The “burden” of prophecyProphecy is the gift, inspired by God, of speaking and interpreting the divine will. Prophets such as Amos, Isaiah, and Ezekiel spoke words of judgment and comfort to the people of Israel on behalf of God. More
Malachi’s first word, massah, “oracle” also means “burden.” This double meaning of the word affords an insight into the nature of prophecy. Prophets are “burdened” to deliver their messages, the word from God that often judges and condemns. “Woe is me, my mother,” cries Jeremiah, “that you ever bore me, a man of strife and contention to the whole land!” (JeremiahProphet who condemned Judah’s infidelity to God, warned of Babylonian conquest, and promised a new covenant More 15:10; see his similar laments in 11:18-19; 17:15-18; 20:7-8, 14-18). Massah as both burden and message reminds us that speaking God’s message of judgment often burdens today’s preachers as well.
CovenantA covenant is a promise or agreement. In the Bible the promises made between God and God’s people are known as covenants; they state or imply a relationship of commitment and obedience. More obedience
Malachi condemns the practice of unworthy sacrifices and idolatry, but covenant obedience is more than proper religious ritual. Yahweh “will be swift to bear witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired workers in their wages, the widow and the orphan, against those who thrust aside the alien, and do not fear me” (3:5). The passage echoes other prophetic verses in which concern for justice and the poor takes precedence over cultic ritual (IsaiahIsaiah, son of Amoz, who prophesied in Jerusalem, is included among the prophets of the eighth century B.C.E. (along with Amos, Hosea, and Micah)–preachers who boldly proclaimed God’s word of judgment against the economic, social, and religious disorders of their time. More 61:1-2; AmosProphet to the northern kingdom who condemned Israel’s oppression of the poor, calling for justice to “roll down like waters.” More 5:11-15, 21-24; Micah 6:6-8).
The Day of the LordThe Day of the Lord, in prophetic writing, is the day of judgment when God will intervene directly in world affairs. As described in Zephaniah, for instance, God will sweep everything away. In Matthew’s gospel God is described as gathering the elect on the day… More
Among the Old Testament prophets the “Day of the Lord” is a frightening day when evil will be punished. Here it is described with dire and fearsome phrases as “the day of his coming” (3:2), “the day is coming, burning like an oven” (4:1), “the day when I act” (3:17; 4:3), “the great and terrible day” (4:5). It is a day when God’s final judgment will be levied against unrighteousness, injustice, and evil.
ElijahA miracle working Israelite prophet who opposed worship of Baal. More, the forerunner of the MessiahThe Messiah was the one who, it was believed, would come to free the people of Israel from bondage and exile. In Jewish thought the Messiah is the anticipated one who will come, as prophesied by Isaiah. In Christian thought Jesus of Nazareth is identified… More
The return of Elijah is a prominent theme in Jewish practice and piety, reflected in the connection made with both John the BaptistJohn the Baptizer was the forerunner of Jesus the Messiah, preaching a gospel of repentance and preparing the way of the Lord More and JesusJesus is the Messiah whose life, death, and resurrection are God’s saving act for humanity More in the New Testament Gospels.
Marriage and divorce
Intermarriage with adherents of other religions was a perennial problem in Israel, but particularly in the postexilic period when exiles returned to find non-Israelites occupying their land (Nehemiah 10:28-30). In no uncertain terms, Malachi states, “I hate divorce, says the LORD” (2:16). Malachi knows that faithfulness to the covenant begins in the home, where husband and wife share a common faith. He exhorts the people to remain faithful to God by marrying others within the covenant. His admonition deserves serious consideration today as well.
“And now, O priests, this command is for you” (2:1). Malachi’s most pointed criticisms are aimed at unfaithful and corrupt priests. The role of Christian priests and pastors is quite different today, but reading these chapters inevitably causes contemporary readers to reflect on what constitutes faithfulness and integrity among today’s clergy.
Tithing and “overflowing blessing”
Malachi states that tithing will produce prosperity for the giver (3:10-12). These verses are cited by proponents of so-called “prosperity theology,” who promise that generous contributions to the church will guarantee a profitable return. In its crassest form “prosperity theology” ignores the biblical message that faithfulness may bring suffering, even martyrdom. God’s promises are distorted if we narrow the “overflowing blessing” promised in 3:10 to material wealth. Clearly, for Malachi, the tithe is not a “let’s make a deal” arrangement to secure favor with God. Better to close the doors of the templeThe Jerusalem temple, unlike the tabernacle, was a permanent structure, although (like the tabernacle) it was a place of worship and religious activity. On one occasion Jesus felt such activity was unacceptable and, as reported in all four Gospels, drove from the temple those engaged… More than to allow such thinking (1:6-11). A proper tithe is pure gift, recognizing the great name of Yahweh (1:11). A proper tithe is a sign of returning fully to God in faithful service (3:7). Such tithes bring God’s blessingBlessing is the asking for or the giving of God’s favor. Isaac was tricked into blessing Jacob instead of his firstborn Esau. At the Last Supper Jesus offered a blessing over bread and wine. To be blessed is to be favored by God. More, not because God pays off those who pay in full, but because the relationship with God that the faithful tithe implies is itself a blessing.