Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. - Psalm 119:105

Bible Study Notes

Impressions from God's Word 38

By Dr. Richard J. Krejcir
Session 38: Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi


Session 38:  Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi

"I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come," says the Lord Almighty." Malachi 3:1

Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi.  Key verses:  Haggai 1:5-8; 2:7-9; Zechariah 4:6; 8:3; 9:9-10; Malachi 3:1-5; 4:2

Key personalities:  Haggai, Zechariah, Zerubbabel, Malachi, Cyrus, Ezra and Nehemiah

Timeline:  About 540-420 B.C. The Persians conquered the western world through India and Egypt, and the Spartans of Greece kept the fight and the legend of the 300. Persians build the first observatory.  The Iron Age is the main reason for the vast armies.  The Greeks were at the pinnacle of their power and influence with Socrates' philosophy, Plato founds his school, and Hippocrates establishes the profession of the physician.  They build the temple of Zeus, use carrier pigeons to communicate, had running water, working plumbing and toilets, reformed economic and legal laws, wrote tragedy plays and poetry, and built ships to explore and conger.  The Chinese invent kites, and the Mayans come to power and build. 100 years later, Alexander the Great conquers the Euro-Western world, paving the way for Rome to grow.

Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi are considered the 'Postexilic Prophets' who worked after the Exile when the Israelites were restored to their land and life.  Their call was to reform Israel back to God and keep them on the path of faith and obedience.  Zechariah and Haggai were born in the exile in Babylon and came back under the Cyrus decrees; they were God's mouthpiece to remind God's children of their call and responsibility to stay on task.  Malachi comes a generation later, when it all starts to go bad again and corruption creeps into the priesthood.  He reminds them of God's Covenant and to repent.

The Book of Haggai is about coming home with several messages of hope and vigorous encouragement within a call to action to get with God's plan.  The 70-year exile  (when the people wondered if God forgot or abandoned them) has come to an end.  He raises up Haggai a Prophet 15 years after the call to go home, when few answered that call.  Haggai had to deal with hostility from people not wanting to go, and those who did not want to work God's plan; they just wanted to take care of their own needs and wants such as building their homes.  Those who stayed behind did not want their brothers to come back, as well as hostile raiders hoping to keep oppressing the Jews.  Haggai inspired and rallied the people along with Zechariah, Ezra, and Nehemiah to rebuild the Temple and get right with God to receive His blessings.

The Book of Zechariah, also called the "Apocalypse of the Old Testament," portrays the Prophet Zechariah, a younger contemporary of Haggai, who preached the reminders of the other prophets to keep God's people in check.  "Build the temple in order to build your future."  Along with hope and urging the rebuilding of the Temple over the building of one's personal burdens or the pursuit of wealth, he used vivid Apocalyptic language like Daniel and the words in Revelation.  Zechariah foresees the "Day of the Lord" sometimes referred to as "last things"or the "end time" where Israel will be restored, nations are judged, and God's kingdom triumphant.  Each main division is unique in style and structure, challenging scholars who consider multiple authors, unless ones know the changing and the developing human nature of writing with passion and God's interdiction over periods of time.

The Book of Malachi, the last call of the Old Testament, is about opportunities missed because of the failure to keep the Covenant. This Book comes to us a generation after the return of Haggai and Zechariah, after the Temple was rebuilt and the busyness of life had taken over.  The Temple had now become run-down and neglected as the people forgot the God of their forefathers and of the universe and thus plunged into unfaithfulness.  Malachi calls them back to God and away from sin and apostasy through a new conflict during the Persian period.  If repentance is not sought, the result will be as before--judgement.  Malachi prophesies the return of Elijah and the Day of the Lord.  If repentance is sought, there will be blessings for those who do seek and repent.

The Story of Redemption continues with the period of the fall of Israel and Judea; God's just punishment and exile of his children are accomplished.  They are now back in their ancestral homes with a revival, rebuilding the Temple, rebuilding their lives, enjoying the literal fruits of their labors.  Yet, the fall of man has created injustices, a failure to heed to God decrees.  Along with this comes an absent-mindedness to teach and model His precepts; the new generation in Malachi's day soon becomes apathetic in their commitment and needed reminders that sin needs to be cleaned and our due diligence to love and serve God must come first as His children.

Key Happenings:  A call to repentance and faithfulness!

The Old Testament is filled with many types and shadows of the coming LORD. Here we find convergences of Old Testament prophecy and Jesus' first advent that later helps motivate and rally His Disciples after Jesus' Crucifixion and Resurrection.  Besides Isaiah, Zechariah and Malachi have the most fulfillment that points us to Christ in a spectacular fashion.

