Skip to main content


Today we come to the end of our study of the Old Testament before continuing with the New. Lawrence Boadt’s Reading the Old Testament has been our companion for much of this journey. Therefore, we will listen to some final words from him before moving on….

The prophet Malachi is the last book in the canon of the Old Testament. It is not dated, and the author is unknown. Its present title comes from the opening words of chapter 3, “My messenger” (in Hebrew, malachi). It is certainly post-exilic and may come from almost any period between the rebuilding of the temple in 516 B.C. and the end of the Persian period about 330 B.C. From its contents, it can probably be best placed just about the time of Ezra and Nehemiah. Malachi roundly condemns many abuses in Israel that Ezra worked to reform. The priests perform imperfect and careless service in this temple. The people are marrying pagans with ease and taking divorce lightly. They fail to pay the tithes and offerings which they owe to God. He warns them sternly that God will bring swift punishment on them if they do not change….

Malachi is a book of passion. The author obviously loves the temple and its worship, demands much of the priests in their office, and values religious instruction. He speaks of the covenant with deep respect. He fears that the sin of Israel is terribly serious because it breaks the covenant made with Yahweh. He goes behind the laws of the Pentateuch to ground God’s will in the creation stories of Genesis (Mal 2:10). He roots his view of the enduring love of marriage in the covenant and even goes so far as to say “I have divorce” and repeats twice the warning, “So take heed for yourselves and do not be unfaithful” (Mal 2:15-16). He even talks of a covenant made with Levi that demands fidelity of all priests to their ministry (Mal 2:4-6). He ends his book, as do all the later prophets, with a vision of the day of the Lord that will bring fire and punishment on the wicked but a glorious revival to the just.

Perhaps his most famous lines are the last in his book. They are both a powerful summary of Israel’s foundations of faith and a firm statement of hope….

Because Malachi foresees the return of the prophet Elijah, this book was placed last in the canon of the Old Testament by the Greek translators of the Bible so that the whole of Scripture would look ahead to God’s further action in the world.

Malachi is deeply in debt to Ezekiel and his vision of the future community of Israel. He also uses many of Ezekiel’s methods of instruction. Where Ezekiel often begins an oracle with a proverb or quotation or colorful image, Malachi uses questions. Indeed, his whole style is question-and-answer, as though it were a child’s catechism. There are six oracles in all, and each involves a question addressed to Israel or to God, and is answered by the prophet in God’s name. In the answers we discover a mini-catechism of the covenant. Yahweh loves Jacob, is a father to Israel, is faithful to his word, and wants honesty in Israel’s words, true worship, fidelity and trust in God’s justice.

It seems clear that the full force of the Priestly law codes of the Pentateuch were not yet fully in force. Therefore Malachi probably lived and spoke sometime before Ezra and Nehemiah were able to overcome the indifference and loss of faith that had affected the people and their leaders alike.

In studying Ezra, we saw how he led the Jews who had married foreign wives to commit mass divorce. Therefore, it seems unlikely to me that Malachi was prophesying, or that the book was written, at the exact same time as Ezra’s reforms, since the book so strongly condemns divorce of any kind for any reason. Once again, this simple fact reminds us that the Bible is one book with many voices saying different things at different times in an attempt to guide God’s people.

It is no wonder, from a Christian perspective, that Malachi was placed last in the canon of Old Testament Scripture, for Malachi’s mention of Elijah who is to come prepares us rather perfectly to receive the ministry of John the Baptist in the Gospels. However, before we move on to our study of the Gospels, perhaps we need to consider a few questions….

1.     What has struck you with most force in our study of the Hebrew Scriptures throughout this year?
2.     What book did you like best? Why?
3.     What book did you like least? Why?
4.     What are you most looking forward to in our study of the New Testament?


Popular posts from this blog

C. S. Lewis on Homosexuality

Arthur Greeves
In light of recent developments in the United States on the issue of gay marriage, I thought it would be interesting to revisit what C. S. Lewis thought about homosexuality. Lewis, who died in 1963, never wrote about same-sex marriage, but he did write, occasionally, about the topic of homosexuality in general. In the following I am quoting from my book, Mere Theology: A Guide to the Thought of C. S. Lewis. For detailed references and footnotes, you may obtain a copy from Amazon, your local library, or by clicking on the book cover at the right....
In Surprised by Joy, Lewis claimed that homosexuality was a vice to which he was never tempted and that he found opaque to the imagination. For this reason he refused to say anything too strongly against the pederasty that he encountered at Malvern College, where he attended school from the age of fifteen to sixteen. Lewis did not rate pederasty as the greatest evil of the school because he felt the cruelty displayed at Malver…

A Prayer at Ground Zero

Christmas Day Thought from Henri Nouwen

"I keep thinking about the Christmas scene that Anthony arranged under the altar. This probably is the most meaningful "crib" I have ever seen. Three small woodcarved figures made in India: a poor woman, a poor man, and a small child between them. The carving is simple, nearly primitive. No eyes, no ears, no mouths, just the contours of the faces. The figures are smaller than a human hand - nearly too small to attract attention at all.
"But then - a beam of light shines on the three figures and projects large shadows on the wall of the sanctuary. That says it all. The light thrown on the smallness of Mary, Joseph, and the Child projects them as large, hopeful shadows against the walls of our life and our world.
"While looking at the intimate scene we already see the first outlines of the majesty and glory they represent. While witnessing the most human of human events, I see the majesty of God appearing on the horizon of my existence. While being moved by the ge…

Sheldon Vanauken Remembered

A good crowd gathered at the White Hart Cafe in Lynchburg, Virginia on Saturday, February 7 for a powerpoint presentation I gave on the life and work of Sheldon Vanauken. Van, as he was known to family and friends, was best known as the author of A Severe Mercy, the autobiography of his love relationship with his wife Jean "Davy" Palmer Davis.

While living in Oxford, England in the early 1950's, Van and Davy came to faith in Christ through the influence of C. S. Lewis. Van was a professor of history and English literature at Lynchburg College from 1948 until his retirement around 1980. A Severe Mercy tells the story of Davy's death from a mysterious liver ailment in 1955 and Van's subsequent dealing with grief. Van himself died from cancer in 1996.

It was my privilege to know Van for a brief period of time during the last year of his life. However, present at the White Hart on February 7 were some who knew Van far better than I did--Floyd Newman, one of Van's…

Fact, Faith, Feeling

"Now Faith, in the sense in which I am here using the word, is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods. For moods will change, whatever view your reason takes. I know that by experience. Now that I am a Christian I do have moods in which the whole thing looks very improbable: but when I was an atheist I had moods in which Christianity looked terribly probable. This rebellion of your moods against your real self is going to come anyway. That is why Faith is such a necessary virtue: unless you teach your moods 'where to get off', you can never be either a sound Christian or even a sound atheist, but just a creature dithering to and fro, with its beliefs really dependent on the weather and the state of its digestion. Consequently one must train the habit of Faith." Mere Christianity

Many years ago, when I was a young Christian, I remember seeing the graphic illustration above of what C. S. Lewis has, here, so eloquen…

C. S. Lewis Tour--London

The final two days of our C. S. Lewis Tour of Ireland & England were spent in London. Upon our arrival we enjoyed a panoramic tour of the city that included Westminster Abbey. A number of our tour participants chose to tour the inside of the Abbey where they were able to view the new C. S. Lewis plaque in Poets' Corner.

Though London was not one of Lewis' favorite places to visit, there are a number of locations associated with him. One which I have noted in my new book, In the Footsteps of C. S. Lewis, is Endsleigh Palace Hospital (25 Gordon Street, London) where Lewis recovered from his wounds received during the First World War....

Not too far away from this location is King's College, part of the University of London, located on the Strand, just off the River Thames. This is the location where Lewis gave the annual commemoration oration entitled The Inner Ring on 14 December 1944....

C. S. Lewis occasionally attended theatrical events in London. One of his favorites w…

C. S. Lewis on Church Attendance

A friend's blog written yesterday ( got me thinking about C. S. Lewis's experience of the church. I wrote this in a comment on Wes Robert's blog:
It is interesting to note that C. S. Lewis attended the same small church for over thirty years. The experience was nothing spectacular on a weekly basis. For most of those years Lewis didn't care much for the sermons; he even sat behind a pillar so that the priest would not see the expression on his face. He attended the service without music because he so disliked hymns. And he left right after holy communion was served probably because he didn't like to engage in small talk with other parishioners after the service. But that life-long obedience in the same direction shaped Lewis in a way that nothing else could.
Lewis was once asked, "Is attendance at a place of worship or membership with a Christian community necessary to a Christian way of life?"
His answer was as follows: &q…

C. S. Lewis's Parish Church

The first time I visited Oxford, in 1982, the porter at Magdalen College didn't even recognize the name--C. S. Lewis. I had asked him if he could give me directions to Lewis's former home in Headington Quarry. Obviously, he could not and did not. (Directions to Lewis's former home are now much easier to obtain. Just click here for directions and to arrange a tour: The Kilns.)
Things have changed a lot since 1982. Now Lewis is remembered all around Oxford. At the pub where the Inklings met, at Magdalen College, and not least--at his parish church--Holy Trinity Headington Quarry. The first time I visited the church I only saw the outside and Lewis's grave, shared with his brother Warnie.
Since that first visit I have returned to Holy Trinity a number of times and worshiped there. Father Tom Honey is a real gem. Under his leadership the congregation has grown and now includes a number of young families. I was overwhelmed by the number of children who came into the sanctuary…

A Christmas Psalm

Psalm 110
The Lord says to my Lord:
"Sit at my right hand
until I make your enemies
a footstool for your feet."

The Lord will extend your mighty scepter from Zion;
you will rule in the midst of your enemies.
Your troops will be willing on your day of battle.
Arrayed in holy majesty,
from the womb of the dawn
you will receive the dew of your youth.

The Lord has sworn
and will not change his mind:
"You are a priest forever,
in the order of Melchizedek."

The Lord is at your right hand;
he will crush kings on the day of his wrath.
He will judge the nations, heaping up the dead
and crushing the rulers of the whole earth.
He will drink from a brook beside the way;
therefore he will lift up his head.

C. S. Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms,
Chapter XII, paragraphs 4 & 5:

"We find in our Prayer Books that Psalm 110 is one of those appointed for Christmas Day. We may at first be surprised by this. There is nothing in it about peace and good-will, nothing remotely sugg…