Malachi

Malachi Overview

Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle are familiar to most of us as the greatest of all the ancient Greek philosophers. Less known to many people are the pre-Socratic philosophers who developed their own systems of philosophy before these bigger names did their work. Heraclitus was one of these significant pre-Socratics. “Man cannot step into the same river twice” is perhaps Heraclitus’ best-known observation. When water flows, there are always changes that occur, both perceptible and imperceptible. Riverbanks slowly erode, water molecules constantly move, and, at the very least, people age between the first and second time they step into the river, even if only by a matter of seconds.

Heraclitus’ point in this statement was that change is the only constant. Modern science may tell us that each individual’s DNA code, under normal circumstances, remains largely the same throughout life, but we all experience physical, mental, moral, and spiritual changes over time. Yet as Malachi reveals, the Creator does not change like His creatures do (Mal. 3:6).

Question 4 of the Westminster Shorter Catechism argues that God is “unchangeable in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.” This is a brief exposition of the Lord’s attribute of immutability, which means that it is impossible for His character or being to undergo any mutation. The power of God cannot be augmented or diminished. He never learns or forgets, and He cannot be anything other than perfectly holy and just. Human beings are ever changing, but not our Father.

It is important to remember that immutability does not mean God cannot move or that He is inert. Scripture testifies often of the Lord’s constant work and movement to sustain His creation (Heb. 1:3a). Moreover, immutability does not mean the Lord’s relationship with us is unreal. Actually, His unchanging righteousness moves Him to pour out His wrath on the impenitent (Rom. 1:18–32), and His ever-abiding love moves Him to redeem His people (Ex. 2:23–25).

Jonathan Edwards said sinners hate the Lord because His immutability guarantees that God cannot overlook their rebellion. For believers, however, the unchanging character of our Creator means we can rely on Him in every circumstance (Ps. 46).

Malachi 4:5

Malachi 4:5…”See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes.” John the Baptist preached repentance and faith, as Elijah had done. The turning of souls to God is the only preparation for the great and dreadful day of the Lord. On this day, the only way we can stand is with Christ’s righteousness imputed to us. The gospel we believe needs to include an understanding of the massive chasm between us (because of our sin) and God (because of His holiness), otherwise it’s not the gospel. The more clearly we understand this, the greater our faith, because we’ll esteem Jesus for the right reason. A weak, lukewarm, casual faith often comes from believing that we’re generally OK outside of Christ, or that following Christ will bring perfect health and abundant wealth.

God knows authentic faith and recognizes the fruit, particularly evidenced by concern for the spiritual well-being of others (John 13:35). Two practical litmus tests are discipling and evangelism. If we really believe the gospel, and if we think God’s word is authoritative, then those two things will mark our lives because of love for others. If we are unfruitful, and don’t do those things, we may not really believe, and the day of the Lord will be dreadful for us. Let us not be like the seed Jesus referenced in Matthew 13:22:

The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful.

Malachi 4:2

Malachi 4:2…”But for you who revere My name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in its rays.” By the Sun of Righteousness we understand this to be Jesus Christ. Through Him believers are justified and sanctified, and are brought to see light. His influences render us holy, joyful, and fruitful. It is also a reference to the graces and comforts of the Holy Spirit, brought into our souls. Christ gave the Spirit to those who are His, to shine in their hearts, and to be a Comforter to them, a Sun and a Shield.

In terms of perfect, physical healing (which is not the main point of the passage, but is often used out of context in association with this verse), this will be carried out in heaven, but not in this life. Otherwise, there would be no sickness and death for Christians. Can God heal the sick, and does He do so miraculously? