These small group studies of Malachi contain outlines, cross-references, Bible study discussion questions, and applications. Visit our library of inductive Bible studies for more in depth inductive studies on this and other books of the Bible you can use in your small group.
Inductive Bible Study Guide Of Malachi 1 With Discussion Questions
I. God loves Jacob (1-5)
II. God is not pleased with their offerings (6-14)
I. God loves Jacob (1-5)
- What is an oracle?
- Who is Malachi?
- When may this book have been written?
- What was God’s attitude toward them?
- What was their attitude toward God?
- What is the main point of verses 2-5?
- What does it mean that God hated Esau?
- Why did God choose Jacob, but not choose Esau?
- Was Esau deserving of God’s love?
- Was Jacob deserving of God’s love?
- So what can we learn from this?
- How did God treat the people of Edom? Why?
Romans 9:9-16 – More teaching on God’s sovereign choice of Jacob and not Esau.
Revelation 13:8 – All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast—all whose names have not been written in the Lamb’s book of life, the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world.
John 6:44 – No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day.
John 6:37 – All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.
Obadiah 1:15 – The day of the Lord is near for all nations. As you have done, it will be done to you; your deeds will return upon your own head.
The sins mentioned in the book of Malachi are quite similar to those mentioned in the book of Nehemiah. They include tithing, mixed marriages, and general apathy toward the Lord. The nation of Israel at this point in history had experienced discipline from God. They had fallen from being an influential and prosperous, independent kingdom, to be a poor and neglected corner of Persia’s vast empire.
The people were discouraged spiritually. Beginning to doubt God’s love for them, they still maintained the appearance of obedience, but it wasn’t from the heart. While they kept following many religious rituals, they no longer felt any passion, zeal, or even sincerity for what they were doing. As a result, even the priests were just going through the motions. It was a nation that had a religion, but seemingly no real relationship with God.
Verse by Verse Commentary
1. Malachi – We don’t know very much about Malachi. This name actually means “my messenger,” which has led some to speculate that Malachi wasn’t the author’s name, but instead his role as God’s messenger. If that is the case this book would be one of the few anonymous books in the Bible. But there is not a compelling reason to think that his name was not Malachi. In that culture, it was common to have names with deep meaning.
2. I have loved you – God is declaring His love for the Jews. As a nation, they had been through a lot of hard times. As individuals, their lives were not easy. Judah was not a prosperous region at that time in history. Life was difficult. God wanted them to know that He did love them. He had not abandoned them. He had not forsaken them. He remembered all of His promises to them. He remembered the covenant He had made with their ancestors. Though He did discipline them for a time, this didn’t mean He had rejected them. God wants to reassure them that He does in fact love them.
Hebrews 13:5 – Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”
I will never leave you nor forsake you. God also loves us, His children. The world around us may fall to pieces. Everyone we know may turn against us. But just like a good parent would never reject his child, so God will never cast us aside.
If you need a rock-solid truth to hang on to in the middle of trials, comfort yourself with this. God loves you with everlasting love.
2. You say, “How have You loved us?” – God declared His love for the Jews. But they doubted Him. They were skeptical. At that moment they didn’t feel the love from God. Why?
If we look at this question from a historical perspective we can see that the Jews had faced seventy years of exile because of their rebellion against the Lord. Other passages tell us that this was discipline from God, the direct consequences of their disobedience.
In other words, most of the trials and problems they faced were of their own making. It was the consequence of their own sins. It didn’t feel like they were experiencing God’s love, but it was in fact God’s love. Love drove God to discipline them because they needed to learn the importance of obedience. A child who is being disciplined may not feel love from his parents at that moment, but most children one day in the future will be able to recognize that it was love that motivated their parents to discipline them.
Proverbs 13:24 – Whoever does not discipline his son hates him, but whoever loves him is diligent to correct him.
Hebrews 12:7,11 – It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
God disciplined them because He loved them. Discipline would remind them of the terrible consequences of sin so that the next time they faced temptation they would not fall into it.
My youngest daughter sometimes refuses to eat the food she is given. She will suddenly make up her mind not to eat it. But my wife and I believe that it is for her good to eat the food. Not only is it healthy, but if she grows up as a picky eater it will have a negative effect on her life. So we require her to eat it and sometimes it is not pleasant. She likely does not feel love now, but it is nonetheless out of love that we require her to eat it.
