God’s marvelous electing love – a sermon on Malachi 1:1-5 by Rev. Ralph Adams.
Malachi was the last of God’s inspired prophets in the O.T. We know little about him except that his name means, “My (i.e. God’s) messenger.” He was the last prophet to be heard in Judah until John the Baptist “came… preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.”
Malachi stood at the end of the O.T., yet he was clearly expecting the advent of the N.T. He prophesied that a messenger would come to announce the arrival of Messiah: “Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple…” This messenger was John the Baptist who heralded the arrival of Jesus.
Malachi lived and prophesied in Judah around the time of Nehemiah, somewhere around 430 B.C. For that reason, it’s not surprising to find Malachi confronting the Jews over the same sins as Nehemiah did.
Under Nehemiah, these returned Jews— this Israel as Malachi calls them in verse 1— had rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem. This was not long after they’d finished restoring the temple under Haggai’s admonition. Now, God sends Malachi to speak to these returned Judaeans who it seems have already forgotten any lesson they may learned from their exile.
Malachi must have thought of this message which God entrusted to him as something of a ‘burden’ hanging over him. The ESV in (v.1), entitles this book “The oracle…” meaning a teaching or a prophecy. But the Hebrew actually says, ”the BURDEN of the word of the Lord to Israel, through Malachi.” Why should Malachi call the Lord’s word a ‘burden’? Probably for a number of reasons. Firstly, “this word of the Lord” is a rather blunt message from God which sits on his shoulders like a weight. In spite of this, he is constrained to tell it and so discharge his duty.
The ‘Word of the Lord’ always deserves to be taken seriously. Not in the sense of being dull… or boring… or gloomy. But serious in the sense that it can carry huge implications for any to whom it is addressed. It must never be considered trivial. It is real and substantial… and it demands our attention. Secondly, Malachi may have thought his message a ‘burden’ because traditionally, most people have not wanted to listen to it. Even when ‘the word of the Lord’ is the good news of salvation, a lot of people still turn their backs on it. Didn’t Isaiah cry out, ”Who has believed our message?” And Paul writes of Words designed to promise life that actually become ”the smell of death to those who are perishing.” The ‘word’ can appear to be a burden at times as I found in my years in the ministry. I can feel for Malachi. God’s word is far from trivial— especially is this message from God very relevant to us because it delves into matters that are fundamental for all time. But more than that, Malachi was sent to provide for God’s chosen ones perfectly good justification to look and see and tremble in awe that our great electing God of love has always been ‘there’ and has been busy establishing us in His Son Jesus Christ. It therefore conveys an important message even to us and our generation. How important for us, when God seems distant or unreal, to remember the message of Malachi. Yet maybe some who are here will not want to take note of the implications this holds.