15 January 2020

This is the last week of the 2019 blog series. The new 2020 blog series will start on Monday 20 January.

Malachi 3-4

 ‘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.

But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the Lord will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness, and the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will be acceptable to the Lord, as in days gone by, as in former years.

‘So I will come to put you on trial. I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud labourers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive the foreigners among you of justice, but do not fear me,’ says the Lord Almighty.

Breaking covenant by withholding tithes

‘I the Lord do not change. So you, the descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed. Ever since the time of your ancestors you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you,’ says the Lord Almighty.

‘But you ask, “How are we to return?”

‘Will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me.

‘But you ask, “How are we robbing you?”

‘In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse – your whole nation – because you are robbing me. 10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,’ says the Lord Almighty, ‘and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it. 11 I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not drop their fruit before it is ripe,’ says the Lord Almighty. 12 ‘Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,’ says the Lord Almighty.

Israel speaks arrogantly against God

13 ‘You have spoken arrogantly against me,’ says the Lord.

‘Yet you ask, “What have we said against you?”

14 ‘You have said, “It is futile to serve God. What do we gain by carrying out his requirements and going about like mourners before the Lord Almighty? 15 But now we call the arrogant blessed. Certainly evildoers prosper, and even when they put God to the test, they get away with it.”’

The faithful remnant

16 Then those who feared the Lord talked with each other, and the Lord listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the Lord and honoured his name.

17 ‘On the day when I act,’ says the Lord Almighty, ‘they will be my treasured possession. I will spare them, just as a father has compassion and spares his son who serves him. 18 And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not.

Judgment and covenant renewal

‘Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and that day that is coming will set them on fire,’ says the Lord Almighty. ‘Not a root or a branch will be left to them. But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its rays. And you will go out and frolic like well-fed calves. Then you will trample on the wicked; they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day when I act,’ says the Lord Almighty.

‘Remember the law of my servant Moses, the decrees and laws I gave him at Horeb for all Israel.

‘See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents; or else I will come and strike the land with total destruction.’

We’re in the last two chapters of the last scroll in the Hebrew collection called ‘the Prophets’. In our printed Bibles, it’s the last word before the birth narrative of Christmas in Matthew. Together, Malachi 3–4 and Matthew 1–3 demonstrate so clearly that the Lord does not give up on us easily. In fact, He takes initiative after initiative to speak to us. We wobble, He still wants us for Himself with a steadfast love.

Why? Because ‘I am the LORD, and I do not change’. Change what? Change His desire to draw us to Himself in a committed relationship. The phrase ‘my special treasure’ of 4:17 deliberately links back to the Exodus rescue operation and Israel entering into the covenant at Sinai (Exodus 19:4–6). From Moses to Malachi, there were messengers and responders. There were all too many give-uppers on walking with the Lord.

It took Peter quite a time and lots of personal experiences—such as rescue from drowning, having his feet washed, and being restored after denying Jesus—to understand more fully who Jesus was and the power of His love.  He added his updated perspective on belonging to the Lord. See 1 Peter 3:9f. alongside Exodus 19:4–6 and Malachi 4:17. Yes, we’re included!

John the Baptist was the messenger-prophet who took up Malachi’s mantle with an authority like Elijah’s to turn Jewish hearts back to the Lord and point to Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. It was worth waiting the 400 years from Malachi’s announcement for Jesus to wade into the river Jordan and begin His ministry with the backing of His Father and the Spirit.

Prayer: Thank You Lord for claiming us for Yourself. It takes away the dread of judgment, condemnation and exclusion, and leaves us free to belong to You and find security in your love.