9. Malachi: Blind to HypocrisyRelated Media
Words to Anchor your Soul
“At that time I will put you on trial. I am eager to witness against all sorcerers and adulterers and liars. I will speak against those who cheat employees of their wages, who oppress widows and orphans, or who deprive the foreigners living among you of justice, for these people do not fear me,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.
“I am the Lord, and I do not change. That is why you descendants of Jacob are not already destroyed. Ever since the days of your ancestors, you have scorned my decrees and failed to obey them. Now return to me, and I will return to you,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.
Malachi 3:5-7 (NLT)
“A bunch of hypocrites” is a common criticism of the church, and rightly so. We often answer that charge by explaining that we are sinners, just forgiven. But I wonder how often we deserve the label because we aren’t confessing and repenting of our sins but defending ourselves instead. While we worship, we often miss the heart of worship, humility. We proudly believe our lives please God, but in reality we’re blind to the truth of our own hypocrisy. I know I’m guilty, especially of not loving God before all else or failing to love my neighbor as myself.
The Jews of Malachi’s day were very religious, but their actions didn’t fit their worship. Malachi reveals that their hearts were far from God through their responses to his accusations.
Dr. Boice says,
Perhaps more than any other Old Testament book, Malachi describes that modern attitude of mind that considers man superior to God and that has the audacity to attempt to bring God down to earth and measure him by the yardstick of human morality.
This attitude is a recurring theme in Malachi, and it is expressed by a recurring word. The word is “how,” as in “How have you loved us?” (1:2). This word appears seven times in this last of the Old Testament books, and in every case it expresses a state of mind that challenges God’s statements, demanding that he give an account of himself in human terms.1
G. Campbell Morgan describes the problem this way: “And when the prophet tells them what God thinks of them, they, with astonishment and impertinence, look into his face and say, ‘We don’t see this at all!’”2 That’s why I’ve chosen the image of a blindfolded woman for Malachi.
Part One Study
Dr. Boice says, “The book of Malachi is located at a point of transition, too. It comes at the end of the Old Testament, but it anticipates the New Testament.”3 Although it is difficult to date, Malachi likely prophesied between 480-470 B.C.4
Malachi’s message contains six disputations, meaning arguments or debates. Each one follows this pattern: 1. God speaks a truth; 2. The people dispute it (“but you say”) demanding proof usually with a “how question”; and 3. God or the prophet answers by pointing to their actions or God’s character and work.
I found it helpful to mark “but you say” and the “how,” “what,” and “why” words that begin the people’s denials. It helped me follow God’s answers more easily. You may want to try it. If you don’t like marking your Bible, print it from a Bible app or net.bible.org.
As you read the people’s “how” responses to God in 1:2, 6, 7; 2:17; 3:7, 8, 13, meditate on the blindness to themselves they exhibit and how we may be doing the same today.
Read Malachi 1:1-2:16, where you will find three disputations in 1:2-5 (with a “how” in 1:2); 1:6-9 (with “hows” in 1:6, 7); and 2:10-16 (this time a “why” question in 2:14).
FYI: When God says that he loved Jacob and hated Esau, the twin sons of Isaac, it isn’t about feelings but about a choice that God made to bless Jacob and make him the heir of his covenant with Abraham.
Journal as you consider the following:
- Reread Dr. Boice’s comments about how the attitude of the church today parallels that of the Jews in Malachi’s day. Comment on his thoughts in light of the verses you read and what you see in today’s church.
- What does this section of Malachi teach about God’s character and actions?
- What is God saying about your priorities and the reality of your worship?
*** The #metoo and #churchtoo movements have uncovered sexual abuse that has gone on for years. Consider the abuse in the church in light of the empty religious works that Malachi condemns. Also consider all of Malachi 2:15-16. As Dr. Sandra Glahn points out, “Many people know the ‘I hate divorce’ line from Malachi 2:16, but far fewer know the rest of the sentence: ‘and him who covers himself and his garment with violence,’ says the LORD of Hosts.”5 Journal your thoughts about or experiences with sexual of physical abuse if you can, or read stories tagged with these movements.
Part Two Study
Read Malachi 2:17-4:6. Note the three disputations as you go: 2:17-3:5 (“how” and “where” in 2:17); 3:6-12 (“how” in 3:7 and 3:8); 3:13-4:3 (“how” in 3:13-14). The book ends with a summary (4:4-6).
Journal your insights as you consider these questions:
- Which of these three disputations stands out to you and why?
- What aspects of God’s character does Malachi emphasize in this part of the book, both disputations and hopeful promises?
- What message of hope in this section speaks to you today and why?
The “Words to Anchor your Soul” this week confirm that whatever we’ve done, however we have tossed aside God’s Word and approved of what he disapproves, God is there when we return to him in repentance. (The context of these verses makes the need for repentance clear.)
*** Malachi prophesies of the Coming One and his forerunner in 3:1-5 and 4:1-6. Some of his words were fulfilled as the New Testament opens while others are still future. Read Matthew 3:1-17 and journal about its relationship to Malachi’s prophecy OR read about these prophecies in a commentary.6
Four hundred years of God’s silence followed Malachi’s message. Then one day Zechariah the priest received an angelic visitor with God’s message that Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth would have a son named John, often known as John the Baptist. (Luke 1:5-24). Perhaps you would like to read about Jesus as your next study. Beyond Ordinary Women’s study
Although the prophets’ messages warned his people, they always held out hope through God’s mercy and loyal love to bring a future Restoration. Never forget that God’s judgment is part of his love, just as a dad and mom loves their child enough to discipline and teach her.
Part Three will be a review, but before we get there, read Krista’s story in light of the message of Malachi.
