MSG: Malachi Introduction: Silent Treatment Prelude

This message was presented on May 19, 2013 as the introduction to a series on Malachi.  The parallels to the United States are incredible.

Silent Treatment Prelude
Malachi Introduction 

            Do people ever give you the silent treatment?  Do they give you the cold shoulder? What do you do?  Some you ignore.  Some you approach and listen for understanding.  In a family, we should approach the person to find out how to get along.  Family should be an example of unity and oneness.  That can only happen when people are agreed about their direction.  Amos 3:3 records, “Can two walk together unless they are agreed?”  How do people get to an agreement?  They have to talk. 

            We have a Communication Team. Their responsibility is to communicate to the church important information and events.  The team does a great work, although we’re always trying to improve what we do, so you can have better information.   Israel was about to enter a time when they would not hear a word from God – for 400 years. What was going on 400 years ago?  How many of you use a King James Version Bible?  It was written 402 years ago.  That is a long time ago.  Let us get some background information on God’s Word as we begin our study of Malachi.  

            The Old Testament is composed of 39 books written between B.C. 1600 and B.C. 400.  The New Testament is composed of 27 books written between  40 and 96 A.D.  From B.C. 400 to the birth of Christ, there was silence from God.  Why was there silence? There is often silence because people are mad.  But why is there silence after Malachi? Was God mad at Israel? 

            Why was God silent for 400 years and then all of a sudden He began speaking at the coming of the Messiah, Jesus Christ?  Malachi helps us understand why there was divine silence.  Malachi reveals the condition of the people around B.C. 425-400.  They had an attitude of spiritual indifference and spiritual mediocrity and an attitude that questioned why God was not blessing them.  They treated God like He was supposed to be their Sugardaddy.           

            Remember God sent Israel into exile by sending the Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar’s leadership beginning in B.C. 606 and destroying the temple in B.C. 586. Nebuchadnezzer took Israel into exile in Babylon.  God allowed a remnant to return to Israel and the temple was completed in B.C. 516. Israel was in exile for 70 years.  The 70 years was for the 70 Sabbath years Israel failed to honor God. Later, in B.C. 460, Ezra returned to Israel to restore worship.  In B.C. 444, Nehemiah returned to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.  So even though God allowed Israel to return, she failed to humble herself completely, and did not seek after God with all her heart, and with all her soul and with all her might [Deut. 6:5.]   

            Israel thought she was doing right.  She couldn’t figure out why God was not blessing her. from her perspective!  Sacrifices were done every day.  Giving in the form of tithes and offerings were made, sometimes. Most people had a family and a business.  Yet, Israel was falling into a morass of empty religiosity.  Let me first show you how Israel thought she was doing right. Here are ten questions Israel asked of God as God recorded them through Malachi: 

1:2 In what way have You loved us?

1:6 In what way have we despised Your name?

1:7 In what way have we defiled You?

1:9 But now will you not entreat God’s favor, that He may be gracious to us?  Where’s our blessing?

1:13 Oh, what a weariness! the assemblies and sacrifices…

2:13-14 you cover the altar of the Lord with tears..For what reason?

2:17 In what way have we wearied Him?

3:8 In what way have we robbed You?

3:13 What have we spoken against You?

3:14 What profit is it that we have kept His charge? 

            These ten passages reveal the human versus divine viewpoint of Israel.  She was going through rituals, assembling in the temple for sacrifices, and yet she did not have the answers to these questions.  Why?  Why?  We are going to answer those, because the answer to these questions are going to help us understand why the United Statesis suffering so much today.   

