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Presentation 01. Introduction It might be helpful to have an idea of the historical background against which the prophet exercised his ministry. Without.

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Presentation on theme: "Presentation 01. Introduction It might be helpful to have an idea of the historical background against which the prophet exercised his ministry. Without."— Presentation transcript:

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3 Introduction It might be helpful to have an idea of the historical background against which the prophet exercised his ministry. Without it, it would be impossible to appreciate the significance of his message. Malachi, Haggai and Zechariah, belonged to the post-exilic period period of Jewish history. Judah, the southern kingdom, was brought into captivity in Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar, in 586 BC, and remained there until about 538 BC, when Cyrus of Persia, who had crushed the power of the Babylonian empire, released the captives and allowed them to return to their own land, under Sheshbazzar and Zerubbabel. Presentation 01

4 Introduction Dates for the Persian period of the post-exilic prophetic activity are: Cyrus the Great539-52 9 Carrtyses529-522 Pseudo-Smerdis522 Darius I (Hystaspis)521 -485 Xerxes I (Ahasuerus)485-464 Artaxerxes I (Longimanus)464-424 Xerxes II424-423 Sogdianus423 Darius II423-404 Artaxerxes II (Mnemon)404-358 Artaxerxes Ill (Ochus)358-338 Arxes338-335 Darius III (Codomannus)335-331 Presentation 01

5 Introduction The kings that we are particularly concerned with in this list are Cyrus, Darius I, Xerxes I (Ahasuerus) and Artaxerxes I. The prophets Haggai and Zechariah exercised their ministries during the reign of Darius I and the temple was rebuilt between the second and sixth years of his reign [520- 516]. Attempts were made to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem under Xerxes [485-464], but especially under Artaxerxes I [464-424], under whom Ezra in 451, and Nehemiah in 445, arrived in Jerusalem. Presentation 01

6 Introduction The Commentator, George Adam Smith suggests the following helpful division : 1. From the taking of Babylon by Cyrus to the completion of the Temple in the sixth year of Darius I, 538-516 BC. Haggai and Zechariah were prophesying. 2. From the completion of the Temple to the arrival of Ezra in the seventh year of Artaxerxes I, 516-458 BC.; sometimes called the period of silence, but probably the time when the book of Malachi was written. 3.The books of Ezra and Nehemiah were written under Artaxerxes I, 458-425 BC. 4The rest. Xerxes II to Darius III, 425-331BC. The book of Joel was written. Presentation 01

7 Introduction The dedication and heart-warming consecration of the first group to return from exile had been transformed into a frozen, despairing mediocrity. This was accompanied by a loss of vision and a general lowering of both spiritual and moral standards. Into this situation God sent his servant Malachi. Presentation 01 Others, think Malachi was a contemporary of Nehemiah, who ministered during his second reform between 432 and 424 BC. The sins denounced by Malachi were those corrected by Nehemiah. Whatever date may be correct both belong to a period in which the high hopes associated with the return from exile had turned into disillusionment.

8 Introduction Malachi speaks to us today, as well as to his own age. We must try to interpret his message in a way that is relevant to us. Two applications are immediately apparent. First, it is a message to those who have lost their initial enthusiasm for and consecration to God. Many young people, early on in their Christian experience reveal a deep and genuine dedication to Christ. But within a few years, they lose their first-love and lapse into the spiritual mediocrity of which Malachi speaks. And so his prophecy is a mirror, revealing the dangers that await us and the temptations that seek to drag us down to a place of diminished commitment. To be forewarned is to be forearmed. Presentation 01

9 Introduction Secondly, Malachi provides a stirring message to the evangelicals today. Immediately after WWII there were great expectations of revival in the U.K. when, to be an evangelical was to be a member of a despised minority, in a way that is not so true today. To give an example of the spirit of those days, one young man politely declined an invitation to a social gathering in the home of an evangelical couple who were charming worldlings because he felt that such a gathering was incompatible with the burden on his soul for spiritual awakening. And one asks does this earnestness of spirit exist in evangelical life today? Presentation 01

10 Introduction The following general analysis of the prophecy may be usefully followed: 1v2-5 God’s love for Israel 1v6-14 Israel’s neglect of God’s holiness 2v1-9 The sins of the priests 2v10-16 Divorce and mixed marriages 2v1-3v5 Where is the God of judgment? 3v6 -12 Repentance by tithes 3v13-4v3 The judgment to come 4v4-6 The return of Elijah Presentation 01

