The rebuilding of the temple under Zerubbabel and Joshua, inspired by the prophecies of Haggai and Zechariah, was completed in 516 BC. The new temple was meant to be the centerpiece of a community in which there was true justice and genuine worship. In this way Israel could fulfill its calling and be a light, revealing God to the nations.
Unfortunately, as the years went by, the people fell further and further away from this ideal. By the middle of the next century, their worship had become corrupt, and their society was plagued with injustice. Malachi (“my messenger”) challenges the people to honor God properly in their worship and in their dealings with one another. The world could then come to know the Lord as the great king.
Malachi brings his challenges in a distinctive style. He first offers an abrupt charge, voices the anticipated objections, and finally answers those objections. The book records that some of the people repent in response to these challenges, and that God says he will spare them when he comes to judge the earth. The book ends with God’s promise to send the prophet Elijah back before that great and dreadful day of the Lord.