            Now I still didn’t answer the question, “Why 400 years of silence?”  Remember the patriarchs went down to Egypt when Joseph was the prime minister?  That was around B.C. 1950. Israel went down and enjoyed an abundance in contrast to the famine they experienced in Israel. Once the famine was over, they should have gone back to the land promise, but they stayed in Egypt.  Israel became saturated with the idolatry of Egypt. How do we know Israel became idolatrous? While Israel was waiting for Moses, who was up on the mountain receiving the Ten Commandments from God, what was the first thing they did? They made a golden calf.  Finally, when Israel cried out for deliverance God brought that deliverance through Moses.  The only thing we know about the time of Joseph’s death until Moses is Exodus 1 and extra-biblical writings on the Kingdoms of Egypt. The extra-biblical writings reveal that Egypt became a super-power.  Why did Egypt become so powerful?  Because, wherever God’s people are, God is and there will be great blessing.  Egypt was blessed, while Israel came under oppression. How many years was Israel in slavery? We read in Acts 7:6 that they were enslaved and oppressed 400 years.  Israel enjoyed a short abundance of blessing in Joseph’s time, but they did not return to the land of promise.  So, God allowed them to remain in Egypt until Moses delivered them.   

            In Malachi’s time, about 1000 years after Moses, Israel was in the land, the temple was rebuilt, the walls were restored, but Israel did not change. They were not passionate about their pursuit of worshiping God.  Hence they lost their freedom to the Greeks and to the Romans for 400 years when God sent Messiah.  Yet Israel rejected the Messiah and God began the Church Age. 

            So what brought on the silence of God?  Malachi answers that.  The people asked in Malachi 2:17, “How have we wearied Him?”  Have you ever been around someone who grumbles?  Someone who grumbles or whines a lot?  It gets very tiresome.  Israel became a nation of indifferent grumblers. They did not know God well, because they were not seeking Him with all their heart, soul, and might! 

            Here are those questions again Israel defamed the Lord with according to God:

1:2 In what way have You loved us?

1:6 In what way have we despised Your name?

1:7 In what way have we defiled You?

1:9 But now will you not entreat God’s favor, that He may be gracious to us?  Where’s our blessing?

1:13 Oh, what a weariness! the assemblies and sacrifices…

2:13-14 you cover the altar of the Lord with tears..For what reason?

2:17 In what way have we wearied Him?

3:8 In what way have we robbed You?

3:13 What have we spoken against You?

3:14 What profit is it that we have kept His charge?

 Are those questions, you might ask?

            Listen, maybe you won’t ask those questions, but you ought to ask these parallel questions:

1:2 Do I experience God’s love for me?

1:6 Do I treat God’s name as holy?

1:7 Do I approach God with reverence, awe and holiness?

1:9 Do I ask for God’s blessing, when I am not in fellowship?

1:13 Do I say, how tiresome it is to assemble for church?

2:13-14 Do I mourn about my situation and not trust God’s sovereignty?

2:17 Do I go through religious rituals without passion?

3:8  Do I keep from the Lord my time, talents, and treasures

3:13 Do I make light of God and grumble or blame-shift?

3:14 Do I act like obedience is a duty, rather than a joyous response? 

            Malachi begins to answer the cynicism, the disbelief and the distrust of God’s people.  They had become disillusioned that the Messiah had not come.  They no longer really believed that God would come at any time to fulfill His covenants made to Abraham.  The people wondered if it was worth serving God at all.  They had an attitude of mechanical observances, empty rituals, stealing from God by not giving, and gross indifference to God’s moral and ceremonial law.  Even the priests were immoral and corrupt.  They could not understand why they were not being blessed. 

            Malachi is a series of accusations by God and indifferent questions by the people and convicting arguments again by God. In fact, 47 of the 55 verses are spoken by God and the book ends in a way that no other prophet ends his book – judgment. The rest of the prophets end their books with hope or blessing.   The last word in Malachi is “cursed.”  What a horrible way to end a conversation, yet the Lord did and that began 400 years of silence. What a way to end and begin silence!

