Sunday, January 28, 2018

Escaping from Dead Religion -- The Book of Malachi

Dear God seekers,

I want to share with you today an important message from the Lord found in the book of Malachi, which is still relevant for us today, despite those who believe it isn't. Let me encourage you to read the book yourself, which won't take long, since it is only four chapters. Among other things, it depicts dead religion and the need to escape from it.

It begins with the words, "The oracle of the word of the LORD to Israel through Malachi." (Mal 1:1). In the Septuagint, the book begins with the words, "The burden of the word of the Lord to Israel by the hand of his messenger. Lay it, I pray you, to heart." Let's listen now to the burden of the Word of the Lord and lay it to heart ourselves.

As it turned out, this is somewhat of a commentary on the book of Malachi, which I trust you will find edifying as I did when I wrote it. Here are some of the topics the Lord spoke about through the prophet Malachi, which are recurring themes in the book:

Honor 
One recurring theme is that of honor. The Lord expects us to honor Him.

“'And now, you priests, this warning is for you. If you do not listen, and if you do not resolve to honor my name,' says the Lord Almighty, 'I will send a curse on you, and I will curse your blessings. Yes, I have already cursed them, because you have not resolved to honor me.'" (Mal 2:1-2, NIV)

"Then those who feared the Lord talked with each other, and the Lord listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the Lord and honored his name." (Mal 3:16, NIV)

He also alluded to the honor that sons have for their fathers when their hearts are in right relationship with them in 4:5-6. He spoke about this explicitly in 1:6, when He said:

“A son honors his father, and a slave his master. If I am a father, where is the honor due me? If I am a master, where is the respect due me?” says the Lord Almighty. (Mal 1:6a, NIV).

Therefore, let's be careful to give the Lord the honor and respect He deserves.

Reverence and Awe
Another recurring theme is reverence and awe, which the Lord also expects us to give Him, and yet they are mostly absent in the Church today. In the prophecy, the Lord speak about how Levi initially revered Him and stood in awe of Him.

“My covenant was with him, a covenant of life and peace, and I gave them to him; this called for reverence (mora) and he revered (yare) me and stood in awe (chathath) of my name." (Mal 2:5, NIV).

The Hebrew word for reverence is mora, meaning fear, dread, or terror. The word for revered is yare, meaning to fear, reverence, or dread. The word for stood in awe is chathath, meaning properly to prostrate; be afraid, be amazed, be scares, or be terrified.

"But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its rays. And you will go out and frolic like well-fed calves." (Mal 4:2, NIV)

Here the Hebrew word for reverence is yare, meaning to fear, reverence, or dread.

For more on this topic, please see my article Bowing Low in Worship and Lifting Hands in Prayer.

Fear of the Lord
Another recurring theme is the proper fear of the Lord, which is still needed today.

“'Cursed is the cheat who has an acceptable male in his flock and vows to give it, but then sacrifices a blemished animal to the Lord. For I am a great king,' says the Lord Almighty, 'and my name is to be feared among the nations.'" (Mal 1:14, NIV)

Here the Hebrew word for reverence is from yare, meaning to fear, reverence, or dread.

“So I will come to put you on trial. I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive the foreigners among you of justice, but do not fear (yare) Me,” says the Lord Almighty." (Mal 3:5, NIV)

"Then those who feared the Lord talked with each other, and the Lord listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in His presence concerning those who feared (yare) the Lord and honored His name." (Mal 3:16)

For more on this, see my articles, Should You Fear the Lord? and Salvation with Fear and Trembling.

Greatness
The Lord proclaims His greatness repeatedly in this prophecy, which is something we need to be reminded of.

"You will see it with your own eyes and say, ‘Great is the Lord—even beyond the borders of Israel!’" (Mal 1:5, NIV).

The Hebrew word for great is gadal, meaning magnified, excellent, large in honor, promoted). This same word is used in the following two verses:

"My name will be great (gadal) among the nations, from where the sun rises to where it sets. In every place incense and pure offerings will be brought to me, because my name will be great (gadal) among the nations,” says the Lord Almighty." (Mal 1:11, NIV)

"For I am a great (gadal) king,” says the Lord Almighty..." Mal 1:14.

His greatness is one reason why we should honor Him, fear Him, and give Him reverence and awe.

For more on this topic, see my articles Who is God? Part I and Part II.

Covenant 
Another theme of Malachi is covenant, which the Lord mentioned repeatedly.

