The key to the book of Malachi is in making religion real. He ministered to a disillusioned people suffering from long-term, post-war blues. They’d built their houses, they’d got themselves organised, they’d even re-built the Temple but life was empty and their religion was dead.
Malachi addressed himself to a question: How could religion be made to come alive? We don’t know his real name, because Malachi is the Hebrew word for ‘my messenger’ or ‘my angel*.
Malachi takes the biting cynical things that people were saying and, using them as nails, he hammers his teaching home in seven short biting messages.
People said, “How can God be loving and just, when we see the state the world is in?”
Malachi’s answer is, by looking at history in the long view. The proof of a parent’s love for his kids is that he doesn’t let them get away with murder.
People said, “Why doesn’t God accept our worship or bring us new life?”
Malachi says, because you offer God your second best, anything will do: To give away what you don’t value is just another way of putting it in the rubbish bin.
Malachi expounds the law of un¬blemished sacrifice. He goes on to talk about worship coming alive by clear intelligent teaching about the ways and mind of God; that rebuke was addressed to the priests.

His next address in chapter 2, tells the people that their religion is dead because their family life is in ruins. Divorce was rife, the children were suffering, growing up insecure. It’s always true that the really big lessons, the attitude and charac¬ter forming lessons are shaped by the kind of family life you have when you are very young.
He then tells them they need to seek personal renewal, each one individually and also as a community. He tells them about giving – he accuses them of robbing God. He says, when you give generously you increase your capacity to receive: the more you give the more you get – but you don’t do it for that reason.
His final address is about continuing faithfully, because, in the end, the real test will be the test of fire, for God is a burning fire and only pure stuff can stand the intense heat of that holiness.
Malachi provided the way not only to make religion real but also how to lift their economic, spiritual and physical depression.

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What do you value more than anything else on earth? Stop a moment and consider, for that is your God.

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December 2010
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