Lessons From the Scriptures: Malachi 1:1–4:6
The True Lord Comes for Judgment
“IT IS of no value to serve God.” (Malachi 3:14) Such skepticism was voiced by God’s own people when Malachi prophesied in the fifth century B.C.E. Why? Because deplorable conditions existed in Judah, especially among the priests. Selfish gain was their primary objective. In a direct and forceful manner, Malachi exposed those hypocritical religious leaders and warned that the true Lord was coming for judgment.—Malachi 1:6-8; 2:6-9; 3:1.
Malachi’s prophecy has a fulfillment in our own day. Therefore, we do well to consider the lessons it contains.
Despising God’s Name
Jehovah expects his people to offer him their best. God first expresses his love for his people. Nevertheless, the priests are despising his name by accepting from the people blind, sick, and lame animals for sacrifice. Jehovah has no delight in the self-serving priests or in the inferior offerings of their hands. But regardless of what they do, Jehovah’s “name will be fear-inspiring among the nations.”—1:1-14.
Those who are teachers have a heavy responsibility. (James 3:1) The priests have “caused many to stumble in the law.” How so? By failing to instruct the people in God’s law and by showing partiality. Jehovah is rightly angry with them, “for the lips of a priest are the ones that should keep knowledge, and the law is what people should seek from his mouth.”—2:1-9.
Jehovah does not view lightly those who show disregard for the marital arrangement. Contrary to God’s law, the men of Judah have taken foreign wives. (Deuteronomy 7:3, 4) They have dealt treacherously with the wives of their youth by divorcing them. Jehovah “has hated a divorcing,” Malachi warns.—2:10-17.
Judgment and Refining
Jehovah does not forever tolerate wrongdoing. “The true Lord” will come to his temple, accompanied by “the messenger of the covenant.” He will refine and cleanse the sons of Levi. Jehovah will become a speedy witness against sorcerers, adulterers, those swearing falsely, defrauders, and oppressors.—3:1-5.
Those who withhold their offerings from Jehovah are impoverishing themselves. Jehovah is unchanging. If the wayward people return to him, he will mercifully return to them. They have been robbing God by withholding the tithes and the contributions. But if they bring in the tenth parts, Jehovah promises a blessing “until there is no more want.” They will experience unfailing fruitage.—3:6-12.
Jehovah’s eyes are upon his people. God takes issue with those who have spoken strong words against him. In contrast, he pays close attention to those in fear of him. “A book of remembrance” will be written for “those thinking upon his name.” His people will see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked.—3:13-18.
The Day of Jehovah Is Coming!
Jehovah’s day will mean complete destruction for the wicked. Jehovah’s day is coming, and the wicked will be consumed like stubble in a burning furnace. They will be devoured, leaving ‘neither root nor bough.’ As for those in fear of Jehovah’s name, they will enjoy the healing benefits of “the sun of righteousness.” Before the coming of this fear-inspiring day, Jehovah will send Elijah the prophet to do a restoration work.—4:1-6.
Lessons for today: When it comes to worship, Jehovah requires that his people offer him their best. (Compare Matthew 22:37, 38.) Teachers of God’s Word have a responsibility to instruct properly and to lead others in true worship. We do well to remember that the eyes of the God of justice are upon those who fail to show proper respect for marriage and those who engage in wrongdoing. May we humbly submit to the refining and cleansing process of the true Lord as we eagerly await “the coming of the great and fear-inspiring day of Jehovah”!
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BIBLE TEXTS EXAMINED
○ 1:10—The selfish, money-hungry priests were serving for personal gain. They demanded a fee for the simplest of temple services, such as shutting doors or lighting altar fires. No wonder Jehovah ‘took no pleasure in offerings from their hands’!
○ 1:13—The faithless priests had come to view the sacrifices as a tiresome ceremony, a burden. They sniffed at, or scorned, Jehovah’s sacred things. Never should we allow “the young bulls of our lips” to be offered as a mere formality!—Hosea 14:2; Hebrews 13:15.
○ 2:13—Many Jewish husbands were divorcing the wives of their youth, perhaps in order to marry younger pagan women. The altar of Jehovah became covered with tears—evidently those of the rejected wives who came to the sanctuary to pour out their grief before God.—Malachi 2:11, 14, 16.
○ 3:1—“The true Lord” is Jehovah God, and “the messenger of the covenant” is Jesus Christ. The initial fulfillment of the prophecy took place when Jesus cleansed the temple. (Mark 11:15-17) This was three and a half years after he was anointed as King-Designate. Similarly, three and a half years after Jesus was enthroned as King in the autumn of 1914, he accompanied Jehovah to the spiritual temple and found God’s people in need of refining and cleansing.
○ 3:2, 3—The ancient process of refining took time. Therefore, the refiner would often “sit,” waiting until the liquid metal reflected like a highly polished mirror and he could see his image in it. Similarly, Jehovah has continued to refine his people today, clearing away unclean teachings and practices. This has helped them to reflect more accurately his image.—Ephesians 5:1.
○ 4:2—This is a description of the future blessings to be enjoyed by those in fear of God’s name. They have the prospect of basking in the sunshine of God’s favor when the physical, mental, and emotional ailments that have plagued the human family have been healed.—Revelation 21:3, 4.
○ 4:5—The prophet Elijah lived some 500 years before this prophecy was given. In the first century C.E., Jesus Christ identified John the Baptizer as the foretold counterpart of Elijah. (Matthew 11:12-14; Mark 9:11-13) However, “Elijah” was to be the forerunner of the “day of Jehovah,” indicating a further fulfillment in this time of Christ’s “presence.”—2 Thessalonians 2:1, 2.
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During his earthly ministry, Jesus cleansed the temple. In 1918 he accompanied Jehovah to the spiritual temple to cleanse God’s people