"'And you will know that I have sent you this warning so that my covenant with Levi may continue,' says the Lord Almighty. 'My covenant was with him, a covenant of life and peace, and I gave them to him; this called for reverence and he revered me and stood in awe of my name.'" (Mal 2:4-5, NIV)

The Hebrew word for covenant in the verses above, as well as the ones below, is berith, meaning covenant or compact. The priests had violated the covenant God made with Levi.

"'But you have turned from the way and by your teaching have caused many to stumble; you have violated the covenant with Levi,' says the Lord Almighty." (Mal 2:8, NIV)

The Jews who had returned from exile to Jerusalem had profaned the covenant of their fathers by being unfaithful to one another and taking the daughters of foreign gods to be their wives. In other words, they married heathen women, as recorded in the book of Nehemiah.

"Do we not all have one Father? Did not one God create us? Why do we profane the covenant of our ancestors by being unfaithful to one another?" (Mal 2:10, NIV)

The Jews did not understand why the Lord no longer accepted their offerings.

"You ask, 'Why?' It is because the Lord is the witness between you and the wife of your youth. You have broken faith with her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant." Mal 2:14, NIV78)

“I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the Lord Almighty." (Mal 3:1, NIV).

So as we can see, there are covenants between God and man, as well as covenants that people have with each other, including the covenant that is between a man and his wife. God take all of these seriously.

Breaking Faith
Connected with the theme of covenants is the issue of breaking faith. This is what happens when people violate a covenant.

"Do we not all have one Father? Did not one God create us? Why do we profane the covenant of our father by breaking faith with one another? Judah has broken faith. A detestable thing has been committed in Israel and in Jerusalem: Judah has desecrated the sanctuary the Lord loves by marrying women who worship a foreign god." (Mal 2:10-11, NIV78)

The Hebrew word for breaking faith is bagad, meaning deal deceitfully, unfaithfully, treacherously, act covertly, cover). This word occurs again three times in verses 14-16, which I have underlined below.

"Yet you say, 'For what reason?' Because the LORD has been a witness between you and the wife of your youth, against whom you have dealt treacherously, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. "But not one has done so who has a remnant of the Spirit. And what did that one do while he was seeking a godly offspring? Take heed then to your spirit, and let no one deal treacherously against the wife of your youth. "For 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." (Mal 2:14-16, NASB)

Another way to say "break faith" or "deal treacherously" in English is "to betray, break one's word, break promises, renege."

The Lord said He hates divorce and him who "covers his garment with wrong."

The word for "cover" is kasah, meaning clad oneself, conceal, cover, or clothe oneself. The word for "garment" is leboosh, meaning garment, raiment, clothing, or wife. The word for "wrong" is chamas, meaning violence, wrong, cruelty, or injustice.

Thus there is a double meaning to verse 16, which can also mean, "I hate divorce. It covers your wife with violence. So take heed that you do not deal treacherously." Or as the NIV says, “The man who hates and divorces his wife,” says the Lord, the God of Israel, “does violence to the one he should protect,” says the Lord Almighty. (2:16, NIV). Or as the NIV 1978 version says, "'I hate divorce,' says the Lord God of Israel,' and I hate a man's covering himself (or his wife) with violence as well as with his garment,' says the Lord Almighty." Or as the GNB says, "I hate divorce," says the LORD God of Israel. "I hate it when one of you does such a cruel thing to his wife. Make sure that you do not break your promise to be faithful to your wife."

Since God hates it when people break faith, deal treacherously with their spouses, and He hates divorce, which is a violation of the marriage covenant and literally means "sending away", these things will hinder your prayers. As the apostle Peter said:

"Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers." (1 Pe 3:7, NIV)

For more on this topic, please see my articles, Divorce -- Three Divine Revelations and Adultery According to Jesus.

Accepted or Not 
Another theme in this prophecy is whether one is accepted by God or not, and whether one if pleasing or not. There are certain conditions for this, and it is directly connected with how one treats God, as well as how one treats his wife, as I have just explained above.

“It is you priests who show contempt for my name.

“But you ask, ‘How have we shown contempt for your name?’

“By offering defiled food on my altar.

“But you ask, ‘How have we defiled you?’

“By saying that the Lord’s table is contemptible. When you offer blind animals for sacrifice, is that not wrong? When you sacrifice lame or diseased animals, is that not wrong? Try offering them to your governor! Would he be pleased (ratsah) with you? Would he accept (nasa) you?” says the Lord Almighty.

“Now plead with God to be gracious to us. With such offerings from your hands, will he accept you?”—says the Lord Almighty.

