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.
Malachi 2 Inductive Bible Study and Small Group Discussion Questions
I. The consequences of dishonoring God (1-3)
II. The example of honoring God (4-9)
III. Rebuke for their treachery (10-17)
I. The consequences of dishonoring God (1-3)
- What is the commandment Malachi refers to in verse 1?
- Who is this message directed to?
- What did God want them to do (verse 2)? What does this teach us about God?
- Did they give God honor? What does this teach us about people?
- What were the consequences of dishonoring God?
- What does verse 3 mean?
Deuteronomy 6:5 – Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.
1 Corinthians 6:20 – You were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.
Psalm 29:2 – Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness.
Psalm 34:3 – Glorify the Lord with me; let us exalt his name together.
Psalm 57:5 – Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let your glory be over all the earth.
Psalm 71:8 – My mouth is filled with your praise, declaring your splendor all day long.
Verse by Verse Commentary
1. This commandment – This may refer to the whole message to the Jews from Malachi. The key component of Malachi’s message was that they should honor God, which they were not doing.
2. O priests – The message was primarily for the priests. They were supposed to be the spiritual leaders of the people. As such they were expected to set a good example. And because they were the leaders, they were even more culpable than the rest of the Jews.
Imagine that a parent leaves one child in charge of the other children and then runs an errand for a couple of hours. When he returns, the house is a disaster. The kids are running wildly around, screaming, and throwing food all over the house. Glass is shattered. Furniture is broken. The child left in charge has his headphones on listening to music with his feet up on the couch. Who will the parent likely blame first? The parent would likely blame the one left in charge even though the rest of the kids might be behaving even worst. He was the oldest and supposed to be the most mature. Therefore the majority of the blame will fall on him.
God holds leaders responsible for how they use their position to influence others.
Application: A lesson for us is that whenever we are given responsibility over others (as parents, teachers, Bible study leaders, church leaders, etc.)we should take that responsibility seriously. Who are you a leader over? In what area can you intentionally set a good example for them to follow?
3. If you do not take it to heart to give honor to My name –
In chapter 1, we saw that the people were rebuked for not giving God the honor He deserves. He is the creator of all things. He is the giver of life. He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
In the Westminster Shorter Catechism, there is a question.
Question: “What is the chief end of man?”
Answer: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.”
God created us to give Him glory. It is His right as our Maker.
Those who follow Him gladly give Him honor. In the Psalms, David continually gives God glory.
Note that David says it is the glory “due his name.” In other words, He deserves it.
After Jesus came and gave His life for us, we have even more reason to glorify God.
1 Corinthians 6:20 – For you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.
Here in Malachi, God gives the people of Israel a warning about what will happen if they don’t honor Him. With this warning, God is giving them another chance. He didn’t immediately send punishment as soon as they stopped honoring Him. Instead, He warned them, reminded them, and pleaded with them. He gave them second and third chances to change their behavior. Note that God doesn’t promise nor is He required to give us multiple chances before judgment. Neither does He always do this. But many times He does do this because He is patient.
2 Peter 3:9 – The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead, he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
The key lesson from verse 2 is simple: honor God from your heart.
Application: Write down how you plan to give God the honor He deserves this week.
4. I will send the curse upon you – In the Old Testament, God’s covenant with the Jews was simple. Obedience resulted in blessings. Disobedience resulted in curses. (See Deuteronomy 28 for reference.)
Does God deal with us the same way today? How does He deal with us either the same or different?
In the Old Testament, physical blessings such as prosperity and good health were tied to obedience. No longer does God promise to extend material blessings to us if we obey. It may still be sometimes true. For example, a person who honors God with His body by refraining from alcohol, drugs, smoking, and premarital sex will generally be healthier than someone who engages in these things. But God does not promise to reward our obedience with physical blessings.
Many spiritual blessings like peace and joy do however hinge on our obedience. If you are living a sinful life you will be guilty and God’s peace and joy will be absent in your life. Some, God’s grace, for example, is not contingent upon our obedience. Though we must have faith in God to receive it originally, future sins do not mean it is taken away.