Haggai.  He was perhaps born during a major feast day (his name means 'festival').  He was disappointed.  After all the people's laments that God has forsaken them, the time has now come, and they do not go (only a few--50,000--go back to Jerusalem).  He was a prophet and encourager to the people who delivers a series of messages between August and December of 520 B.C. to move from their captivity in Babylon and back to the Promised Land to rebuild the Temple and rebuild their lives for God's glory.  He also encourages the new king, Zerubbabel, to the task at hand, and makes it known that God will bless him, God will conquer the oppressing nations, and he will succeed (Psalm 74:1-19; Jer. 29:10-14; Ezr. 1:2-3; 6:3-5; Hag. 2:20-23).

  • Haggai challenged the people in a practical, confronting, and comforting manner to consider their ways i.e. "what are you doing, and what does the Lord require of you"?  Is it self-satisfaction, self-seeking, self-examination or seeking to glorify the Lord by self-surrender to His ways.  Do not fear; get busy, build the Temple for God and be in tune to His redemptive plan. Haggai also shows us God's promise as He brought His people out of captivity.  He has done the same with our sin, as Christ paid our debt of sin. (Haggai 1:5-15; 2:3-7, Heb. 12:14-29).

Zechariah.  Was a priest, from a prominent line of priests, who was born in the Babylonian captivity and returned to rebuild Jerusalem as a young man by Cyrus decree along with His grandfather, Iddo, and father, Berechiah, in 538 B.C.  Rather than just outright condemnation like the other prophets, he inspired and motivated people, and he used extreme metaphors that gave hope to a people in confusion and distress. His prime hope call is that God is in charge and things will get better-and, it will be glorious.  He is most famous to Christians because he gives the second most prophecies about the coming Messiah, Jesus Christ. Isaiah is the most (Neh. 12:4).

  • Zechariah has five main divisions.  Chapter 1:1-6 is God's call of repentance for people to turn to Him.  Chapters  1:7-6:8 deal with Zechariah 's eight visions.  Chapter 7:1-3 deals with fasting.  Chapters 7:4-8:23 deal with four messages, and  Chapters  9-14 deal with "two burdens."  Where Zechariah foresees the "Day of the Lord" sometimes referred to as "last things" and the rejection of the Messiah.
  • Zechariah gives descriptions of faithfulness, like a measuring rod to see what is real, true, and devout, and what is distorted from God's call and God's authority to show the people to be models of greatness who exemplify faithfulness of faith and character--how we should seek to be like.  For us today, this is true so we can stand in Christ with an authentic and consistent testimony from our relationship with Him that is reflected in our behaviors and words (2 Kings 2:1-12; Ezek. 37; 40:3; Zachariah 2:1-2; 4:1-14; Daniel 8; Matt. 17:3-4; Luke 10:1; 1 Cor. 3:16; 6:19; 2 Thess. 2:4; Revelation 11:1-6).
  • Revelation has many images from Zechariah (two olive trees usually refers to the two anointed ones, such as Moses and Elijah, or the ruling class of priests and kings).  In Zechariah, this meant presenting two ruling houses--"the king" and "the priest," referring to Zerubbabel and Joshua (Zech. 4:2-14).
  • Zechariah reminds us to the Holiness of God and respect and reverence Him, especially in His House.  Here, Jesus was forceful but not cruel.  What we may rationalize as a convenience can be a detriment and an abuse to true God-honoring worship (Zach. 14:20-21; John 2:13-25)!
  • Zechariah gives a proclamation to judgment, reward each, that points us to Jesus the Judge who will evaluate us, whether we are saved or not, and reward us for how we serve and represent Him (Psalm 62:12; Prov. 24:12; Jer. 17:10; 32:19; Daniel 7:13-14; Ezek. 18:30; Zechariah 14:5.).

Malachi, God's "Messenger of the Covenant," is the last prophet of God, before the 400 years of silence.  God has continually spoken to His children, but they would not listen, so the mouthpieces of God are put on hold.  Meanwhile, His Word is written down, and the people wait for the Messiah to come while their families break down and the economy falls apart from apathy and corruption.  He reminds them of God's love for Israel, and he lets them know about sin.  He foresees the coming of Christ and gives correction to the people's desire for a Messiah by telling them He will be the solution to sin and what to look for and how to respond.

