Tonight we begin our Advent study of the prophet Malachi with a discussion of Malachi 1-2. One of the features of Malachi is the prophet’s emphasis on covenants. In this chapter, Malachi speaks of three covenants: religious, societal, and matrimonial. The basis of a covenant is that the parties obligate themselves to be faithful to one another. Malachi’s complaint is that the people of Jerusalem are unfaithful. These examples of faithless covenants will set-up Malachi’s conclusion in chapters 3 and 4 concerning the coming messenger who will herald a renewed covenant.
The first covenant is the priestly covenant between God and the Levitical priesthood. (vv.1-9). Levi was one of the twelve tribes of Israel, and Aaron (a Levite and Moses’ brother) was designated by God as the first priest. Exodus 28:1. Levites not descended directly from Aaron performed various caretaking duties in the tabernacle. Num. 18. The specific covenant Malachi mentions arises in Numbers 25:12-13 where God says “Behold, I give to him my covenant of peace; and it shall be to him, and to his descendants after him, the covenant of a perpetual priesthood, because he was jealous for his God, and made atonement for the people of Israel.” The priests in Malachi’s day violated this covenant because they are misleading their flock and causing them to stumble. We will find this exact same denunciation of the religious leaders by Jesus. Matt. 23, Luke 11:37-54.
The second covenant is a communal covenant. (vv.10-12) Malachi appeals to a common ancestry of all of us to give a basis of why we must be faithful to one another. The commandment to love your neighbor as yourself (Lev. 19:18) is part of this communal covenant. Malachi goes on to say that his audience’s infidelity to one another is an infidelity to God. As John will later write in his epistle, you cannot love God and hate your brother. 1 John 4:20. Paul will use this a similar argument in appealing to the unity of the church. Eph. 4:6
The third covenant addressed by Malachi is the covenant of marriage. (vv. 13-16). Malachi states that a marriage is a covenant between a husband, a wife, and God. A breach of the marital covenant not only violates an obligation to the other spouse but also violates the obligation to God himself. Here, Malachi is speaking out against a husband divorcing the wife of his youth. The unfaithful husband is also unfaithful to God. As we discussed several weeks ago, Jesus takes a similarly dim view of a husband putting out his wife. Matt. 5:31-32.
In reading through Malachi 2, particularly in this season of Advent, see how Malachi looks forward towards the more perfect, faithful covenant of Christ Jesus. The people surrounding Malachi have failed to keep the covenants – spiritual, communal, and familial. They, like all of us, are imperfect and behave imperfectly. However, as Paul writes, it is in the obedience of Jesus Christ (fully God and fully Human), not our own, where salvation will lie. Romans 5-6
Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred which redeems them from the transgressions under the first covenant. Hebrews 9:15