It is always better for us to honor and obey God than to disobey Him. As we fulfill the purpose He created us for, our lives will be fulfilling, satisfying, and joyful.
5. The consequences of disobedience – Dishonoring God’s name would not be tolerated. Even their descendants would be affected. Although children are not directly punished for the sins of their parents, the sins of the parents do indirectly affect them in many ways. Children would likely follow the example of their parents in dishonoring God and therefore rightly deserve God’s rebuke. A spiritual leader of a nation, a church, a fellowship, or a family is responsible for those under them. Their righteousness or sin will have a profound impact on the whole group. Thus we are reminded again to take our responsibility as leaders (whenever and wherever we do have leadership) seriously.
The latter part of verse 3 contains a vivid reference to God’s judgment. Generally, the entrails (organs and waste from the animal) were taken and buried outside the camp. They were not fit to offer to God on the altar. Here God is saying that the priests would be mixed together with and then taken away with the entrails. In other words, they are not fit to serve before God and will be taken away and discarded like rubbish. In our modern-day vernacular we might say, “If you do not honor Me, I will take you out with the trash and toss you in the rubbish bin.”
That should certainly get leaders to think carefully about the example they set!
II. The example of honoring God (4-9)
- What commandment was sent to them?
- Who is Levi? What is the covenant with Levi?
- Who is him, them, him, and he refer to in verse 5?
- What kind of relationship did God have with the Levite priests?
- What kind of relationship did those priests have with the people?
- What was their role toward the people? What did they use their position for?
- How is our job similar or different from the role of a priest as seen in verses 6-7?
- How can we make sure that we keep faithfully fulfilling our role, unlike the priests Malachi is rebuking?
- What did Malachi have to say about how the priests were fulfilling their roles at that time?
- What kind of partiality may they have been showing?
- How was God disciplining them?
Numbers 18:5 – You are to be responsible for the care of the sanctuary and the altar so that my wrath will not fall on the Israelites again.
Ezekiel 22:26 – Her priests do violence to my law and profane my holy things; they do not distinguish between the holy and the common; they teach that there is no difference between the unclean and the clean; and they shut their eyes to the keeping of my Sabbaths, so that I am profaned among them.
Numbers 18:7 – But only you and your sons may serve as priests in connection with everything at the altar and inside the curtain. I am giving you the service of the priesthood as a gift. Anyone else who comes near the sanctuary is to be put to death.
1 Peter 2:9 – But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
Verse by Verse Commentary
1. Then you will know – Judgment would remind them that the message came from God. Sometimes judgment is the only way to get people’s attention. People may tune out words and warnings, but judgment can’t be tuned out. The problem is that by the time the judgment comes it is generally too late to repent and avoid it. Don’t wait for the judgment to come to repent. Repent first before it is too late.
2. That My covenant may continue – God wanted to continue His covenant. He didn’t want to sever fellowship with the priests. In order to continue that covenant, He might need to make an example of the unrighteous priests who were tarnishing His name and that of the priesthood.
3. My covenant with him – Who is him? “Him” in this context refers to either Aaron or represents the whole tribe of Levites who chose to side with God when the camp was in a riot. I tend to think it is the latter, but even if it is Aaron, Aaron is also often used as a figure which represents the whole priesthood. In the beginning, the Levitical priests honored God. They faithfully and wisely taught the people. They served as a righteous model. They themselves warned others to turn back to God. All of these things are what priests, and any spiritual leaders, should do.
Verse 7 shows us that God expected the priests to instruct the people. As His messengers, it was their job to teach the people the things of God. Being in awe of God and His holy character, they were to pass on this awe and reverence to the rest of the people. Their lives were to be a light and a model. Their words were to be beacons of truth. It was their responsibility to act as the truth keepers for their nation. When the people turned away from God or forgot His commands or miracles on their behalf, the priests’ job was to remind them of this and pull them back to God again. They both represented the people to God and represented God to the people.
