RSS

Tag Archives: Malachi

The Minor Prophets: conclusion

All summer we’ve been going through some of the minor prophets, in a bible study I wrote two years ago (learn more about the background of this study in the introduction). We’re going to close the series with some of the conclusion I wrote for the original study guide.

Here’s a brief look at some of the topics we’ve covered while studying these six books:

Obadiah

  • Pride deceives
  • The good  you DON’T do is sin
  • Deeds return on your head (the Boomerang Effect)

Joel

  • Crying out to God
  • Turning your heart toward God
  • God’s gifts satisfy fully –and more!
  • God is both Judge and Protector
  • God is present with us

Zephaniah

  • Seek God
  • Seek God together
  • Trust God to deal with injustice
  • God is faithful when we are not
  • Serving shoulder-to-shoulder

Habakkuk

  • When sin goes unpunished
  • Trusting God when life doesn’t go to plan
  • Watching for God’s answers
  • God’s heart for the exploited
  • Lament worship

Haggai

  • Serve God first – trust Him to take care of the rest
  • Obeying (not procrastinating)
  • God’s presence makes the temple great
  • Offerings of faith
  • Tools chosen by God

Malachi

  • What would your life be like without God?
  • Priest offering sacrifices
  • Breaking faith/keeping faith
  • Trusting God’s timing
  • Robbing God
  • Unity affects God

There’s a LOT packed into these six short books. One thing I love about reading the Bible is that no matter how many times I read the same book, there’s always SO MUCH MORE to learn. I discover new treasures every time as I turn my heart to God.

  1. These lists reflect some of the things that are special to me in each of these books. I encourage you to make your own list, of the things that spoke to you from each book.

I hope that you have enjoyed taking a brief look at some of the minor prophets. I pray that you have a deeper understanding of the character of God, and his passionate love you his people – his passionate love for YOU.

I also hope that you have been recording your thoughts, your insights, your questions. These are the things we need to share with each other! This is how we strengthen our faith – gathering together, sharing together.

I’m going to close with a beautiful prayer from Ephesians 3:20-21:

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

God is truly beyond comprehension, beyond imagination.

He is greater than all our wildest dreams.

I pray he will be glorified through me, through you – through us, as we continue to seek him together.


Advertisements
 
Leave a comment

Posted by on September 5, 2011 in Bible Resources

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

The Minor Prophets: Malachi, part 3

This is part of an on-going series on the Minor Prophets; a bible study I wrote two years ago. For more information on this study, including permission to use it for your own group, please read the introduction.

Click here to read the first part of the study of Malachi

Click here to read the second part of the study of Malachi

We continue with Section 4 – Malachi 2:17-3:5

KEY VERSE: “You have wearied the LORD with your words.” (verse 17)

We can actually WEARY God by not trusting his justice. Our complaints show a lack of trust. Also, it’s not enough to trust his ABILITY to bring justice. It’s important that I also trust his timing.

God says SOMETHING IS COMING. We might never see it fulfilled but there is a PLAN – for good, for justice, for bringing purity and true worship. Truly trusting him means trusting in his plan when things around me don’t look the way I think they’re supposed to. It means trusting that he is GOOD and that he has the POWER to do all the good things he has planned. It means trusting his TIMING – that he will do the things he has planned at precisely the right time. He is never late. (Check out II Peter 3:3-10 for more thoughts on God’s timing).

  1. What does it look like to trust God’s timing?
  2. How would your life be different if you trusted his timing more?

Section 5 – Malachi 3:6-12

KEY VERSE: “How do we rob you?’ ‘In tithes and offerings’” (verse 8)

God says if we return to him, he’ll return to us. Then he tells us HOW to return! (It’s always nice to have the instruction manual). He says it’s pretty simple, really – just stop robbing God.

Tithing is a practice of regularly, consistently, putting God first. It is a way you can concretely say that God comes first – of putting your money where your mouth is! Choosing not to tithe is withholding something from God that belongs to him. When we give freely to him, however, he is pretty good at out-giving us! It’s not just about money, either. Biblical tithing was giving to God the first portion of all your resources. Your resources might include time, money, energy, talents, skills… I believe that giving to God financially is very important, but giving him just money isn’t the heart of tithing. (Have a look at Matthew 23:23 for Jesus’ words on tithing).

