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Malachi - The Family Prophet

family devo

By Dennis Pollock

Malachi is considered by nearly everybody to be the last prophet of Israel recorded in Scripture before the New Testament era. He lived around 400 years before the birth of Jesus, so after him, there was a prolonged prophetic silence. It was as though God had said all He needed or wanted to say until He was ready to speak again through His Son, Jesus Christ.

But Malachi was not only the last prophet, he was also arguably the most unique. His short book has a question and answer style different from all the other prophets before him. And he dealt with subjects which the other prophets hardly touched. Malachi was Israel’s “family prophet.” He was concerned about the breakdown of the families of the people of Israel, no doubt because God was concerned about the families. But for some reason all the other prophets had little to say about marital issues of the Jews or the need for parents and children to live together in loving, harmonious relationships.

The other prophets usually had idolatry on their minds and preached loudly and forcefully against departure from the invisible God of Israel. Isaiah begins his prophetic writings with this theme:

Alas, sinful nation,
A people laden with iniquity,
A brood of evildoers,
Children who are corrupters!
They have forsaken the LORD…
(Isaiah 1:4).

Jeremiah writes:

… They have gone after other gods to serve them; the house of Israel and the house of Judah have broken My covenant which I made with their fathers (Jeremiah 11:10).

Railing Against Injustice

Another theme frequently seen in the prophets is injustice. Cruelty, the oppression of the poor, the neglect of widows and orphans was a terrible sin in their eyes, and they railed against such evil. Ezekiel writes of the man that God will spare from His wrath:

If he has not oppressed anyone,
But has restored to the debtor his pledge;
Has robbed no one by violence,
But has given his bread to the hungry
And covered the naked with clothing…
If he has walked in My statutes
And kept My judgments faithfully–
He is just;
He shall surely live!”
Says the Lord GOD (Ezekiel 18:7-9).

Isaiah, speaking for God, writes:

“Is this not the fast that I have chosen:
To loose the bonds of wickedness,
To undo the heavy burdens,
To let the oppressed go free,
And that you break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
And that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out…?
(Isaiah 58:6-8).

But these prophets, full of the Holy Spirit and righteous indignation, rarely touched family issues. They occasionally accused the Israelites of adultery, but mostly their minds were on the way Israel had acted as an adulterous wife to their God.

A Different Prophet

Malachi was a little different. He had a heart for families. In his short little book of four chapters he deals with the high number of divorces that were happening in Israel and also the poor relationship between fathers and their children. Since the time of Moses, divorce had been allowed, and it was a very easy process. It was a one-sided affair, though – husbands could divorce their wives but not wives their husbands. For the man, divorce was a simple matter of writing out a certificate of divorce, handing it to the wife, and sending her out of the house to face the world on her own. Apparently in Malachi’s day men were divorcing their wives freely and often, and Malachi saw this as an affront to the God who had joined them together. He writes:

… The LORD has been witness
Between you and the wife of your youth,
With whom you have dealt treacherously;
Yet she is your companion
And your wife by covenant.
But did He not make them one,
Having a remnant of the Spirit? (Malachi 2:14-15).

Since we believe that Malachi was writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, we must conclude that these feelings expressed are, in fact, the way God feels about divorce. The idea of quick, easy divorces over minor issues was a terrible indictment against Israel, and certainly it is against America today. The men of Israel, perhaps growing tired of the same wife, and seeking to replace their middle-aged wives with younger, prettier models, were a) dealing treacherously against the woman who was supposed to be their companion for life, and b) breaking a covenant they had made before God.

By simply giving a wife a piece of paper and saying, “I divorce you,” these callous men were crushing the spirits of the women they had vowed to love all their lives. It was the ultimate act of spiritual cruelty and betrayal, and the women had no choice but to leave their homes and try to survive the best they could. In those days there were few jobs available to women. In most cases, if a woman didn’t get married, she was doomed to a life of poverty and scarcity, dependent on the charity of others. Additionally, divorced women were looked upon as pariahs in those days, and would have trouble integrating in society. It was a terrible blow for a woman to be divorced by her husband, and yet it was happening much too often and too easily, according to Malachi.

Parents and Children

A second family issue Malachi tackles is the relationship between fathers and children. At the end of his prophetic writings, he declares:

Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet
Before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD.
And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,
And the hearts of the children to their fathers,
Lest I come and strike the earth with a curse (Malachi 4:5-6).

Anyone familiar with the writings of the Jewish prophets should find this a little odd. Malachi is writing about an appearing of Elijah, which Jesus declared was fulfilled by John the Baptist, and announces “the great and dreadful day of the LORD,” then goes on to say Elijah “will turn the father’s hearts to their children and the children to their fathers” – in other words he will bring about the healing and restoration of families. We might expect Malachi to write that Elijah will turn Israel back to the Lord their God, and away from idols, but instead he deals with the subject of estranged and broken families.

