7 October 2010

Malachi 3:13 - 4:2a

"The Lord took note and listened, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who revered the Lord and thought on his name. They shall be mine, says the Lord of hosts, my special possession on the day when I act." (v.16-17)


The book of Malachi is the last book in the Old Testament. It comes from about the 5th century before Jesus, and from a time when the religious life of God's people left much to be desired.

The prophet Malachi was concerned that there were corrupt priests who were cheating people as well as cheating God. Sacrifices were improperly undertaken, offering to God what was not good and perfect, and there was a general lack of concern for what was right.

Into this situation God sent a messenger. That is what the name Malachi means - messenger - and it might be a proper noun or a name, or it might mean 'God's messenger'. The situation demanded that a message was delivered to God's people.

In today's passage God spoke first to those who disregard God's way. They questioned whether it was worth following God's commands when evil people seemed to be happy and prosperous. Good people often questioned that observation in the Old Testament (for example Psalm 73:2-3).

Then God spoke to the righteous - those who showed God the reverence which was proper. God was aware that there were people who had kept the faith, who had been faithful servants even when so many in positions of influence had fallen short. There is mention of a book of remembrance in which their names were written. In the final book of the New Testament, the Book of Revelation, there is also mention of "the Lamb's book of life" which includes the names of those who will enter the heavenly city (Revelation 21:27).

Malachi proclaimed a god who recognised human behaviour - it did not go unpunished or unrewarded. Faithful servants are acknowledged.

To Ponder

Can you imagine religious people behaving badly? How do you think God would behave towards them?

Who do you think might be recorded in that "book of remembrance"?

Bible notes author

The Revd Stephen Burgess

Revd Stephen Burgess is chair of the York & Hull District of the Methodist Church. He initially trained as a chemist and after some years in industry and teaching served in two school chaplaincy appointments before becoming superintendent of the Cambridge Circuit and then moving to Yorkshire.