Application: Today’s world is in great need of this type of spiritual leader. Evil is being celebrated as good. Good is being derided as evil. Culture and popular opinion slip farther and farther from God and His truth. We need to stand strong as a light, giving God’s message of truth to whoever will hear it. This message of truth must not be watered down or changed to fit with changing times because God’s truth never changes. Those who stand for truth will be increasingly mocked, derided, and perhaps persecuted. That is the responsibility that we must take. Are you willing to take up that burden? Are you willing to stand up for the truth no matter the consequence? What is one way you can stand up for the truth in the coming week?
4. Verse 8 – Completely abandoning their God-given responsibility as the spiritual leaders of the people, the priests instead were the cause of stumbling for their people. It was their horrid example that spurred the people on to sin more and more. In the book of Ezra, priests give the same bad example. In that time the officials and priests had married many foreign wives. This gave the sin an air of legitimacy so that anyone could justify themselves in doing the same sin. “If the priests can do it, so can I,” the people thought. A leader should make people uncomfortable to sin, not enable them to do it.
Do not become a cause of stumbling for others. Instead, use your influence to keep people from stumbling.
5. Verse 9 – Disobedience brought about God’s judgment. We do not know exactly how, but God brought those leaders down low before all the people.
III. Rebuke for their treachery (10-17)
- Who do you think is talking about in verse 10?
- How were the Jews treating each other?
- How had the people corrupted themselves (verse 11)?
- What does verse 12 mean?
- How did the people feel about God’s rejection (verse 13)?
- Why was God rejecting their offering?
- What does this teach us about people? What does this teach us about God?
- What were the people sorry about? Were they truly repentant? Why or why not?
- What does this teach us about marriage?
- How does God view marriage? What is marriage (a covenant before God?) What does the word “treachery” mean? Why is this used to describe divorce? How is this different from how the world views divorce?
- Who will not treat their wife like this (the one who has a remnant of the Spirit?)
- What kind of wrong ideas had they been spouting?
- How do Christians today weary God with their words?
- What do you think God wants to hear us talking about?
- What lessons can we learn from this passage? How can you apply what you have learned?
Psalm 105:8-11 – He remembers his covenant forever, the promise he made, for a thousand generations, the covenant he made with Abraham, and the oath he swore to Isaac. He confirmed it to Jacob as a decree,
to Israel as an everlasting covenant: “To you I will give the land of Canaan as the portion you will inherit.”
Hebrews 6:18 – God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be greatly encouraged.
Matthew 26:28 – This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.
Jeremiah 33:21 – Then my covenant with David my servant—and my covenant with the Levites who are priests ministering before me—can be broken and David will no longer have a descendant to reign on his throne.
Proverbs 5:18 – May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth.
Hebrews 13:4 – Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.
Colossians 3:19 – Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.
Verse by Verse Commentary
In these verses, we see some of the specific ways the priests were dishonoring God.
1. Verse 10 – The Jews were God’s chosen people. God was their father. And yet as we saw in Malachi 1:6, they did not honor God as their father. Neither did they respect or treat their brothers rightly. Their actions tempted their brothers, ensnaring them, and causing them to stumble.
2. Verses 11-12 – The first specific way they dishonored God mentioned here is that they married unbelievers. We see this same sin in both the book of Ezra and Nehemiah, which lends support to the idea that this book was written in the same general time period.
Deuteronomy 7:3 – You shall not intermarry with them, giving your daughters to their sons or taking their daughters for your sons.
The command from God was clear. God told them not to do this because He knew it would lead them astray.
This action was treacherous against God because God had commanded them not to do it. It was treacherous for their brothers because they gave a bad example to others. It was also treacherous for the Jewish ladies because it put them in an awkward position of not having a Jewish man to marry. Brothers today who marry unbelievers are committing a similar type of treachery against their Christian sisters.
This sin is serious. Even Solomon was led astray by his idol-worshipping wives. Do not become ensnared by this temptation. Make up your mind to only date and marry a believer (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). For more on this, please see my article “Should a believer date an unbeliever?”
