Monday, January 07, 2008

McWorship...I'm Lovin' It

The Old Testament book of Malachi has many similarities to the church today. People in Malachi’s day were going through the motions of worship but their worship was anything but authentic. In the fast food culture we live in today, our desire to have everything quick and easy has carried over into our worship as well. There is much we can learn from this minor prophet to help us become more authentic worshippers of God today. The first lesson we learn is that authentic worship is a response to the love of God.

Because we don’t find the name “Malachi” other than in this book, and because no information is given regarding his lineage, some feel he was an anonymous writer. Because his name means “messenger,” some see him as an angel. Because no prophetic book came to us anonymously or through an angel, we can be sure Malachi was the name of the last prophet of Israel. Malachi ministered after the Babylonian captivity when the temple had been rebuilt and priestly worship was happening. Malachi’s prophecy (like Nahum, Habakkuk and Zechariah) is described as an oracle indicating that his prophecy dealt with rebuke. The source of the message was the Lord. There are three cycles that take place repeatedly in the book. God states a fact. Israel questions the fact. God proves the fact

The fact is seen in 1:2 as God states, “I have loved you.” This is in the perfect tense indicating that His present love for them was the same that he had loved them with in the past. This love was unconditional (Deuteronomy 7:7, 8) and it was everlasting (Jeremiah 31:3). Israel questions the fact by asking, “How have you loved us?” The people were not responding to God’s love (Deuteronomy 6:4-9). Charles Feinberg has rightly indicated that the spirit of the people in Malachi’s day developed into the sects of the Pharisees and Sadducees in Jesus’ day. When we do not have a vibrant living relationship with God it will lead to one of the same extremes as well. We will either become like the Sadducees who doubted the resurrection and existence of the supernatural or we will become like the Pharisees following dead orthodoxy which is nothing more than a list of rules and regulations.

The first proof of God’s love is seen in the election of Israel (v2-3). The supreme evidence of God’s love for Israel is His choice of them to be His chosen people seen in His words, “Jacob have I loved and Esau have I hated.” Jacob and Esau were twin brothers that developed into two nations (Jacob = Israel; Esau = the Edomites). God chose Jacob (Israel) over Esau (Edomites) as His chosen people. This choice was out of love, not duty. Normally the first born would get the best inheritance (Esau was the first born, Genesis 25:23-26; Romans 9:10-13). But does God really hate Esau? This is a Hebrew term that spoke more of a choice, not the emotion of hate as we define it (see Luke 14:26).

The second proof is seen in the protection of Israel (v4-5). Edom would rebuild and try to overthrow the judgment of God but would fail. Israel, however, was conquered by the Babylonians but ultimately rebuilt due to God’s love that preserved them as a nation. In the same way, God has chosen we who are His children by faith (Ephesians 1:4) which should bring about great thanksgiving and holy living (2 Thessalonians 2:13, 14).

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