God is keeping track. They say, ''Where is the God of justice?'' (v.17). Considering the plague of divorce that is sweeping our land, even in Christian circles, how do we dare think we can escape the chastening hand of God?
  5. In what way shall we return? (3:7).
    Their attitude suggests that they did not even know they had strayed from the Lord. Israel actually thought they were doing God a service. How many today mumble through some prayer, make their declaration of church membership, and speak vaguely of some previous experience, but are not aware that they are far away from God!
  6. How have we robbed Thee? (3:8).
    ''Will a man rob God?'' It is almost as if they respond, ''Preposterous! A man will not even rob a fellow man.'' But God said, ''Ye have robbed Me'' in tithes and offerings.
  7. What have we spoken so much against Thee? (3:13).
    The context in verse 14 indicates that they had spoken against the Lord in both word and action. Oh, they had kept up their religious ceremonies, but [they] were not worshipping God in their hearts. All the while, they were bringing torn, lame animals for sacrifice. And they were trying to outdo each other in making money, procuring divorces, and indulging their lusts.
In the midst of all these people with an empty profession of faith, was a little remnant that feared the Lord. They ''spoke often one to another; and the Lord hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon His name'' (Mal 3:16).

Then Malachi leaped the centuries and saw the time when men shall be rewarded. A remnant of Israel, the ''hidden treasure'' of Matthew 13, will experience the fulfillment of Jehovah's words: ''And they shall be Mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up My jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him'' (Malachi 3:17).

Chapter 4 of Malachi speaks of that day of judgment when the proud and the wicked shall be like stubble. But to those who fear His name, the appearing of Christ will be the ''Sun of righteousness'' (v.2), arising with healing in His wings.

Thus the Old Testament canon is brought to a close. In every book, the person and work of the Lord Jesus is reflected, pointing forward to His incarnation, His perfect life, His sacrificial death for our sins, His victorious resurrection, and His glorious return to defeat Satan, to purge the world of evil, and to establish His kingdom of righteousness and peace. We have seen the One of whom it is written, ''It pleased the Father that in Him should all fullness dwell'' (Colossians 1:19).

See the Book Notes on Malachi for a verse by verse study of this book.

Return to table of contents for ''The Old Testament Presents... Reflections of Christ,''
written by Paul R. Van Gorder, Copyright 1982 by RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI.
Used by permission [within The Book from].
Further distribution is not allowed without permission from RBC.

For another brief look at this book of the Bible,
see the related chapter in Christ in All the Scriptures, by A.M. Hodgkin.

Go to The Book opening page.