Malachi 1 Introduction/The Burden of the Word
Our last book and prophet of the Old Testament is also the last chronologically. Malachi, whose name means “my messenger,” ministered in about 430-420 BC, likely in and around Jerusalem.
For only the third time in the Old Testament, we encounter the words, “The burden of the word of the Lord …” (Malachi 1:1; which previously was used only in Zechariah 9; 12). Perhaps the Lord’s word is a burden to the prophet who must reprove a people sliding irretrievably into apostasy, and perhaps it is a burden to a profane people to hear the words of their loving Lord, while being unwilling to repent and obey. It may also be a burden to the Lord Himself, who loves a people who do not love Him back (Malachi 1:2).
Sometimes people claim to be righteous, while actually corrupting God’s ways for their own purposes. Note the Lord’s calls to repentance, to the people and their priests:
- They did not honor and respect God as their Father and Master, but actually despised Him (verse 6).
- They showed contempt for the Lord by offering spoiled bread and flawed, lame, sick, and corrupt animals for temple sacrifices (verses 7-8, 13-14).
- The Lord says that He would prefer no temple ordinances at all, for He takes no pleasure in their lazy, improper, and indifferent offerings (verse 10).
- The Lord presses the point further by declaring that the day will come in which gentile and heathen nations will hold His name in greatness and bring to Him pure offerings (verse 10).
- The people and priests had also come to scorn the temple sacrifices and consider them “profaned,” “polluted,” “contemptible,” and “wearying” (verses 12-13).
- The Lord ends by asking, “Should I accept this of your hand?” (verse 13).
- In our day we sometimes do things wrong or half-hearted before the Lord. None of us is perfect, but do you see yourself as a disciple who strives to do the right things, in the right way, with a true mind and heart?
Malachi 2 Priests and People Gone Astray
In this chapter the Lord zeroes in on the apathetic attitudes of the priests, warning what will happen if they do not “lay it to heart” (verses 1-3):
- What did the Lord say in verse 7 are the responsibilities of the priests? What did He say they had done wrong? (verses 8-9, 11). What did He say would be the consequences? (verses 9, 12).
- What are the three questions Malachi asks in verse 10?
- Think of a worthy, righteous priesthood holder in your life. What is he like? How does he serve?
- Now read Malachi 2:11-16, noting the word treacherously (which occurs five times in verses 10-16).
- Verses 11-16 appear to be literal, in that many of the men of Judah had divorced their covenant wives and married women “of a strange god” (verse 11). They may also be taken figuratively, in that the people of Judah had abandoned their covenant Husband, the Lord. In either case, the Lord “hateth putting away” (divorce; verse 16).
- The Lord had strictly prohibited marriage with those of other nations, in order to protect the children of Israel from idolatry (see Exodus 34:11-16; Deuteronomy 7:3-4; Joshua 23:12-13). Yet the people of Israel and Judah openly disobeyed, showing their disregard for Jehovah and for their own families.
- Those who choose to disregard the Lord’s counsel may end up in “tears, with weeping, and with crying out” (verse 13). Satan always attacks and tries to destroy the most important relationships in our lives.
Malachi 3:1-5 He Shall “Suddenly Come”
All of chapters 3-4 were quoted by Jesus Christ during His ministry among the Nephites (see 3 Nephi 24-25). Chapter 3 begins with a prophecy of the last days and the Second Coming:
- The “messenger” in verse 1 may refer to more than one individual, such as John the Baptist (who appeared in this dispensation to confer the Aaronic priesthood); Joseph Smith; Elijah (who appeared in the Kirtland Temple, as recorded in D&C 110); or others.
- The Savior’s coming to His temple in verse 1 may refer to more than one appearance, including the Kirtland Temple (D&C 110:1-10); the temple in Jackson County, Missouri; or other such occasions.
- What questions does the Lord ask in Malachi 3:2? What answer does He give, in verse 5?
- Note the things the Lord will do (verses 3-4), which will reverse the abominations in chapters 1-2.
Malachi 3:7-12 “Prove Me Now”
This powerful endorsement of the law of tithing is preceded in verse 7 by the Lord’s invitation for backsliding Israel to return to Him, accompanied by the promise that He will return to them. They ask Him the question, “Wherein shall we return?”
- Of all He may have replied, the Lord chose to answer by inviting them to live the law of tithing.