“Oh, that one of you would shut the temple doors, so that you would not light useless fires on my altar! I am not pleased with you,” says the Lord Almighty, “and I will accept no offering from your hands. (Mal 1:7-10, NIV)

The Hebrew word for "be pleased" in verses 8 and 10 is ratsah, meaning pleased with, delighted, enjoy, satisfied. The Hebrew word for accept in verse 10 is chephets, meaning pleasure; acceptable, desire, things desired. The Hebrew word for accept in verse 8 is nasa, meaning accept, desire, receive, regard, or respect.

As the proverb says, "If anyone turns a deaf ear to my instruction, even their prayers are detestable." (Prov 28:9, NIV). Since the Israelites had turned a deaf ear to God's law, He did not accept their offerings. The same is true today if you refuse to follow God's ways.

We see the word ratsah again in verse 13.

And you say, ‘What a burden!’ and you sniff at it contemptuously,” says the Lord Almighty.

“When you bring injured, lame or diseased animals and offer them as sacrifices, should I accept (ratsah) them from your hands?” says the Lord." (Mal 1:13, NIV)

"Another thing you do: You flood the Lord’s altar with tears. You weep and wail because he no longer looks with favor (panah) on your offerings or accepts (laqach) them with pleasure (ratson) from your hands." (Mal 2:13, NIV)

The Hebrew word for looks or regards is panah, meaning look, regard, or respect. The Hebrew word for accepts is laqach, meaning accept or receive. The Hebrew word for pleasure is ratson, meaning delight, desire, favour, or (good) pleasure.

"But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the Lord will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness, and the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will be acceptable to the Lord, as in days gone by, as in former years." (Mal 3:2-4, NIV)

The Hebrew word for acceptable is areb, meaning be pleasant, be pleasing, take pleasure in, or be sweet. Once the sons of Levi have been refined like gold and silver, then they may present offerings to the Lord in righteousness that He will be well pleased with.

For more on this see my article, The Refiner's FirePleasing the Lord, and Prayer That Pleases the Father's Heart.

Wicked and Evildoers 
Another theme that recurs in Malachi's prophecy is that of the wicked and evildoers.

"Edom may say, 'Though we have been crushed, we will rebuild the ruins.' But this is what the Lord Almighty says: 'They may build, but I will demolish. They will be called the Wicked Land, a people always under the wrath of the Lord.' (Mal 1:4, NIV)

The word for wicked is resha, meaning wrong, especially morally, or wickedness.

"You have wearied the Lord with your words. 'How have we wearied him?' you ask. By saying, 'All who do evil are good in the eyes of the Lord, and he is pleased with them' or 'Where is the God of justice?'” (Mal 2:17, NIV)

The Hebrew word for evil in this verse is ra, meaning bad, evil, wicked, wretchedness, harm, trouble, mischief.

“You have said, ‘It is futile to serve God. What do we gain by carrying out his requirements and going about like mourners before the Lord Almighty? But now we call the arrogant blessed. Certainly evildoers prosper, and even when they put God to the test, they get away with it.’” (Mal 3:14-15, NIV)

The Hebrew word for evildoers is a combination of the word for "doers" and the word rishah, meaning wrong (especially moral): - fault, wickedly (-ness).

“'Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and the day that is coming will set them on fire,' says the Lord Almighty. 'Not a root or a branch will be left to them. But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its rays. And you will go out and frolic like well-fed calves. Then you will trample on the wicked; they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day when I act,' says the Lord Almighty." (Mal 4:1, 3, NIV)

The Hebrew word for wicked is rasha, meaning morally wrong; bad person, condemned, guilty, ungodly, wicked (man), that did wrong.

Pure, Righteous, and Godly 
In contrast to the wicked and evildoers is the remnant who are pure, godly, and righteous. This is another theme in Malachi.

The Lord speaks of Levi's faithfulness to the covenant saying:

"True instruction was in his mouth and nothing false was found on his lips. He walked with me in peace and uprightness, and turned many from sin." (Mal 2:6, NIV)

The Hebrew word for peace is shalom, meaning safe, well, happy, health, prosperity, perfect peace, favour, wholly. The word for uprightness is miyshor, meaning concord (agreement or harmony); also straightness, that is, justice, equity, or uprightness.

"Has not the Lord made them one? In flesh and spirit they are His. And why one? Because He was seeking godly offspring. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth." (Mal 2:15, NIV78).

