Malachi, the "Italian Prophet"

Malachi, the "Italian Prophet"

Malachi is the 39th book of the Bible and the last in the Old Testament. I remember speaking at JMU for four meetings on this little book. I introduced it by purposely mispronouncing the prophet's name: Ma-la-chee, the 'Italian' prophet. It was a funny twist that got the students' attention.

Recently I revisited this tiny OT book. What grabbed my attention was its back-and-forth, question-and-answer structure. The Book of Malachi is a series of Declarations (by God), Questions (by God's People), and Answers (by God). D-Q-A (mnemonic device: Dairy Queen Again!)

  1. God Declares His people's infidelity.
  2. Confused, they ask God a Question.
  3. God corrects their stupidity with an Answer.

God pulls no punches confronting His people's stubbornness. Below is a simple chart showing each Declaration, Question, and Answer, recorded by the Italian prophet:

What Can We Learn from Malachi?

  1. God doesn't mess around, making bold declarations that reflect His holiness: "I hate divorce and violence." "You weary Me with your words." "Stop robbing Me!"
  2. Malachi leverages graphic images to arrest our attention: Can you imagine having the intestines or dung of animals spread all over your face? (2:3) Can you imagine God yelling, "Shut the Temple's Doors so these people will stop their useless sacrifices to Me!" (1:10)
  3. Despite His discipline, God loves His people (1:2). In fact, because of His great love, He disciplines His people. Yet in this difficult discipline, He still issues unfathomable and undeserved promises: "I will send a messenger ("Elijah") who will prepare the way before Me ... this messenger will announce the culmination of my redemptive plan: the inauguration of the Messiah, the sun of righteousness, the Lord Jesus." (3:1-2; 4:1-6).
  4. Finally, recall what Jesus said about John the Baptist in Matthew 11:7-15, (which heralds back to Malachi 3-4):
As John the Baptist's disciples were leaving, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: "What did you go out into the desert to see? A reed swayed by the wind?  ... a man dressed in fine clothing? No, those who wear fine clothes are in kings' palaces. Then what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written (in Malachi 3:1): 'I will send my messenger ahead of You, who will prepare Your way before You.' ... And if you are willing to accept it, he (John the Baptist) is the Elijah who was to come."  (Mt. 11:7-15)

What a joy we have in reading hints of Jesus in even the smallest books of the Bible! Even one written by an ol' 'Italian' prophet named Ma-la-chee!