11 Introduction The name ‘Malachi’ means ‘My messenger’. The formula of the prophet’s message is to introduce a series of questions. The people’s response is introduced by the words, “How have we..?” The prophet then replies with a full answer to their objection. This pattern is repeated seven times in all, in 1:2, 1:6, 1:7, 2:17, 3:7, 3:8, 3:13. It is clear from these questions that the people were unaware of their real condition in the sight of God - revealing the terrible blinding power of sin, where men lose their sensitiveness to reality and their perception of spiritual issues. Hosea emphasises the same truth, “Foreigners sap his strength, but he does not realise it. His hair is sprinkled with grey, but he does not notice.” Hos.7v9 Presentation 01

12 God’s Love The first question and answer deal with the disappointed hopes that gripped the people when the promised restoration of the Temple was followed by hard times of discouragement and difficulty, which made them doubt God’s love and interest in them. Over against the disheartening of the people Malachi sets a gloriously assuring word, ‘I have loved you’. He does not do what many of his predecessors did - rehearse God’s mighty redemption from Egyptian bondage, or point to their restoration after their Babylonian captivity. Instead, he holds before them the contrast between Gods treatment of Esau (that is Edom) and his treatment of Israel. Presentation 01

13 Edom, the hereditary enemy of Israel, had summed up all her antagonism, hatred and contempt of God’s people in the merciless treatment they had meted out to them when Babylon took them captive in 586 BC [see Obadiah 10 ff]. Obadiah’s prophecy against Edom was fulfilled, and they were destroyed utterly. It is to this event that Malachi refers here. It is cited as a proof of God’s love for Israel. For Israel was still in existence as a nation, while her former captors, Babylon, and her enemy, Edom, were no more. God’s judgment of Israel’s enemies was final; his treatment of His own people corrective and remedial, because he loved them. Presentation 01 God’s Love

14 God’s love for them is seen in taking them into and bringing them through the fires of exile and captivity, preserving them, and returning them to their homeland in order to fulfil his purposes through them. The implication is that God’s love for his people was to be seen, for those who had eyes to see, just as much in his correcting disciplines as they were in his glorious past deliverances. As the writer to the Hebrews says, ‘Whom the Lord loves, he disciplines’, Heb12v6. To doubt this, to lose sight of this, is the cause of many ills in our spiritual lives. Presentation 01 God’s Love

15 And so, at the outset of this book we are shown the reality of God’s love. God hovers over his people, overshadowing them even when they were least aware of him. And all the time he is seeking to break through to claim their love anew. This is really what the remainder of the prophecy is about. It is an exhortation to God’s people to renew their covenant with him, and to let the claims of the loving covenant-relationship, which they had sadly broken and neglected, grip their lives afresh. The message of the Messenger is therefore a recall to covenant obedience. Presentation 01 God’s Love

16 Blemished Sacrifices Malachi’s words are addressed to the priests v6, but all the people are involved in the sacrifices offered in temple worship. God’s complaint provokes a response of blank incomprehension. ‘In what way have we despised your name?’ v6. They are oblivious to the gravity of their sin. But the majesty and holiness of God have been wronged and insulted by the low and unworthy thoughts the people have entertained about his altar, and by the cheap and blemished sacrifices they have offered on it v7-8. Presentation 01

17 Such contemptuous gifts would not be offered to their earthly governor. What made them think that God would be pleased with them? Verse 9 is meant to be taken ironically: “Go then, with such ragged offerings, and intercede with God.... Do you think that he will accept such an insult? I tell you no.” God says that it would be better for sacrifice to cease altogether than that such offerings should be presented. “Is there no-one to close the doors of the Temple, to prevent such vain and worthless sacrifices on my altar?” v 10. Presentation 01 Blemished Sacrifices

18 What can we learn from Malachi’s teaching. First think of the time when David returned the Ark to Jerusalem [2 Sam.6]. It had been out of Israel for 20 years and by returning the Ark to Jerusalem David was preparing for a spiritual renewal at national level. Was the judgment on Uzzah, who touched the Ark, severe? No for his action was presumptuous. The Ark was the symbol of God’s presence and there were regulations concerning it [Num. 4v5,15,19,20]. It was not to be touched, on pain of death. Uzzah’s carelessness indicated a lack of seriousness in a desire to return to God. Presentation 01 Blemished Sacrifices

