Malachi 1:1 A prophecy: The word of the Lord to Israel through Malachi.
The prophet Malachi spoke to the people of God around 430 BC. This was about a hundred years after their parents returned from Babylonian exile. The temple had been rebuilt, and worship was being offered, but it lacked vitality. Malachi wanted to awaken God’s people to the importance of living for God. His name means My Messenger and he may have been the last prophet of the Old Testament.
Malachi 1:2 I have loved you, says the Lord. But you ask, How have you loved us?
The economy was poor, and morale was low, so some of the people wondered if God really loved them. We can never love God more than we believe he loves us, so this was an important concern. If we look to our circumstances as proof of God’s love, we may be disappointed. Thankfully, God has given us better proof than that.
Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends (John 15:13), said Jesus. Whenever we doubt God’s love, all we have to do is remember the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Love is proven through sacrifice, and God proved his love for us through the sacrifice of his Son. Now that God has sacrificed for our salvation, we should never doubt his love again.
But the prophet lived before Christ, so he spoke of God’s special love for the Israelites compared to the Edomites. The Israelites were descended from Jacob, and the Edomites were descended from Esau. I have loved Jacob, but Esau I have hated (Malachi 1:2-3), said God. The Edomites had already been destroyed, but God’s people were back in their land as proof of God’s love for them.
But now we have another problem. If God loves everyone, how could he hate the Edomites? God hated the Edomites, compared to the Israelites, in the same way that Jesus taught us to hate our families compared to loving him (Luke 14:26). We love both, of course, but choose to love Jesus Christ supremely.
And whoever loves Jesus Christ supremely is uniquely loved by the Father. [T]he Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God (John 16:27), said Jesus. God loves everyone, but has a special love for all who believe in his Son.
Malachi 2:11 Judah has been unfaithful . . . . by marrying women who worship a foreign god.
This was a serious threat to the future of God’s people. Do not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons, for they will turn your children away from following me to serve other gods, and the Lord’s anger will burn against you and will quickly destroy you (Deuteronomy 7:3-4), wrote Moses.
The crisis was so severe that Nehemiah said, I rebuked them and called curses down on them. I beat some of the men and pulled out their hair. I made them take an oath in God’s name and said: You are not to give your daughters in marriage to their sons, nor are you to take their daughters in marriage for your sons or for yourselves (Nehemiah 13:25).
This principle also applies to Christians. Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? (2 Corinthians 6:14), wrote Paul. Few things are more dangerous to the faith of future generations than marriages between Christians and unbelievers.
Malachi 2:16 The man who hates and divorces his wife . . . does violence to the one he should protect, says the Lord Almighty.
Marriage is a sacred bond between a man and a woman that should never be violated. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate (Matthew 19:6), said Jesus. And, Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery, and the man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery (Luke 16:18), said Jesus again.
In most cases, divorce should be seen as a terrible sin, made even worse by the sin of remarriage. But divorce and remarriage are not unforgivable sins, or in a separate category of sins. They are forgiven the same way as murder, theft or gossip.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9), wrote John. A marriage that begins as an act of adultery can, by God’s grace, become pure and holy in his sight. This is not an excuse for divorce and remarriage; it is proof of God’s amazing grace.
Reflection and Review
How do we know God loves us regardless of our circumstances?
Why is it wrong for Christians to marry an unbeliever?
Is God displeased with people who divorce and remarry?