  1. What is something you can give to God in a regular/consistent way in order to show that you put him first?
Section 6 – Malachi 3:13-4:6

KEY VERSE: “You have said harsh things against me” (verse 13)

God’s people were saying that there was no point serving God – it didn’t get them anywhere. When God hears their mutterings, he feels hard done by. Their words are unfair. God DOES remember those who are faithful. He sees what’s going on – he’s not blind. Whether the faithful receive immediate recompense or not, God SEES. One day we’ll see that he DOES make a distinction between men, based on their hearts and deeds. God WILL vindicate the righteous. At the very end, when everything is counted up, we will see that everything God has done has been just and fair. Every person will be given true justice. No matter what happens from now until I see him face to face, I can trust that promise.

KEY VERSE: “Then those who feared the LORD talked with each other, and the LORD listened and heard.” (verse 16)

Unity among God’s people grabs his attention. I don’t know exactly how or why, but there is something powerful about coming together to seek God. Psalm 133, Matthew 18:20 and Ephesians 4:3 are just a few places that hint at the power and importance of unity among God’s people. I tend to think about gathering together as something that’s good for us – that it helps us when we spend time together. While this is clearly true, the bible indicates that there is something more to it – that when we work together, share together, pray together, we actually affect God.

  1. Describe a time you felt discouraged in your faith – felt that your energy spent serving God was wasted.
  2. What truths about God can you use to encourage yourself in such times? Things you PERSONALLY know to be true.
  3. What does God’s promise for FAIRNESS and JUSTICE mean to you?
  4. Think of ways you gather together with other believers – talking together, praying together, seeking together.
  5. How can you stir up more of this sort of gathering (that strengthens people and affects God) in your life?
 
Leave a comment

Posted by on August 29, 2011 in Bible Resources

 

Tags: , ,

The Minor Prophets: Malachi, part 2

This is part of an on-going series on the Minor Prophets; a bible study I wrote two years ago. For more information on this study, including permission to use it for your own group, please read the introduction.

Click here to read the first part of the study of Malachi

We continue with Section 2 – Malachi 1:6-2:9

KEY VERSE: “When you sacrifice crippled or diseased animals, is that not wrong? Try offering them to your governor! Would he be pleased with you?” (verse 1:8) 

God is very clear that when sacrifices are offered to him they must be “without defect”. That phrase occurs 17 times in Leviticus, and 14 times in Numbers 28-29 alone! (For an example of God’s instructions for sacrifices, read Leviticus 22:17-33) Whenever God describes a certain type of sacrifice, he specifies that the animal offered must be PERFECT. The point is that his people are to give him their BEST – the most valuable, not second rate leftovers. Giving God a lamb that is sick and about to die (and is therefore useless to you) doesn’t cost you a lot. A gift that doesn’t cost you anything isn’t a sacrifice. A sacrifice COSTS you something.

God isn’t angry because he’s not getting the best meat. It’s the heart attitude of the priests as they “worship” him that is the problem. They wouldn’t try to con human leaders in this way, so why do they try it with God? They have no respect for him. Beliefs are betrayed by actions. If they really BELIEVED God, believed him worthy of respect, they wouldn’t be cheating on worship and skimping on sacrifices.

KEY VERSE: “Oh, that one of you would shut the temple doors, so that you would not light useless fires on my altar! I am not pleased with you.” (verse 1:10)

God would prefer there be NO sacrifices, NO organised worship, than have a bunch of cynics going through the motions for the sake of tradition and appearances. Practicing rituals without a desire to please God is not worship at all! Doing all the right things because it’s expected is obligation, not worship. This DOESN’T mean that tradition is bad. It doesn’t matter how modern the rituals are – if they are practiced without a desire to please God, they won’t please him. Hebrews 11:6 says we have to believe God exists, and believe he rewards those who seek him. Those who brought sacrifices to God while doubting their sacrifices affected God were not pleasing him.

KEY VERSE: “The lips of a priest ought to preserve knowledge…he is the messenger of the LORD Almighty.” (verse 2:7)

Malachi 2:5-8 tells us what God wants from his priests.

