From Ian’s Notes: http://iangreig.postach.io/
Saint Bernardino of Siena – Jacopo Bellini, c. 1450: Like the prophet Malachi, who was an outsider to the priestly establishment, Bernardino of Siena was, in the early 1400s, one of the first monks to move outside the cloister and Sunday Mass. He similarly denounced religious pretence and convicted hearers of their need to return to righteous living.
Showing we love the Lord by the lives we lead
Malachi 1:2 NLT “I have always loved you,” says the Lord.
WHO was Malachi? He was a voice of protest long before protestors became fashionable, an outsider, and like many protestors today he didn’t go by a name but a tag, like ’Spike’. ‘Messenger’ may be accurate but it doesn’t quite convey his character as a frontier-type ‘preacher man’ calling people back into relationship with God.
Malachi, in the written account that we have, sets out six disputes, arguments between God and his people. Perhaps they were given at different times, like the renowned polemic preacher of the early 1400s, Bernardino of Siena, who filled the huge Campo square of his home base of Siena as well as other cities, calling out people’s corrupt, ungodly lives in no uncertain terms and urging them back to the true faith.
Probably not someone you’d invite for a quiet dinner…
Ungodly behaviour denounced – in a specific context
But it wasn’t all denouncing. It was denouncing but in a very definite context. What we would call the headline of the book is both at the beginning and the end. As The Message version puts it plainly, the beginning headline over the whole letter is:
God said: “I love you”.
Malachi is often called a contemporary of Nehemiah and Ezra, as if they all worked together, but I believe that his message came earlier. He is not rubbishing the achievements of Nehemiah, the godly governor, and Ezra the priest, but prophetically pointing to the need for them. Perhaps Malachi’s message was part of Hanani’s report which disturbed Nehemiah so much he begged leave to return.
The Temple is mentioned (Malachi 3:1) and there is much reference to priests and sacrifices – scathing references as it happens. But the implication is that Temple order and worship was once again a big thing and central to life. The Temple was rebuilt by 516 BC and so the evidence is that that Malachi’s preaching dates from after this time but before Nehemiah’s return in 444BC.
Returning from exile with attitudes they should have left there
Jews were gradually returning to the city — still partly ruined and without secure walls or gates, as we know from Nehemiah’s account. The Temple was the first piece of rebuilding to rise from the ruins, and temple worship, with cycles of priests attending, was restarted. However, people were returning with old attitudes, not new ones. They were resentful at the loss of their city and nation. They didn’t feel loved by God, and they had little love for God, and their following of the Law was dutiful and minimal, not relational and spiritual.
This dull formality, with injustice and ill treatment of one another and disdain for Yahweh who had given the Law, was what Malachi was challenging.