I cannot speak for every survivor of sexual abuse within the church, but over the last year, the #MeToo #ChurchToo movement has left me, personally, drowning in emotion. As I have read story after story and response after response, I have remembered anew, and with precise clarity, details of my own abuse from years ago. I have felt the paralyzing fear of being exposed, mocked, or not believed, as I have seen and experienced how churches handle these exposures with horrific levels of denial and a lack of compassion for the brave souls willing to share their stories. With inflamed anger, I have sat horrified, as victims have been blamed because an entrusted minster assaulted their body, soul, and mind, leaving them isolated to deal with the aftermath alone.
My abuser was a senior level minister. He served forty years within the same congregation, until he recently retired to standing applause. He was in his thirties and married with children when my abuse began. I was around four years old. The abuse lasted until my family moved away when I was twelve years old. He sexually assaulted me in every way imaginable, both in his home and on church property, including raping me in the sanctuary itself. He not only defiled my body, but the church building and what it represented, as well as the position of a trusted minister of the Gospel.
As a survivor, I rest on passages of scripture found in Malachi, as he addresses those who have been given authority to guide God’s children and then abuse that authority (Malachi 2:1-2, 7-9, ESV):
“And now, O priests, this command is for you. If you will not listen, if you will not take it to heart to give honor to my name, says the Lord of hosts, then I will send the curse upon you and I will curse your blessings. Indeed, I have already cursed them, because you do not lay it to heart . . . . For the lips of a priest should guard knowledge, and people should seek instruction from his mouth, for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts. But you have turned aside from the way. You have caused many to stumble by your instruction. You have corrupted the covenant of Levi, says the Lord of hosts, and so I make you despised and abased before all the people, inasmuch as you do not keep my ways but show partiality in your instruction.”
I realize it is difficult for church members and their leadership to hear, believe, and comprehend the horrific details of abuse that took advantage not just of the victim, but also of the congregation. Most likely, the minister is/was a charismatic, beloved, and trusted member of the church community he served. But let’s be clear: what is difficult for man to reconcile is NOT difficult for God. God is clear. His expectations are clear, and so are the ways He defends the defenseless.
It is estimated that one out of every four to one out of every three individuals reading this study have been a victim of sexual abuse at some point in their lives. Therefore, the survivors coming forward are not liars intent on smearing a minister or the church's name. Rather they are women (or men) who have sat silently beside you for years, suffering alone.
I can personally attest to the lingering effects of sexual abuse that last years beyond the horrendous acts of abuse themselves. Abuse within church is uniquely difficult for survivors to process as they must differentiate between the evil that was perpetrated upon their body by a representative of God, in a place designed for worship, from God Himself. Because of this, the very places where healing can be found are also, at times, agony to enter—a church service, a Christian community, a mentoring relationship, reading the bible, or even prayer itself. The survivor cannot escape the painful memories of abuse when they enter these arenas, and even worse is the inevitable and inescapable thought that maybe God did not care or that the abuse was not actually sin because it was inflicted by one appointed to serve and reflect God’s nature.
But then, I continue reading and take heart (Malachi 3:1-2, 5, NLT):
“Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner's fire and like fullers' soap.
“Then I will draw near to you for judgment. I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired worker in his wages, the widow and the fatherless, against those who thrust aside the sojourner, and do not fear me,” says the Lord of hosts.
What a reminder. God is coming. He sees the evil done to you. He knows how they misused you and their position under the guise of His holy name. Oh, sweet survivor, HE WILL purify that which was not of Him and He will MAKE ALL THINGS RIGHT in the end.
If you have experienced any type of abuse (sexual or otherwise) and have never discussed your experience, OR are in need of continued care, consider the footnoted resources as a help.8
Thank you, Krista, for sharing your heart-breaking story. We grieve with you and all others who have experienced similar abuse.
Part Three Study
This is the last section of the final week of our study. Before we leave the prophets behind, spend time remembering how God has used the Minor Prophets in your life. It’s always encouraging to look back and see how God has been at work. Plan to share one thing from your journal with your small group this week as an encouragement to them as well.
Journal as you review this study:
- Thumb through the study, remembering the icons/images and the messages they represent. Which prophet is most memorable to you and why?
- Look over the memory verses for each week’s “Words to Anchor you Soul.” Which is your favorite passage and why?
- How has God changed you through this study?
May God continue to bring our lives into alignment with his character so that we image him to a broken and hurting world where we serve as lights in the darkness.
1 Boice, James Montgomery. The Minor Prophets: Volume 2: An Expositional Commentary: Micah through Malachi, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2002), 573-574.
2 Quoted in Boice, Micah through Malachi, 576.
3 Boice, Micah through Malachi, 579.
4 Merrill, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, 329.
5 Sandra Glahn, “Organizations and Abuse: What You Can Do,” Engage blog, 6/19/2018 at https://blogs.bible.org/organizations-and-abuse-what-you-can-do
6 For an online option, link to Constable, Notes on Malachi. http://planobiblechapel.org/tcon/notes/pdf/malachi.pdf
8 Helpful links:
If you are in danger or in need of immediate assistance - https://www.rainn.org or https://www.thehotline.org
Find a counselor within your local area to help - https://www.emdria.org or https://www.psychologytoday.com/us
Interview a potential counselor using these questions - 10 Questions to Ask When Looking For a Doctor – The Second Pilgrimage (thereseborchard.com)
Consider attending a Wounded Heart support group in your area. The Wounded Heart: Hope for Adult Victims of Childhood Sexual Abuse by Dan Allender
Find and connect with a local Celebrate Recovery community - https://www.celebraterecovery.com/crgroups