I’ve come to the end of the Old Testament. The minor prophets, Zechariah and Malachi, have powerful messages and lessons that we can heed today. Zechariah’s messages came from visions of powerful things to come and instructions on how to live. He was speaking to the people who had just returned to their land after their captivity in Babylon. Zechariah is the most apocalyptic of the Minor Prophets as his visions detailed coming judgment. He also speaks of the coming Messiah. His purpose was to give hope to the people with the messages of the coming Messiah. Malachi’s message first focused on the sins of the priests and then the sins of the people but ended with a message of hope for those who remain faithful. His purpose was to confront the people with their sins and to restore their relationship with God.
The first half of the book of Zechariah is filled with powerful visions, many visions of things to come. I will discuss two which stood out to me. First, the vision of the Lampstand in Zechariah 4:1-14. He sees a solid gold lampstand with a bowl at the top and seven lights on it, seven channels of light to the lights and on either side of the lampstand is an olive tree. An angel of the Lord tells him that the vision means that the lampstand is fueled by the Lord’s Spirit. Verse 6 says “Not by might, not by power, but by Spirit.” The lampstand is kept burning by an unlimited reservoir of oil. It is a vision to remind the people and us that it is only through God’s Spirit that we will succeed, not by our own might and resources but by the pouring out of his spirit. Second, the vision of the four horses and chariots in Zechariah 6:1-8. The first chariot had red horses, the second chariot had black horses, the third had white and the fourth had dappled (spots or patches) (verse 2). The horses represent the four spirits of heaven who go out into the world (verse 5). The chariot with the black horses was sent north, the chariot with the white horses goes west and the one with the dappled horses goes south (verse 6). It is interesting that the chariot with the red horses isn’t mentioned specifically. In verse 7, Zechariah sees the powerful horses go out, “straining to go throughout the world” does this include the red horses as well? Was the chariot with the red horse held back? The Bible is silent about this and I’ve read different commentaries with no clear answer. I'd like to think the chariot with the red horses were held back for some reason, a reason God did not reveal to Zechariah.
The second half of the book of Zechariah was written approximately 38 years after the first half and contains prophecies of the Messiah. Some have been fulfilled with Christ’s life and death and others have not yet come to pass. In Zechariah 9:9-13 is a specific prophecy concerning the Messiah. Verse 9 -10 states that the king will come to the people, first, riding on a donkey (Matthew 21:1-11, Mark 22:1-11, Luke 19:28-38 and John 12:12-16) and second as a powerful ruler. The Messiah will proclaim peace to the nations and he will rule from sea to sea. Zechariah 10:4 speaks from Judah will come a cornerstone, a tent peg, a battle bow and a ruler. The Messiah will be a strong, stable, victorious and trustworthy. In Zechariah 12:10-14 is the image of mourning. “They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son” (verse 10). This mourning can easily describe the crucifixion of the Messiah. Verse 12 states that the land will mourn as well. Lastly, Zechariah 14 describes the eventual triumph of the Messiah over the earth and his reign on earth. The Feast of the Tabernacle, the feast of thanksgiving, will be celebrated with the king (verse 16). It is the only feast that will be celebrated. The other feasts are no longer necessary as they were fulfilled through Christ. The Passover with his death. The Day of Atonement with acceptance of salvation through him. The Feast of First fruits with his resurrection.
The first half of Malachi focuses on the sins of the priests and the people. First, In Malachi 1:6-14, the Lord speaks to the priests for their use of blemished sacrifices. In Leviticus 1:3, the Lord instructed that burnt offerings must be a male without defect, however, the priests were allowing people to offer offerings with defects. Blind, crippled and diseased animals were offered as sacrifices to God in clear violation. God tells the priests by allowing this violation to occur they were dishonoring him and showed him contempt. They were offering sacrifices as they wanted and not as God commanded. Second, in Malachi 2:1-9, God admonishes the priests for setting their hearts against him and thus breaking the covenant he made with their ancestor, Levi. He calls them to follow Levi’s example. Levi spoke with “true instruction” and “nothing false was found on his lips” (verse 6). He walked with the Lord “in peace and uprightness and turned many from sin” (verse 6). Because they have turned away from this covenant, God has caused the priests to be despised and humiliated before the people (verse 9). Lastly, God turns to the sins of the people in Malachi 2:10-16, specifically to the kingdom of Judah. Judah has broken faith with Israel and married “daughters of a foreign god” (verse 11). The people also weep and wail that their offerings are no longer accepted by God (verse 13). God tells them is it because they have broken faith (divorced) the wife of their youth (verse 14) and failing to raise godly children (verse 15). He tells them to guard themselves in their spirit and keep the faith their wives (verse 15-16).
The second half of Malachi is a message of the Lord’s coming and the attitudes of the people. In Malachi 3:1-5, the Lord tells the people he is sending a messenger who will prepare the way for him (this part is understood to refer to John the Baptist) and the Lord will appear like a refiner’s fire (verse 2). He will sit as a refiner and purify of silver and gold (verse 3). This is the image that God will remove the impurities of our hearts and souls like a refiner does with silver and gold in order to make them pure. As the refiner purifies gold and silver with fire, God will refine our hearts and souls by using the difficulties and storms of life. In Malachi 3:6-15, God accuses the people of robbing him from his proper tithes and offerings (verse 8) as well making harsh statements against him (verse 13). Verse 14-15 is particularly meaningful to me as it reminds me of current attitudes toward God. It states “You have said, ‘It is futile to serve God. What did we gain by carrying out his requirements and going about like mourners before the Lord Almighty? But now we call the arrogant blessed. Certainly the evildoers prosper, and even those who challenge God escape.’” Wow! Sound familiar? These verses point out the selfishness of this attitude. It’s about “what did God do for me? What good did it do for me?” instead of “what did I do for God?” It is the same attitude of those today who turn from God and deny his existence. Often times when I met someone who doesn’t believe God exists, it’s because they treat God like a genie who grants wishes and that someone didn’t get what he or she wanted, then God must not exist. Lastly, God speaks about the faithful few in Malachi 3:16-18. He calls them his treasured possession (verse 17). Those who revere his name will be healed with the rising of “the sun of righteousness” and they will be freed like calves free from the stall (Malachi 4:2).
In conclusion, as the words of the prophets come to a close, we are left with the same warning. Turn back to God, keep the covenant, and prepare for his coming or prepare for his judgment. Zechariah’s message was filled with visions of the coming Messiah and the end times. His prophetic messages were a blending of present, near future and end time visions. His message is clear that our hope is only found in God and his Messiah who are in complete control of the world. Malachi’s message gives us a practical guideline to serve our commitment to God. Give him the best we can, be willing to change from our wrong way of life and welcome God’s refining process in our lives. Malachi was the last of the prophets. When he died, the voices of God’s prophets became silent.