The Blight of Religious Formalism
By Henry Jaegers
The prophecy delivered by Malachi, was delivered 100 years after the events recorded in the book of Nehemiah. If you recall the last chapter of Nehemiah, you'll remember that it closed with Nehemiah's having to deal with a corrupted priesthood. (Nehemiah 13)
At the close of that, (100 years later) we find the far- reaching effects of that corruption having found its resting place in the lives of the people living during the time of Malachi.
The message of Malachi deserves greater exposition than we can give in this study. Malachi is an extremely practical book and we find its message closely related to the teachings of the book of Galatians and the condition of the people as described by God to the church at Laodicea in the book of Revelation. In a spiritual sense, it points out the difference between walking in the flesh and walking in the spirit as does the book of Galatians.
The book of Malachi is composed of seven messages to the people and the priesthood left behind after the times of Nehemiah. Each of these messages is easily outlined as we noticed the word "wherein". Each time that Malachi declares this message, this is the response of the people. In essence they are saying "we disagree with your assessment".
Although the book of Malachi begins by dealing with the corruption that is taking place because of a corrupt priesthood, he begins chapter 3 with the hope of the messenger that God has purposed to send at the end times later addressed in chapter 4 as Elijah. This Elijah is in truth, John the Baptist as described by Jesus.
Although there is a problem with religious formalism, God has not left his people without hope of better things to come. In the end of the book of Malachi, he n brings hope of the coming Messiah who will end religious formalism and bring new life to his otherwise failing children who are trapped in a "status-quo" religion.
Because of the practical application of this book to our modern times, I am determined to give more attention to the message of this marvelous book and hopefully, our discussion questions will help us to deal more fully with the message and its application to our lives.
1. To begin our discussion, read through Nehemiah chapter 13 and describe in detail all the problems with the priesthood that Nehemiah describes in this chapter. Can you imagine how overwhelming the problem may have been to him?
2. In chapter 1:2, we find the first "wherein". Describe why people might question the fact of God's love. Where do you think they lacked understanding? How does God answer them?
3. in 1:3, we find the second "wherein". What statement are they questioning and how does God enlighten them in his answer?
4. In verse 6, Nehemiah chapter 13:17-22, discuss the probable of opening the gates that God is referring to in these verses. It seems to be a problem that is still continuing on.
5. We find the third "wherein." What problem are they questioning and how does God clear up theirmisunderstanding??
6. In verse 7, we find the fourth "wherein". What problem is God addressed it addressing in this verse? What explanation does he give to help them to understand?
7. In chapter 2, God deals specifically with the priesthood. Notice the number of things that God puts his finger on concerning them. But in 2: 17, we find the fifth "wherein". What specifically, is God saying to them in regard to this question?
8. Read Nehemiah 13:17-22, to discover the reference God makes in keeping the gates opened. What ongoing problem to we find still present among the priesthood?
9. In 3:1-6,, describe the promise of blessing that God has intended toward his people though, for season they must first deal with their problems.
10. In chapter 3:8, we find the sixth "wherein” As a background for this, read Nehemiah 13:10- 13 to discover what happened to the Levites. Because the people did not bring their ties into the storehouse, the Levites were forced to go out into the field and work in God's ministry was hindered. In light of this, consider the full meeting of this verse in God's promise to them.
11. In 3:13 we have the final "wherein". Although the King James version does not say "where in", the meaning is still there. What final matter is found addressed in the surrounding verses and how does God deal with them?
Read chapter Four to discover the final blessing and display of God's love toward these wayward people.