Malachi starts off with an argument. God says he loves Israel, they aren’t buying it. God responds by reminding them that they are His chosen people, descendants of Jacob, as compared to Esau and his descendants. One thing to clear up, this Jacob I loved and Esau I hated business shouldn’t be read as God’s affection toward either one, it’s an indication of choice. God chose Jacob and his children to be the light to the world and the lineage through which the Messiah would come. They would be the people who would persist and bear the example of God’s dealings with humanity. He makes no such promises to Esau and his descendants, the Edomites.
In fact, God’s response to Israel is to show them that nations rise and fall on his sovereignty. The heritage of God will continue through Israel and as a people they will persist. However, where God does not build them up or sustain them, any other nation will fall. Edom will eventually be destroyed never to return. The Lord is angry with them forever. I got stuck on that for a bit but then, if you remember how God has Amos referring to His own people, it’s less of a thing. God’s anger exists for all who spurn and reject him, it’s just that because God has chosen Israel in the way he has, they will persist through times of rejection and repentance. Edom, however, wasn’t chosen to be used in that way so as a people they will ultimately be destroyed (bearing the mark of God’s anger forever.)
Now that God has rebutted the assertion that He doesn’t love Israel, he will now call into question whether Israel actually loves God. These themes aren’t completely foreign, the notion of false or shallow worship was littered through our study of Amos. They call him father and master but give him no honor. And the priests, those who are dedicated to God’s service, are called onto the carpet.
The accusations and rebuttal show up again. (There’s a chiasm in here, if you have an ESV study bible they outline it for you. Any time you see repeated or parallel phrases there might be a chiasm happening). Anyway, God says the priests despise His name, they protest, and God lets them have it. The people are being shallow and ridiculous, bringing in lame, blind or otherwise worthless animals in to sacrifice and the priests are permitting it. Is that not evil? he asks (that’s a rhetorical question). Either they think God is fooled (which is dumb) or they don’t honor God and don’t mind bringing these low-rent sacrifices to him. And they entreat the favor of God? Come on. Now we start to get a glimpse of the discrepancy between these promises coming out of exile and what is actually going on in Judah. These people are going through the motions, phoning it in. And God is not having it.
I love the protest, here. Would not one priest, just one, shut the doors and stop this nonsense? You can’t be a man of God, especially a priest, and have no stones (that’s convicting…crapola.) God is rejecting these offerings. He re-brings in the point of view of the nations around them, almost shaming His people in that He will be acknowledged and praised beyond Judah’s borders because His name is great and feared while amongst the Jews they treat him so flippantly. Sick animals, complaints, lying (promising to bring in the prime male from the flock and instead hobbling in some elderly, miscreant sheep.)
This will continue into chapter 2.
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