Fighting spiritual boredom- Thursday, 27th week in ordinary time- Malachi 3: 13-20b

Fighting spiritual boredom- Thursday, 27th week in ordinary time- Malachi 3: 13-20b

Malachi is the last of the twelve prophets and is the final book of the Old Testament in its present ordering. The book is described as an oracle, or burden. The message of this book is addressed to ‘Israel’; the word being used here is used in its broad sense to encompass all the chosen people of God.

Malachi, simply means, ‘my messenger’. Hence, many interpreters have supposed that Malachi is simply a title for an otherwise anonymous prophet, the title indicating clearly enough the prophetic function.  But it is also quite possible that Malachi is simply a name, albeit a rare one.  

The general period of the prophet’s ministry can be determined from the substance of his writing.  The date was approximately 460 B.C. and a little more than half a century had passed from the time of the ministries of men like Haggai and Zechariah who motivated the people to rebuild the temple after the exile.

The rebuilding of the temple, which was so central an issue for the prophet’s predecessors, was now a thing of the past; the restored temple stood and its worship was conducted on a regular basis.  However, the chosen people were still a colonial people under the Persian Empire. The Persian rule however was relatively benign and the international situation gave a few grounds for concern.

For all the tranquility of Malachi’s world, it was not a particularly happy time for the chosen people.  Times of international crisis bring with them their own stimulus to action and thought, but calmness can dull the spirits and destroy any sense of vitality.  Israel floated on these still waters of international calm, with little sense of direction and the collapse of internal discipline.

 The high hopes of a preceding generation had been dashed; those who had expected the establishment of a new international order following upon the restoration of the temple had been sadly disappointed.  The people had inherited a despondency which ill equipped them to cope with the drab and apparently unchanged world in which they lived.  And for several decades, the prophetic voice had not been heard in calling the people back to the fundamentals of faith.

In such a world Malachi ministered. He was faced with a wall of apathy and indifference. He spoke of the faith to a people for whom religion had become humdrum and who were lackadaisical in their observance of the ancient traditions.

It is never an easy task to deal with indifference and its consequences is the gradual slide towards an unstructured existence.  When people cease to care, religion, morality, social customs and values all cease to function as the mortar that holds together a society and maintains an ancient faith. In Malachi’s time, certain religious fundamentals were doubted.  Did God really love Israel?  Was there really justice in God’s world?  And these fundamental doubts affected other areas of Israel’s life. 

The priesthood and religious worship lost their integrity.  Intermarriage became common, and with it the perpetual risk of an intermixing of the faith with pagan religions.  These were the kinds of issues with which Malachi was faced.  But although there were urgent issues requiring the prophet’s attention, like his immediate predecessors, he addressed both his own time and the future world, for he perceived that the present had implications for the future.   

Malachi had an uphill task, but though he could hardly have known it at the time, he was laying the groundwork for his successors.  The reforms of Ezra and Nehemiah, upon which the survival of the Jewish faith was to depend, presuppose the foundational work done by the virtually unknown prophet, Malachi.

The above text formed part of my teaching notes taken from the JBC and another commentary whose source I cannot recall.




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