  • Revere God; stand in awe of his name
  • True instruction in his mouth; no lies/deceit
  • Walk in peace
  • Live righteously
  • Turn others away from sin
  • Lips preserve knowledge
  • People seek instruction from them, because they speak God’s message

I Peter 2:9 says that WE are all priests now – we can ALL minister before the LORD, talk to him directly, enter his presence. These instructions, then, are to us! These are things we are expected to do, in order to serve God. Priests are God’s messengers (verse 7) – we bear his message to his people, and to the world. Notice that almost all these points concern the interaction of the priests with OTHERS, not with God. How you speak to people, how you live your life, sends a message about the character of God.

Sacrifice is worship. By giving up something that is valuable to you, you are saying with your ACTIONS (not just your words) that God is worth MORE than that. There is no objective standard to measure sacrifice by. $100 might be pocket change for one person, but be the life savings of another. Moving to China might be really hard for one person, but fulfil the heart’s desire of another. The sacrifice is measured by how much what is given up is worth to the person who gives it. If it is costly to you, it is precious to him.

  1. What is the most precious thing you’ve given to God?
  2. Think of someone who has helped shape your understanding of who God is. What about them (their words, their actions) taught you the most?
  3. What message are you sharing with the world around you through the way you live?

Section 3 – Malachi 2:10-16

KEY VERSE: “guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith” (verse 15 and verse 16)

God sees breaking faith as a very serious thing. This passage indicates that to break faith is to leave the spirit unguarded. So what does it mean to “break faith”? At its simplest, it means to stop doing something you promised to do – to break a promise, to renege on a commitment, to withdraw support, to be disloyal to your beliefs/principles. Faithfulness is very important in God’s book. God is faithful to every promise he makes – and he desires that we be faithful to our promises.

Marriage vows are promises, and marriage is designed to be a lifelong commitment – the closest model on earth of the intimate relationship we have with God. God permits divorce, but it is not his desire for marriages to end (Jesus talks about this in Matthew 19:3-8). When one partner breaks faith with the partner who is faithful, God hurts for them. God acts as a witness against those who break faith. Breaking faith with a person is an affront to their Creator. When I disrespect a person, I disrespect God. When I hurt a person, I hurt God.

If we are going to NOT break faith, that means we need to KEEP faith – keep our promises, honour our commitments, stay loyal in relationships. We aren’t perfect, and we will make mistakes, but faithfulness should be a quality we esteem highly in ourselves and others – something we work hard at, and make sacrifices to maintain. It’s not always easy to keep faith – but it’s something that matters to God.

One way I practise keeping faith is to carefully consider new commitments before I make them. I try to think about what it will mean to honour the commitment. When I plan from the outset how I will keep faith, I find it easier to do so when life gets busy, or I’m just tired.

  1. What might it look like to keep faith with someone?
  2. What does keeping faith with God look like in your life?
  3. Can you think of an area of your life where you find it hard to keep faith?
  4. What can you do this week to strength the commitment you’ve made in that area?
 
1 Comment

Posted by on August 22, 2011 in Bible Resources

 

Tags: , ,

The Minor Prophets: Malachi, part 1

This is part of an on-going series on the Minor Prophets; a bible study I wrote two years ago. For more information on this study, including permission to use it for your own group, please read the introduction.

WHO IS MALACHI?

“Malachi” means “my messenger” or “my angel” and is thought to be a pseudonym. Nothing is known about the author, although some believe the text suggests he was a priest. Different Jewish traditions credit the book to Ezra (who was a priest) or Mordecai, but there is no evidence for this.

Zechariah chapter 9, Zechariah chapter 12 and the book of Malachi all start with the phrase “Oracle, the word of the Lord” – so there is a theory that they were three independent and anonymous prophecies  added to the end of Zechariah, with the last split off to make an even 12 books (the number of the tribes of Israel). This would make Malachi the work of a single author. Malachi was one of the last prophets, if not the last, to minister widely in Israel before the time of Jesus.

WHEN WAS MALACHI WRITTEN?

Malachi was likely written sometime in the 35 years from 459 – 424 BC. An approximate date is 450 BC. Although the book is not dated, there are a few clues in the text. Malachi 1:8 uses the word “peha” for “governor “. This is a Persian-era term, which makes it post-exilic (after the Jews have returned from captivity in Babylon). The fact that kings are not mentioned also supports this (there were governors rather than kings after the exile). Secondly, the temple has been rebuilt, so it can’t be before 516 BC.