  • Malachi is about a wondrous hope-lost--of a living Great Kingdom that could have been had if sin was not in the way and unfaithfulness was not the way of life. The priests had been mouthing wards without heart in it.  This gave way to rampant cynicism, corruption, and hypocrisy-all things that are offensive to God. The people were intermarrying with pagans, taking on their wayward ways and beliefs.  They were robbing God of what is His, even blasphemy.
  • In Malachi 2, priests are warned if they disrespect God and do not listen or take Him to heart, He will curse them by taking a dump on them.  Yes, the NIV says, refuse on your faces which in the original Hebrew means God will curse their blessings by defecating on them, because they defecate on the Lord.  Is this too extreme?  No, in fact, it is an aspect of grace--God is just shaming them to heed their call.  He had the right to just strike them down and send them to hell, but He gives them a chance, a carrot and a stick (Malachi 2:1-4).
  • Malachi tells of the prophecy of Jesus purifying the Temple as the Levites had been called to do but had forsaken their call--a demonstration for the love and zeal to God and His Holy Place.  God is just in His anger against sin and unrighteousness, as well, in His anger of deception and profiteering in worship rather than worshiping the One True Holy God.  A warning here that God's judgment often begins in His own house, His Church (Mal. 3:1-4; 1 Pet .4:17).

This is the application for us now--build His Church, then build our lives.  We can learn and become responsible in our faith so we can persevere and completely trust in our living, loving Lord.  When this comes about, we will not lose hope, but be able to stand for as long as necessary in whatever situation we face.

Key Takeaway:  Listening to God means being fruitful!  The Minor Prophets call us  to, listen, to focus, to concentrate, and to pay attention by opening our ears to hear.  It is an exhortation for us to hear God's call--to pay attention to God, close our mouths, and open our hearts and ears to hear God to apply God's Word into our lives!  The person who listens exhibits good character and godliness.  This takes us into the act of actually applying our Christianity and to being doers of the Word (Psalm 40:8; 143:8; Prov. 28:13-14; Habakkuk 2:1; Matthew 13: 9-16; Mark 3:7-8; 4:9; John 8:47; Rom. 12:15; Col. 3:12; Hebrews 1:1-4; James 1:2-27; 1 John 1:8-9).

The foreshadow of Jesus Christ?  Haggai shows us the Temple points to Christ, and Jesus is our peace and foretells His death on the cross (Haggai 2:9; Eph. 2:14).

Zechariah, gives the second most prophecies concerning Jesus the Messiah is coming. He tells us that Jesus will enter Jerusalem and greeted as a Great King!  Yet, as foretold, the people were so blinded with their expectations of a Messiah, they did not see what God foretold, or what they needed.  Looks also for these references that prophesy the coming of the Messiah, who He is, and how He will be treated: the Angel of the Lord and Christ, Jesus is the Messiah as the "Righteous Branch," the Priestly King, the Righteous King, and the Good Shepherd who is to be sold for 30 pieces of silver, who will be pierced for our sins and will come to Judge (Zechariah 3:1-2, 8, 6:12-13; 9:9;10:4; 11:4-13; 12:10; 14;  Matthew 21: 1-17). 

Malachi 4 foretells the Messiah:  See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes. Thus, many people in the first century actually expected Elijah to personally come to either be the Messiah or introduce him.  But, the Malachi passage did not mean that Elijah would personally show up; rather, it was his position as a forerunner and Prophet who declared warning of the need to repent.  John came in that spirit and power, but he was not Elijah (Mal. 4:1-5; Matt. 11:1-19; Luke 1:17)


Questions to Ponder

  1. When and how has the busyness of life taken you over and distracted you from God and His call?  What do you need to do?
  2. What has become run-down and neglected in your life?  What do you need to do to rebuild more faithfulness?
  3. How much does obedience mean to God?  Why does God want to be first and foremost in our lives (Matt. 6:33; John 14:21; 15:10, 15)?
  4. If you could gain the whole world, that is, have anything you want, what would that be?  What would this do to your personal life, spiritual growth, and relationships?
  5. Do you see God's complete control of history and time as you have read through the Minor prophets?
  6. Zechariah 3 calls us to remove filthy garments and place on clean garments, what does that mean?  Consider sin and what Christ gives.
  7. How, and why, does sin cause a person,to lose his or her way?  Why is sin more attractive than the eternal Truth and Way of God?
  8. Why do we need to place God first in order to receive His blessings?  Is that fair? How do you feel that Jesus is foretold hundreds of years prior by many Prophets and all the prophecies and details that come true?
  9. What does the committed Christian need to do to remain on His Rock, our foundation?  What do we need to do so we do not become stumbling stones?
  10. What do you need to do to be focused upon building your life on His precepts?  Can you benchmark some goals?  What can you do to see that these goals turn to reality and not trash? 
  11. God call the Israelites to Build the temple in order to build their future?  What is He calling you and your church to build?  (It may not be a building!)
  12. What do you need to do to be in tune with His redemptive plan in your life?  What gets in the way?  What will you do about it?


© 2014 R. J. Krejcir, Ph.D. Into Thy Word Ministries 


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