The Jews in Malachi doubted God like my daughter may doubt us. Doubting God is natural. Which is easier, doubt or faith?
We are sinners and it is easier to find reasons to doubt God and His words than it is to find reasons to believe in Him. Our human tendency to doubt God goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden when Satan successfully was able to get Eve to doubt the goodness of God’s command and the veracity of His warning. In Psalm 14:1 we learn that the fool says in his heart ‘there is no God.’ Because we don’t see God it is too easy to doubt Him or the promises He has made to us.
How can we have victory over our doubt? How can our faith be strengthened so that we always can affirm, “I believe in God and I believe that He does love and care for me?”
Application: Next time you begin to doubt God’s goodness ask the question, “how has he loved me?” But don’t ask it rhetorically as a challenge. Instead, start listing out the ways you have experienced the love of God. Write them down. Soon you will find that He does indeed love you and has shown it consistently.
3. God’s answer – How did God respond to their doubt? God referred back to His covenant promises made to Jacob more than a thousand years before. God chose Jacob. He did not choose Jacob because of Jacob’s inherent goodness. God made a choice. He chose to extend His special covenant with Jacob and Jacob’s descendants. He also made the decision NOT to give this same covenant to Jacob’s older brother, instead punishing Edom generation after generation.
God is telling them that He has faithfully demonstrated His love toward the Jews for more than a thousand years. His love is steadfast and constant. It doesn’t change from year to year or generation to generation. His covenant promises will all be fulfilled. If they were to only look at one sliver of Jewish history (one predominantly showing God’s discipline on them), they might be deceived into thinking that God did not love them anymore.
But God reminds them of the lengthy history of His love toward them. He also shows them Edom (the descendants of Esau) by contrast. If the Jews thought their own lives were difficult, they should look at Edom. This is a land that experienced God’s judgment again and again until there was nothing left. But even though the Jews deserved a similar fate, because of His choice, God would not completely destroy them as He did to Edom.
Interpretive Challenge: Why did God hate Esau? Is it fair to treat Esau like this?
Suggested Reading: Romans 9:9-16.
In this context we can see a few things:
A. Love and hate – They are used in these verses to demonstrate God’s choice of Jacob and rejection of others. He chose Jacob. He did not choose Esau. It is not a reference to human emotion like we would feel if we look upon a serial killer. Other places in the Bible use similar terminology.
Luke 14:26 – If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.
In this passage, it doesn’t mean we should emotionally hate our parents. It means we have a choice and we must choose to put God first. Just as we cannot put both God and our parents first God did not choose to extend His covenant to both Jacob and Esau’s descendants.
B. All the punishment on Edom was deserved – In verse 4 we are told that they are a “wicked territory.”
In this verse, we learn that a son is not to be judged for his father’s sins and vice-versa. The Edomites were each punished for their individual sins. No person has been or ever will be judged by God for the sins of another.
We can ask the question, “Did Edom deserve God’s grace?” The answer is “no.” The Edomites were not a people who desperately were seeking after God only to be rejected by Him. These are not people who were streaming to the temple begging to have an opportunity to believe in God. Instead, they were a very sinful and rebellious group of people, like their ancestor Esau before them.
Amos 1:11 – This is what the Lord says: “For three sins of Edom, even for four, I will not relent. Because he pursued his brother with a sword and slaughtered the women of the land because his anger raged continually and his fury flamed unchecked.
It was for their sins that they were punished.
In Romans we learn that God has compassion and mercy on the one He chooses. Neither Jacob nor Esau deserved God’s mercy, but He chose to show compassion to one. He is not obligated to show this compassion to others.
In the parable of the workers, the master decided to give the same wages to all the workers, including those who started later in the day. Jesus said that the master had the right to choose how much he gave to each person. Similarly, God has the right to choose to whom He extends His covenant blessings.
The doctrine of election highlights God’s mercy toward the undeserving, not His rejection of the righteous (which never once happens.) We are all on an escalator descending to judgment and God snatches some of us off this escalator and puts us on an escalator ascending to paradise. We should be thankful to God for His grace and compassion toward each of us.
Those who still face judgment do so because they have rejected God’s offer of forgiveness and refused to take the way of escape by trusting in Jesus as their Savior.
Application: God holds us responsible for our choices. We cannot reject salvation and then blame God for saving others and not us. Take for example a person drowning. A boat comes along and tosses him a life ring. But he believes he doesn’t need it. And in rejecting the means of escape, he drowns. Is that the fault of the boat captain? It is not. In like manner, we have the responsibility to come to Jesus and repent of our sins. If you have not done so before, then today is the day of salvation. Come to Jesus and place your faith in Him.
