This is the last chapter of Malachi, and, in the canon’s traditional arrangement, the last chapter of the Old Testament. I can’t say for sure whether it’s also last chronologically. Some quick Googling reveals that it’s dated roughly around 500 B.C., give or take sixty years either way (thanks, Bible.org), which puts it somewhere around the Ezra-Nehemiah period. According to Ichthys.com’s chart of Biblical composition, however, it was the last book to be written down. And it ends with a short chapter, clocking in at a mere six verses. What are those verses about? Judgment and restoration.
Finally, an answer to the age-old philosophical question: does God hate anyone? We’re just three verses into the book of Malachi when he divulges that God hates Esau. But this revelation only raises further questions. Is God mad at Esau for trading his birthright to Jacob? Is it because Esau married Judith the daughter of Beeri the Hittite and Basemath the daughter of Elon the Hittite? Is it simply that he was too hairy? And more importantly, how can a God who is Love possibly hate anyone, much less a grandson of the patriarch Abraham?
Unsurprisingly, the prophecies continue. Today we’ve got a prophecy that Jesus himself identifies as about him, but before that we’ve got a prophecy about prophets.
The bulk of today’s chapter is a prophecy of judgment. At some future day, God promises, he will use Judah and Jerusalem as an instrument of his justice, inflicting on those who oppose his people the due penalty for their evil. He uses a number of analogies to paint the prophetic picture: Judah will be like a cup of wine causing inebriation, a stone too heavy to lift, a firepot setting the surrounding wood on fire. But as the chapter concludes, we come to what appears to be a Messianic prophecy.
Today we’re back at it again at the Zechariah 10. You may recall Zechariah 9’s prophecy of the Messiah approaching Jerusalem while riding on a donkey. Zechariah 10 isn’t quite so overt, and I’m not sure if you could technically say it contains any Messianic prophecies, but it does seem to be relevant to Jesus’ ministry in how it discusses sheep and shepherds.
It gets better.
That’s God’s message to his people as he continues his monologue from the last chapter. Remember Sharezer and his companions, asking whether to fast, and God’s response criticizing their insincerity? Whether they fast or not in the present, the future holds a time to abstain from fasting–a time to celebrate. Speaking through Zechariah, God declares, “The fast of the fourth, the fast of the fifth, the fast of the seventh and the fast of the tenth months will become joy, gladness, and cheerful feasts for the house of Judah; so love truth and peace” (19). Whether people formerly fasted out of selfishness or sincerity, they’ll be swapping out fasts for feasts once God completes his work.
Remember the Day of the Lord? Featured big in the book of Joel? Well, it’s back in Zephaniah. Prophecies about it are back, anyway.