19 We cannot turn back to God in a moment and casually resume intimate fellowship with him as if there had been no estrangement. The fear of the Lord [v6] was at a discount in Israel in David’s day, and also in Malachi’s. There was a complacency about holy things and a weariness with them [v13]. It awakened God’s displeasure. There are modern day parallels. E.g. in the first stages of a spiritual movement, there is enthusiasm and a burden of prayer; in time, the prayer becomes more a duty than a joy; then, people discover more important engagements and cannot come to pray; finally, excuses are made, to extricate them from what is now an unwelcome and wearisome commitment. Presentation 01 Blemished Sacrifices

20 Secondly, Malachi’s attack on abuse of the temple worship was shared by earlier prophets. Cf. Isaiah 1. The earlier prophets stressed that it was the ethical behaviour that God wanted in religion and not ritual. “what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. ” Micah 6v8. They appear to give the impression that sacrifices were unimportant but this was not the case. There are two tables of the law, and that although the prophetic emphasis on the ethical points to the second table; man’s duty to his fellows, the first table speaks of man’s relation to God. This is precisely where the sacrifices came into their own. Presentation 01 Blemished Sacrifices

21 Malachi does not sweep away the temple worship because it is slovenly, or indecent; rather he opposes it because of the false ideas of God it has sown in the minds of the people. Although Malachi’s emphasis is, at first sight, very different from the earlier prophets - he wants to see the ritual renewed and honoured, not swept away. Malachi does precisely the same thing as his predecessors by going to the root of the problem. It was wrong of Israel in the C8 th BC to neglect the ethical content of religion; but it was just as wrong of Israel in the C5 th BC to neglect the ritual itself. Both attitudes clearly betrayed something serious at the heart of the nation. Presentation 01 Blemished Sacrifices

22 Spiritual life is often subject to swings of the pendulum. At certain times a very narrow pattern of life tends to develop in fellowships. There is nothing wrong with this. Jesus taught, “Narrow is the way that leads to life”. And a wonderful spirit of consecration and separation is often produced. But when the original inspiration for such a spirit disappears, the outward pattern often remains; resulting in the crystallisation of a way of life characterised by narrow prejudices and taboos, which are observed because they have been there for years. They become tests of orthodoxy itself, but it is a hard, unattractive and negative legalism that finds expression. In such a situation nothing is needed so much as the message of Christian liberty. Presentation 01 Blemished Sacrifices

23 But it is possible for the pendulum to swing too far, in the other direction and liberty is mistaken for licence. Christian liberty becomes carelessness corrupting the testimony of the believer. Thus calling for a new Puritanism in life and behaviour among Christians. This is not a recall to the old legalism and bondages, any more than Malachi was calling for a return to the old multiplication of sacrifices when hearts were far from God. We need to return to the biblical idea of separation with a new spiritual dynamic, which makes clear that this world is not our home, that we are strangers and pilgrims in a foreign land. Our passports have been issued by the City of God! Presentation 01 Blemished Sacrifices

24 The third point has to do with the interpretation of 10 and 11. It may be that the wish that the doors of the temple should be closed conveys an intimation that if no-one is found to shut them God will do it himself; or rather will forsake that temple, and leave it an altar without a promise, and a shrine without a divinity. Note then the connection with v11 which refers to God’s name being praised among the Gentiles. Does this suggest that if his own people continue to violate the covenant, God will turn elsewhere to find those to advance his purpose in the world? This is, after all, Paul’s argument about the Jews and the Gentiles in Romans 11v17-21. Presentation 01 Blemished Sacrifices

25 No group of people, however orthodox and impeccable in doctrine, are indispensable to God. The words spoken by Mordecai the Jew to Queen Esther are very applicable to us also: “For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” Esther 4v14. Declension in the people of God may lead to their becoming castaway. God wants a people separated to himself, and invites our co-operation in his work. This work will go on through the instrumentality of willing and dedicated lives, or in spite of them. Presentation 01 Blemished Sacrifices

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