            Here’s a simple historical outline of Malachi: 

1)      Israel is indifferent to God’s love 1

a)      The Lord’s declares His love 1:1-5
b)      Israel despises the Lord’s love 1:6-14

2)      Israel is indifferent to God’s law 2

a)      The religious leadership violate the law 2:1-9
b)      The people violate home laws 2:10-17

3)      Israel is indifferent to God’s message 3

a)      God declares a coming judgment 3:1-6
b)      God declares a current judgment 3:7-15
c)      God draws together His faithful 3:16-18

4)      Israel is indifferent to the Day of the Lord 4

a)      A great day of judgment will expose the wicked 4:1
b)      A great day of joy will expose the righteous 4:2-3
c)      God’s final admonition 4:4-6

 

            Let us note several other aspects of Malachi before I make application.  First, Malachi is the author of Malachi. We know nothing of Malachi besides in the first verse, his name means “My Messenger.” He is the final prophetic voice as a contemporary with Ezra, who actually wrote the last words in the Old Testament of 2 Chronicles, and assembled the books in the Hebrew Bible.  In the Hebrew Bible, Chronicles is the last book. Malachi was the final voice ministering about 1000 years after Moses, the first prophet, wrote.

            Secondly, the religious setting is one of spiritual indifference. The temple was rebuilt in B.C. 516 by Zerrubbabel and  worship system restored B.C. 457 by Ezra.  The walls were rebuilt by Nehemiah in B.C. 444.   Israel was in the pits, spiritually.  While the Lord reached down to pull Israel out, Israel said, “We’re not in a pit.”  Israel was indifferent, rather than eagerly waiting.  In contrast to their fathers who went into the land, braving many savage obstacles, they became self-righteous, arrogant, and impatient in their attitude toward the Lord.

Religiously, Israel questioned God and were wondering if religion was worth it (Mal. 1:6-10; 2:17). Morally, they dealt treacherously in their marriages by infidelity and lack of oneness with their mates.  They gave up their Jewish wives and married heathen women. They were failing to raise up a godly offspring (Mal. 2:11-16). Socially, they were involved with sorcerers, perjurers and adulterers, but would not reach out to the widows and aliens (Mal. 3:5). Economically, they didn’t think what they gave really mattered.  They didn’t think the lack of giving was actually robbing what belonged to God (Mal. 3:8-10).  They failed to remember God’s covenant (Mal. 1:2-5; 4:4; cf. Deut. 8:3-14).

Thirdly, we see Jesus Christ mentioned three times in Malachi. In Malachi 1:14, He is the “Great King.” Indeed, He is greater than the governor. Israel would not think of offending the governor, but they are not aware of the offense against the “Great King.”  In fact the Lord would be king over all the earth as Zech 14:9 declares. In Malachi 3:1, He is “The Messenger of the Covenant.”  However, His coming would not be of blessing, but of judgment, beginning with the Levites.  The cleansing of the temple in John 2:14-16 and Matthew 21:12 were a foretaste of the Second Coming. And in Malachi 4:2, He is the Sun of Righteousness who brings healing and great joy, but He will condemn the wicked.

There are almost exact parallels of Israel in the attitude and lifestyle of the United States.  It is amazing how self-righteous we see ourselves, but are failing to understand life from God’s perspective. Consider the following:

  • America tolerates radical Muslims who despise America and is intolerant of Christians who seek the America as it was originally founded.
  • America tolerates those who choose an alternative lifestyle and is intolerant of Christians who adhere to what the Bible says about those lifestyles.
  • America tolerates those who sleep around and is intolerant of Christians who promote fidelity in marriage of one man and one woman.
  • America tolerates political lying and IRS targeted audits and is intolerant of Christians who seek after the truth according to the constitution.
  • America tolerates the murder of babies and is intolerant of Christians defending the rights of the unborn.
  • America tolerates the Clinics of Horror just like the WW2 Germans tolerated death camps and is intolerant of organizations that will not give adoptions to same-sex couples.
  • America tolerates a press that will not expose to the public what happens in clinics of horror, and is intolerant of Christians who want the audacious evil exposed.

