“‘Remember the law of my servant Moses, the statutes and rules that I commanded him at Horeb for all Israel’” (Malachi 4:4).
Malachi was the last of the prophets. With his last word came the beginning of a great silence, when for 400 years no one would hear from God. That silence would end only when Christ came into the world. As the last of the prophets, Malachi’s message was extremely important. But what did God consider to be the most important thing He could say to His people before He initiated this 400-year silence?
God’s message through Malachi was simple: The people of Israel saw keeping the law as a duty, a chore instead of a privilege. They did the least they could to get by, with no real heart behind their actions. This false worship was wearisome to God, and He admonished them to return to a whole-hearted devotion to Him.
One way in which the people demonstrated their lackluster obedience was in their offerings. The law stipulated that a male animal without blemish should be offered as a sacrifice. But instead, people were bringing their blind, sick, and lame animals to the temple for sacrifices. They gave God what they didn’t want and kept the best for themselves. And when it came to tithing—that is, giving God ten percent of their firstfruits—they didn’t meet the full amount. As Malachi put it, they were robbing God.
This was the message God wanted His people to hear before He was silent for generations. He didn’t want a façade worship. He wanted the hearts of His people. He wanted them to worship Him because they loved Him and longed to know Him, not because it was required of them. God was getting ready to enter the world in human form. In just 400 years, He would consummate the promise He had made thousands of years ago to Adam and Eve, that He would send a Savior to redeem all those trapped in sin. But first, the people needed to be made aware of their sin. And if they cared so little about sin that they thought it was acceptable to offer a blind lamb for sacrifice, they would not understand their need for the coming Savior.
God urged His people to be ready. What might have been different if they had listened!