Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Tiny Books of the Bible #3 - Malachi

We're not talking about the famous ones (Esther, Jonah, James) We’re talking about the TINY ones.  The ones rarely quoted in sermons.  And when they are, it takes you twice as long to find them, because they're only 1 to 15 pages long.  Squashed between longer books, what's in these itty bitty books, and what's so important about them that they're in the Bible?

Here’s Malachi, which is probably the most famous of the Tiny Books Of The Bible.


Malachi is the last book of the Old Testament, so the easiest thing to do is find Matthew in the New Testament and flip backwards.  :)


Larger than the others, four chapters and four pages long.


That’d be Malachi the prophet.  As usual (because scholars love their debates) there’s different theories on whether Malachi was actually his name or not.  So I’ll note that there’s different theories, and move on, because I’m not a Debatehead.


So after Obadiah chastises the Edomites for helping to sack Jerusalem, and after the exiles come back and after Haggai exhorts them to rebuild the temple, the temple is rebuilt, and the Israelites are lapsing into complacency and apathy.


It’s a prophecy God spoke through Malachi.  And initially, God’s pretty upset with the Israelites (what else is new in the OT, right?  Israel usually pisses God off, God yells at them but ultimately forgives them). 

The people of Judah have been slacking off on appropriate worship rituals.  Remember, since we’re still in the OT, they’re still doing rituals like sacrificing the best of your flock upon the altar.  Why is God still commanding them to do this?  Because Jesus hasn’t shown up yet.  Once Jesus does show up, his sacrifice as the one perfect enough to take on all of mankind’s sins means nobody has to sacrifice animals on altars anymore (to which the animal community said a most fervent “THANK YOU, GOD!”)

But we’re not in the NT, we’re in the OT, and God’s got three complaints against Judah:

1. Judah and the priests have been sacrificing the worst of the flock, not the best.  They’re bringing in sheep and stuff that are sickly, ill, have holes in their socks, etc., because they wanna keep the best lambs for themselves and for Sunday dinner (to which the animal community said “What the hell?  Don’t I ever get a break here?”)

God yells at Judah and the priests who presides over the shoddy sacrifices, and says if everyone doesn’t shape up right now, He’ll curse them and their descendents (and uses the lovely graphic phrase of smearing animal poop ON THEIR FACES, rendering them literal Poopyheads)

2. The people of Judah have apparently been acting out against their marriages.  They’re divorcing their wives and marrying people outside of Judah (though I wonder if this is a metaphor for people of Judah not following God and instead worshipping other gods other than God).  God tells them to knock it off, he hates divorce.  Yep, it literally says that: Malachi 2:16 “I hate divorce,” says the Lord God of Israel.”  Eeeep.

3. The people of Judah have been slacking off, not just in bringing in the best of their flock for sacrifice (to which the animal community says “whhhhhhhhy can’t you be a farmer of grain and stuff!”) but they’re also not tithing.  A tithe literally means 10 percent.  Judah isn’t bringing 10 percent of everything they have – be it grains, animals, money, etc.  And when you do that, you’re essentially cheating God.

God doesn’t really need your tithe, (it’s not like God’s broke), but you do it as a sign of honor, respect and trust.  By not doing this, Judah is essentially saying they don’t trust God, and don’t respect Him. 

So God yells a bunch and Judah straightens up and promises to fly right.  Then God talks a lot about “The day of the Lord” and how He will send the prophet Elijah ahead of time.  That turned out to be John the Baptist, who preceded Jesus Christ.


If you’ve ever sat through a sermon on tithing, you will most likely have heard the famous verse of Malachi 3:10 “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house.  Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have enough room for it.” 

Of course, since the church doesn’t want to scare you off, they rarely mention the verse that comes before it, Malachi 3:9 “You are under a curse – the whole nation of you – because you are robbing me.”  Hee hee hee.

And interesting to note Malachi 2:16 “I hate divorce,” says the Lord God of Israel.”  Pretty strong words, though the NT does clarify instances where divorce is okay ( Sexual unfaithfulness, abandonment, neglect)

So it’s easy to understand why this Tiny Book is included in the Bible, especially since it mentions the coming Messiah.  Any verses portending that would probably mean automatic inclusion in the Bible, no matter how small they were.

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