Speaking of that, a jury in Philadelphia on Monday convicted Kermit Gosnell, a doctor who does not deserve that title, of three counts of first-degree murder. The details of the crimes are horrible.  Mr. Gosnell conducted illegal late-term abortions, past the 24-week mark, which, in some cases, resulted in live births. Gosnell then instructed his employees to plunge scissors into the babies’ necks to kill them.  Where was the justice for the tens of thousands of babies not born?

  • America tolerates a government that prints money to cover indebtedness, runs without a budget and rewards those who do evil and is intolerant of Christians for seeking Tea Party economic standards
  • America tolerates filth and evil over radio and television air, but is intolerant of a UCLA Christian woman who wanted to thank her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in her graduation speech.
Furthermore, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (Los Angeles) requested an investigation of the desecration of a Quran, Islam’s revealed text, as a hate crime. Conversely, when Palestinians tore up Bibles for toilet paper (May 15, 2002, The Washington Times) there was no outrage, and after a church in the U.S. saved and held fundraisers to afford the cost of buying and shipping requested Bibles in the Pashto and Dari language to an American sergeant in Afghanistan, the Bibles were confiscated, thrown away, and burned. The only official comment about burning the Bibles was this one, by a Defense Department spokesman, “Troops in war zones are required to “burn their trash.”
Read more at http://www.christianpost.com/news/growing-intolerance-for-christianity-in-us-49588/#qf2ruIEgsiRS1rFh.99
 

Christians in America have to tolerate the defamation of their holiest images in national museums, including particularly provocative, offensive acts defined as “artwork,” some receiving taxpayer-funded grants from the National Endowment for the Arts. On the other hand, several college editors who cited freedom of speech when republishing anti-Muslim cartoons first published in a Danish newspaper, were fired or disciplined because they were offensive to Muslim students
Read more at http://www.christianpost.com/news/growing-intolerance-for-christianity-in-us-49588/#qf2ruIEgsiRS1rFh.99
 

We in America are just like Israel was in B.C. 425.  Will we wake up?  Are you indifferent toward God?  You can change today.  Come to the cross and become a part of God’s plan with passion, desire to walk with God and enjoy His presence.  We don’t have to be like the rest of America.  We can be different, passionate and ready to disciple others. 

Have you been a Christian more than two months?  Then who are you discipling?  It is through each Christian discipling another person that a difference will be made in the United States.  The front of the bulletin says,

Connecting together to worship God.
Equipping together in grace to be more like Jesus Christ.
Multiplying together with the gospel to reach the world for Jesus Christ.

Who are you discipling?  I’m going to go to that side room and you can join me in prayer as the music closes and final prayer is made.  I would like to pray with you.  Come to the foot of the cross.  Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.

Respond in awe to God’s Word or hear His silence.

Message Based Discussion Questions

1)      How does it make you feel when someone you love gives you the silent treatment? 

Digging Deeper: 

2)      What was the problem in the church of Laodicea (Rev. 3:14-22)?  How is it the same as Israel in the time of Malachi? 

3)      How would you describe how people communicate without saying anything?  What do the following passages say about non-verbal communication (Gen. 3:7-10; 4:5-6; 40:6-7; Josh 7:6; 1 Sam. 18:4; 1 King 9:3-4; 21:4; 1 John 3:17)? What do you think people are saying to God by their actions? 

4)      How would you describe Israel in the time of Malachi religiously (Mal. 1:6-10); morally (Mal. 2:11-16); socially (Mal. 3:5); and economically (Mal. 3:8-10)? 

Making application from the message to life: 

5)      What was God’s message through Jeremiah to Israel in Jeremiah 14:13 – 15:6? Do you suppose God has a point or line that when crossed He says, “Enough!”?  What discernment should that give us in life application? 

6)      How do you think USA would fare related to a message like Malachi?  What do you think would be said if USA were a biblically chosen people by God?

7)      What are spiritual indicators of “indifference” or “anticipation”?

 

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