This sin was so serious that those committing it deserved to be cut off from their people.
3. You cover the altar with tears – The Jews were sorry that God didn’t accept their offering (much like Cain in Genesis 4). They weren’t apathetic to God but wanted God to be happy with them. But their sorrow did not lead to true repentance. They wanted the blessings and joy and approval from God but weren’t willing to put Him first in their life so that they could get those things. Remember that God blessed those who obeyed Him in the Old Testament. Here they wanted God’s blessings, but without the obedience.
Imagine a young man who “falls in love” with a young woman. He desperately asks for his parents’ approval. They do not approve. So he pleads with them. He cries. He weeps. He begs. He truly feels sad that his parents do not support him. It affects his mood and emotions. It even robs him of joy. Yet he still does not give up the girl. He wants both his parents’ approval and he wants the girl. He just wants the girl more. He needs to learn the lesson that he can’t have both.
If you are seeking something for yourself outside of God’s will, you cannot have it and God’s approval. The only way to get what you want and what God wants is to want what God wants.
They were not delighting themselves in the Lord. Are you? Which is more important to you, getting what you want or God’s approval?
4. Verse 14 – Here we learn a few important lessons about marriage:
- The wife of your youth – Men are to treasure their wives their whole lives and not trade them in for a new model when they begin to age.
- The wife of your youth – The world says you have to wait longer and longer to get married. This is an extra-biblical concept. There is nothing inherently wrong with getting married early.
- You have dealt treacherously – Divorce or unfaithfulness is treacherous. It is a betrayal. It is sinful. It is not acceptable in any way, shape, or form. Treachery and betrayal are hurtful. It is selfish. As believers, we should honorably keep our vows, not treacherously break them. And spiritual leaders need to stop enabling this practice by performing wedding ceremonies for adulterers and divorcees.
- She is your companion – This Old Testament passage greatly elevates women beyond how they were treated at the time. They are not property. They are not inferior. A wife is a companion. A companion is an equal peer to share life with. Treat your spouse as a companion. Share your life with them. Communicate with them on a deep level. Spend quality time together. Pursue mutual hobbies. Share every part of your lives. Marriage is not a financial partnership or just a means to having children. Marriage is not two single people sharing a house. It is supposed to be a lifelong companionship. Be a companion for your spouse and treat him/her like one. How can you improve in this area?
- Your wife by covenant – And this is what marriage is. It is a covenant. It is a covenant in front of God. A covenant is a promise, a contract. It is an agreement in front of God. What did you commit to when you married? Are you fulfilling that agreement? How can you do even better?
5. Verse 15 – What does this mean? It seems this means that those who are following the Spirit will not deal treacherously with the wife of his youth. In other words, those who are following God will not treat their wives in this way. Divorce and unfaithfulness is a very clear sign that the culprit is sinning and separated from active fellowship with God. And this is where the church often goes awry by not adequately dealing with so-called Christians who commit this treachery.
6. Verse 16 – I hate divorce. What more needs to be said? You can justify it, excuse it, and minimize it all you like. None of that changes the fact that God hates divorce. It is not His design. It is not His plan. It is not His will. It is treachery against God in front of whom the vows of marriage are made. It is treachery against the spouse. It is a terrible testimony to the world. It hurts the children. It hurts both husband and wife. It tarnishes the name of Christ.
Each one of us must, again and again, renew our commitment before God not only to “not get divorced,” but to truly honor God with our marriages and use our influence among our friends and relatives to encourage them to honor God with their marriages. Marriage has never in the history of the world been under as much attack as it is today. Satan is winning the battle around the world. Do not give him one inch of victory in your marriage.
However, believers need to aim much higher than just“ not getting a divorce.” Is “not getting a divorce” an acceptable goal? Is that all we want out of our marriages? Many couples share the same roof, but are distant emotionally, spiritually, and physically. This is not God’s desire for marriage. Is your marriage the best that it can be?
