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Bible: What Does Malachi 1-2 Teach Us About Loyalty, Worship, and Marriage?
"Jacob I Loved, but Esau I Hated"
THE BOOK OF MALACHI
As Nahum and Habakkuk began their prophecies, so Malachi does his messages with the phrase “the ‘burden’ of the word of the LORD" (v. 1).
Throughout his work, this man of God employs a unique style.
First, he composes a declarative statement of fact from the LORD that highlights a particular issue causing tension between the nation and Himself (1:2, 6, 7; 2:13, 17; 3:7, 8, 13).
Second, the nation questions Yahweh's anger, as though they know of no wrongdoing on their part (1:2, 6, 7; 2:14, 17; 3:7, 8, 13).
Third, God answers Israel, proving both His faithfulness to the relationship as well as the people's failure to be loyal subjects (1:2-5, 7-8; 2:14-16, 17; 3:8-12, 14-15).
The first controversy revolves around whether God has loved Israel (vv. 2-5).
By reminding Israel that He chose Jacob instead of Esau, the LORD contends that He truly loves him (see Rom. 9:13).
Not only that, but He will also keep Edom (Esau) "under His finger" forever
[In what way should the interpreter construe the phrase "But Esau I have hated"?
Does God hate people, or does the statement merely express a comparison?
For example, Jesus said that one cannot be His disciple if one does not "hate" all others, even one's own life.
In other words, one's love and dedication to Christ must come first in one's life.]
Reason for Rejection
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The second obstacle separating God and Israel here is the latter's despising of Yahweh's "name" (v. 6b).
The people have refused to honor and reverence Him as their Father and Master.
In a sense, God answers them by making another statement that effectively raises another issue, that of defilement (v. 7).
They have despised Him by defiling "the table of the LORD," i.e., the sacrifice they offer at the altar is not of good quality.
It is not fit for an earthly governor, let alone the King of Kings (v. 8).
Yahweh graciously offers to accept them if they repent with regard to this service; however, no hope remains for them if they stubbornly refuse to turn from their sin (v. 9).
The LORD inquires, "Does one man of integrity live among you who has enough courage to stop those sacrifices?"
Seemingly, He expects no one to step forward (v. 10a).
Yahweh demands proper respect from His worshipers; purity is the key to service, for He is a great and holy God (vv. 10b-11).
The people have profaned the table, treating both the food and the ritual with contempt.
The LORD will not accept a blemished offering, nor will He allow an individual who substitutes a good beast for a bad one to try to deceive Him.
Again, He cites His greatness as Israel's king as why He will not settle for inferior service (vv. 12-14).
Now Yahweh directly addresses the priests, commanding them to obey His word from the heart or suffer a curse.
In fact, their prior disobedience has already moved God to curse their blessings with shame and rebuke (vv. 1-3).
When these events happen, the priests should know that the LORD caused them to occur and permitted them in order to sustain His "covenant with Levi" (v. 4).
God gave the Levitical priests to Moses to help him fear God properly and turn "many away from iniquity" (vv. 5-6).
Levi served as a model for priests in that he spoke "the law of truth" and justice, and offered aid to the people as the LORD's messenger (v. 7).
[Therefore, the shame (verse three) is God's corrective measure taken against the priests in order to preserve the sanctity of the position].
Verse eight introduces a strong contrast with the word "But."
The present priests have apostatized, ruined the faith of many, and corrupted this covenant.
Consequently, Yahweh will demote them for their partiality (v. 9).
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Malachi protests vociferously about the irrational behavior of Israel, saying, in essence, "God has created us all. Why do we treat each other the way we do?" (v. 10).
He then goes on to delineate some of the abominations the nation has been committing.
One such sin is marrying "the daughter of a foreign god" (v. 11).
God loves a marriage between two of His people, but greatly abhors an unequal yoke.
The punishment for this action is banishment from the commonwealth of Israel (v. 12).
The second offense is similar: treating one's wife treacherously.
An individual sees God's rejection of his offering (the third issue) (v. 13-14a).
Yahweh does not make the two one flesh so that the man may mistreat his wife, but that the couple, having "a remnant of the Spirit,'' may produce godly offspring.
Therefore, He exhorts the man to "take heed to your spirit," especially since He hates the violence that divorce brings (vv. 14b-16).
The fourth issue concerns the way Israel has ''wearied the LORD" with his continual testing (or tempting) of Him.
The people did not believe that Yahweh would judge anyone for their evil deeds, because He had not done so until that time (v. 17).
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