A date after the temple has been rebuilt is fairly widely accepted, but after that there is debate. Some think it was written before the second group of exiles returned in 457 BC, others think it was shortly before the third group returns with Nehemiah in 445 BC. Some think it was even later, between the various visits Nehemiah made to Jerusalem (between 432 and 424 BC).

HISTORICAL CONTEXT

  • 586 BC – Jerusalem and the temple are destroyed by the Babylonians. Many of the Jews are killed or taken to Babylon as captives. Those left behind to live in the ruins intermarry with other nations; these people become the Samaritans. (II Kings 25; II Chronicles 36:15-23 – the history books end here).
  • 536 BC – 1st group of 50,000 Jews return to Jerusalem under Zerubbabel and Joshua the priest (Ezra 2); work is begun on the temple – altar for sacrifices rebuilt (Ezra 3:1-2) and the foundation for the temple laid (Ezra 3:8-13)
  • 520 BC – Haggai gives God’s message; work starts on the temple 3 weeks later on September 7th (Haggai 1:14-15)
  • 516 BC – Temple is finished on February 25th (Ezra 6:15)
  • 457 BC – 2nd group of 2,058 Jews return to Judah with Ezra (Ezra 7:8-10); reforms are initiated (Ezra 8-10)
  • 445 BC – 3rd group returns with Nehemiah (Nehemiah 2:17-18), walls are rebuilt (Nehemiah 6:15-16)

Several decades have passed since Haggai preached God’s message to the people. The temple has been rebuilt. Life goes on. Passion fades. People question God’s presence, his involvement in their lives. Faith gives way to cynicism and complacency. These internal attitudes lead to outward actions of mechanical and technical observances, practicing empty rituals. Temple worship becomes religious obligation instead of faith. People are going through the motions with a disconnected heart.

WHAT IS MALACHI ABOUT?

Materialism and externalism (which were to become strong characteristics of the Pharisees and Saduccees) are prevalent. People focus on external appearances of piety so as to be right in the eyes of men, missing the heart of law.

Malachi addresses six areas in which God’s people are consistently missing the heart of God. It is a message from God, defending his character to those who would doubt him, and exposing blind spots in those who claim to serve him.


STRUCTURE

The book is structured as a series of six “disputes”. This was a new style of writing that became known as the Didactic-Dialetic method (Disputation method). Each dispute is made up of three parts: the assertion, the objection, and the rebuttal. In the assertion, God says something that is true. In the objection, a question is asked – a challenge from the perspective of the audience. In the rebuttal, God explains why the assertion is true despite the question posed in the objection.

Using this method is like having a debate with the audience without having audience participation – answering the questions they’re thinking without waiting for them to be asked. This became the popular/normal method for Jewish rabbis/scribes to use; Jesus himself used this form. Using this method, the book of Malachi is a running debate between God (through the prophet) and those who question his (God’s) power/goodness.

The Six Disputes

  1. 1:2-5 – Does God really love us?
  2. 1:6-2:9 – Sub-standard offerings
  3. 2:10-16 – Relationships
  4. 2:17-3:5 – God’s justice: the long-term plan
  5. 3:6-12 – Tithing
  6. 3:13-4:6 – Disillusionment with God
Section 1 – Malachi 1:1-5

KEY VERSE: “’I have loved you,’ says the LORD. But you ask, ‘How have you loved us?’” (verse 2)

“God, do you really love me? I know you say you do, but I don’t really see it.”

Have you ever thought or prayed something like that? I think most Christians have at least once. The first dispute in Malachi addresses the question in the hearts of the people – “How do we know that God loves us?”

God’s answer isn’t what I would expect (I love that I’ll never have him figured out). His answer attempts to turn their eyes outward. Rather than list things he’s done in their lives, he tells them to look at the Edomites. (If you did the Obadiah study, you’ll remember the long history there). To me, this is a case of “What would your lives look like if I hadn’t shown you such great love and mercy?”

What would my life look like without God? Without his mercy? Without his blessing?

If God left me to my own devices, with no guidance, no correction, where would I end up?

In Psalm 124 really encourages me when I consider this. I know what I am like at heart. I know I am full of pride and rebellion and impatience all sorts of unlovely things. I shudder to imagine who I would be without Jesus in my life, without the Holy Spirit within me.

  1. What would your life look like without Christ?
  2. What decisions might you have made? Where might those decisions have lead you?
 
3 Comments

Posted by on August 15, 2011 in Bible Resources

 

Tags: , ,