The book of Malachi fittingly sits in Christian Bibles as the last book of the Old Testament, which it assumes, summarizes, and applies. Yet it also looks forward to the New Testament with its promises of the coming reign of God.
A striking feature of the book of Malachi is the way in which every word of God is contradicted or questioned by His people. God’s persistence in speaking to them is a clear picture of sin and grace in close proximity. Furthermore, God’s people neither served Him wholeheartedly nor turned entirely away in blatant disobedience. This was not a neutral territory but a dangerous whirlpool of self-deception.
Peter Adam shows how the book of Malachi is God’s effective remedy for such a situation. The greatest sin of God’s people is the sin against God—the source of all sin against ourselves and others. At the heart of God’s people, the church, must lie a deep, overwhelming conviction that God loves them—just as he reminds Israel in His first words to them in the book of Malachi.
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“Third, in Malachi’s day the people of God were in a mess. While they were not actually running away from God, and were not worshipping idols, as they had in the past, they seemed to lack the energy to serve God wholeheartedly. They tried to live in neutral territory, neither serving God too enthusiastically, nor turning away from God too enthusiastically. In this they were self-deceived. They thought they were in a grey no-man’s land, where they neither needed to respond whole-heartedly to God, nor refuse him. In fact they were in a vicious circle, a terrifying whirlpool, sinking further and further to destruction. Malachi is God’s effective remedy for such a situation among the people of God.” (Pages 15–16)
“So often in our experience it feels as though it has been futile to serve God, because those who do so are not rewarded, and those who don’t serve God seem to have more fun and get away with it.” (Page 111)
“To deny that God has loved them is to deny God. This contradiction of God lies deep in the heart of the people.” (Page 35)
“We see three important things about the people, which reiterate what has gone before. First, they are unconscious of their many sins. Second, they automatically disbelieve, question and contradict God. And third, they are slow to learn, as they keep on making the same mistake, committing the same sin of doubting God’s words.” (Page 109)
“the first sin named, that of doubting God’s love, naturally led to the other sins” (Page 35)
These ancient themes still challenge us today, and Adam continually points us toward the saving work of Christ while reminding us of them. The Message of Malachi will prove a valuable resource for those who desire to preach from Malachi or simply understand it better.
—Jason Brueckner, Bible Study Magazine
Peter Adam is principal of Ridley College in Melbourne, Australia. He was formerly vicar of St. Jude’s in nearby Carlton. He is the author of several books, including Hearing God's Words: Exploring Biblical Spiriality, and Speaking God’s Words: A Practical Theology of Preaching.