Agonizomai: Malach 1:1 - The Burden of the Message

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Malach 1:1 - The Burden of the Message

Malachi 1:1 - The Burden of the Message

Malachi 1:1 The oracle of the word of the LORD to Israel by Malachi.

Hebrew names have meanings. The meaning of Malachi could be rendered as “My messenger” and thus may not be a name at all, but an office. However, we do not think of Isaac as “laughter” nor Jacob as “supplanter” separate from their given names; they are still given names even though they have a specific meaning. I like to think that God was present vicariously in the naming of all these Bible characters because, when we look at their lives, it is uncanny how the name (often given at birth) is descriptive of the character or the life.

Be that as it may, this prophet speaks of an oracle or “burden” of the word of God. I think this is what sets apart a true prophet/preacher from all others, both then and now. There is a burden. As Paul said:
For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” {1Cor 9:16}
That burden does not come from man, but from God, the Holy Spirit, and it comes because God has a purpose in mind that He is going to effect through the prophet/preacher. There are indeed many preachers in this present age, as there were prophets in the old times, who have no burden from God. They have a burden from themselves – and that "burden” is of no value whatsoever.

But here we see that God has laid upon the prophet’s heart HIS message (the Word of the Lord). God has moved in Malachi, thus making him a prophet; the reverse is never true – that a person is a prophet before God ever chooses and burdens him. Similarly, a person is not a preacher just because he has the gift of the gab or a nice turn of phrase, or a sharp mind; nor yet because he is doctrinally sound or knowledgeable in theological matters. A person is a preacher because he can do no other, since he is under compulsion from the Spirit of God to speak the word of God. He MUST declare Christ or his life is miserable.

It is also worth noting here that the word of the Lord comes to Israel which, at this time, consists solely of the rump or the remnant from the two tribes of Judah and Benjamin. The other 10 tribes had been conquered by Assyria in 722 BC and gradually become absorbed into the Gentile culture through intermarriage. This is why the Samaritans were thought of, like the Gentiles, as dogs. Only they were worse even than Gentile dogs because they had corrupted their way – they had lost or turned from the light and had become unfaithful.

But, in fact, we know that all mankind has in one way or another turned to its own way – Gentile, Jew and Samaritan alike. And we also know that among all the kindred and tribes and peoples of the earth, God has a remnant which is true Israel, because they are the children of the promise and, like Abraham, they believe God – which is counted to them for righteousness.

And so, in a few words of introduction we find depth and meaning and are able to get a brief glimpse of the context into which the prophet is placed by the God Whose message he is tasked and burdened to deliver. It is a message delivered to a group who, only a few years earlier had returned from Babylon by edict of Cyrus to re-establish the nation and the temple in Jerusalem. It will be a message delivered basically as two diatribes or polemics. Polemics are strong teaching given in order to refute error or to correct behaviour.

The two sections in Malachi are addressed to two different groups as follows:
Mal 1:6-2:9 Is addressed to the spiritual leadership of the remnant

Mal 2:10-4:3 Is aimed at the people themselves
The overall message(s) in Malachi are basically three fold:
1) Empty ritual of itself is of no value. The rituals represent, or are to be expressions of sincere and deep affections. (Mal 1:11). Even sacrifices, when offered without genuine motivation and understanding, are disgusting to God. (Mal 1:8-10)

(2) Divorce and intermarriage with the surrounding heathens works against the God-given purpose of raising godly seed unto the Lord (Mal 2:15)

3) The law of God is eternally fixed and true. Keeping that law, of which the priests are the custodians and intermediaries to the people, is a requirement of God which is never to be relaxed or repealed.
And in these principle points we see the last trumpet blare – the re-announcement of the purity of God’s law and are reminded of its killing power. But this is also a book in which the Messianic promise is still held forth. There is gospel even here.
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; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts." (Mal 3:1)
And with typical dual inference we see the words “My messenger” (or Malachi) used in a promissory way, which we later see to be John the Baptizer who is indeed, the last of the great Old Testament prophets before the Hope of Israel arrives.


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