The book of Malachi should capture our attention. Not only is it God’s word but importantly it’s God’s last recorded word before a 400 year silence of any recorded prophetic utterance or miraculous activity which ends with the arrival of Christ Jesus. Immediate questions that race to mind are: Surely something went terribly wrong with God’s people there? What can we learn from the book of Malachi to avoid such a distanced experience of God’s voice and power in our lives?
From the start of chapter 3 we see God respond to Judah’s irreverent speech concerning God’s justice, mentioned in chapter 2, by pointing to the Messiah who will bring justice and grace. Here we’re given a reference to John the Baptist, “my messenger” and “he will prepare the way before me” (v1), pointing to the arrival of God in human flesh – Jesus “who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). Do you talk about God and his ways with reverence? Is this the case when times are difficult or confusing? Like the example of John the baptist we are to speak of God’s glory, and lead ourselves and people down the right track, to Jesus.
We find in Malachi the pointing to both Jesus’ first arrival and his second. Regarding the latter God raises the question “But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap.” The strong impression here is that Christ’s second coming will be a day where Jesus shall judge the purity of every person and anyone found wanting better watch out!
Joel refers to this day as “the day of the Lord” which is “great and very terrible” and he too raises the question “who will endure it?” (Joel 2:11). As to this question we see at the conclusion of the chapter the characteristics of such people “who will endure”; they are “those who feared the Lord and esteemed his name,” “the righteous”, and the “one who serves God.” Concerning these God states “They shall be mine, says the Lord of hosts, in the day when I make up my treasured possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him.” Do you have any doubts or worries about how you’d fare should Jesus return? If you believe and follow Jesus, trust that you shall be counted as righteous. If there’s anything stopping you from trusting Jesus and following his ways bring this before him in prayer knowing that he rewards all those who seek him (Hebrews 11:6).
In the preceding two chapters the Lord spoke out against the corruption and irreverence of the priests and God’s people. We find in chapter 3 that Jesus, the one who is “like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap,” is the answer to that corruption. He will clean up the priestly leadership and his people “and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the Lord” (v3). We are to revere God and seek his cleansing from sinful mindsets and actions in our lives? Doing so will produce much fruit in our lives as opposed to dead works that God takes no pleasure in.
We know through the whole of scripture that apart from God no one is inherently good or righteous, we fail to meet God’s perfect standards (Romans 3:23), yet it is God’ grace and forgiveness given to us through simple faith in Jesus’ death on the cross for our sins and his resurrection that 1) Makes us counted as righteous (or as right before his eyes); and that 2) Gives us a new heart to serve and honour God. This great sacrifice of Christ is timeless – it justifies all believers from every generation including those of Malachi’s who trusted in God and his ways.
Such grace received through Jesus doesn’t excuse sin but should make believers flee from sin (Romans 6:14-16). God being completely holy (pure and good) is outraged by sin and must bring judgement upon sin. We see such judgement mentioned against a list of sins found in the people of Judah in verse 5 (sorcery, adultery, dishonesty, and oppression) and verses 7-8 (turning away from God’s statutes; and dishonourable tithing and contributions). Yet God could forgive imperfect believers then and now because of Jesus taking on himself the judgement meant for our sins which set upon him the death sentence on our behalf. How worthy of praise Jesus is. Today, believers like you and I can know God’s everlasting forgiveness for ALL SINS as though we had never set a foot wrong!
Yet we must, as God points out in verse 8, strive not to rob from him. The focus there in v8 refers to one’s use of finances and resources for God’s purposes. That’s relevant for us now in terms of giving generously to the service of God and I believe it’s also relevant to all areas of life – we must not rob God the glory due to his name in all things. As believers we are God glorifiers! Paul expresses this when he writes “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor 10:31). We would do well to prayerfully consider all the different ways we could glorify God with our time, activities, resources, skills, relationships, emotions, and effort. Those addressed in the book of Malachi moved from a place of awe in God to a place of deadened faith covered with the veneer of religiosity that was empty. Let’s choose to gaze at his works with wonder and do all we can to return the praise and glory due to his name.