“ ‘I have loved you,’ says the Lord. But you say, ‘How have you loved us?’ ” (Mal 1:2).

In our anger, we tritely rebuke God. Empty words are often cast out of dark thoughts, emotional anxiety, or physical pain. Whether or not we believe our words, we speak or think them like we mean them. It pains us and it pains God; yet, just like the people living in the mid-fifth century BC—when the words of Malachi were likely spoken—we cast the Lord’s grace aside.

“ ‘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… mourning before the Lord of hosts?… Evildoers not only prosper but they put God to the test and they escape’ ” (>Mal 3:13–15).

Our desire for justice often clouds our view of God’s mercy. We look at the problems in the world and desire to admonish God for them. Meanwhile, we’re the ones who deserve chastisement: It is our duty to join God in making the world orderly and right. God doesn’t desire for evildoers to prosper—despite appearances. And what business do we have judging them anyway? Aren’t we also evildoers? Judgment is God’s alone.

God hears our mourning, and He hears our persecution of Him. He puts up with our (often misplaced) judgment. The creator of the world and the ruler of divine armies (the “hosts”) hears our frustrations. He is merciful.

Our tempers often cause us to forget how gracious the Lord is. We only see half the picture. In this eight-week study, the words of Malachi will reveal the other half.

>MALACHI 3:13–4:6 (ESV)
“Your words have been hard against me, says the Lord. But you say, ‘How have we spoken against you?’ 14 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? 15 And now we call the arrogant blessed. Evildoers not only prosper but they put God to the test and they escape.’ ”

16 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. 17 “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. 18 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.”

4:1 “For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble. The day that is coming shall set them ablaze, says the Lord of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. 2 But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall. 3 And you shall tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet, on the day when I act, says the Lord of hosts.”

4 “Remember the law of my servant Moses, the statutes and rules that I commanded him at Horeb for all Israel. 5 Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. 6 And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.”

Week 1: Faithfulness

Pray that the Spirit would teach you to be more faithful.

Malachi was meant to be read in front of a group of people. Using a second sense also helps us absorb the meaning of the words.

Reflect on >Malachi 3:13–15.

Malachi is a conversation between God and His people. This section begins the sixth and final discourse in Malachi.

In our marriages and friendships we desire faithfulness, but we’re not (usually) good at being faithful to God. According to >Malachi 3:13–15, why is it so difficult for us to be faithful to Him?

Have you ever found yourself saying similar words to those spoken against God in >Malachi 3:13–15? What is it about “arrogance” that infuriates us so much? What is it about evil people “prospering” that makes us so angry? What is the root cause of those feelings? Read >Genesis 3:1–19. What are the root causes of Adam and Eve’s sin? How are these similar to the feelings portrayed in >Malachi 3:15–17? (Think specifically about how Adam and Eve are tempted. What words are used to tempt them, and what underlying emotions cause them to give into the tempter’s descriptions?)

How can you be more faithful to God? What are some simple methods you can use to ward off misplaced emotions and blame?

Reflect & pray through these questions throughout your week.

Week 2: Fear: Not Always a Bad Thing

Pray that the Lord would reveal why (and how) you should fear Him.

Read >Malachi 2:10–4:3 aloud in one sitting. Repeatedly reading aloud a biblical text helps us recall it when interpreting other parts of Scripture or when we struggle.

Reflect on Malachi 3:16.

Here, in God’s sixth discourse with His people, the people begin to see things God’s way. Prior to this, they appear to be ignoring His rebuke. They choose God back after He has already promised to send His messenger (Mal 3:1)—this is ultimately a proclamation of the ministry of John the Baptist and subsequently Christ (compare >Mark 1:1–15; 11:11–25). This passage shows us that grace is not dependent on our actions; it’s dependent on God’s actions. We just have to choose back. The same is true of the gift of salvation that came via Christ’s life, death, and resurrection for us (>John 3:1–21).