The Hebrew word for godly offspring comes from two words -- zera elohim. The word elohim, which here means godly, is the same word that is often used for God in Hebrew Scripture. In fact, it is used over 2,600 times in Scripture, usually referring to the Supreme God, but sometimes referring to gods. The word zera means offspring, descendants, or seed. Another way to translate zera elohim is a "seed of God" or an "offspring of God."

The seventeenth-century English preacher and Bible commentator Matthew Henry said that the reason God wanted each man and his one wife to remain together in love, harmony, and purity for life was so that "children, being born in holy matrimony...might thus be made a seed to serve Him, and be bred, as they are born, under His direction and dominion."

Malachi wrote about the Lord: "He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the Lord will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness..." (Mal 3:3, NIV).

The word for purify is taher, meaing make bright, pure, physically sound, clear, unadulterated, uncontaminated; morally innocent or holy, clean. The word for righteousness is tsedâqâh, meaning rightness, justice, morally virtue, righteousness.

“'On the day when I act,' says the Lord Almighty, 'they will be my treasured possession. I will spare them, just as a father has compassion and spares his son who serves him. And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not.'" (Mal 3:17-18, NIV)

The Hebrew word for righteous is tsaddı̂yq, meaning just, lawful, righteous.

"But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness (tsedâqâh) will rise with healing in its rays. And you will go out and frolic like well-fed calves." (Mal 4:2, NIV)

This verse speaks of the Lord Jesus Christ when He returns, referring to Him as the Sun of righteousness. The word for righteousness here is tsedâqâh, which I have defined above. For more on this, please see my articles Light of the World, The Righteous Will Shine Forth as the Sun, and Is Practical Righteousness a Lost Truth?

Turning from the Lord and Turning from Sin 
Another recurring theme is that of turning from the Lord, and in contrast to it the act of tuning from sin back to the Lord.

"True instruction was in his mouth and nothing false was found on his lips. He walked with me in peace and uprightness, and turned many from sin." (Mal 2:6, NIV)

The Hebrew word for turned is shub, meaning to turn back, turn away, bring back, bring home again, carry back, convert, deliver, fetch home again, get back again, pull in again, recall, recover, refresh, relieve, repent, rescue, restore, retrieve, cause to return, reverse, send back, cause to turn again, cause to turn away).

"'But you have turned from the way and by your teaching have caused many to stumble; you have violated the covenant with Levi,' says the Lord Almighty." (Mal 2:8)

The Hebrew word for turned in this verse is sur, meaning call back, depart, go aside, rebel, revolt, turn aside, turn away). The was rebuking the priests, because they had rebelled against His ways and caused others to stumble by their teachings. The same is true today of some churches and ministers of the gospel, many of which I have written about on my blog, The Truth of God's Word.

“'I the Lord do not change. So you, the descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed. Ever since the time of your ancestors you have turned away (sur) from my decrees and have not kept them. Return (shub) to me, and I will return (shub) to you,' says the Lord Almighty. 'But you ask, "How are we to return  (shub)?"'" (Mal 3:6-7, NIV)

Since the Jews had rebelled and departed from the ways of the Lord, He was calling them to return back to Him once again. He was giving them a chance to repent. The same is true for those who have departed from His ways today. He is calling us to repent and return to Him once again.

"Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up." (James 4:8-10, NIV).

"Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy." (Prov 28:13, NIV).

For more on this please see my articles Repentance That Leads to Life, The Straight and Narrow Path, Restored Truth, Ask for the Ancient Paths, and Holy Living in a Perverted World.

Oracle, word, message, laws, decrees, and requirements
Another recurring theme is that of the Lord's oracles, messages, laws, decrees, and requirements.

As I mentioned in my introduction, the book begins with the words, "The oracle of the word of the LORD to Israel through Malachi." (Mal 1:1).

The Hebrew word for oracle is massa, meaning a burden, an utterance, chiefly a doom, prophecy; dabar: word, commandment, communication, counsel, decree, judgment, message, oracle. Therefore, this prophecy or message represented the Lord's burden concerning His people. He had a burden on His heart and needed to communicate His warning to them.

"'And you will know that I have sent you this warning so that my covenant with Levi may continue,' says the Lord Almighty." (Mal 2:4, NIV)

The Hebrew word for warning in this verse is mitsvah, meaning commandment.

“So I have caused you to be despised and humiliated before all the people, because you have not followed my ways but have shown partiality in matters of the law.” (Mal 2:9, NIV).

The word for law here is torah: precept; law. Since the priests had shown partiality in matters of the law, the Lord caused them to be despised and humiliated before the people. He said He would smear the dung from their animal sacrifices on their faces.

