Malachi Warns of Coming Judgment
IN THE early part of 1950 a Christian missionary was going from house to house in one of the poorer sections of Brooklyn, New York. Through the open window of a basement apartment he engaged in conversation a young woman, evidently of Italian extraction. She related how her priest had accused her of living in sin because her marriage had not been performed by a Catholic priest. And what was her reason? Was it because her fiancé was a Protestant? No, he too was a Catholic. Then why were they not married by the priest? Because they could not afford the fee that the priest charged for performing the ceremony.
Some 2,300 years ago similar conditions existed in Jerusalem. Then and there, too, selfish gain was the primary consideration of those who stood before the people and posed as the servants of God. At Jehovah’s command Malachi exposed those selfish, hypocritical religious leaders and warned them of coming judgment. Additionally Malachi foretold a cleansing work that would take place among those who served God in spirit and in truth.
Malachi’s prophecy appropriately closes the Hebrew Scriptures in the generally accepted Gentile versions, as doubtless it was the last of the Hebrew writings given under divine inspiration. The name “Malachi” (or Malachiah) means “messenger of Jah”, and the opinion is held by some that it was merely the name of the office rather than the personal name of the prophet. However, in the absence of any direct statement in the Scriptures to that effect, we will let it rest with the way it appears in the opening verse of his prophecy: “The burden of the word of the LORD to Israel by the hand of Malachi.”—Mal. 1:1, margin.
There is not a single fact recorded regarding Malachi, his ancestry or personal history. The fact that Jehovah used him to give this message would indicate that he was devoted to God; and from the tenor of his prophecy it is quite evident that he was zealous for the name and pure worship of Jehovah and that he felt strong righteous indignation toward those who professed to serve God but who served only themselves.
Neither is there any direct statement as to the time of Malachi’s prophesying. But there are a number of clues in his prophecy that help us to at least approximate the time it was given. He speaks or the Jews as being under the civil administration of a governor. This would fix his prophecy as postcaptivity, as it was only after the seventy-year captivity and their return to Jerusalem that the Jews were under such governors. The fact that the temple service is mentioned but without any reference to the building of the temple would indicate that Malachi prophesied after the temple was completed and therefore also after the time of Governor Zerubbabel.
Nehemiah is the only other such governor mentioned in the Scriptures. And since nothing is stated in Malachi’s prophecy regarding the building of the wall around Jerusalem, it is not likely that this prophecy was given in the early part of Nehemiah’s rule. On the other hand, the conditions that Nehemiah found after his second return to Jerusalem (Nehemiah 13), which was sometime after 443 B.C., bear a striking resemblance to those against which Malachi prophesied. The circumstantial evidence, therefore, all seems to point to the latter part of Nehemiah’s governorship as the time when Malachi prophesied.
Malachi’s manner is direct and forceful. Rather than soaring to heights of eloquence we find him using an abrupt, strongly argumentative style. He reasons, makes comparisons, and gives animation to his prophecy, by continual questionings, much of which he puts into the mouths of his hearers as their objections, and then proceeds to answer them. His manner indicates that these were guilty of gross negligence and most blameworthy, and that they were ready to justify themselves.
His prophetic message opens: “I have loved you, saith Jehovah. Yet ye say, Wherein hast thou loved us? Was not Esau Jacob’s brother? saith Jehovah: yet I loved Jacob; but Esau I hated, and made his mountains a desolation.”—Mal. 1:2, 3, AS.
Reproving the self-serving temple servants, he continues: “A son honoreth his father, and a servant his master: if then I am a father, where is mine honor? and if I am a master, where is my fear? saith Jehovah of hosts unto you, O priests, that despise my name. And ye say, Wherein have we despised thy name? Ye offer polluted bread upon mine altar. And ye say, Wherein have we polluted thee? In that ye say, The table of Jehovah is contemptible . . . ye offer the blind . . . the lame and sick . . . Present it now unto thy governor; will he be pleased with thee?”—Mal. 1:6-8, AS.
No wonder Jehovah says: “I have no pleasure in you . . . neither will I accept an offering at your hand.” But regardless of what they may do, “from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same my name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in every place incense shall be offered unto my name, and a pure offering.”—Mal. 1:10, 11.
