In the Bible, tucked away at the end of the Old Testament, is one of my favorite prophets: Malachi. It’s easy to gloss over the tiny book but its words of hope for the Jewish people thousands of years ago still apply today. Malachi calls believers to a life of holiness by sharing God’s love, worshiping regularly and passionately, ministering to the poor, sick, and needy, and remaining faithful during dark seasons.
The Book of Malachi takes place in Jerusalem around 450 B.C. To put that into historical context, the Hebrew people (Jews) were taken captive by the Babylonians around 600 B.C and in exile 70 years. Things happen – kings obtain power, battles are fought, prophets prophesize – and Jerusalem is completely demolished in 586 B.C. Shortly after, Babylon falls and the Persians take over. It’s a glimmer of hope for the Jews because King Cyrus issues a decree for the Hebrew people to return home. By 445 B.C. the wall around Jerusalem had been rebuilt (read the Book of Nehemiah). Calm and order had returned to Israel … at least for a little while.
The Israelites were a fickle bunch. AREN’T WE FICKLE TOO?! When life is good, Jesus is our main squeeze. We shout praises to God, regularly attend church, thank Him for our blessings, and have a positive outlook. Yet, the minute life gets tough, we whine, complain, worship idols, and seek comfort in ungodly people and places in hopes our luck will change.
I really don’t like the word luck. Luck is catching every green light when you’re running late or getting the last piece of Aunt Sue’s chocolate cake at the family reunion. Luck has nothing to do with choosing to follow Jesus and trusting Him completely.
The Israelites did not run out of luck. They CHOSE to dishonor, disobey, and disrespect God. And we still do the same today. Luck does not dismiss the consequence of our decisions. Like the Israelites, we cannot forget our faith when things are going smooth but expect a “lucky break” when things go south. We humans are fickle but God never changes (Malachi 3:6).
OK, back to The Book of Malachi … The Israelites are back in Jerusalem celebrating their return and picking up old habits. In other words, their faith is losing hold and they are too comfortable with the status quo. Malachi, a prophet or messenger of God, delivers powerful reminders to Israel and calls out their laziness:
Malachi 1:2 – the Israelites question God’s love for them
Malachi 1:14 – religious leaders bring blind, sick, or lame animals for sacrifice instead of healthy, unblemished stock
Malachi 2:8 – priests have turned far away from God and are no longer wise counsel; their words and actions are humiliating to God
Malachi 2:11 – physical (marriage) and spiritual (allegiance to God over foreign idols) relationships matter to God
Malachi 3:5 – the Israelites commit adultery, make false accusations, cheat, oppress the widow and orphan, and push aside those in need
Malachi 3:10 – God invites the Israelites to test him
Malachi 3:17 – God remembers those who remember Him
Malachi 4:3 – a day is coming when God will separate the righteous from the wicked
Malachi 4:4-6 – the same God who blessed Moses and Elijah will send our Savior
My purpose as a believer should mirror Malachi’s life of holiness:
- worship with intent (reverence to God, proper sacrifice, and tithing)
- lead with a servant’s heart
- invest in meaningful relationships, and
- tend to and care for His flock (the sick, poor, and needy)
I’m going to be completely honest here: I’ve been fickle just like the Israelites. I have skipped worship or small group gatherings to catch an hour of sleep or watch my favorite TV show. I have withheld tithes because I didn’t trust God to provide. I have pursued people and possessions I thought would increase status. I have ignored an invitation to serve because it was inconvenient. I have pushed away “those people” because they were different than me. I have rallied for my personal agenda. I have accepted leader positions for accolades. And, sadly, I have sought revenge when I should have extended grace.
Thankfully, I worship a God who is forgiving and merciful. I worship a God who disciplines with more grace than I deserve. The entire Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, is a continuous love story between God and creation. It’s filled with God’s relentless pursuit to be in relationship with us – guiding and molding us into the people He created us to be.
He loves us SO MUCH that he’s willing to discipline us like a parent would their child. He loves us SO MUCH that he’s willing to pursue us and bring us back, no matter how far we’ve wandered away. God loves us SO MUCH that he sent Jesus to save us from the fickle world we live in.
Jesus told his disciples the two most important commandments were to love God and love others. If we do these two things, living a life of holiness is attainable. Are you up to task?