- Introduction – On a first reading, Malachi seems to be a very accusatory and challenging book. However, further study has made me feel like it’s… ‘an honest conversation with Someone Who loves us and pulls no punches as He talks.’
- The title is crucial – if ‘Malachi’ is a title, rather than the name of the author, then we learn much about God’s powerful love for us and the humility of the writer. The book is an example of something I’ve called a ‘Preceding Echo’ of the New Testament: the Lord is using Old Testament circumstances to prepare the world for His New Testament revelation. Paul explains a bit about this in 1 Corinthians 10:1-6.
- The timing is crucial – the approximate date of authorship show how quickly God’s people can go astray from His commandments. A time of great hope, obedience and blessing is swiftly followed by a need for the stern words of Malachi. The quality of our ‘walk with the Lord’ can change quickly. We, too, often neglect fundamental requirements of living the Christian life.
- The place is crucial – surprisingly, Judah (to whom the prophecy is addressed) is a seemingly insignificant place. The once mighty ‘People of God’ have been reduced to 150,000 souls in a 30 mile by 20 mile tract of land surrounding, and in including, Jerusalem. The obvious cause for this reduction of the nation seems to be the turbulent times of invasion, exile and occupation by first the Babylonian, then the Persian empires. However, the Bible implies that breaking faith with the Lord is the root cause of Judah’s problems. The Lord does not bless wrong behaviour or abandonment of covenant with Him.
- Do you find it easy to sit and converse with God in prayer? David managed this here: 2 Samuel 7:18; Paul expresses our need for the Holy Spirit’s help in praying here: Romans 8:26.
- Have you experienced times of prayer or Bible study that have been particularly blessed and beneficial.
- In what ways are you challenged by God’s love? Consider the selfless nature of God’s love and the way in which we are encouraged to be similarly selfless – how often do we achieve this lofty requirement? Consider, also, the call to worship God as a response to His love, goodness and majesty – is worship easily achieved?
- Do you find it possible to discover New Testament themes in Old Testament passages? If so, give some examples. What reasons might God have for including ‘Preceding Echoes’ in His dealings with humankind?
- In ancient times, God’s people frequently went astray from His commandments. Are we better at ‘keeping faith’ in these times after Jesus Christ’s ministry among us? How can we support each other in living a holy, Christian life?