Not the best known of the Prophets of Israel, but it is quoted directly or indirectly a number of times in the New Testament.
It is the last book of the Old Testament in the Christian canon, although it is more or less in the middle of the Hebrew Masoretic text. Either way, it is seen as the last book chronologically in the Hebrew Scriptures. It was likely written in the mid to early 400 B.C. time frame. Take note, while B.C. means Before Christ, the Jewish religion refers to that time as B.C.E., Before the Common Era.
In Hebrew, Malachi means my messenger, which has created a debate about the actual writer of the book - was it actually someone named Malachi, or another writer simply using that title. Since we believe it was written by the hand of God, it’s a moot point. Based on its wording, Malachi spoke of the situation in Israel about a hundred years after the Jewish people returned from their Babylonian exile. The Holy Temple had been rebuilt and the sacrificial system had been fully re-established. This period was in proximity to the time of Ezra and Nehemiah.
The overall tone of the narrative is severe. The people had once again strayed from true worship of God, and the writer uses an accusation, then question and answer method to express the problems. For example, in 1:6 & 7, “Where is My reverence? Says the Lord of hosts to you priests who despise My name. Yet you say, ‘In what way have we despised Your name?’ ‘You offer defiled food on My altar.’”
Yet while presenting Himself as a God of Judgement, He also shows He is a God of redemption. In 3:5, He threatens, “And I will come near you for judgment; I will be a swift witness against sorcerers, against adulterers, against perjurers, against those who exploit wage earners and widows and orphans, and against those who turn away an alien— because they do not fear Me, says the Lord of hosts.”
But in 3:1 He declares, “Behold, I send My messenger, and he will prepare the way before Me.” This refers to John the Baptizer who would immerse folks for the repentance of sin. Furthermore, in 4:5 & 6 (similar to Isaiah 40:3), the return of Elijah, whom Yeshua explained was John, is detailed. It includes a promise of reconciliation, “And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers.”
Malachi also deals with tithing (see accompanying article below), inappropriate offerings (1:7-14), the corruption of the priesthood (2:7 & 8), unity (2:10), intermarriage with heathens, and divorce (2:11-16). Perhaps the most controversial passage occurs right at the beginning of the book. In 1:2 & 3, “I have loved you, says the Lord. Yet you say, In what way have You loved us? Was not Esau Jacob’s brother? says the Lord. Yet Jacob I have loved; but Esau I have hated.”
The Jewish Apostle Paul quoted this in Romans 9:13 as part of his argument that God’s sovereignty gave Him the right to justify salvation according to His wisdom. He was making the point that the Jewish people, though they had constantly abandoned faith, were not disqualified; and that Gentiles, who were not physical descendants of the covenant promises, could be qualified. But did God really hate Esau, father of the Edomites? Many suggest the Hebrew word used for hate really means less loved, as in God chose Jacob over Esau. Yet the condemnation of Edom is profoundly stated in several parts of the Bible.
The Lord says in Malachi 3:7, “Return to Me, and I will return to you.” Does God’s grace and mercy supersede His condemnation? The Book of Malachi covers a lot of issues in only a few chapters. Its main theme however, reminds us God still judges, but He has opened the door of redemption by the blood sacrifice of Jesus our Messiah.
It’s really amazing that our Father in Heaven, Who created the universe and all that dwells within it, Who doesn’t need of anything, let alone money, requires us to tithe financially to Him. It’s part of His lesson of obedience. A lesson which can be difficult to accept.
He certainly knows of man’s desire to hold on to possessions and money (there’s lots of biblical evidence of that), so perhaps the tithe is one of His ways of helping us to trust Him. Trust and faith, God requires them of us.
Commanded numerous times in the Tanakh, including Proverbs 3:9, “Honor the Lord with your possessions, and with the firstfruits of all your increase,” tithing was a way of life in ancient Israel. However in those days it was a bit more complicated because there were different types of tithes. Today we simply define a tithe as ten percent of income.
The practice of tithing continued in Yeshua’s day, as is clearly supported by both allusion and direct reference in the New Testament. For example, in Matthew 23:23, while chastising the Pharisees on another issue, Messiah does approve of their tithes.
Maybe the most compelling declaration about tithing is found in Malachi 3:8-12 where God makes a challenge. As written in verse 10, “‘And try Me now in this,’ says the Lord of hosts, ‘If I will not open for you the windows of Heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it.’”
Wow, what a promise. But don’t be confused. God is not telling us to sow money into His Kingdom so we will receive money. His promise is blessing, His promise is provision. In Philippians 4:19, Paul references the result of giving as God’s supplying all our need. And while that may well be, and often is, financial, it may be other forms of blessing. How about blessings that money cannot buy.
Indeed, faithful tithing from a willing obedient heart, Scripture says God loves a cheerful giver, is one of the keys to having a successful walk with the Lord. That’s worth it. Yet 2 Corinthians 9:6 says, “He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.”
Most Jewish people today don’t tithe. In fact I had never even heard of it until I became a believer. When Karen and I were engaged, about two years into my faith in Jesus, she told me she tithed 10 percent of her income, and wanted to continue doing that. I almost choked. TEN PERCENT! We’ll go broke, I thought. But I knew she understood God’s ways better than I did, so upon our marriage, I started conscientiously tithing.
About a year later, several months into her pregnancy with our first child, Karen told me she wanted to stop working a few months before her due date. Now her income was just about the same as mine, so that meant a fifty percent loss. But she was commuting nearly an hour one way, so it was obvious to me, even though I didn’t know what would happen financially, it was a good idea.
Then she told me she wanted to be a full time mom, not going back to work at all. Major gulping - there goes fifty percent permanently. But I thought, “God, I know that’s the right thing to do.” I said OK, definitely concerned, but trusting God.
Ready for this? Within the next year, God doubled my income! As I was thanking Him for His provision after getting two humongous raises as General Manager of a TV station, the Lord spoke to me in an inward witness. He said, “When you tithed, you gave Me permission to do this.”
My head almost exploded. “I gave You permission?” I said. At the time I didn’t realize He was fulfilling the challenge of Malachi 3, “Try Me Now in This.” Yet the real blessing was not the money. The greater blessing was my wife’s ability to be a stay at home mother for our sons