Since we have observed some practical lessons from the thirty-fifth through thirty-seventh books of the Bible, let us now move on to the final two books of the Old Testament, Zechariah and Malachi.
1. RIGHTEOUSNESS EXCELS MERE RITUALUALISM.
"Say to all the people of the land, and to the priests: 'When you fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh months during those seventy years, did you really fast for Me--for Me? When you eat and when you drink, do you not eat and drink for yourselves? Should you not have obeyed the words which the LORD proclaimed through the former prophets when Jerusalem and the cities around it were inhabited and prosperous, and the South and the Lowland were inhabited?' Then the word of the LORD came to Zechariah, saying, 'Thus says the LORD of hosts: "Execute true justice. Show mercy and compassion everyone to his brother. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor. Let none of you plan evil in his heart against his brother." But they refused to heed, shrugged their shoulders, and stopped their ears so that they could not hear. Yes, they made their hearts like flint, refusing to hear the law and the words which the LORD of hosts had sent by His Spirit through the former prophets. Thus great wrath came from the LORD of hosts. Therefore it happened, that just as He proclaimed and they would not hear, so they called out and I would not listen,' says the LORD of hosts. 'But I scattered them with a whirlwind among all the nations which they had not known. Thus the land became desolate after them, so that no one passed through or returned; for they made the pleasant land desolate."
The people asked the priests about fasting: Should they continue the practice they had adopted while in captivity? God rebukes them, indicating that doing what is right is preferred over mere rituals. There would have been no need for those fasts had the people simply obeyed God to begin with, for they would not have gone into captivity! God had always expected them to be just, merciful, compassionate, truthful, & peaceful (cf. 8:16,17). These truths are reiterated from cover to cover in God's word.
2. THOSE WHO TREAT WORSHIP LIGHTLY DISPLEASE THE LORD.
Malachi 1:7,8 - "'You offer defiled food on My altar, but say, "In what way have we defiled You?" By saying, "The table of the LORD is contemptible." And when you offer the blind as a sacrifice, is it not evil? And when you offer the lame and sick, is it not evil? Offer it then to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you favorably?' says the LORD of hosts."
The people worshiped God, but not as the Almighty Being who deserved their utmost reverence & glory. They worshiped on their own terms of convenience & selfishness. Such is still an easy trap to fall into today.
3. GOD HATES DIVORCE.
Malachi 2:14-16 - "Yet you say, 'For what reason?' Because the LORD has been witness between you & the wife of your youth, with whom you have dealt treacherously; yet she is your companion and your wife by covenant. But did He not make them one, having a remnant of the Spirit? And why one? He seeks godly offspring. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously with the wife of his youth. For the LORD God of Israel says that He hates divorce, for it covers one's garment with violence,' says the LORD of hosts. 'Therefore take heed to your spirit, that you do not deal treacherously."
God hates the treacherous behavior that often leads to a divorce. There is no such thing as divorce without sin. There is always sin involved somewhere, often in both parties.
4. SOME WHO WOULD NEVER STEAL FROM MEN, ROB GOD REGULARLY.
Malachi 3:8-10 - "Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, 'In what way have we robbed You?' In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, for you have robbed Me, even this whole nation. Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house, and try Me now in this,' says the LORD of hosts. 'If I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it.'"
This oracle will always be relevant as long as there are those who feel that nothing is too good for them, but just about anything will do for the Lord & His work! Those under the Old Law were commanded to give certain amounts; we today are instructed to be generous, to share, & to avoid covetousness. May we all reflect seriously upon our own actions & attitudes on this matter.
5. GOD CANNOT BE OUTGIVEN.
Here is another lesson from Malachi 3:10. You won't gain by holding back from God; try the other way! (cf. II Cor. 9:6ff).