“Ever since the time of your ancestors you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them." (Mal 3:7, NIV)

The word for decrees is  choq: commandment, decree, law.

“You have said, ‘It is futile to serve God. What do we gain by carrying out his requirements and going about like mourners before the Lord Almighty?’” (Mal 3:14, NIV)

The word for requirements is mishmereth: ordinances.

“Remember the law (torah) of my servant Moses, the decrees (choq) and laws (mishpat) I gave him at Horeb for all Israel." (Mal 4:4).

I know people don't like rules, but even under the New Covenant in Jesus' blood, there are still commandments. For more on this, please see my articles, Remembering the Eternal Law of GodDeleted Scriptures in the Bible?, Faith Works, The Spirit's Law of Life, and Is Obedience Optional?

Curses
Another theme is that of curses.

The book begins with the curse on Edom, which I have already mentioned in 1:2-4. Again, He mentions curses in verse 14:

Cursed is the cheat who has an acceptable male in his flock and vows to give it, but then sacrifices a blemished animal to the Lord. For I am a great king,” says the Lord Almighty, “and my name is to be feared among the nations." (Mal 1:14, NIV)

The word for curse here is arar: bitterly curse. You may not think this has any application for us today, but it does. Do you ever give God second best?

“And now, you priests, this warning is for you. If you do not listen, and if you do not resolve to honor my name,” says the Lord Almighty, “I will send a curse (meerah) on you, and I will curse (arar) your blessings. Yes, I have already cursed (arar) them, because you have not resolved to honor me." (Mal 2:1-2, NIV)

The Hebrew word meerah means an execration or act of cursing.

"As for the man who does this, may the LORD cut off from the tents of Jacob everyone who awakes and answers, or who presents an offering to the LORD of hosts. (Mal 2:12)

The word for cut off is karath: cut off, cut down, perish, destroy. The reason for this curse upon them was that they had married the daughter of a foreign god, which the Lord Almighty had warned them not to do. In other words, they had married heathen women. Believers should not marry believers or they will be unequally yoked. What fellowship has light with darkness?

"He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, so that I will not come and smite the land with a curse." (Mal 4:6)

The word for curse here is cherem, meaning curse, utter destruction. So the wicked shall be cursed, even in the New Covenant, and even if they call Jesus Lord. He said this Himself in Matthew 7:21-23. Our hearts must be turned toward our fathers, especially to our Heavenly Father, to whom we can only come through Jesus Christ. We must do His will or else we will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Jesus said He will tell the evildoers to depart from Him, who call Him Lord, but do not do the Father's will.

"Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing Me! But you say, 'How have we robbed You?' In tithes and offerings. "You are cursed (arar) with a curse (meerah), for you are robbing Me, the whole nation of you! (Mal 3:8-9)

The whole nation was under a curse for robbing God, because they were withholding from Him their tithes and offerings. 

Blessings
In contrast to the curses, another theme is that of blessings.

"'Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,' says the Lord Almighty, 'and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it. I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not drop their fruit before it is ripe,' says the Lord Almighty. 'Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,' says the Lord Almighty." (Mal 3:10-12)

The word for blessing here is berakah, meaning benediction; prosperity, blessing, liberal, pool, present. Just as the whole nation was under a curse for withholding tithes and offerings from the Lord, He commanded them to bring the whole tithe into the storehouse and see how He would bless them so much that they would not have room enough to receive.

Many Christians today withhold their tithes and offerings from the Lord. They don't think they cannot afford it, but they cannot afford NOT to give tithes and offerings. And many pastors and teachers tell people that tithing is not necessary for Christians, which is unbiblical. Giving to the Lord is still required for His saints.

For more on this, please see my articles Is Tithing Required for Christians? and Where Should You Give Your Tithe?

Wrath and judgment 
There is also the theme of wrath and judgment upon the wicked. The book actually begins with this by using Esau, whom God hated, and Edom as an example. He said that the people of Edom would forever be objects of His indignation in 1:2-5.

The Hebrew word for indignation is zaam: to foam at the mouth, that is, to be enraged, abhor, (be) angry, defy, (have) indignation.

The Jews who returned from exile wondered why the Lord was not accepting their offerings, so He told them why.

"You ask, 'Why?' It is because the Lord is the witness between you and the wife of your youth. You have been unfaithful to her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant." (Mal 2:14, NIV)

The Lord was a witness against them in this matter. The word for witness is ud: to protest, to testify, to charge, to bear witness.