God remembers His people who turn back to Him and away from their sin. The prophecy in Malachi 3:16 first came to fruition when a loyal group of God’s people returned to Judah (their homeland) from exile and slavery in Babylon (see Ezra 2). (These are the events preceding and surrounding the book of Malachi.) The events described in Malachi 3:16 also parallel the events in Revelation (compare Phil 4:3). In Malachi 3:16, God is welcoming those that fear Him—despite their words against Him. Read Revelation 3:5; 20:12–15; and 21:27. Today, our names are written in the book of life because of our belief in Christ (John 3:16).

What does it mean to “fear” God (Mal 3:16)? Using Biblia.com or Bible software, search for “fear of the Lord.” Describe the contexts surrounding the term. Why should we “fear” God? What does it mean to “esteem [the Lord’s] name”? (For context, see Exod 3 and 20.)

What are some ways that you can live like you “fear” the Lord? How are you not showing that you fear Him? What needs to change? What actions do you need to take?

Reflect & pray through these questions throughout your week.

Week 3: Supreme Irony

Pray that God would show you how great of a sacrifice He has made for you.

Read >Malachi 2:17–4:3.

Reflect on >Malachi 3:17–18.

Those whose names were written in the “book of remembrance” (Mal 3:16) are “spared” (3:17). God spared them from natural and unnatural death in exile. But this prophecy also has implications today.

What is the meaning of the simile, “I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him” (3:17)?

How will God’s people see “once more” (3:18)? Juxtapose this line against >Malachi 3:13–15. What is God’s answer to the questions and claims His people have been making? What are His plans? Is this God’s admission that He was incorrect, or is it simply God’s action? What does God causing change imply about human circumstances and His involvement in them?

In supreme irony, the Lord does not spare His own son—who certainly deserves to be saved (Mal 3:17; see Matt 27:32–50 and >Mark 14:32–42). Instead, He is “pleased to crush him” so that His people will have an opportunity to be one with Him again (>Mal 3:1–5; >Isa 53:10–12). The Lord of hosts could have waged war against us, but He extends the most painful kind of grace.

The book of Malachi illustrates the extent to which we need grace. Our accusations against God are incorrect, and our general behavior is wrong (and even unjust), but God chooses to spare us (>Mal 1–4). Those who choose to “fear” Him and “esteem” His “name” have an opportunity for new life (Mal 3:16). In making these statements, Malachi—over 500 years prior to Christ—summarizes the gospel and our response to it. What we need and what we’re called to do is described here in this ancient book.

What are some tangible steps you can take to honor God’s sacrifice—to honor His son dying for you?

Reflect & pray through these questions throughout your week.

Week 4: Judgment and Humility

Pray that the Lord would reveal to you the parts of His character you usually ignore.

Read >Malachi 3:7–4:3.

Reflect on Malachi 4:1.

When we read a verse like Malachi 4:1, we have a tendency to persecute God for His proclamation of judgment. We wonder why He is so harsh. But there is always more going on than we understand.

When reflecting on Malachi 4:1, consider the entire context of Malachi. Would you be friends with someone who treated you like God’s people treat Him? Would you honor a partnership with a nation that acted like this? Would you recommend someone stay married to a spouse who acted like God’s people?

But there’s even more to this contextual picture. The evildoers God is bringing judgment upon are not necessarily His people (compare Mal 4:2)—although they also deserve judgment. Who are the evildoers (3:15)? In light of this, what is God really doing? What call or cry is He answering?

We often convince ourselves that we would know better, and do better, if we were in charge. In Malachi, God proves otherwise. Humility is indeed a virtue. What does this passage teach you about the balance between judgment and humility? Should we err on the side of judgment or on the side of humility? How can thinking in the right way—about God, who He is, and what powers are reserved for Him—help you act righteously?

Reflect & pray through these questions throughout your week.

Week 5: Righteousness Shall Rise

Pray that the Lord would show you His desire for healing and righteousness.

Read >Malachi 3:13–4:3.

Reflect on >Malachi 4:2–3.

