The postexilic posture

MALACHI -Third in a series

In the previous post we looked at the beautiful ways of love elaborated in 1 Corinthians 13, and noted that love is at root a decision. I may love you in a simple or emotional way for a time, but eventually I must choose to love you despite yourself and my self. To this, we now add that true love disciplines; it is tough love.

For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives. It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? … all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. (Heb 12:6-11)

The exile was a severe discipline:

  • WHAT A forced deportation of Jews living in Judah and Jerusalem to a foreign land, Chaldea.
  • WHY Ordained by the Lord to show his rejection of their evil behavior and heathen worship practices.
  • WHERE They were exiled in Babylon, the ancient site on the Euphrates where the Lord had confused the language so that tribes would scatter and populate the earth.
  • WHO Nebuchadnezzar, the king of the Chaldeans, only deported the prominent citizens of Judah: professionals, priests, craftsmen, and the wealthy. The simple folk were allowed to stay.
  • WHEN Various groups were deported over a period of time. The exile was prophesied to last for 70 years and ran between 605 and 536 B.C., though the last group did not return until about 432 with Nehemiah.

The probable dates of Malachi's ministry were 440-430 BC, and some suggest he was Ezra, whose surname could have been Malachi. Malachi means My Messenger, and is considered to be generic, not a personal name, in the same vein as Luke's Theophilus. (Luk 1:3; Acts 1:1)

For the Israelites, there were two times of exile. The first, of the northern kingdom, was a "diaspora" resulting in a disappearance, but during the second— of the southern kingdom— the deported Jews formed their own community in Babylon and retained their religion, practices, and philosophies. (ref) Yet their worship ceremonies in Babylon would not have enjoyed the same feeling or perception of God's presence since it was identified with their Temple and Jerusalem.

The latter returnees showed eagerness and diligence in reestablishing Jerusalem and temple worship, as we read in Ezra and Nehemiah, but Malachi addresses descendants who seem disenfranchised. Their ceremonial observances had become rote, mechanical in nature. They no longer honored the Lord in their offerings and worship, but rather, insulted him.

It is hard to maintain a sincere, lively faith. Again, Malachi speaks to us today.

Upon their return to Israel, the Jews never again practiced idolatry, yet they were in need of renewal in heart and vision, as we will see in the next post.

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