The Book of Malachi is a pretty radical book. It doesn’t pull any punches. The message of Malachi comes off the starting blocks in a blazing fire and never stops. Contained within its 4 short chapters are such statements as:
“Oh that there were one among you who would shut the doors [of the temple], that you might not kindle fire on my altar in vain” (Malachi 1:10)!
“…You cover the LORD's altar with tears, with weeping and groaning because he no longer regards the offering or accepts it with favor from your hand. But you say, “Why does he not?” Because the LORD was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth. “For the man who does not love his wife but divorces her, says the LORD, the God of Israel, covers his garment with violence, says the LORD of hosts. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless” (Malachi 2:13-16).
“Your words have been hard against me, says the LORD. But you say, ‘How have we spoken against you?’ You have said, ‘It is vain to serve God. What is the profit of our keeping his charge or of walking as in mourning before the LORD of hosts? And now we call the arrogant blessed. Evildoers not only prosper but they put God to the test and they escape’” (Malachi 3:13-15).
There is so much here on true worship, divorce, tithing, and justice, and that’s just naming a few of the topics. However, beyond the practical, current trends (sins) of his day, Malachi had another matter on his mind—the name of the Lord. The way in which the Jews were treating His great and holy name is mentioned about 10 times in this small prophetic book. Even as you begin reading Malachi, you can’t help but see from the very beginning that God’s top concern is for the renown of His name. 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.
Those who honored, esteemed, feared and stood in awe of God’s name were commended for reflecting the greatness of the name they bore. And how else will the nations know who God is and that salvation is only found in His name without the splendor of His name going out from amongst His people? Drawing from other sections of Scripture we know that there is salvation in no other name (Acts 4:12) and that those who call on the name of the Lord will be saved (Romans 10:13 which cites Joel 2:32).
At the same time, Malachi powerfully speaks out against those people who despised and profaned God’s name. The prophet’s message is so much more than just, “Don’t use the Lord’s name as a cuss word!” For starters, the Jews' worship was a sham. Their sacrifices were pathetic as they offered God the worst of their flocks. They even had the audacity to bring the “road kill” of the day (“…you bring what has been taken by violence …”) just to fulfill their obligation of worship. These actions demonstrated that as Isaiah prophesied: “…this people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me…” (Isaiah 29:13). The daily service that was to honor the name of their great God actually profaned the name of the Lord.
Second, the lifestyle of the Jews of that day misrepresented God’s name to all around them. They were the ones who were to bear the name of Jehovah as they lived holy lives. Instead of doing that, Malachi’s generation did the complete opposite through their oppression of the weak, divorce, and misuse of their wealth in addition to the perverted form of worship already mentioned.
In Malachi 3, we read: “Then those who feared the LORD spoke with one another. The LORD paid attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who feared the LORD and esteemed his name. ‘They shall be mine, says the LORD of hosts, in the day when I make up my treasured possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him. Then once more you shall see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him’” (Malachi 3:16-18). A.W. Pink, the great Baptist pastor and writer of the last century, in commenting on this passage wrote:
A twofold description is there given by which the people of God may be identified: they have a reverential awe and profound respect of God's majesty and authority; they have a deep love and adoration for Him—evidenced by their thinking upon His name.
It almost surprises one to learn that the great and self-sufficient God has "jewels," but our surprise increases to astonishment when we learn that these "jewels" are living creatures, and astonishment gives place to overwhelming amazement when we discover that these living creatures are fallen and depraved sinners redeemed from among the children of men. Truly, nothing but Divine grace would ever liken such wretched worms of the dust, unto precious stones. Yet that is the very thing which we find God doing in our text. It is not the unfallen angels, nor the holy seraphim and exalted cherubim who are spoken of as Jehovah's valued treasure, but lost and ruined sinners saved by amazing grace!
… It is noteworthy that our text is found in the book of Malachi, the last book of the Old Testament, which corresponds in many respects with the character of our days, as we seem to be nearing the end of the New Testament era. As the late C. H. Spurgeon pointed out, "These words were spoken in a very graceless age, when religion was peculiarly distasteful to men; when they scoffed at God's altar, and said of His service, 'What a weariness it is!' and scornfully asked, 'What profit is it that we have kept His ordinance?' Yet even those dark nights were not uncheered by bright stars. Though the house of national worship was often deserted, there were secret [assemblies] of those who 'feared the Lord,' and who 'spoke often one to another,' and our God, who regards quality more than quantity, had respect to these elect twos and threes. He 'hearkened and heard,' and so approved of that which He heard that He takes notes of it, and declared that He will publish it. 'A book of remembrance was written before Him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon His name'! Yes, and He valued so much these hidden ones that He called them His 'jewels,' and declared in the great day when He should gather together His retinue, His regalia, the peculiar treasure of kings, He would look upon these hidden ones as being more priceless than emeralds, rubies, or pearls."
The challenge to me, and you, is to fix all our thoughts on the name of the Lord, to hold it in high esteem through holy living and biblical worship, and speak often of it to all the saints. It is through our faithfulness to the name of the Lord that it will be seen as being great among the nations. That is how God has planned it.
In the path of your judgments, O LORD, we wait for you; your name and remembrance are the desire of our soul. (Isaiah 26:8)