Like most of the Bible, the book of Malachi is addressed to the people of God, not to individuals. And if we are not careful this means we can sometimes misread what it is saying.
As Australian theologian and bible scholar Peter Adam writes in his commentary on Malachi; ‘Those of us who live in the Western world have been brainwashed into individualism. We think and feel as individuals, we regard individuals as the most important form of human life, we privilege individuals over communities, and so we read and preach the Bible as if it was addressed to individuals.’
Malachi is a prophetic sermon through which God ‘does business’ with his people as a whole. So if we read Malachi only asking ‘what does this mean for me?’ we will miss much of its message.
So as we go through Malachi this term at BAC together, we need to be also asking questions such as ‘what does this mean for us at Berwick Anglican Church?’ and ‘what does this mean for us in the wider church?’ and even ‘What does this mean for us as Australians?’. As we do this may God speak to us as his people.
O Lord our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens.
From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise because of your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger.
When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?
You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.
You made him ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet; all flocks and herds, and the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas.
O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!
Psalm 8 (NIV)
The book of Malachi is the final book of the Old Testament, and its message is a very relevant diagnostic told for assessing our spiritual health. As we journey through this little book over the next term, there is a lot to watch out for!
As biblical scholar A. E. Hill writes: ‘The prophet Malachi preached to a diverse audience. His sermons were directed to the disillusioned, the cynical, the callous, the dishonest, the apathetic, the doubting, the skeptical and the outright wicked in postexilic Judah. Yet, as a sensitive pastor, Malachi offered the ‘valentine’ of God’s love to a disheartened people. As a lofty theologian, he instructed the people in a basic doctrinal catechism, highlighting the nature of God as universal king, faithful suzerain and righteous judge. As Yahweh’s stern prophet, Malachi rebuked corrupt priests and warned of the coming day of God’s judgment. As spiritual guide, he exhorted his audience to a more sincere life of worship and challenged the people to live out the ethical standards of the Mosaic covenant. Most important, Malachi was Yahweh’s messenger and his essential message to Israel was profoundly simple: “‘I have always loved you,’ said the LORD” (Mal 1:2 NIV )’.
Malachi’s prophesy also sets the scene for the New Testament, pointing to the future coming of John the Baptist and Jesus; As God says in 3:1 ‘I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the LORD Almighty’.
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” – Acts 2:42 (NIV)
I love reading about the early church in the book of Acts. Early Christians saw the need to meet together for mutual encouragement as they grew deeper in their faith. When they met they encouraged each other with four things: teaching, community, food and prayer. Likewise we at Berwick Anglican Church strive to encourage each other in the same ways.
With teaching we gather under God’s Word to build up one another in the faith of the Lord Jesus. We encourage each other to keep our relationships with Jesus strong and healthy. We interact with the Word of God and let the Scriptures convict, instruct and train our hearts.
Fellowship and food (community):
With fellowship we acknowledge that Christ’s family is one body with many parts. We see each others needs and grow strong under Christ. It’s safe to say then that food and fellowship go hand in hand. With food we grow the quality of our relationships in our groups. Sharing a meal signifies that we have a friendship and desire to continue growing together.
With prayer we take our praise and prayer points, encouragements, stresses, ups, downs, highs, lows, excitements, worries and cares to God. We do this together which encourages us that we are not alone in our walk with Jesus.
Are you involved in a growth group in our church? I urge you to join a growth group and find out for yourself how much of an encouragement this ministry is in your personal growth in Christ.
Gratitude is one of the great hallmarks of the Christian life. In particular we have the most amazing reason for gratitude – our sins have been forgiven through Jesus Christ.
This is the greatest thing that can happen to us – God has sent his Son to shed his blood to make full atonement for our wrongdoing. Our punishment is placed on Jesus and we are fully reconciled to God now and eternally.
Jesus once told a parable about two debtors (Luke 7:41-43 – NIV) – one has a small debt forgiven and one has a very large debt forgiven. Which one will be the most joyful? He said this to honour the joyful worship of a ‘sinful woman’ and to disrupt the proud grumbling of the Pharisees in Luke 7.
The best thing we can do to grow in joy is to grow in knowledge of our forgiveness through Jesus. The more we treasure the cross of Christ, the more we are thankful, and then the more our joy increases.
Have you thanked God today for forgiving your sins in Jesus? Do you thank him for the cross every day?