We live as waiting for the Day of Jesus’ returning. This promise of His 2nd coming gives us the hope that comforts and encourages our faith journey. But when we put this hope in our limited comprehension which is input by what we see, hear, and think in this world, it can challenge us to doubt about our faith and even the nature of our God(or God Himself). Therefore it is essential in our faith journey to have the perspective of God and understand our present time from His angle.
The Jews in the time of Malachi lost this attitude to see their lives from the angle of the LORD.
These Jews were those who decided to come back to the promised land from the exile as having hope for their own greater nation as promised through many prophets. That’s why they could complete the Temple in spite of lots of oppositions from the residents of the land. But the completion of the Temple didn’t seem to bring them any glorious restoration as they had expected. Unlike the Solomonic Temple there was no visible manifestation of the LORD’s glory on the second temple. They have been longing for their own nation re-established by a great king, the messianic figure, but none of these seemed to be happening, rather they were imposed with more tax for the monies granted to rebuild the Temple and for the battles of Persia against Egypt. The reality looked so different from their hope. And it made them become cynical, skeptical, disappointed, and angry about their relationship with God.
From their view what was happening in their lives was telling them; “Look back at your history. Battles, destruction, and exiles.. has God loved you? Is it worthy of offering the best things to God? What about the Tithes? He is not giving us any guarantee for material blessing. Do you really need to do that? It sounds better to save more from it and accumulate our wealth in this hard economic situation. Look at the wicked. They ignore God, but they still prosper and escape His punishment. There is no God’s justice. It is totally vain to serve God” And they came to lose their heart of honouring and fearing the name of the LORD.
So, God visits them through the last prophet, Malachi and corrects their misunderstanding and wrong thoughts that shake their faith.
- Has God loved us?
God confirms that his people are under His covenant that was made with Jacob over Easu. And He contrasts his unchangeable love for them to His judgment executed upon the sin of Edom. In spite of the sin of the Jews they returned from the exile by His covenantal love. And those who are not will face complete destruction under His permanent anger. (Mal.1:2-5)
- How have we despised your name?
They were ignorant that they were despising His name by offering blemish animals. So, God reminds them of how great He is. God said that His name will be great among the nations and will be great enough to deserve worship from all nations. They might not know or forget His greatness and offered blemish offering to God without any honouring and fearing hearts. But God shows them His unchangeable glory that all nations will fear. God wants them to see that estimating God’s greatness by their circumstance and dishonouring Him is totally wrong from the truth of God’s majesty. (Mal.1:11-14)
- Is God just? He delights in evils.
God makes it sure that the messenger of the covenant will come, and then He will vindicate His justice before all who do not fear Him. Maybe the Jews would not fully understand about the true work of their coming messianic figure, but God confirms the need and work of Messiah to purify people and enable them to stand before God in righteousness. They wanted to shout for God’s justice that would bring judgment upon all evils, but what God wanted to do more was to prepare the way to have people refined through this Messiah rather than just wash them away. (Mal.3:1-5), so that more people would escape His judgment.
4.How have we robbed you?
They were not honest before God in tithes and contributions. And it was very close relation to their heart behind it as mentioned above. God asks for full tithe though no matter what their economical situation is and promises to bless their prosperity. According to the N.T commands about this God is calling his people to give offering in the harmony with grace that they receive from God. God already gave all blessing of heaven to his people and He himself became the blessing and joy to them. And if tithing depends on the grace 10% will be never enough to pay it off. God wants that his people admit God as their owner and give their whole lives to Him by reflecting the truth. And N.T says not necessarily the obedience to God’s will result in material blessing. It can be rewarded in their time and if not, it will be on the Day. Anyway the common thing in O.T. &N.T. behind the tithe is that God wants them to see Him as the source and the owner of their prosperity. (Mal.3:6-12)
- It is vain to serve the LORD. The wicked prosper and escape His punishment.
Lastly, God confirms his promise that eventually there will be distinction between those who fear God and those who don’t on the Day (Mal.3:13-4:3). What they see in the current time is not the end of the story.
And like Moses’ last words to the Israelites in Deuteronomy contain the exhortations to remember the Law that God had given them, Malachi closed his book, and God closed the Old Testament, with the same exhortation; Remember the law of my servant, Moses. (4:4)
In our faith journey, we also experience suffering that make us doubt about His love, and we are easy to set much more value on our visible material prosperity than invisible God. Whenever we witness injustice in our society we wonder what God is doing and when He is going to bring His justice over all these evils. We believe in God, but we find it difficult to follow Him or evangelize Him whenever serving God doesn’t result in any blessing in our lives.
But we should remember that these circumstances cannot change the nature of God, our faith in the truth, and what God has done, been doing, and is going to do as promised. God told us He loves us, His name is great to deserve worship from all people, He is just and evils will never be spared His judgment. He is the owner of our whole lives, and He surely will come back and distinct those who fear Him from those who are not.
This is the truth that we have to let guide our faith until the Day.