We can only conclude from this that God has a real heart for families… for marriages, for parent-child relationships, and for harmony in the home. Malachi was the first and last prophet of Israel to strongly emphasize this, but this theme was definitely carried directly into the New Testament. When our Lord Jesus was asked which offenses constituted legitimate grounds for divorce, He allowed only one, saying:

And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery (Matthew 19:9).

In the apostle Paul’s amazing epistles, he brought up family issues constantly. His admonitions were not lengthy. But he made sure to address the subject, saying things like, “Husbands love your wives,” “Wives, respect your husbands,” “Fathers, do not exasperate your children,” and, “Children, obey your parents.” Paul saw Christianity not only as the gift of eternal life, but as a way of life to be embraced, and this must start in the home. Not much point reaching for the ends of the earth in a quest for souls when your home is in chaos and your marriage is a shamble.

Winning the World and Losing Our Families

Order, love, harmony, peace, and Jesus Christ – these are what we should find in the homes of the leaders of the church, and in the homes of Christians of all walks of life. Some might consider the issue of the family to be kind of wimpy. They would rather hear about the militant church taking the kingdom of Satan by storm and conquering the nations in Jesus’ name. Many find it easier to make statements about stomping on the devil’s head than to get along with their wives or keep from losing their temper with their children. Many a Christian leader has tried to stomp on the devil’s head, and then experienced the devil stomping on his own head and bringing about the collapse of his family.

I consider James Dobson to be a sort of “family prophet” to our own generation. Dobson is a psychologist, not a preacher, yet he has won more souls, reached more people, and been more instrumental in representing Christ to our nation than perhaps 90 percent of the American pastors and evangelists. In his early days he began giving a series of lectures on the family, discussing marital issues and the joys and difficulties of raising children. Eventually he began a radio program that became a mammoth hit, and exploded and multiplied across hundreds of radio stations. He possessed impressive gifts, being articulate, humorous, and incredibly insightful. But Dobson was more than a teacher on family matters; he was a fervent evangelical who loved Jesus and yearned for his audience to know the Jesus that he knew.

Shifting from marriage to talking about Jesus, and then back to marriage again was natural for him. You couldn’t listen to Dobson and not know this man was a sincere and devout Christian. But he was so incredibly gifted at communicating and teaching on the family that many non-Christians would eagerly devour everything he had to say or write.

As I write this, Dobson is now in his eighties, and most of his blessed and highly fruitful ministry labors are behind him. But he stands out to me as a shining demonstration of our Heavenly Father’s love for the family. God not only wants us saved and on our way to heaven; He wants harmonious, happy, functional, strong families for all His children. And toward that end, He gifted, anointed, and opened huge doors for James Dobson, in order to give him a voice which has been almost impossible to escape in the last generation.

Providing for Our Own

Paul writes to Timothy: “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” To fail to provide for our family is to fail, period. And the provision is not merely material goods; to provide for your family is to give them all the encouragement they need, all the love they need, all the counsel they need, all the attention they need, all the spiritual instruction they need, all the compliments they need, all the cautions they need, in other words, give them all they need, at least to the degree that we are able.

Obviously only God can give anyone all they truly need, but the Christian husband or wife is responsible to be a channel of those needs to their children and to their spouses. We are to be, toward our families, a needs-provider, not just for an occasional moment or season, but day in and day out, year after year after year.

Building and maintaining a happy, orderly, positive family centered on Jesus Christ is not all there is for believers to do, but it is our starting point. Before the ends of the earth can be reached, the apostles must start in Jerusalem. Before we can think about great ministries we begin with peaceful homes, happy, well-adjusted, respectful children, and affectionate, content husbands or wives. This may not seem nearly as exciting as preaching before tens of thousands in huge stadiums or traveling throughout the world, holding seminars and selling CD’s. But whatever our positions, whatever honors we may achieve in life, it must be our highest priority that our greatest success should occur in our homes and with our families. No measure of success, whether spiritual or natural, no amount of income, no degree of fame, no level of celebrity, no piling up of honors, can ever make up for failure in the family.

And because God fully believes this, He gifts and anoints men and women to remind us of this, men like Malachi, the apostle Paul, and James Dobson, that the hearts of fathers might be turned toward their children, and the children to their fathers, and the husbands to their wives, and the wives to their husbands. Through harmonious families and loving home relationships, Jesus Christ is honored, and a foundation is laid for successful and fruitful ministry to others.



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