- Why do you think tithing is a key for someone seeking to re-establish his or her relationship with God?
- Read verse 8. Why do you think a failure to pay “tithes and offerings” is tantamount to stealing from God?
- Apparently, the “whole nation” of Judah was in violation of this commandment (verse 9), and the Lord invites them to “prove” (test or try) Him (verse 10).
- List the blessings the Lord promises for obedience, in verses 10-12. Can you testify of the blessings of faithfully paying tithing and other offerings?
Malachi 3:13-18 “They Shall Be Mine”
Surprisingly, in these verses the people claim that “it is vain to serve God” (verse 14). In other words, there is no benefit nor profit in trying to keep His commandments. How would you reply to such a statement?
- What things did the people add in verses 14-15, in their attempt to strengthen their ludicrous declaration?
- What was the response of the few who “feared the Lord,” as well as the response of the Lord? (verses 16-18).
- It may indeed appear at times that “the wicked prosper.” But the Lord doesn’t fully issue His rewards for the righteous (nor for the evil) until Judgment Day.
- We may not be able to adequately explain why we choose to serve and obey the Lord, but deep inside “we know.”
Malachi 4 “Great and Dreadful”
It seems fitting that the Old Testament ends with one more magnificent prophecy of the Second Coming of Christ:
- What do verses 1, 3 say about those who are spiritually unprepared for that day? What does verse 2 say about those who shall be prepared?
- Verses 5-6 prophesy the return of Elijah (the prophet 1 Kings 17-19; 21; 2 Kings 1-2), which was fulfilled in D&C 110:13-15, when he conferred keys and opened the way for the great latter-day work of redeeming the dead.
- Malachi 4:5-6 are of such significance that they are cited in all four books of scripture; see also 3 Ne 25:5-6; D&C 2:1-3; JS—H 1:36, 38-39.
- The “curse” mentioned in Malachi 4:6 would surely include a lack of eternal family relationships, were there no efforts nor means to “unite families for eternity” (see General Handbook  section 1.2.4).
- Have you felt the “spirit of Elijah” (meaning the workings of the Holy Ghost) operating in your heart as you have devoted time and effort to family history and temple work?
Malachi 1-3 “Yet Ye Say”
Nine separate times in these chapters, the people display their pride as they question or argue with the Lord or His prophet (see Malachi 1:2, 6, 7; 2:14, 17; 3:7, 8, 13, 14). Surely, pride reveals a rebellious heart and is a spiritual stumbling block, while true happiness in life and eternity comes through humility and submission before God.
Between the Old and New Testaments What Comes Next?
After Malachi comes a time of about 400 years, known as the Intertestamental Period, when the people of Israel and Judah sank into further spiritual darkness as a result of their perpetual rejection of the Lord and His prophets. To help as you begin your study of the New Testament, note these developments:
- No known prophets were raised up in the Old World.
- The Jewish “diaspora” (dispersion) began, scattering the Jewish people among many nations.
- The Persians’ control of the Holy Land was overtaken by the Greeks, then the Romans.
- There was a change in the common language from Hebrew to Aramaic and Greek.
- The Jews who remained in the land of Israel turned toward “Hellenism,” combining Jewish religious tradition with elements of Greek culture.
- There was a more widespread establishment of Jewish synagogues as places of study and worship, led by rabbis and thought to have arisen as a local substitute for the temple in Jerusalem.
- The Jews had stopped worshiping idols of their own creation, and made “the law” their fanatical worship.
- The Jews began looking for a Messiah who would bring them political delivery.
- A number of extra-biblical books were written that cover this period, known as the Apocrypha and found in certain Bible versions (see D&C 91).
- As the time approached for the ministry of John the Baptist, Judaism had divided into various religious, social, political, and cultural groups; some trying to live the law of Moses in their own way, but all in apostasy from God’s truth. For the most part, these groups opposed the Mortal Messiah.
- Among these groups were the Scribes, who developed their own interpretations of the law (also called rabbi, lawyer, doctor, master, or elder). Most of the Scribes were Pharisees, who followed a strict, oral interpretation of the law, while some were Sadducees, coming from the upper society, including merchants, aristocrats, and priests.
- The Romans allowed the Jews a certain measure of self-rule, such as the Herods and the Sanhedrin.
- Despite all this, there were still a few righteous men and women who were looking forward to the coming of the Messiah.