One of the primary things that we desire as humans is respect. As a matter of fact, a decent human civilization cannot be built without respect for one another. We are seeing this in the news daily. It seems as if people have lost the ability to respect a differing opinion, and it is causing chaos all around the world. When people refuse to listen to one another, and truly LISTEN (not just talk about “having a conversation”), then there is no room for improvement.
But I digress. The topic of respect is a constant theme throughout the book of Malachi. God feels disrespected, and he has every right to feel that way. There are three main reasons why: the priests were offering blemished sacrifices, the people were leaving the wives of their youth and marrying foreign women (making the same mistake their ancestors made time and time again), and the people were robbing God in their tithes and offerings.
Malachi is positioned last in the Old Testament, but it also appears to be the last book in chronological order in the Old Testament. It was probably written around the same time as Nehemiah, several years after Israel had returned from captivity. There is nothing given to us about Malachi aside from his name, which simply means “messenger”. Malachi’s message was simple: the people need to repent of their ways or there will be judgment.
After Malachi’s accusations against the priests and people of Israel in the first two chapters, he interjects a prophecy about the Messiah. He says that the Lord will suddenly come to his temple, and that he will be like “a refiner’s fire” and “a purifier of silver”. The indication is clear. The Messiah’s intention was to cleanse humanity, and Israel in particular. Israel would see their God face to face, and he would offer them the cleansing from their sins that they so desperately needed.
Malachi shows us that the only hope for fallen Israel is God Himself. As much as Israel tried to do the right thing, they just couldn’t seem to stay on the right path for very long. Their history is full of constant backsliding and turning away from God. They had seen the miraculous hand of God at work in every generation, and yet they could not seem to remain faithful to the One who had been so faithful to them. They needed a Savior to give them new hearts, and to put a new spirit within them, as Ezekiel said.
We have a tendency to be hard on Old Testament Israel. I have heard many preachers preach messages on their constant backsliding, and it is true. Yet, are we any different? In some ways we are worse. We have the opportunity to receive the Spirit of God. We can actually have God living inside of us! Old Testament Israel did not have that opportunity. Yet we have a tendency (me included!) to treat the grace of God with disdain, and not realize the tremendous gift we have been given.
Like Old Testament Israel, we don’t revere or respect God the way he deserves. Instead, we put him somewhere on the back burner while we pursue money, careers, houses, and other temporal things that will simply fade away. Again I ask, are we really that different from Old Testament Israel? No, we seem to make the same mistakes over and over and over again.
One of my favorite quotes in the entire Bible is found in Malachi 1:14. Through the prophet, the Lord declares “…I am a great king, and my name is feared among the nations.” We serve a Great King! We don’t serve some deaf, mute, or dumb idol. We serve the Lord of lords and King of kings. We serve the very One who created everything that we see around us, and His name is certainly worthy of praise!
Malachi teaches us that respect for God is of the utmost importance. Our worship, our choices, and our giving all reflect how we truly feel about Him. Before you offer that worship, think about how God views it. Before you give or don’t give that offering, think about how God views it. Before you make that choice in who you marry or what career you pursue, think about how God views it. God should be first in everything, and he should be respected in the way he deserves.