II. God is not pleased with their offerings (6-14)
- What point is Malachi making in verse 6 about a son/father and servant/master?
- Does a son always honor his father? If not, then what is implied here?
- Were the Jews honoring God?
- What problem is declared here?
- What do we learn about God from verse 6? How about people?
- What attitude do we see that the people have at the end of verse 6?
- What examples are given of their lack of respect toward God?
- What did these examples show about their heart attitude?
- Why were they giving the worst they had to God? What did this show about their opinion of God?
- What were the Jews commanded to offer to God?
- Why did God ask for the best they had?
- How useful were the gifts they were offering (verse 10?)
- What are some modern-day parallels of ways we may not honor God today?
- What is the key principle we need to learn in this passage?
- In what areas can we show honor and respect to God by giving Him the very best?
- What do we learn about God’s character in verse 11?
- How can we magnify God’s name among the nations? What does this verse show us about God’s vision for other nations besides Israel?
Exodus 12:5 – The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect, and you may take them from the sheep or the goats.
Leviticus 22:19 – You must present a male without defect from the cattle, sheep, or goats so that it may be accepted on your behalf.
Proverbs 11:24-25 – One person gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty. A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.
1 Timothy 6:18-20 – One person gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty. A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.
Proverbs 3:9 – Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops
1 Samuel 2:30 – Therefore the Lord, the God of Israel, declares: ‘I promised that members of your family would minister before me forever.’ But now the Lord declares: ‘Far be it from me! Those who honor me I will honor, but those who despise me will be disdained.’
Verse by Verse Commentary
1. God is worthy of honor – A father and a master deserve honor and respect. In this passage, these are used as anecdotes that show us that God deserves our honor. If we should honor a sinful person, how much more should we honor the Lord?
Application: Since fathers deserve honor, how can you give your father honor this week?
2. God seeks honor for Himself – From the moment we believe in God, we are taught that we should be selfless. We are taught that we should not try to get credit or glory from others. We should count others as more important than ourselves.
Then why here do we see our ultimate role-model seeking honor for Himself? Is He breaking His own standard?
The answer is simple. God deserves the honor/glory and we don’t. When we seek glory for ourselves it is stealing it. For example, if I try to get compliments for being handsome I am committing a type of plagiarism. Where do my looks come from? God created us. He should get the glory for our appearance, not us.
Imagine I write a book and loan it to a friend. He pirates it and starts selling it in mass. Would you blame me for setting the record straight and telling the publishers and stores that I in fact wrote this book? You wouldn’t blame me because I would deserve recognition for what I did. That is right and fair to do so. In a similar (but far more important way), God deserves recognition and honor for who He is and what He is done. If we don’t give it to Him, we are in essence robbing God. It is even worse when we try to get the glory and honor for ourselves.
3. The priests despised God’s name – The priests should have been good models for the people. They were supposed to be the spiritual leaders of the nation. Their lives should have been characterized by holiness, justice, and a zeal for God. But we see that their passion and zeal have disappeared. Their service to God is just a job, a career. We see the evidence of this in the type of offerings they make to God. Instead of offering the best of what they have, they made a habit of giving the worst of what they had to God. It seems that they deluded themselves to think that because they couldn’t see God He also couldn’t see them or care about what they are doing.
But God was not pleased with these offerings, not should He be. He is the Creator, He chose to extend grace and mercy to His people. In their history, He miraculously intervened in their lives time and time again. Everything they had was from Him, their health, their nation, and their land. But they weren’t grateful and they didn’t give Him the respect He was worthy of.
Application: What are some modern-day parallels of ways we may not honor God today?
In what areas can we show honor and respect to God by giving Him the very best?
4. My name will be great among the nations – Here we see a glimpse of God’s vision for the nations, even in the Old Testament. Even though the Jews were His specially chosen people, He still wanted people from all nations to know about Him. He planned for salvation to go around the world. But the Jews were far from carrying out this purpose. Their people and their leaders were not examples to follow.
Application: What can you do to help see this vision accomplished?
How do you need to start giving God glory and honor in every area of your life? Write down at least one specific way you will honor God this week.
Malachi Bible Study Guide – Get the entire Malachi study in one convenient downloadable e-book.
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