Malachi sounds Jehovah’s warning: “If ye will not hear, and if ye will not lay it to heart, to give glory unto my name, saith Jehovah of hosts, then will I send the curse upon you, and I will curse your blessings; yea, I have cursed them already, because ye do not lay it to heart.” And why should not Jehovah be angry with them? “The priest’s lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek the law at his mouth; for he is the messenger of Jehovah of hosts,” but Jehovah tells them that, instead of doing that, they have turned aside from the right way themselves and caused others to stumble. (Mal. 2:1-8, AS) Similar conditions prevail today, even as they did in Jesus’ time.—Matt. 23:13.
Malachi next pleads: “Have we not all one father? hath not one God created us? why do we deal treacherously every man against his brother? . . . let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth.” And further reproving them he says: “Ye have wearied Jehovah with your words. Yet ye say, Wherein have we wearied him? In that ye say, Every one that doeth evil is good in the sight of Jehovah.” (Mal. 2:10-17, AS) Yes, how ready the clergy are to whitewash the wicked; be it a Franco, a Hitler, a Mussolini, a Stepinac, or just a common, ordinary political gangster!
Malachi next describes the coming judgment and its results: “Behold, I send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, will suddenly come to his temple.” It will be a time of great testing: “Who can abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner’s fire . . . he will purify the sons of Levi, and refine them as gold and silver; and they shall offer unto Jehovah offerings in righteousness.” But those who by their course of action show that they do not fear Jehovah will receive swift judgment. “For I, Jehovah, change not; therefore ye, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed.” The evidence has been presented in the columns of The Watchtower time and again showing that in 1918 this messenger, Christ Jesus, came to his temple for judgment and that as a result of his cleansing work there is a clean priesthood today that is presenting offerings to Jehovah in righteousness.—Mal. 3:1-6, AS.
Malachi next shows that those who withhold their offerings from Jehovah are impoverishing themselves. “Ye have turned aside from mine ordinances, and have not kept them. Return unto me, and I will return unto you, saith Jehovah of hosts. But ye say, Wherein shall we return? Will a man rob God? yet ye rob me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. Ye are cursed with the curse; for ye rob me, even this whole nation. Bring ye the whole tithe into the store-house . . . and prove me now herewith, saith Jehovah of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.”—Mal. 3:7-10, AS.
Today, as in Malachi’s time, many who profess to serve God are prone to think it time and money wasted and, comparing their lot with that of others, complain: “Now we call the proud happy; yea, they that work wickedness are set up; yea, they that tempt God are even delivered.” But not so those who fear the Lord. Instead, such continue to encourage one another at the frequent gatherings of the Lord’s people. Jehovah will take note of these and, when he executes his vengeance on the wicked, will spare them as a man spares his own son that serves him. Then all will see who really serves God and who only claims to do so.—Mal. 3:14-18.
These judgments are sure, Malachi warns: “For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up . . . it shall leave them neither root nor branch.” But upon those who fear God will the sun of righteousness rise with healing in his wings and they shall go forth in strength and with joy and they shall tread the wicked underfoot.—Mal. 4:1-3.
Malachi closes his prophecy with counsel to heed the law of Moses and with the warning announcement: “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and terrible day of Jehovah come. And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers; lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.”—Mal. 4:4-6, AS.
Christ Jesus applied this prophecy to John the Baptist, in whom it had a miniature fulfillment. (Matt. 11:14) However, its greater fulfillment has awaited our day, and the facts show that for the past seventy-five years a similar work has been done: to convert the hearts of the fathers or leaders of Christendom to that of being children of God, and the hearts of the children, all people, to their fathers, Jehovah and Christ. Since few are heeding this message, it follows that God will smite the earth with the curse of Armageddon.
Malachi’s prophecy exalts the name of Jehovah of hosts by warning of coming judgment. Let each servant of God examine himself in the light of this prophecy and make sure that his service to God is done unselfishly and in the fear of Jehovah. Doing so he may rest assured that he will receive the blessings that Malachi foretold. Those who continue in the way of hypocrisy and selfishness will receive Jehovah’s curse. Now is the time of judgment!