Malachi

Malachi 1:1-5 The Predestination Of Those Loved, And Those Hated.

This is “the burden of the word of the LORD to Israel by Malachi,” showing that God works through the unique character of the people He chooses to deliver His word (v. 1). The specific phrase, “the burden of the word” is only found here and with Zechariah (9:1; 12:1), although the word ‘burden’ is used elsewhere. In these few words we are also informed of nature of the word being a ‘burden’, and the audience. “Malachi is to be dated about the time of Ezra and Nehemiah. The reference to the “governor” (1:8) locates the book in the Persian period, and Malachi’s emphasis on the law (Mal. 4:4) would indicate the time of Ezra’s ministry of restoring the prominence and authority of the law (Ezra 7:14, 25, 26; Neh. 8:18)” (NGSB. p.1485).

There are also many common themes shared by Ezra, Nehemiah, and Malachi.* However, the most common unifying theme in Malachi is the covenant, which is instructive to us given that Malachi is the last of the old covenant books, looking forward to the new covenant.** Malachi’s audience were discouraged, doubting the promises of the covenant and the coming Messianic reign, and as a result they were given to a defiant skepticism. The covenant LORD levels this accusation against them, and to this end Malachi adopts a disputational format.*** The first of his six disputational dialogues is found here at 1:2-5. The prophet is called to perform the role of the covenant LORD’s prosecuting attorney.

Another theme which is important in these dialogues is that of “a remnant of the Spirit” (2:15). It is the remnant motif alone which helps us to understand the issue of covenantal blessing and cursing, and the distinction between all who are outwardly members of the covenant community, and those who are truly regenerate children of the LORD. It is this very point which is made here in this first dialogue. When we read that the LORD has loved His people, we are to understand this as a special electing grace. Esau was an outward member of the covenant community, but he was never numbered among what Paul called “a remnant according to the election of grace” (Rom. 11:5).

This love was behind the deliverance out of Egypt (Dt. 4:37; 7:8). Without a doubt there were external members only who benefited from this love, just as Edom (Esau) was still given special treatment as compared to other nations (Dt. 23:5). The former prophets (Major), also made the point that the LORD of the covenant had a special love for the “remnant according to the election of grace” (Cf. Is. 1:7-9; 12:20-23; Jer. 31:1-7). This has always been fundamental to the administrations of the one covenant of grace. There has always been this “purpose of God according to election” (Rom. 9:11), that the older would serve the younger, and “Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated” (vv. 2-3; Rom. 9:12-13 Cf. Gen. 25:21).

This special love that the covenant LORD had for the remnant, in contrast with the mere external members, could be seen in the blessings and curses they each ultimately experienced in their lives on this earth. Of Esau the LORD said that He hated him, seen in that He “laid waste his mountains and his heritage for the jackals of the wilderness” (v. 3 Cf. Jer. 49:18; Ezek. 35:9, 15). Since Malachi is the last of the old covenant books, he can write about this prediction of the former prophets as a fact of history, which occurred when Edom was occupied by the Nabatean Arabs (Ibid. p.1486). The Edomites rejected any such admission of covenantal cursing, boldly claiming instead that they would return from their captivity to rebuild the desolate places (v. 4a).

However, the LORD made clear that, unlike His purified remnant, Edom would not return from their captivity saying, “they may build, but I will throw down; they shall be called the Territory of Wickedness, and the people against whom the LORD will have indignation forever” (v. 4b). Again, this also was predicted by the prophet Jeremiah (49:16-18). This cursing also magnified the LORD “beyond the border of Israel” (v. 5). This is what has come to be called the predestination of the reprobate, a point also made in the new covenant scriptures (Cf. Rom. 9:6-29; I Pet. 2:8; Jude 4), even as it also affirms the predestination of the elect (Cf. Rom. 8:29; Eph. 1:4-5, 11). However, there has always been, and will be, a remnant among the nations as well (Cf. Zech. 4).

* “All three spoke out against marriage to foreign wives e.g., 2:11-15; Neh. 13:23-27). They condemned neglect of the tithe (e.g., 3:8-10; Neh. 13:10-14). They castigated the evils of a degenerate priesthood (e.g., 1:6-2:9; Neh. 13:7, 8), and criticized social sins (e.g., 3:5; Neh. 5:1-13)” (NGSB. p.1485).

** “Explicit references include: the covenant of Levi (2:5-9), the covenant of the fathers (2:10), the marriage covenant (2:14), and the Messenger of the covenant (3:1). In addition to these direct references, the book begins with a rehearsal of God’s covenant love (1:2-5). The seriousness of priestly incompetence and unfaithfulness is seen in the resulting erosion of covenant faithfulness among the common people, who broke faith in their marriages (2:10-16) and in their social and economic relationships (3:5), “profaning the covenant” (2:10). Unless they repent (3:7) they are under God’s curse (3:9; Lev. 26:14-46; Deut. 28:15-68)” (Ibid. p.1485).

*** “The book should be studied in the light of the structure, evident in the outline below, of six disputational dialogues. The structure reveals the role of this prophet as a covenant lawsuit advocate for God. The uncommonly frequent use of the first person (“I”) by the Lord in addressing the people lends an added sense of urgency and intimacy to the message of the book (1:2, 6, 14; 2:2; 3:5, 6, 10, 17; 4:5)” (Ibid. p. 1485).

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