Prophetic Debate One
After Malachi defines his prophecy as an oracle or a proclamation from Yahweh, he begins his debate format (1).
First Prophetic Debate (1:2-5): God's Elective Love Contrasted With Edom
Malachi opens his prophetic word by announcing Yahweh's love, selection, and even election of Israel as His own son. Yahweh is clear that it was Jacob He chose and not Esau. All Israel needed to do was consider the history of both nations and Israel would have assessed themselves to be most blessed by Yahweh and comparatively Esau to have been hated.
This is not a contrast of actual or literal love; this is a contrast of treatment. Esau and thus Edom's history appeared by comparison to Israel be the hated nation of Yahweh. When one considered the prosperity and divine care of both nations, Israel came up the winner (2-3).
Edom also was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar—they were expelled from the land and they were shattered. They bragged about rebuilding their nation, but they never did. Every time they sought to rebuild, they were beaten back into submission by the nations which followed Babylon. Israel was to watch the contrast between how Yahweh was treating them and how Edom was faring. By this simple observation, Israel should have learned the greatness of God. They should have been able to look beyond their own border and seen that they were not experiencing near the hardship of Edom (4-5).
Instead, Israel's wickedness was that they were so consumed with what they wanted and they failed to see how much they really possessed.
Second Prophetic Debate (1:6-2:9): Israel's Half-hearted Offerings Condemned
It was at the altar where priests helped the people be reconciled to Yahweh through allowing an innocent animal to take their death sentence and thus their guilt. Through sacrifice, Yahweh declared His people forgiven and right before Him. In order for the whole sacrificial system to have the desired effect on the worshipers, Yahweh had to be honored. He had to be honored as a son would honor his father and as a slave would honor his master. The sad reality was that the priests were not only dishonoring Yahweh but they were pompous in their boast (6).
In answering the question, Malachi posed for the priests that Yahweh told them the bread they spread on the table was stale (7); the animals they sacrificed were blemished, blind, lame, sick—those they would have destroyed anyway.
The priests considered their temple work a contemptible tradition which they fulfilled with drudgery. Malachi challenged the priests: "a human governor would have been insulted by their gifts" (8).
Of course the role of the priest was to help people make the exchange of substitutionary sacrifice for grace so the people would know grace was not earned by some effort of their own. Yahweh challenged the priests because they were offering bad sacrifices and were actually teaching the people to do just enough to keep Yahweh off their backs. Their whole sacrificial system was just another way of using works to gain God's favor (9).
Yahweh would rather shut the doors to the Temple and thus on sacrifice than have the offering ruse to continue. There was no pleasure for Yahweh in the senseless and religious slaughter of animals. The pleasure for Yahweh was in His people experiencing His forgiving grace as their sins were borne by another (10).
Malachi pauses to prophecy of a day coming when all over the world nations, thus gentiles, would pray and make His name great and get the true honor of Yahweh which was eluding the priests (11).
Malachi returned to the present and gave the priests six rebukes:
a) they had polluted what they were offering by holding the whole sacrificial system with contempt and ridicule
b) they were complaining about the part of the sacrifice they were having to give Yahweh, the best part (12)
c) they considered the whole sacrificial labor for Yahweh a wearisome thing to do (13a)
d) they accepted unworthy sacrifices, even those violently half eaten by wolves (13b)
e) they were complicit with the worshipers in encouraging them to bring damaged offerings (14a)
f) they failed to recognize the greatness of Yahweh (14b)