Malachi the Prophet – Malachi 1 - 4
Have you ever failed repeatedly, dealing with the same issue over and over again? Ever thought, “This time it’s going to be different. This time I am going to be different” only to fall again? It can be SO discouraging! This was the story of the nation of Israel. From the time they were a nation and came to live in the Promised Land, they had struggled with apostacy, repeatedly leaving the God who loved them and following false gods. They couldn’t seem to keep God’s commands; they intermarried with the pagan people who lived around them, and they became like them.
When the people returned from their Babylonian exile, they really thought things were going to be different. Multiple prophets had told them about a coming king, whose kingdom would never end. They believed that once they returned to Jerusalem, prosperity would come, blessings would come, and best of all, the Messiah would come to reign. They imagined a kingdom like Solomon’s, only better – one that would last forever.
They didn’t realize that they weren’t yet ready for the Messiah. They hadn’t yet come to the end of themselves. They still thought that they could “do it” if they just tried hard enough. However, as the book of Malachi shows us, the people of Israel had already fallen into a variety of sins even though they had been back in Jerusalem for a relatively short time (about 100 years).
Most scholars believe that the prophecy of Malachi was the last word from God in the Old Testament. In the book of Malachi, God lodges the following six complaints against the nation of Israel.
- • The people failed to recognize God’s love for them (1:2-5)
- • The people dishonored God with crippled, diseased, and defiled sacrifices (1:6-2:9)
- • The people broke their marriage covenants and divorced their wives (2:10-16)
- • The people said God wasn’t a fair judge (2:17-3:5)
- • The people robbed God of His tithe (3:6-12)
- • The people said it was futile to serve God (3:13-4:4)
After lodging these complaints against the people of Israel, God was silent for about 400 years! Imagine hearing nothing from God for 4 centuries! God didn’t communicate again with His people until He appeared to Zechariah, John the Baptist’s father, in Luke 1. So, it’s no wonder that the last 2 verses of Malachi are a prophecy about John the Baptist. As we have often seen in Old Testament prophecies, God leaves His people with a message of hope. “See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents; or else I will come and strike the land with total destruction.”
I love the fact that God’s message of hope is so directly tied to family relationships! Isn’t this a prophecy that we would like to see fulfilled in each of our homes?? What a reminder that Jesus makes a difference in EVERY part of our lives! The story of Malachi is that on our own, we can never live a life that pleases God. We desperately need a Savior, and when He comes into our lives, He changes EVERYTHING! Come, Lord Jesus! We NEED You!!
Game – Better 1 or 2? – in this game, contestants will select either box 1 or box 2 when it’s their turn. On each turn, an adult should place an object in each box where one option is obviously better than the other. For example, a bruised apple versus a fresh apple; cookie crumbs versus a whole cookie; dessert versus spinach; wrinkled paper versus clean paper, a new toy versus a broken toy; a torn, dirty book versus a new book, etc. Point out that in each case, it was pretty obvious which option was better. Remember that in our story today, the people of Israel were offering God sacrifices which everyone knew weren’t good.
Ask the following questions. (Opt: kids may draw as you discuss if you think that will help them to concentrate – either a coloring sheet or pictures of things they could offer to God)
- 1. Why do you think the people offered God their sick animals instead of their healthy animals? Point out that we sometimes try to make shortcuts to obey God because we don’t trust Him like we should or we act selfishly. But God wants us to obey Him completely, offering Him our very best. The people were supposed to make a sacrifice to worship God, but they gave Him their leftovers instead of their best. Read 1 Sam. 15:22 – see below.
- 2. What does it mean to sacrifice something? Help kids recall that to sacrifice means offering God our very best of everything. The people in the story were supposed to be making a sacrifice to worship God. Sacrifice expresses love, thanksgiving, or the need for forgiveness; and sacrifice often comes at great cost to ourselves. Read Ps. 51:16-17 – see below.
- 3. What is something you can give to God this week? Encourage the kids to think beyond belongings, such as toys, and to think about sacrificing time or effort. For example, they may give God 10 minutes a day to read the Bible and pray. Read Rom. 12:1-2 – see below.
- 4. End with prayer, asking God to show us how we can truly serve and become living sacrifices.
I Sam 15:22 - What pleases the Lord more? Burnt offerings and sacrifices, or obeying the Lord?
It is better to obey than to offer a sacrifice. It is better to do what he says than to offer the fat of rams.
Ps. 51:16-17 - You don’t take delight in sacrifice. If you did, I would bring it. You don’t take pleasure in burnt offerings. The greatest sacrifice you want is a broken spirit. God, you will gladly accept a heart that is broken because of sadness over sin.
Rom. 12:1-2 - Brothers and sisters, God has shown you his mercy. So I am asking you to offer up your bodies to him while you are still alive. Your bodies are a holy sacrifice that is pleasing to God. When you offer your bodies to God, you are worshiping him in the right way. Don’t live the way this world lives. Let your way of thinking be completely changed. Then you will be able to test what God wants for you. And you will agree that what he wants is right. His plan is good and pleasing and perfect.