Malachi brings down the curtain on the Old Testament. He is the last in a long succession of prophets who foretold the coming of the Messiah. In fact, if we were to go back one thousand years before Malachi and then come down through the centuries, we would find that God was increasing the tempo of telling the people about the coming of the Messiah. And the last voice is that of this man Malachi. I like to think of him as a sort of radio announcer for the Lord. It is as if he were saying, “The next voice you hear will be John the Baptist four hundred years from now.” Well, four hundred years is a long time to wait for station identification!
Malachi is a very interesting person although we know nearly nothing about him. We will find that he has a wonderful sense of humor. I do not think you can be a prophet or a preacher without a sense of humor, and if you haven’t found humor in the Bible, my friend, you are not reading it aright.
We will also see that this man Malachi in a very definite way was a messenger. The name Malachi means “my messenger.” The Septuagint gives its meaning as “angel,” since angelos is the Greek word for “messenger.” An angel was a messenger and could be either human or supernatural. In fact, there were a few church fathers who actually thought that Malachi was a spiritual angel, that an angel wrote this book—but there are no grounds for this. At the opposite extreme we have the liberal school of higher criticism which claims that the book is actually anonymous. They argue that Malachi means just messenger, that it is only a title and not a name at all. Our information of Malachi is as limited as it is regarding angels. If the book were anonymous, it would be the only book of prophecy to be so, and I do not think that Malachi would want to be the exception to the rule, especially since he was the last one to write.
There is a reason that we do not know very much about Malachi. He is a messenger, God’s messenger with a message, and frankly, we don’t need to know about the messenger. When the Western Union boy rings your doorbell at one o’clock in the morning with a very important message for you, you do not question him about his ancestors! He doesn’t tell you all about himself and his family. You’re not interested in the Western Union boy’s ancestors, and you don’t care whether or not they came over on The Mayflower—especially at one in the morning! The fact of the matter is that you don’t even get his name. The important thing is the message that he brings. Malachi was just a messenger, and the important thing is the content of his message.
We have this same method used by the Spirit of God in the Gospel of Mark where the Lord Jesus’ genealogy is not given at all. The reason is that each of the four Gospels presents Christ in a different way. Matthew presents Him as the King. If He’s the King, He will have to be in the line of David, and that is the way the Gospel of Matthew opens: “The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David …” (Matt. 1:1). The important thing is that He is the Son of David because Matthew is presenting Him as the King. But when you come to the Gospel of Mark, which presents Him as the Servant of God, Mark is not concerned about giving His genealogy, and there’s none given. The important thing about a servant is whether or not he can get the job done. That is the thing you want to know about anyone who comes into the place of service for you. And Mark shows that the Lord Jesus could get the job done, and He did get it done. In the same way, it is the message, not the messenger, which is important in the prophecy of Malachi.
There is some difference of opinion about the time at which Malachi wrote. The date that I suggest is 397 B.C., which is probably a late date. It is the belief of conservative scholars today that Malachi prophesied in the last part of the fifth century. That would be near 397 B.C. but somewhat earlier than that. The important thing is that Malachi was the prophet at the time of Nehemiah as Haggai and Zechariah were the prophets at the time of Zerubbabel and Joshua. This man Malachi concluded the prophetic books as Nehemiah concluded the historical books of the Old Testament. He probably prophesied during the time of Nehemiah’s governorship or immediately afterwards.
As we have said, Malachi was a messenger, but the thing that is important is his message. He himself uses the term messenger three times, and he makes three tremendous and significant references to other messengers.
1. In Malachi 2:7 he refers to Levi as the messenger of the Lord: “For the priest’s lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek the law at his mouth: for he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts.” This suggests that every messenger, every witness, every teacher of the Word is an angel of the Lord, a messenger of the Lord. In the Book of Revelation where we have the messages addressed to the seven churches, it is expressed in this way: “Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write …” (Rev. 2:1, italics mine). I believe that this means the messenger of the church—not a supernatural being, but just the human messenger—in other words, the pastor of the church. I was a pastor for a long time, and I rather like this idea of calling the pastor an angel. I’ve heard him called everything else, so I don’t know why we shouldn’t include “angel.”
2. Malachi also announced the coming of John the Baptist as “my messenger.” “Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me …” (Mal. 3:1). John the Baptist was the Malachi of the New Testament and began where the Malachi of the Old Testament left off.
3. The third reference to a messenger is to Christ as “the messenger of the covenant.” Again in Malachi 3:1 we read, “… and the LORD, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the LORD of hosts.” The angel of the Lord in the Old Testament is definitely the preincarnate Christ.
I want you to see something that makes Malachi one of my favorite books of the Bible (of course, I have sixty–five other favorite books in the Bible), and that is that Malachi has such a wonderful sense of humor. He had to have one in order to deal with the group he had to deal with in that day. He adopted a question–and–answer method. First, he would quote a declaration or an interrogation which God had made to Israel. Then he would give Israel’s answer which in every case was supercilious and sophisticated sarcasm. It was arrogant and haughty and presumptuous and even insulting. But, believe me, Malachi has some good answers from the Lord! And since they are the Lord’s answers, it is the Lord who has a sense of humor. I hope you enjoy this book because it is a great little book, by the way.
(McGee, J. Vernon. Thru the Bible Commentary, Vol. 33: Malachi. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1991.)