We all need healing; we all desire righteousness—for people to act justly (or ethically). When the words of Malachi were spoken, God’s people were being persecuted as they returned from exile (and slavery) in Babylon. They probably believed a day of righteous actions would never come again. God promises otherwise: After judging evildoers (see week four), He will bring healing and righteousness (Mal 4:2).

In Malachi 4:3, the two things the Lord required in 3:16 (see week two) are combined into one calling: “Fear my name.” How can we live this calling?

What does the simile “leaping like calves from the stall” mean and entail (4:2)? Are we instructed to do the same today? If so, how should we do this?

When God talks about “tread[ing] down the wicked,” He means that His people will overcome them because of His actions. This statement is a celebration of God’s people having the freedom to live a joyous life and beat the powers of darkness; it’s not permission for us to issue judgment. What are some ways you can celebrate this freedom?

Reflect & pray through these questions throughout your week.

Week 6: Christ’s Calling

Pray that the Spirit would teach you what it means to obey His will.

Read >Malachi 3:13–4:6.

Reflect on Malachi 4:4.

Malachi 4:4 is the beginning of God’s final remarks in the book. (Mal 4:3 marks the end of His sixth conversation with His people; He is now instructing them.) When this book was originally spoken, “remember[ing] the law of … Moses” meant obeying what Moses commanded, per books like Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.

What does Paul’s letter to the Galatians, which was written after Christ’s death and resurrection—and after God’s new covenant (contract) with His people was created—say about the law? Read the book in its entirety. How should we “remember” the law? How can you act according to Christ’s calling upon your life?

Reflect & pray through these questions throughout your week.

Week 7: Connecting the Dots

Pray that God would show you connections between the Old and New Testaments.

Read >Malachi 4:4–6.

Reflect on >Malachi 4:5–6.

The book of Malachi is the last book in the Christian Old Testament. Consider how Malachi ends and the Gospel of Matthew begins—the connections between the Old and New Testaments. Read >Matthew 1–4 (especially Matt 3). Also see >Matthew 11:1–18. (For more context, see 2 Kgs 2:1–14: Elijah was taken up into heaven, and thus people thought that he might return one day.)

Although we are no longer physically writing the Bible, God’s Word is still being written in us. His story is still being told. There is not (and should never be) a Newer Testament, but that doesn’t mean God has stopped revealing Himself or stopped working. We have an opportunity to carry on the work of Christ in the world—to keep telling and living the story. What will you do to live that story and carry forward the testament of the Lord of hosts? How will you live for the new contract, inaugurated by Jesus Christ, our Lord and savior?

Reflect & pray through these questions throughout your week.

Week 8: Meditating upon Promises and Planning for the Future

Pray that the Spirit would show you God’s plan for your life.

Read all of Malachi (again) aloud in one sitting. Now that you have contemplated the meaning of individual passages in Malachi, contemplate the meaning of the entire book.

Take the time you would usually spend studying Malachi to reflect on the goodness of God. Consider how He has honored His promises. Please don’t be idle about this; thankfulness is crucial to living the good news of Christ. As you meditate upon God’s promises and when they were fulfilled, think about the future. What promises are in the process of being fulfilled? What promises will He fulfill at a later date?

What does God want to do through you? How will the world be a better place because of you? What does the Spirit desire that you act upon immediately? What does the Spirit desire for you to act upon later in life?

Reflect & pray through these questions throughout your week.

The book of Malachi simultaneously comforts and convicts us. God would not want us to simply hear the parts that resonate with us; He desires for us to live the difficult parts of His story. The tangible actions involved in doing so are up to you, as the Spirit directs you.

Want more out of your study of Malachi? Find the resources you need at Logos.com/Malachi.

Article courtesy of Bible Study Magazine published by Logos Bible Software. Each issue of Bible Study Magazine provides tools and methods for Bible study as well as insights from people like John Piper, Beth Moore, Mark Driscoll, Kay Arthur, Randy Alcorn, John MacArthur, Barry Black, and more. More information is available at http://www.biblestudymagazine.com. Originally published in print: Copyright Bible Study Magazine (Sep–Oct 2011): pgs. 22–25.