“Your words have been stout against me, saith the LORD. Yet ye say, What have we spoken so much against thee?” (Malachi 3:13)
Israel's words were previously declared to be wearisome, and now the LORD'S declaration concerning stout words is presented. The word stout means hard, strong, or, in this case, severe. Though bearing the very name of God in the title of Israel (he will prevail with God or prince with God), the nation's thoughts, motives, and actions were against the Lord's purposes. The nation of Israel is not alone in this sin. From the Church age to the present day, thousands of false professors have taken upon themselves the title of Christian while their hearts, and minds have remained unconverted and diametrically opposed to the doctrines of Scripture. False prophets, false teachers, and false professors have plagued the earth since the very beginning, and they will be here until the very end, but, as the text will soon declare, they shall all come to their rightful end.
Israel's presumptuous question follows hard on the heals of God's declaration. To the very last, they persist in refuting all divine accusations. This is the last time that the text indicates any reply from the people. After this, God will speak up until the close of the book. At this point in history, dark days lay ahead for the nation. Persia's rule is coming to a close. The reign of Xerxes I, the last significant Persian emperor, came to an end in 465 B.C. Assuming Malachi was written close to 400 B.C., it would be less than eighty years before Greece takes over the entire middle east and the struggle of the Seleucid empire (Daniel 11) begins. Israel's future is to be fraught with destruction, persecution, and moral and spiritual degradation; yet, all they can say is “What have we spoken so much against thee?” May people learn to be responsive to God's merciful rebukes. He will not plead indefinitely, “...behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation (II Corinthians 6:2).”