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זרע זה מלך המשיח מדרש רבה כג ה
that Moshiach, through his sufferings, will win our victory over Satan.)
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First let's get something clear about erroneous notions of Paul and his founding a new religion, which he didn't. True, the halakhah of his Judaism switched from the Pharisaic oral law to the Ruach Hakodesh, but his religion was still one of the Judaisms of the time, not a new non-Judaism Gentile religion.
A mah-SAH is an "oracle," a word from the L-rd. It is also a
"burden," something that must be carried and delivered. Malachi,
many scholars believe, is preaching against the same sins
described in Nehemiah ch. 13, which can be dated in the last
third of the 5th century B.C.E. This would presumably make
Malachi the last of the minor prophets.
A modern Malachi might be burdened to preach against these same
sins today. In order to translate Malachi's 5th century B.C.E.
situation into our modern situation, use your imagination.
Suppose your congregational leader's salary could not be paid
because the people were not paying their tithes. Suppose they
treated the offering plate with contempt and gave begrudgingly to
the L-rd as though He were a despicable, unworthy street beggar,
giving Him a dime, perhaps, or nothing at all. Suppose the people
showed up at the Lord's House late or not at all. Suppose the
women dressed like they were going to the gym and the men like
they were at a rodeo, lounging around disrespectfully in the hair
styles and tight-fitting costumes and jewelry of the pagan world.
Suppose that the congregants, even some of the clergy, were
divorcing their believing spouses in order to marry worldly
people with no respect or concern for raising up g-dly children
in the House of the L-rd.
"What a nuisance all this is!" they say. "What a bother!" The
people can't wait to get out the door when the service is
concluded, and they jump at the smallest excuse to skip the
meetings, which they often do, sometimes weeks at a time. Any
opportunity to cheat or shirk their responsibilities is seized
greedily. Whereas once the congregants "turned many from
iniquity" by preaching on the street to large crowds every week,
now they have compromised the doctrine and allowed themselves to
come under the sway of unregenerated family members and friends,
who influence them to show partiality toward what is not in
accordance with Scripture. Suddenly, the blessings these
backsliders once knew in the House of G-d become curses, and the
joy of the L-rd eludes them.
If you were a modern Malachi and faced a congregation like this,
you would be agitated because, looking out over their faces, you
couldn't distinquish between those who really knew the L-rd and
those who did not (3:18). To correct this terrible situation, a
burden from the L-rd might come on you, and you would then feel
the obligation weighing on you to preach against this
faithlessness, this disrepect of G-d, this lack of interest in
the things of the L-rd, this cold-heartedness that makes G-d
furious. When congregants hear about spiritual things and sigh
with boredom, they arouse G-d's jealous anger. He then feels like
a husband whose worldly wife is bored with him and can't wait to
escape his hum-drum presence in order to pursue secret romantic
excitement elsewhere. Such a despised husband would want to take
any hypocritical gestures of marital devotion, any little
proffered gifts, and throw them into the face of such an
unfaithful wife! And this is how G-d feels: "I will smear offal
on your face, the offal of your festival (animal) morifim"
(Malachi 2:3)! When your wicked heart grows tired of G-d and
falls under the spell of the world, whatever you bring to G-d in
worship is just a lie, a hypocrisy, just feigning devotion that
is not there, just looking at your watch and going through the
motions of worship as fast as you can to get it over with. This
makes G-d furious. G-d threatens to excommunicate and expel from
His House the wicked hypocrites that do this. See Malachi 2:l2
"May the L-rd cut off the man who does this!" Also see Revelation
3:16 "Because you are lukewarm--neither hot nor cold--I am about
to spit you out of my mouth!"
Interestingly, a congregation can be super-spiritual,
hyper-charismatic, and hysterically emotional, and still be
luke-warm about G-d as far as obeying His commands is concerned.
But G-d is not fooled. He says, "And this you also do, you cover
the alter of the L-rd with tears, weeping and groaning."
Emotionalism or religious exhibitionism will not turn curses into
blessings, or cause prayers to be answered, if there is sloven,
dishonest, contemptuous religiosity such as Malachi saw in the
5th century post-exilic community of Judah. The people were
experiencing poverty, oppression, famine, discouragement,
disillusionment, treacherous interpersonal relationships,
drought, spiritual dryness and doubt. They were gripped by
terrible indifference and bitterness, because they had prayed for
relief and it wasn't coming. Malachi says that people like these
are dishonest sneaks in the world (3:5) and also cheats in the
House of G-d (3:8-10), and there is a curse overtaking these
faithless backsliders that will only be removed if they stop
blaming G-d, stop envying worldly people, and repent (2:2, 17;
3:6-12, 14). Malachi's exhortation to "guard yourself in your
spirit and do not be faithless" (2:16)! Only then will the
devouring curse be rebuked by the L-rd (3:11). G-d wants zealous
believers faithfully in fellowship and He is taking attendance
(3:16; cf. Hebrews 10:25)!
Malachi realizes that the people have lost hope in the coming of
the L-rd's Davidic "Branch," the Righteous Servant, the Moshiach,
inspite of the more recent feverish Messianic expectations of
Haggai and Zechariah. Therefore, Malachi sees the Moshiach
arising as "the sun of righteousness with healing in His wings."
