Between the TestamentsThe short book from the prophet Malachi spells the end of the Old Testament. Like Haggai and Zechariah, Malachi (“my messenger”) writes his prophecy to Israel during the post-exilic years. Written around the end of the 5th century B.C., this “oracle of the words of the Lord” is directed towards God’s people, who despite having numerous historical examples to follow, fall right back into sin and rebellion against God’s ways. In what has begun to sound like a broken record, the prophet warns the people about the consequences of choosing their own way over Yahweh, while also providing hope for the future.

As a sign of the rebellious state of the people, Malachi reveals a prophetic conversation between the Lord and His disobedient people. Six times the Lord mentions their disobedience – and six times the people argue with Him. Having quickly forgotten how the Lord delivered them from Babylon, returned them to their land in miraculous fashion through Cyrus, and helped them rebuild Jerusalem and the Temple, the people have rejected Yahweh once again.

Statement #1 (1:2-5): “Yahweh loves Israel”

Response #1: “How have you loved us?”

Statement #2 (1:6-2:9): “Why do you despise My Name and offer polluted sacrifices?”

Response: “How have we done that?”

Statement #3 (2:10-16): “Yahweh hates divorce and will not accept your offerings.”

Response: “Why?”

Statement #4 (2:17-3:5): “You have wearied Yahweh.”

Response: “How?”

Statement #5 (3:6-12): “You are robbing God by withholding tithes and offerings.”

Response: “How are we doing that?”

Statement #6 (3:13-4:3): “You have spoken against me.”

Response: “How have we spoken against you?”

Each time God delivers an indictment against His people, they do not respond with repentance and a contrite heart, but with defense and rebellion.

Yet, as we have seen so many times already, the heart of the Lord overcomes Him. He promises that He will restore His fallen nation, sparing them “as a man spares his own son” (3:17), healing those who fear His name (4:2), and placing them over their enemies (4:3).

Then, after some final instructions – to remember the laws which Moses gave them, and keep watching for the return of the prophet Elijah who will be the signal of their restoration, the Old Testament ends.

The prophets go silent.

Yahweh stops speaking…

For almost 500 years – there was the Silence of the Lamb!

 

During that time… the world stage changes hands. Alexander the Great, of Greece, conquered the entire known world by 331 B.C. Overthrowing the powerful Egyptian city of Alexandria, Alex the Great populated it with many Jews, giving them freedom to worship according to their customs. It was during this time that the Septuagint (translation of the OT from Hebrew to Greek) was compiled – evidence that many of the Jews were starting to forget their heritage and adopt the Grecian world around them. Alexander did much to promote the Greek philosophy, infamously through Socrates, Aristotle, and Plato.

The world began to change.

Eventually, around 200 B.C., the Roman Empire began to assert its strength. Overthrowing the divided Grecian kingdom, Rome became the rulers of the world. Greco-Roman philosophy would continue to spread and gain a foothold across the known world, swallowing up the Jews under its tide.

In 170 B.C., in fulfillment of Daniel 11:1-34, the Syrian king Antiochus Epiphanes entered the Temple in Jerusalem and polluted it by sacrificing a pig and erecting a statue of Jupiter upon its altar. The outcry from the Jews was immediate… and led by the Maccabees family, they successfully revolted and regained their independence. (They celebrate this monumental victory during Hanukkah still today).

In time the Romans would again rule the Israelites, and in 47 B.C., Julius Caesar would become the leader of Rome. Ten years later, in 37 B.C., the Romans would insert Herod the Great as a nominal sovereign over the Jews. Of mixed blood, Herod would never really gain the trust of the Jewish people. As a puppet of the Romans, he would dramatically change the landscape of Israel by building Roman temples and monuments to Caesar. Viewed as betraying the Law, various groups rose in quiet opposition to these changes. The Pharisees, the Sadducees, the Zealots (to name a few) – all found their place among Jewish society.

The Jews were oppressed. They had no say in their own affairs. They were enslaved by a foreign ruler.

All they had were promises from God, written by prophets long ago.

Now God was silent. Where was He? Why wouldn’t He help them?

 

The Jews needed a Savior…

 

 

Be Fruitful & Multiply,

PK

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