Disturbed But Not Disheartened

Malachi 2:17-3:5 

At this point in Malachi’s prophecy perspective changes to future, looking forward across coming 400 years to next big event on God’s timeline. Makes proper conclusion to OT revelation, introduction to NT events and progress of redemption. Important to keep in mind theme of Minor Prophets – “Redeemed from Ruin”. Even though God, rightly, promises judgment on those who persist in rebelling against him, God does not have “scorched earth” policy. Does not intend to annihilate his disobedient people, instead intends to redeem them.

Just as God’s righteous holiness requires a Judge to carry out just punishment on sinners, so his grace and mercy requires a Redeemer to rescue those he intends to save. Yet, as is case so often, our ideas of how things should go rarely match God’s plan. Was true for Jews of Malachi’s day, continues through every age including our own.

Jews of Malachi’s time plagued with tunnel vision – had hard time seeing beyond immediate, especially seeing beyond borders of own country. Weren’t really interested in what God might be doing or have in mind for other people groups, what their part might be in God’s plan for them. Something that plagued them then, continued in Jesus’ day, still persists. And… principle doesn’t get all attention it should in our country. e.g., Samaritans sequestered and shunned; instead should have been evangelized and assimilated.

Like most, they fell for Satan’s insinuation – if life isn’t all you expect it to be, then maybe God is holding out on you. In response, God spoke pretty sharply, gave reality check and reinforced his earlier promises. Good reminders for us, even though disturbed, to not be disheartened by what we see, what we don’t see.

A. “Where is God?”  v.17

empty promises?

no minced words here – God’s ears tired of being abused, his people expressing doubts about Him and his character

have considered promises God made, compared with present circumstances, figured something is wrong… on God’s side of things

should have known better, probably didn’t want to take responsibility – easier to blame God for hard times

a changed standard?

are disturbed by what they perceive as evil going on around, rightly so – they just connect the wrong dots

since God seemed to be blessing the wicked, he must approve of actions – do you wonder God’s ears hurt??

this after had declared by prophet Isaiah: “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!”  Isa. 5:20

lots of wrong theology there: prosperity = blessing; that God’s standard of right/wrong would change, that none of problem was with them

no hope for justice?

since injustice at least continuing, if not increasing, God must not be paying attention… or doesn’t care about what’s happening

theodicy question: if God is good, why is there evil? – lots of possible responses/conclusions, most of them wrong… have too narrow and uninformed view of things

important to keep starting point straight – Christian must start with God, his character, his truth, then try to make sense of circumstances

Jewish people of Malachi’s day like many throughout all ages, were approaching it backwards – trying to understand God in light of circumstances, coming up with wrong answers

B. “He is coming”  v.1-2a

the messenger first

God is not sleeping, has not forgotten his promise, is still committed to continuing his plan… on his timetable

is the next big thing on his timeline and he intends to announce it – will send a messenger to prepare the way

no need for us to wonder about messenger’s identity – Mark, Luke and Jesus all tell us explicitly: Mark 1:2-4, Luke 1:76, Matt. 11:7-10 

“As it is written in the Prophets: “Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, Who will prepare Your way before You.” “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the LORD; Make His paths straight.'” John came baptizing in the wilderness and preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.”

“And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Highest; For you will go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways,” (Zechariah)

“As they departed, Jesus began to say to the multitudes concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? “But what did you go out to see? A man clothed in soft garments? Indeed, those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses.  “But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I say to you, and more than a prophet. “For this is he of whom it is written: ‘Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, Who will prepare Your way before You.'”

the Angel of the covenant

another Messenger to follow first, this one introduced with specific historical reference – the Angel that would go before them during the Exodus through the wilderness – Ex. 23:20 

and… perhaps also word of warning to Malachi’s audience: Ex. 23:21 

“Beware of Him and obey His voice; do not provoke Him, for He will not pardon your transgressions; for My name is in Him.”

will it be a good thing?

that depends – will come suddenly, means his people should be prepared… whenever it actually happens

those who truly love God have great desire for him to come, everyone else not so much

and… makes difference which coming is being considered – next time when he comes as Redeemer, later when comes as Judge

C. “He will purify”  v.2b-5

fire and soap

will be irreversible action that happens as result of Jesus’ coming – what fire and soap accomplish will not be undone

probably both comings in view here, object of actions can be somewhat distinguished – individuals and entire people group

don’t take it too far, descriptions hold up for a little – first coming and intervening time focused mostly on individuals, second coming on entire groups of people

purify

both fire and soap purify – fire, refining by separating impurities and bring to surface, leaving pure substance behind

soap along with water separates impurities and flushes away, likewise leaving clean object behind

purpose of this to purify people, sinners, who will give acceptable and pleasing worship to God – impossible to do in natural state

punish

not a good outcome in view for what is being removed in purifying process – dross, dirt not fit for use and is thrown away

for some kinds of impurities, heating in fire consumes them – certainly a picture of the Last Day, final purification of God’s people and punishment of the lost forever

will be a just punishment – consequences for sinful behavior, but foremost because they do not fear God

do take note of specific behaviors identified, bear in mind their prevalence today:

“those who practice divination, those who commit adultery, those who break promises, and those who exploit workers, widows, and orphans, who refuse to help the immigrant” NET

And so the bottom line here: God is still God and his eternal purpose is still moving forward even when we cannot see the wheels turning. We should be disturbed by injustices and evil we see, should do what God enables and equips us to achieve to make things better. At same time, do not be disheartened – final outcome does not depend on us and… God hasn’t changed his mind. He will still have final victory over sin and Satan. Wrong shall fail, right shall prevail.

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