May 24, 2011

Minor Prophets CI: You'll Miss Me When I'm Gone

In Malachi 3:1-2
“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.”

How did those in the NT understand v.1-2?

There are two messengers mentioned in this verse. The first of which I will identify first. If we refer to the original Hebrew of Malachi 3:, the Hebrew tells us the messenger is [Strongs H4397: mal’ak] “messenger-of-me/Me” or literally “a messenger; specifically, of God. Whomever this is is coming directly from God himself. This first messenger will also prepare the way for God or in this context/case Jesus Christ and as suddenly as this messenger will come, the Lord they are seeking will come to His temple. This verse is the Old Testament counterpart to Matthew 11:10, Mark 1:2 and Luke 7:27. It is also the Old Testament companion to Isaiah 40:3: “A voice of one calling: "In the desert prepare the way for the LORD make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God. The Messenger is John the Baptist. Jesus explicitly identifies this person as John the Baptist in the NT.

Knowing this makes the messenger of the Covenant or the second messenger mentioned obvious in hindsight. It is Jesus Christ or the One who will prove He is God by purifying His people like a “refiners fire” and punishing sinners. He will be the messenger of the covenant in that He will fulfill the demands of the covenant in His life and with His life. When He rises from the dead he will usher in the new covenant with His marvelous work of redemption.

In verse 5 we can make some pretty clear cut observations about the moral and ethical conditions of the people. The people are idiots. Seriously, the implications from this verse alone are extremely damning and do not bode well from them. They are about to be put on trial (again). The testimony will be against “sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive the foreigners among you of justice”. All these things are prohibited by Mosaic Law. We then reach the real crux of the issue when we see the reason all these other sins are so bad, they, “do not fear me [God],” said God. This judgment will be the entire nation not just the Levite priests mentioned earlier.

Ultimately there is a basis for hope in God in (v.6-7). Verse 6 mentions the basis for hope in God. “I the LORD do not change. So you, the descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed”. God is immutable and sticks to what he said He is going to do. He abides in the covenant He has made with His people. He is merciful and full of grace for not destroying people outright for their sins. Verse 7 begins a fifth oracle by Malachi and is a charge of disobedience. Since olden days the people have continually turned away from God and their covenant with Him. He is faithful, they are not.

Israel then arrogantly questions the charge against them in (v.8-12). God asks men, “Will a mere mortal rob God?” Then affirms that they have indeed robbed Him. The people then act coyly…“But you ask, ‘How are we robbing you? God responds “In tithes and offerings.” Because of this the entire nation is under a curse. They appear to be holding back what rightfully belongs to God. They are not giving tithes and offerings. They were not giving a 1/10th of everything they earned in accordance to the Law. Had they done this in obedience they would be blessed abundantly, protect their crops from pests and vines will hold their fruit for harvest of cutting. The implication is that they are not doing this and because of it they are short-changing themselves in God’s blessing.

Blasphemy is always a bad idea but it doesn't stop Israel in (v.13-15) does it. To add insult to injury we see Israel speaking arrogantly against the Lord…never a good idea. Then they turn around and either deny or play stupid. Perhaps they are even naïve what they ask, ‘What have we said against you?’ Then they boast “It is futile to serve God. What do we gain by carrying out his requirements and going about like mourners before the LORD Almighty?” As always their hearts are so far from God that even their speech reveals the apostasy within their hearts. According to verse 15 they are getting away with it…for now.

You can just sense God getting ready to pull away from his people and leave them in a drought of His word. You can also see that they deserve it.

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