God’s Justice and Israel’s Thievery (Malachi 2:17–3:12)

In the Fall of 2021, the Adult Sunday School class at Oakridge began working our way through the book of Malachi. What follows are the notes developed for, used in, and clarified by our weekly morning studies. [No recording for this session.]


Oracle #4: Awaiting God’s Justice (2:17–3:5)

The fourth section of Malachi’s prophecy examines the disparity between God’s justice and human justice (2:17). In many ways, this oracle marks the formal indictment against Judah, one of heartless religiosity (e.g., 3:14). The author calls for honesty and genuine social concern.

v. 17 “Wearied,” Not only have God’s people attempted to make evil good but they claimed God delights in evil because he didn’t demonstrate justice immediately 

Note the contrast between the start of oracle #4 and oracle #5; While the former opens with a declaration of Israel’s changing views on God’s justice (2:17), the latter opens with a declaration of God unchanging nature (3:6)

v. 1 “My messenger,” A play on Malachi’s name and could refer to either an angelic or human courier (the original hearers may have assumed the former as a bearer of “the covenant” [Exo 23:20–23])

Jesus would later identify John by pointing to this text (Matt 11:10; Mark 1:2; Luke 7:27) and the NT makes it clear that Jesus is the messenger of the (new) covenant (Matt 26:28); The messenger was to be the first in a twofold eschatological event, the second being the day of the Lord

vv. 2–4 “Fire … soap,” Dross must be divinely burned off (v. 3; Isa 1:25; Jer 6:29; Ezek 22:22), the filth washed away—i.e., purified and cleansed—so that restoration of the nation (especially the Levites) can take place and faithfulness to the covenant renewed (v. 3); this will occur at Christ’s second coming

v. 5 “Then,” It is after the coming of the messenger of the covenant and the purification of Judah (not just Levi) that God’s justice will be experienced; God himself is both the key witness and prosecuting attorney against post-exilic Judah

Examples of specific law violations are listed: sorcery (Exo 22:18), adultery (Ex 20:14), false swearing (Lev 19:12), withholding wages (Lev 19:13), oppressing the widow and orphan (Ex 22:22–24), injustice to a stranger (Deut 24:17)

For our consideration: How does something as terrible as the day of the Lord give us hope in the present? Is eschatology important or is it more of a niche and tertiary study?

Oracle #5: Robbing God’s House (3:6–12)

Malachi’s fifth message is comparable to the first (1:2–5), highlighting God’s faithfulness to his promises. Because he is faithful, he calls Israel to similar faithfulness in worship, particularly in the forms of tithes and offerings. God desires sincere worship from his people, of which tithing is a symbol.

v. 6 “Do not change,” It is because of God’s immutability that Israel survives in spite of their fickleness and faithlessness

v. 7 “And I shall return to you,” That Israel must return (i.e., shift loyalty) to God makes sense, but how is it that God returns to his people? 

v. 8 “In tithes and offerings,” A tithe was a tenth of all produce and livestock (Lev 27:30, 32) and was to be given to the Levites who, in turn, gave a tithe of the tithe of the priests (Num 18:21–32); Israel was also to being a tithe to eat with the Levites in Jerusalem for the Lord’s feast (Deut 14:22); Every third year, a tithe was to be stored up and used to aid the poor (Deut 14:28); Offerings were additional gifts or contributions made to the Lord

For our consideration: How are we to understand the issue of tithing and generous giving for God’s people today?

Apparently, Judah, as a whole nation (v. 9), had been inconsistent with their worshipful tithing thereby robbing God not just of money, but of the worship he was due

v. 10 “Storehouse,” From King Hezekiah onward (2 Chron 31:11), special storage units associated with the temple held grain brought in payment of tithes; the promise of God is an overflowing of these rooms—an abundance of food no doubt helped by a divine stifling of crop-destroying pests (v. 11)

“Test me,” Are we not told elsewhere to not put the Lord God to the test (Deut 6:16; Matt 4;7)? This seems to be a very specific instance and not an invitation from God to all of humanity for all time

Latest Posts

Josiah has served the Oakridge Bible Chapel family as one of its elders and one of its pastoral staff members since September 2018, before which he ministered as an associate pastor to a local congregation in the Canadian prairies. Josiah's desire is to be used by God to help equip the church for ministry, both while gathered (edification) and while scattered (evangelization). He is married to Patricia, and together they have five children—Jonah, Henry, Nathaniel, Josephine, and Benjamin.

Josiah Boyd

Share it:

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on email