Behold, I Am Going To Send My Messenger
"You have wearied the Lord with your words. Yet you say, 'How have we wearied Him?' In that you say, 'Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the Lord, and He delights in them,' or, 'Where is the God of justice?" (Malachi 2:17).
Malachi prophesied in about 445-432 B.C. during the time described in the books of Nehemiah and Ezra. After the return from Babylonian captivity (as had been prophesied centuries before by both Isaiah and Jeremiah), the people had grown spiritually lax. There was indifference to God's Law, both the moral as well as the ceremonial aspects of it. It was a "do your own thing" kind of time with which we are all too familiar today as well. Calling that which is evil "good" is not a new thing with our generation. When we consider the media today, it seems as if the more godless and immoral a person is, the more esteem they are accorded. Divorce and the breakup of the family was also a real problem in Malachi's day (Malachi 2:14-16). Worshipers often were very worldly, offering God only the leftovers (Malachi 1:6-12) and many were just plain bored with spiritual things (1:13).
The question, "Where is the God of justice?" seems to be an indictment against God charging Him with abandonment. Curious, isn't it, that when those who neglect God suffer the consequences of their actions, they are so quick to blame God. Who has abandoned who here? The correct answer is the same today as it was in Malachi's day.
The following chapter tells us the answer to the question, "Where is the God of justice?" Essentially, the answer is a shocker! The Lord answers by saying, in effect, (paraphrasing here); "You want Me? Well, I'm coming! I'm personally coming! I'm going to walk your streets; I'm going to bring purity and truth; I'm going to visit My temple and I am going to judge. But first, I will send My messenger before Me to clear My way." This is the essential message of Malachi 3:1-6. In the New Testament, we find its fulfillment in Jesus our Lord and our God, who indeed came in just this manner.
The Lord's Messenger
"Behold, I am going to send My messenger, and he will clear the way for Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple; and the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, He is coming,' says the LORD of hosts." (Malachi 3:1). While the Lord will come to His temple "suddenly," it will not be without announcement. First, He will be heralded by His messenger, or forerunner. The New Testament tells us that the messenger's name was John, who preached and baptized in the wilderness announcing the coming of the Messiah and His kingdom and calling upon all to repent and make ready. Isaiah had also predicted this (Isaiah 40:3-5) two hundred and fifty years before Malachi. The gospel announces that both of these ancient prophecies were fulfilled by John the baptizer (Matthew 3:3; c.f. Matthew 11:10,11; Mark 1:2,3; Luke 1:76; John 1:23).
The Messiah is also described by Malachi as "the messenger of the covenant" (3:1). This is certainly a fit description of the One who brought to us the "covenant of promise" (Hebrews 8:6-13). In these last days, God has indeed spoken to us through His Son (Hebrews 1:1,2).
The Lord Visits His Temple
"...And the Lord whom you seek will come suddenly to His temple..." (Malachi 3:1b). We recall that Jesus' visits to the temple tended to be rather explosive. Twice He drove out the moneychangers; once at the beginning of His three year ministry and then once at the end of it (John 2:13-22; Matthew 21:12-17). Many of the confrontations that Jesus had with the priests, scribes and Pharisees took place in the temple. Toward the end of His ministry, it was on the temple grounds that Jesus leveled His strongest rebuke at them, calling them hypocrites for their pride, self-exaltation, dishonesty, inner corruption and rejection of the truth (Matthew 23:1-36).
Shortly after this, Jesus wept over the coming destruction of Jerusalem (Matthew 23:37,38) and foretold of the destruction of the temple by the Romans (Matthew 24:1,2). This was fulfilled within that generation, exactly as Jesus had said. But Jesus built another temple; a spiritual one. We, His people, are the temple of God as He dwells in our hearts by faith (Ephesians 2:19-22).
The Purifying Gospel
"And He will sit as a smelter and a purifier of silver, and He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, so that they may present to the LORD offerings of righteousness." (Malachi 3:3). One of the reasons Jesus so strongly rebuked the religious leaders of His day was because they were so corrupt. Their motives were self-serving and their attitudes toward others contemptible. God's Law was never meant to be used the way the Pharisees were using it. John passionately urged the people to "clean up their act." Jesus continued that theme, emphasizing not only purity of action, but of thought as well (Matthew 5:21,22; 27,28; 6:19-23). And who can forget history's premiere statement on the value of truth; "Know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." (John 8:32).
When purification takes place, there must be division. Jesus had warned His disciples of this. Those who do evil are haters of the light (John 3:19-21). From that day until this, the world has made no secret of its ill will toward those who live by faith. But to walk in the light with Jesus is better than to walk with the world in darkness, for to walk with Jesus leads home; but to walk with the world leads to ruin.
The Acceptable Offering of New Jerusalem
"Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the LORD..." (Malachi 3:4). Though the offerings made in Malachi's day were unacceptable to the Lord, He announced the coming of a day when He would again accept "the offering Judah and Jerusalem." That day is now, and that "Judah" and "Jerusalem" are God's spiritual kingdom, the church.
Jesus announced the beginning of a new era where true worshipers of God would worship "neither in this mountain, nor in Jerusalem" but rather "in spirit and in truth" (John 4:21-24). The place would not be important. Spiritual Jerusalem, or "the Jerusalem above" is the church (Galatians 4:25-31; Hebrews 12:22,23). "Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of the lips that give thanks to His name. And do not neglect doing good and sharing; for with such sacrifices God is pleased." (Hebrews 1315,16). We rejoice as spiritual Israel, the "kingdom of His beloved Son" (Colossians 1:13).
"Then I will draw near to you for judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers...and those who do not fear Me,' says the LORD of hosts." (Malachi 3:5). Jesus' mission was not to judge the world but to save it. However, judgment and condemnation became a consequence of not accepting His salvation (John 3:16-18). Physical Jerusalem would be destroyed for its refusal of the Messiah.
Jesus did pronounce dire consequences upon the Pharisees for their faithless obstinacy. Several of His parables dealt with the fact that God would cast the unbelieving nation off (i.e. Matthew 22:1-14). But final judgment is reserved for the final day. The word that Jesus spoke will be the standard of judgment. Yes, the people had asked, "Where is the God of justice?" We find the answer in Jesus of Nazareth.
By Jon W. Quinn
From Expository Files 6.2; February 1999