The people of Judah began to be exiled from the Promised Land in 605 BC, returning from Babylon seventy years later. By the time of Malachi, they had been back in the land for more than a hundred years and were looking for the blessings they expected to receive when they returned. Though the temple had been rebuilt, the fervor of those early returning Israelites gave way to a thorough apathy for the things of God. This led to rampant corruption among the priesthood and a spiritual lethargy among the people.
Malachi came along at a time when the people were struggling to believe that God loved them (Malachi 1:2). The people focused on their unfortunate circumstances and refused to account for their own sinful deeds. So God pointed the finger back at them, and through Malachi, God told the people where they had fallen short of their covenant with Him. If they hoped to see changes, they needed to take responsibility for their own actions and serve God faithfully according to the promise their fathers had made to God on Mount Sinai all those years before.
The verse that most caught my attention this week was Malachi 3:16, “Then those who feared the Lord talked with each other and the Lord listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in His presence concerning those who feared the Lord and honored His name.”
As I use my sanctified imagination I have pondered what it was that those who feared the Lord talked about together. I have no doubt that they were appalled by the way others around them were talking about God (3:13-15). I have no doubt that they were appalled by the way that their fellow Jews were “robbing God” (3:8-12). I Have no doubt that they were appalled at the behavior of the priests of God (2:1-9). They were not gossiping together but expressing righteous indignation concerning the way that the Lord was being blasphemed – not by those who were not Jews but by those who were Jews, the people of God’s own choosing.
Whatever they talked about was pleasing to God because He “listened and heard.”
May our conversations be such that they capture the attention of God and cause Him to perk up His ears so to speak. May we be appalled by the lackluster way that even those who call themselves Christian behave in the name of God. And may God create within us a righteous fervor that demonstrates tangibly that we are among those who “fear the Lord.”