5 Reasons to Preach through Malachi
I love each book of the Bible. It’s amazing how each one contributes to the breathtaking panoramic view of God’s saving plan and purpose across history. The book of Malachi is no exception. Reading this book is like standing on Mount Pisgah, from which you can view the Promised Land of the New Testament. From those heights you can even smell the scents blowing across the Old and New Testament. God’s people need to smell those scents afresh through a series of sermons preached through this book.
Malachi was the last voice of God to the people of Israel before the heavens went silent for about 400 years. Such a voice must be significant, even if only for that reason. God had spoken through Haggai and Zachariah. The people had made some responses but were now growing cold. The temple was operational but the priests were lowering the standards due to their half-hearted service to the Lord. Godliness among God’s people was again going dangerously low. What was God’s response to all this? Check it out in this book!
In 1998, I prepared a series of Bible studies through the book of Malachi. There were times when I felt the emotions of this servant of God as he used words that cut and burn in seeking to awaken the consciences of God’s people. So many years later, I still hear them ringing in my own heart, prodding me on to an authentic life before God.
Here are six reasons your people should hear messages through Malachi:
1. They will learn about God’s electing love.
The prophecy of Malachi begins with the statement that leaves many believers uncomfortable. God says, “I have loved Jacob but Esau I have hated” (1:2–3). Here’s a good opportunity to teach God’s people about the depth of his love for them that started in the Godhead in eternity past and is proven across history through his redemptive work and his acts of providence. The contrast with those whom God has bypassed with his grace should leave believers with a fresh sense of gratitude to God’s sovereign electing love.
2. They’ll learn to uphold the spirituality of worship and leadership.
The book of Malachi is a wake-up call to church leaders who should uphold the highest levels of dignity in the worship of God. The priests in Israel were apathetic to the conduct of God’s people in worship. Their chief concern was simply that worship was taking place. With respect to the kind of offerings being brought to the temple, Malachi asked, “Present that to your governor; will he accept you or show you favor?” (1:8) Ouch! When leaders of the church become indifferent to the heart of true worship and are merely concerned with the outward form, then declension has begun and will soon attract the judgement of God.
A low view of worship is often due to failure by church leaders to know that they are covenant keepers. They are to ensure that God’s people know about the unique relationship they have with God through regular teaching that is faithful to the Scriptures. This is what Malachi rebuked Israel’s priests for in Malachi 2; that’s why he reminded them of God’s covenant with Levi. We need to apply this to church leaders today. Perhaps standards of spirituality may be restored to biblical levels.
3. They’ll be warned about unfaithfulness to one another.
Unfaithfulness to God leads invariably to unfaithfulness to one another. Malachi highlighted the way the people of Judah betrayed one another in marrying Gentiles, and also how they mistreated and divorced their wives (2:10–16). Christians easily forget that the two tablets of God’s law cannot be divorced. We must not only seek to love God with all our hearts, minds, souls and strength, we should also with equal resolve seek to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. Our godliness must be evident in our horizontal interpersonal relationship, not only in our Sunday worship.
4. They’ll learn about the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.
As stated in the introduction, sometimes reading the book of Malachi feels as if you are peeping into the Promised Land from Mount Misgah’s lofty heights. Malachi speaks with prophetic clarity about the ministry of John the Baptist (3:1), and then goes on to speak about the efficacy of Christ’s saving work and his final work of judgement (3:2–5). In fact, it’s on this same note that Malachi closes his book (4:1–6). He warns those who stubbornly continue in sin that the day of judgment will result in their total destruction and he encourages those who are faithful that they will experience eternal blessings when “the sun of righteousness” rises with healing in his wings. This will follow a period when Elijah will come and do his work of reconciliation. Amazing! When you realize that this was at least 400 years before the birth of Christ you cannot but have your faith renewed in the divine inspiration of Scripture.
5. They’ll be pushed toward faithful Christian giving.
Although Christians across history have not totally agreed on the perpetuity of tithing, they have agreed that the work of the church is supposed to be supported by the faithful and generous giving of God’s people. God’s people need reminders from time to time so that the work of Christian ministry can gallop along. A faithful, New Covenant exposition of Malachi 3:6–18 will cause Christians to ask themselves about their own practical commitment to the work of the church and the fulfillment of the Great Commission. These words of Malachi are still biting: “Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me” (3:8).
If you’ve been a pastor for some years and haven’t yet preached through the book of Malachi or even taught through it in a Bible study, you should seriously consider preaching through this book. It’s a short book—only four chapters—but has some of the most relevant and pungent lessons you can ever find in the Minor Prophets.