Brace yourself, he’s coming
Prepping for the LORD’s arrival1Listen to me. I’m sending an advance person to prepare the path ahead of me. The leader you’ve been asking for is coming to his Temple. He’ll show up suddenly. The LORD of everyone assures you that the messenger you love is coming. This will be the messenger of the justice that’s written into Jewish law.
2There’s nothing you can do to get ready for his arrival. When he comes, you’re going to be at his mercy. He’s coming to clean up the mess you made. Like fire, he’ll destroy the trash. Like strong soap, he’ll strip off the dirt.
3Like a silversmith who refines and purifies silver, he’ll purify our worship leaders in the tribe of Levi. When he’s done with these priests and their associates, they’ll be like purified gold and silver. When they offer sacrifices to the LORD, they’ll be authentic and heartfelt expressions of devotion. 4Then when people of Judah bring their offerings to Jerusalem, the LORD will be happy about those sacrifices.
Judgment day5I’m coming to pass judgment on you. I’ll fast-track my condemnation of people who practice sorcery, adultery, and hurting others with their lies. I’ll do the same for crooks who cheat their employees. And the same for people who exploit widows, orphans, and immigrants who don’t know me yet and don’t worship me. Pay attention. I’m the LORD of everyone.
6I’m the LORD and I don’t change, waffle, or flip. That’s why you descendants of Jacob aren’t extinct.
7You’re consistent, too. From the very beginning until now, you and your ancestors have ignored my laws. You haven’t kept your part of our covenant agreement. The LORD of everyone invites you to come back. But you say, “What are you talking about? How can we go back to a place we never left?”
How to rob God8So, you think it’s okay to rob God? That’s what you’re doing. But you wonder how, don’t you? I’ll tell you. You’re robbing me of tithes and offerings. 9Life isn’t going well for you now because of this. When you rob me, you cross the line. You’ve gotten yourself on the wrong side of me. I’m talking about the entire nation.
A barrel of blessing from heaven10Bring all the tithe to the Temple so we have food here at my house. Test me. Do it. Then watch what happens. I’ll open the windows of heaven and dump a barrel of blessing all over you. 11I’m the LORD of everything. And I’ll tell the locusts to get lost, so they don’t eat your grain and grapes, leaving you with nothing but nubs in the dirt. 12You’ll be the talk of the international crowd when they hear about how well the land is performing for you, says the LORD of everyone.
13You insulted me with some harsh words. And you ask, “What did we say wrong?” 14You said, “What’s the point of obeying all the rules we got from the LORD of everyone? What do we get out of moping around and crying over our sins? 15Proud and snooty people seem happy enough. They’re making a good living. God’s doing nothing to punish them. So, they’re getting away with it.”
God will protect his devoted people16But some were still devoted to the LORD. They got together and talked about all of this. When God saw that, he ordered their names written into a book, for later. 17The LORD of everyone said: These are my precious people. When I come to condemn and pass sentence, I’ll protect them the way a dad would protect his kids. 18Then you’ll see the difference between the good and the bad, and between someone who honors God and someone who ignores him.
This verse has produced more questions than words. The first question is: Who is this advance person and the messenger who comes later? The “advance person” is more literally “a messenger.” That could be a human or an angel. In Hebrew, “angel” and “messenger” and “Malachi” are the same word: malak. New Testament writers point to John the Baptist as the advance man for Jesus (Matthew 11:10; Mark 1:2; Luke 7:47). Many Jewish scholars say Malachi was the advance man. Some scholars say all references to people in this verse point to God.
The word is usually translated in Bibles as “lord,” or “Lord” when it seems to refer to God. It’s a word that describes the man of the house, master, owner, husband, person in authority over others
The original Hebrew text simply mentions the covenant. This paraphrase adds context, drawing from the meaning of the word and a key topic of the prophecy: people complain God isn’t just (2:17), so God is coming to show these sinful people justice. He’s going to clean the Temple of corrupt priests and of worshipers who merely go through the motions of sacrifice while worshiping idols, too. Jewish law makes that illegal in the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:2-17; Deuteronomy 5:6-21). All the rest of the Jewish laws rest on these 10 pillars as the foundational laws.
The sacrifices will be more literally “righteous,” instead of blind, crippled, and diseased (1:8), which are forbidden sacrifices under Jewish law (Leviticus 22:19-20, 22).
Some Jews were accusing God as being unreliable and unfair. The writer is saying that the existence of the Jewish nation is evidence that God has kept his word to the three fathers of the Jewish people: Abraham and his son Isaac and his grandson and Jacob. “Look, I am going to give you a huge family. Your people will grow into many nations. I’ll give this land to your descendants. It will belong to them forever” (Genesis 48:4; see also Genesis 22:17).
God entered into an agreement—often called a covenant or a contract—with the Jewish people. He promised to protect them and bless them with success in life. In return the Jewish people were to obey the laws Moses gave them. The Book of Deuteronomy is a summary of those laws and the rituals they were to observe. For one, they were to sacrifice animals to atone for their sins and to thank God for his kindness. Deuteronomy 28 lays out the rewards the Jewish people get for honoring their part of the agreement and the penalties for breach of contract, which meant breaking the laws. Observant Jews today still take these laws and rituals seriously.
The people seemed to think they hadn’t done anything wrong, and they were still on the good side of God.
This will come as a surprise to some: tithing isn’t one of the Ten Commandments. Christian leaders in the New Testament didn’t mention it as a requirement. When Paul took an offering, he told Christians in his churches to “set aside some money, as you’re able” (1 Corinthians 16:2). Tithing is mentioned briefly in 17 chapters of the Bible. There are 1,189 chapters in the Protestant Bible and more for Catholics and other Christian traditions. Jewish laws detailed what kinds of offerings the people had to bring to the Temple: animals, grain, wine, and olive oil. They brought these not only to express their repentance for sin and their gratitude and devotion to God. But in additions, much of the offerings went to the tribe of Levi, the worship leaders: priests, assistants, musicians. They were Levites who managed the Jerusalem Temple. Their share of the offerings became their salary. Tithing 10 percent was customary, especially in times of spiritual revival. Church historians say Christians in the early centuries of the movement didn’t tithe because they considered it an obsolete Jewish law, like the laws about circumcision and kosher food. Many church leaders talked about generosity, but not tithing. John Wesley, founder of Methodism, never preached a sermon about tithing 10 percent of a person’s income. Nor did John Calvin, founder of a movement that produced many Baptist denominations, Presbyterians, and non-denominational churches. Yet historians say that as ministers in more recent generations explored ways to financially support the church, tithing produced the best results.
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