"Then I will draw near to you for judgment; and 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." (Mal 3:5)

The word for "judgment" is mishpat: a verdict pronounced judicially, especially a sentence or formal decree, justice, determination, judgment, sentence. The word for witness is ed, a witness; abstractly testimony; specifically a recorder, that is, prince: - witness. For more on this, please see my articles,  Remembering the Eternal Law of God and The Judgment Seat of Christ.

Of course, the last chapter vividly depicts the judgment that will come upon the wicked when the Sun of Righteousness returns:

"'For behold, the day is coming, burning like a furnace; and all the arrogant and every evildoer will be chaff; and the day that is coming will set them ablaze,' says the LORD of hosts, 'so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. But for you who fear My name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings; and you will go forth and skip about like calves from the stall. You will tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day which I am preparing,' says the LORD of hosts." (Mal 4:1-3)

For more on this, please see The Coming Wrath of God and Urgent End Time Warning from the Lord, as well as Prophetic End Time Warnings from Little Children.

Hearts
The theme of hearts is another recurring one in Malachi.

In the Septuagint, the very first verse has the phrase added, "Lay it, I pray you, to heart." The prophet admonishes us to lay this message to heart.

The Greek word for heart in the Septuagint is kardia, meaning heart, mind, spirit, preference of will, inner life, intention.

"If you do not listen, and if you do not take it to heart to give honor to My name," says the LORD of hosts, "then I will send the curse upon you and I will curse your blessings; and indeed, I have cursed them already, because you are not taking it to heart." (Mal 2:2)

The Hebrew word for heart here in 2:2 is leb, meaning heart, mind, feelings. It is also used in Mal 4:6, regarding the restoration of family relationships.

"He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, so that I will not come and smite the land with a curse." (Mal 4:6)

Fathers and sons
Another recurring theme is that of fathers and sons, which the Lord uses to show the kind of relationship we should have with Him as our Father.

“'A son honors his father, and a slave his master. If I am a father, where is the honor due me? If I am a master, where is the respect due me?' says the Lord Almighty." (Mal 1:6, NIV).

The Hebrew word for father is ab, meaning father, which is also the same word used in 2:10 and 4:6, which I mentioned in the last section above. And the Hebrew word for son is ben.

"Do we not all have one father? Has not one God created us? Why do we deal treacherously each against his brother so as to profane the covenant of our fathers?" (Mal 2:10)

For more on this, please see my article, Jesus Alone Reveals the Father and God the Father Almighty.

Husbands and Wives 
As I have already mentioned in my section above on "Breaking Faith," one of the key themes in this book is the relationship between husbands and wives, as expressed in these verses:

"This is another thing you do: you cover the altar of the LORD with tears, with weeping and with groaning, because He no longer regards the offering or accepts it with favor from your hand. "Yet you say, 'For what reason?' Because the LORD has been a witness between you and the wife of your youth, against whom you have dealt treacherously, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. "But not one has done so who has a remnant of the Spirit. And what did that one do while he was seeking a godly offspring? Take heed then to your spirit, and let no one deal treacherously against the wife of your youth. "For 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." (Mal 2:13-16)

The Hebrew word for wife is ishsha: woman, wife. As Paul said, the relationship between a man and wife is a profound mystery that typifies the relationship that Christ has with His church (Eph 5:22-33). This is why husbands must love their wives as Christ loved the Church and must love their wives as themselves. And wives must submit to their husbands. And this is why Jesus said that what God has joined together, let no man separate (Mk 10:9; Mt 19:6). He told the Pharisees, "Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning." (Mt 19:6). It's not God's will for couples to get divorced, but they should remain together in harmonious matrimony.

For more on this topic, please see my articles, Divorce -- Three Divine Revelations and Adultery According to Jesus.

Serving 
Another recurring theme found in this book is that of serving the Lord.

" 'A son honors his father, and a servant his master. Then if I am a father, where is My honor? And if I am a master, where is My respect?' says the LORD of hosts to you, O priests who despise My name. But you say, 'How have we despised Your name?' (Mal 1:6)

The word for servant here is ebed: servant).

“You have said, ‘It is futile to serve God. What do we gain by carrying out his requirements and going about like mourners before the Lord Almighty?" (Mal 3:14, NIV)

The word for serve here is abad: to serve, be bondmen, labour, be a servant, do service, work, worshiper. The Jews were weary of serving God and thus spoke arrogantly against Him. The same can happen to Christian believers when they grow weary of serving God, and find it boring or tiresome to worship, pray, read the Bible, and put the Word into practice. If that is you, then you should repent and ask the Lord to forgive you for having such an arrogant attitude toward Him. He will soon come and we will see how He makes a distinction between those who serve Him and those who do not.