Here are some practical ways for husbands to build up their marriage:
- Spend time together in the word and prayer.
- Find time while you are out to call or text your wife. Ask her how she is doing.
- Be romantic. Surprise her with gifts or love notes.
- Kiss her at any time and “kiss her like you mean it.”
- Go out of your way to say kind words. Don’t be critical.
- Serve her. Give her some time to rest. Offer to cook and watch the kids while she does something she enjoys.
- Turn off the electronics and TALK with your wife. Do not just talk or grunt, “eh” while looking at your phone or computer.
- Develop mutual hobbies.
- Plan a getaway with your wife, not from your wife.
- Learn your wife. What is your wife’s dream vacation? What is your wife’s favorite food? What is your wife’s love language? What is your wife’s favorite hobby? What is your wife’s favorite book? Understand her. (1 Peter 3:7)
- Be a gentleman. Carry the heavy items (like a baby). Open the door for your wife. Pull out the chair for your wife. Give your wife the seat on the subway/bus. Go out of your way to show you care…every…single…day.
- Pick up after yourself. Don’t leave your clothes and shoes and dishes everywhere.
- Play with your children. This one will indirectly help your marriage. Don’t push all of the “watching kid duty” to your wife. Just as being a good husband is an important aspect of being a good father, being a good father is an important aspect of being a good husband. Don’t just give your kids an iPad. Play. With. Them. Play freeze tag. Play hide and go seek. Play imagination games like keeping house or army, etc. Play sports with them. Teach them life skills like how to ride a bike and how to swim. Tell them stories. Your wife will love you if you do these things and so will your kids.
Here are a few practical things wives can do to strengthen their marriage:
- Food. Guys love it. Someone very wise once said the quickest way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.
- Build up your husband. Be supportive of his work and his career and his ministry. Say positive things about him both in public and in private.
- Do not nag. Don’t try to correct every small flaw you see in him. You don’t need to remind him every time to put away his shoes, to not eat in bed, and to stop eating unhealthy food. You are not his mother. And he is a man, not a child (even though he may act like one sometimes). Find the right time to discuss issues rather than every time one by one.
- Be content. A man may feel self-worth in correlation to how well he takes care of his family. Do not complain about your house or living conditions.
- Instead be verbally appreciative and supportive.
- Be sensitive. If he is just back from a long day at work it may not be the right time to share all of your day’s difficulties with him.
- Be romantic. Surprise your husband. Use your creativity and imagination.
- Do not make big decisions or spend lots of money without talking to your husband first (husbands should also talk to wives first before doing this).
- The Bible says for wives to respect their husbands. God knows that husbands want to feel respected so do so by consulting them instead of acting on your own.
- Offer to watch the children while he goes out to play a sport. Even better, offer to go with him to watch him play. Even best, offer to go out and play with him.
- Be a good mother. Make time to spend with them doing fun things. Be creative. Do art or music or cook with your kids. Your husband will love you and respect you more as he sees and appreciates how you treat the children. At the same time, do not ignore your husband in favor of the new baby or young children.
There are just a few ideas, But you know your own spouse. Don’t be satisfied with a marriage that scores a 5 out of 10 or an 8 out of 10. Make it better. The marriage relationship is work. A good relationship doesn’t come naturally or easily. Choose several of the ideas on the list and start doing them regularly. If you do, you will find that your marriage will be much more rewarding than before.
7. Verse 17 – Their words were wearisome to God. Like today, they called evil good. They had the audacity to say that God delighted in the evil person, thus ascribing impure motivations to God. People today do the same thing. Many dare to say the most heinous things about God you can imagine. They want to make God a slave to their own opinions and beliefs, thus exalting their own beliefs above God’s. They criticize God’s justice just like they were doing in Malachi’s time.
God is not blind. He sees all. He knows all. When He looks down at you, what will He see?
Application: It is not enough to not speak wearisome words. Believers should be using our speech to bring honor to God. How can you use your words to honor God in front of the unbelievers around you?
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