He will come to burn away the dross and to put the wicked under
the feet of the refined remnant and to bring the joy of the
Messianic age (Malachi 4:2-3). A forerunner will precede the
Moshiach as an end-time Elijah redivivus figure, and if the
people don't turn back to Him in g-dly heart-felt repentance as
His true fathers and true sons, the L-rd will come and strike the
land with a curse (though not the curse of Edom, however, because
Edom's national salvation is hopeless, whereas there is hope for
Israel, according to Malachi 1:2-5).
All this was fulfilled when Yochanan of the tevilah of teshuva
(Malachi 3:1a; 4:5) began preaching, and when Moshiach Yehoshua
"suddenly" (Malachi 3:1b) came to purge the Beis Hamikdash and
refine the remnant and pronounce the curse of Canaan (Joshua
6:17-19) on the fig tree of the heathen Jerusalem of that day and
her Beis Hamikdash, who rejected Him and consequently received
the fiery curse (Mal. 4:6) of the destruction of 70 C.E.
Malachi 3:1 is extremely important because here is one place in
the Hebrew Bible that clearly states that the Moshiach will be
called Adon (the L-rd). (See also Romans 10:9-10.) David Kimhi
(Radak) in his commentary published in the Mikraot Gedolot
Rabbinic Bible explains Malachi 3:1's "the lord" (spelled with a
lower case "1") is King Moshiach, who will come suddenly--no one
knows when. He says that Moshiach is the Messenger of the
Covenant referred to in this verse. However, the lower case "l"
for "lord" will not do because in Zechariah 4:14 and 6:5 Adon kol
ha'Aretz ("the L-rd of all the earth) uses the same word for
L-rd and clearly the L-rd G-d is intended. So it is tendentious
Rabbinic exegesis to assert a lower case "l" in one place and a
capital "l" in the other.
A final word is in order about Malachi's situation. When Malachi
writes down his prophecy, probably around 433 B.C.E., it is
likely that Nehemiah, having arrived in Israel in 445 B.C.E., has
completed his first term as Governor and has temporarily returned
to Persia (modern Iran). Zechariah and Haggai are deceased.
Esther, the Jewish-Persian beauty queen, is now an old lady or
dead, Ezra the Scribe is aging because he has now been in the
Promised Land some 25 years (since his arrival in 458 B.C.E.). It
has been a long time since the Beis Hamikdash has been
resurrected (516 B.C.E.) from its 586 B.C.E. Babylonian
demolition. With the building of the new Beis Hamikdash amidst
Messianic expectations, disappointingly, nothing earth-shaking
(as prophets like Zechariah and Haggai and Ezekiel had promised)
has happened yet. The people are getting bored with religion and
doubtful of G-d's promises about the Moshiach's coming. To
encourage and rebuke them, Malachi points to Esau, the father of
the Edomites, and proves by the military defeats of the Edomites
at the hands of the Nabetean Arabs (who drove the Edomites from
their homeland in the 6th and 5th centuries B.C.E.) that G-d
loves Israel and has elected her for ultimate salvation. On the
other hand, nations, who are indifferent to G-d and despise Him,
will lose everything and be utterly wiped off the land of their
inheritance as had already happened to the Edomites (see Genesis
25:32-34). This was a very strong warning to the bored-with-G-d
backsliders of Malachi's day.
Edom had migrated into the Negev by 312 B.C.E. because in that
year the Nabatean Arabs were in control of Petra, a former
stronghold of Edom conquered by the Romans in C.E. 106. The
Edomites remained in the Negev and were known as Idumeans. King
Herod came from them. This area should not be confused with
Pella, the Transjordan mountains where Messianic Jews fled
shortly before the Roman 70 C.E. seige (see Mt. 24:16).
Like Esau and the Edomites, the people of Malachi's day doubted
G-d's love and were becoming careless in their walk, just as the
ministers were becoming indifferent in both their example and
their doctrinal position (see 2:6-9). Yet these backsliders
looked around and saw many prosper who were even farther from
G-d, and this they hypocritically threw in G-d's face (2:17).
Therefore, G-d answers that the Moshiach, the Messenger of the
Covenant Malach HaBrit (who is the L-rd Himself--3:l) is coming,
and He will be the fiery nemesis who will bring divine justice
and burn up impurity. Yochanan of the tevilah of teshuva
meditated on these words in the desert and preached them when he
appeared to his people (Matthew 3:12). For the Day of the L-rd
would burn up the wicked (See also II Thes. 1:8) but those who
repent and believe will be healed in the rays of G-d's Rising
Sun. The Day of the L-rd came "near" in an anticipatory way in
586 B.C.E. and C.E. 70, though the ultimate burning Day is still
in the future.
One of the impurities that needed to be burned away was not just
the bored unenthusiasm of their worship but also their
ingratitude to G-d reflected in their thieving from His tithes
(Malachi 3:7-10). The tithes provided for the upkeep of the Beis
Hamikdash and the support of the ministers and was to be a part
of their worship--one tenth returned to G-d.
"The lips of a kohen should guard knowledge" (2:7). Therefore,
the Moshiach, the Messenger of the Brit Chadasha, will refine the
Brit Chadasha kohenhood, which we are (3:3; I Shliach Kefa 2:5).
Therefore, we must make sure that we guard the doctrine that has
been entrusted to us, taking the time to learn Biblical languages
and to study to show ourselves approved by G-d as workmen who
rightly use the true teaching (II Tim. 2:15).
Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of
the great and dreadful day of the L-rd:
And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and
the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite
the earth with a curse.
Isn't it time to come back to your spiritual home?
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