“'On the day when I act,' says the Lord Almighty, 'they will be my treasured possession. I will spare them, just as a father has compassion and spares his son who serves him. And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve (abad) God and those who do not.'" (Mal 3:17-18, NIV)

For more on this, please see my article, Having a Servant's Heart.

Burden
Another recurring theme is that of burden. On the one hand, the Jews found it a burden to serve God, and their hearts were not in it, so the Lord's heart was burdened because of it.

I have already mentioned that the book begins with the words, "The burden of the word of the Lord to Israel by the hand of his messenger. Lay it, I pray you, to heart." (Mal 1:1, LXX)

The word for burden here is massa: burden, utterance, prophecy.

And you say, ‘What a burden!’ and you sniff at it contemptuously,” says the Lord Almighty." (Mal 1:13, NIV)

The Hebrew word for burden here is telâ'âh: distress: - travail, travel, trouble.

Here is another verse where we find this mentioned:

"You have wearied the Lord with your words. 'How have we wearied him?' you ask. By saying, 'All who do evil are good in the eyes of the Lord, and he is pleased with them' or 'Where is the God of justice?' ” (Mal 2:17, NIV)

The word for weary is yaga: to gasp; hence to be exhausted, to tire, to toil, to faint, to labour, to weary. Their attitude toward the Lord wearied Him. As Matthew Henry aptly stated, "It is a wearisome thing, even to God himself, to hear people insist upon their own justification in their corrupt and wicked practices, and plead their atheistical principles in vindication of them." Let us be careful that we do not do the same.

Fire 
Another interesting theme that recurs in Malachi is that of fire.

The first mention of it occurs in 1:10, where the Lord wishes they would stop lighting useless fires on His altar.

“Oh, that one of you would shut the temple doors, so that you would not light useless fires on my altar! I am not pleased with you,” says the Lord Almighty, “and I will accept no offering from your hands." (Mal 1:10, NIV).

The word for fire is "or," meaning to kindle, set on fire.

"But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the Lord will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness..." (Mal 3:2-3, NIV)

The Hebrew word for fire is esh, meaning fire, burning, fiery, flaming, hot. Many people long for the Lord's return, but they will not be able to endure that day or stand when He appears. That's why Jesus taught us to pray that we would be able to stand when the Son of Man appears and escape all these things that are coming to pass (Lk 21:36). We must ask Him to purify our hearts and make them as gold and silver. In order to do this, He will need to refine us with holy fire.

Here is what the Lord's coming will be like for the wicked:

“Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and the day that is coming will set them on fire,” says the Lord Almighty. “Not a root or a branch will be left to them." (Mal 4:1, NIV)

The word for furnace is tannur, meaning a fire pot: - furnace, oven. The word for burn is baar, meaning to set on fire, consume, kindle, burn; lahat: burn, set on fire, flaming, kindle. The word for fire is lahat, meaning to lick, that is, (by implication) to blaze: - burn (up), set on fire, flaming, kindle.

On the other hand, for the righteous, the Lord's coming will be wonderful, even though the Lord will be like the Sun:

" 'But for you who revere my name, the Sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its rays. And you will go out and frolic like well-fed calves. Then you will trample on the wicked; they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day when I act,' says the Lord Almighty." (Mal 4:2-3, NIV)

The Hebrew word for Sun is shemesh, meaning the sun and it's brilliant rays (note that the second half of the word is "esh", which I defined above as fire, burning, fiery, flaming, hot). For the righteous, His coming will bring healing to them and they will be full of joy as they trample the wicked like ashes under their feet, who have been burned up by the holy fire of God (2 Thes 1:7; 2 Pet 3:7).

For more on this topic, please see my articles, The Refiner's Fire and Holy Fire Baptism.

Messenger
Another recurring theme is that of messengers, which is also very interesting.

First of all, the very name of the prophet Malachi found in verse 1:1 is the Hebrew word malaki. It comes from malak, meaning messenger, angel, priest, teacher, or prophet. In fact, in the Greek Septuagint, the word used instead of malaki is angellou, meaning angel or messenger. For this reason, some people believe that "malaki" is not the proper name of the prophet, but an anonymous reference to the messenger through whom the Lord gave this message. This could be possible, especially since there is no genealogy given for Malachi, not even the name of his father, as is usually done by the other prophets (Is 1:1; Jer 1:1, Zech 1:1, etc.), but it is more likely that this was actually the prophet's name.

