Thursday, June 11, 2009

A Big God in a Big World.

For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name will be great among the nations, and in every place incense will be offered to my name, and a pure offering. For my name will be great among the nations, says the LORD of hosts.

Malachi 1:11

old maps

Two distinct observations come to me from this first chapter of Malachi. The first has to do with the overwhelming use of the phrase “Lord of hosts” throughout this small prophetic book. Why does this description of God overshadow and emphasize the message of this book? It is used in this little book more than any other OT Book. Look…

Lord of Hosts

The ESV Study Bible provides some insight:

In the postexilic period of Malachi, the postage-stamp-sized Judah, as a tiny province within the vast Persian Empire, had no army of its own. It is precisely in such times, when God's people are painfully aware of how limited their own resources are, that there is no greater comfort than the fact that the Lord has his invincible heavenly armies standing at the ready. It is like the comfort that Elisha prayed for his servant at Dothan when they were surrounded by the Syrian armies: “‘O Lord, please open his eyes that he may see.’ So the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha” (2 Kings 6:17). Perhaps it is like the comfort felt by Jesus before the cross: “Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matt. 26:53).

God was using this description to comfort a nation that had all its securities ripped away. They still had their problems. Their worship was stale, not from the heart, ritualistic, and only going through the motions. But they needed to know God was on their side. He is a big God… the Lord of the hosts of heaven’s armies.

The second observation has to do with the phrase at the beginning of Malachi 1:11. What significance does this description of the rising and setting and sun have to the context of Malachi? Again, the ESV Study Bible provides some clear exegetical insight…

Surprisingly, Malachi refers to the presentation of incense and pure offerings in many places, even among the nations, rather than exclusively in the temple in Jerusalem as Deuteronomy 12 requires (cf. Mal. 3:3–4; 4:4). A key to this controversial verse is to recognize that from the rising of the sun to its setting is standard predictive language regarding a future age of great blessing (e.g., Ps. 50:1; 113:3). Isaiah 45:6 and 59:19 include with this phrase a reference to the ultimate engrafting of the nations, suggesting that a similar meaning is implied in Malachi. This finds further definition in such texts as Isa. 19:19–25 and 66:1–21, where the nations will be made to be “Levites” and will offer acceptable offerings on approved altars to the true God. For the engrafting of converted Gentiles into Israel, cf. Ruth 1:16–17; Est. 8:17; Psalm 87; Isa. 56:6–8; Zech. 2:11; 8:23

The last phrase has a twist of Covenant Theology in it, but I am going to let the discerning person deal with that. It is clear that Gentiles are “grafted in” to God’s plan to call a people to Himself (see Romans 9, 10, 11). So in this last book  of the OT canon, God left clear indicators that He was reaching not just Israel, but the world. Malachi really does serve as a fitting bridge to the New Testament in many ways. This is just the first observation I will make about that bridge.

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