Interestingly, Malaki the Lord's messenger gave a prophecy to the Levites, who had gone astray from the Lord, and were priests who no longer pleased the Lord.

He said, “ 'For the lips of a priest ought to preserve knowledge, because he is the messenger (malak) of the Lord Almighty and people seek instruction from his mouth. But you have turned from the way and by your teaching have caused many to stumble; you have violated the covenant with Levi,' says the Lord Almighty. 'So I have caused you to be despised and humiliated before all the people, because you have not followed my ways but have shown partiality in matters of the law.' ” (Mal 2:7, NIV).

The Levite priests were supposed to be messengers of the Lord Almighty. That meant they were to be His priests, teachers, and prophets, like angels carrying His messages to the people. But instead they had turned from God's way, and by their teachings were causing many people to stumble.

And after this prophecy was given, it was followed by 400 silent years, in which there was no prophecy or vision. The next prophet to come onto the scene in Israel was the greatest prophet of all time (Mt 11:11; Lk 7:28), John the Baptist, who himself was a Levite. He was the son of a Levite priest named Zacharias, and his mother Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron the Levite priest (Lk 1:5-25). The Scripture says of John the Baptist's parents, "They were both righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord." (Luk 1:6). Therefore we could say that Zacharias was one of the Levites whom the Lord had purified like gold and silver, who brought offerings to the Lord in righteousness. It was this same John the Baptist that Malachi prophesied about in the following verse:

“ 'I will send my messenger (malak), who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger (malak) of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,' says the Lord Almighty." (Mal 3:1, NIV)

In the verse above, there are two messengers spoken of. The first messenger is John the Baptist, who was sent ahead of the Lord to prepare the way for Him. Later on Malachi refers to him again in the last two verses of the prophecy, which was the last prophetic utterance given until the appearance of John the Baptist. He said, “See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes." (Mal 4:5, NIV)

The second messenger that Malachi referred to in Malachi 3:1 was the Messenger of the covenant, the Lord Himself, Whom they were seeking, Who would come into His temple. This is a reference to none other than the Lord Jesus Christ.

For more on this, please see my article, The Three Elijahs. Also see my note below the attribution notice about the image used in this article.

The Day of the Lord
The final recurring theme I would like to end with is the day of the Lord.

"But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap." (Mal 3:2, NIV)

“See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes." (Mal 4:5, NIV).

It's time to get ready, people. Jesus is coming back very soon, and He's only coming for the holy ones. Repent for the kingdom of God is at hand, and escape from dead religion. For more on this topic, please see my articles, The End Has Come, Grieve and Lament for the Church, and Waiting for the Lord's Return.

Attribution Notice: Most Scriptures are taken from the Holy Bible NIV, where noted. Other Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible. The Set Free–Jesus, My Ransom image used with permission from John the Baptist Artworks copyright 2018. This pen-on-matboard piece was created by Christian fine artist Rebecca Brogan of Tasmania, Australia.

An interesting coincidence occurred with this image. After I published the article, I searched for an image of a man breaking free from chains and shackles, and when I found this one I decided to use it for this article to represent being set free by the Lord Jesus Christ from dead religion. When I sought to obtain permission to use the image, I discovered that it was by John the Baptist Artworks, which I had never heard of before. It seems quite coincidental to me that I would choose an image from an art gallery by that name, when I had just written about the references to John the Baptist in the book of Malachi as the "messenger" and "Elijah the prophet."

Author's note If you enjoyed this article. I would like to invite you to read The Three ElijahsThe Refiner's FireHoly Fire BaptismCovenant PrayerThe End Has ComeGrieve and Lament for the ChurchSins That Will Keep You From HeavenAvoid Becoming a Corrupted ChristianDrifting AwayThe Apostasy ParablesYou Must Be Born AgainAbominations in the Sight of GodDeleted Scriptures in the Bible?Striving to Enter the Kingdom of GodSalvation with Fear and Trembling, In the Yolk of Christianity, Angelica Zambrano Heaven and HellMichael Thomas Sambo's Revelation of Heaven and HellOnly the Holy -- Three Shocking Testimonies, and Eudoxia Varga Testimony of Heaven and Hell. Also see the Home page for this blog. You can access my complete blog directory at "Writing for the Master." Now I'd like to ask a very important question.

Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus personally, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Jesus.  Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?

“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15).  He preached that we must repent and believe.

Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"
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Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission. www.dmiworld.org.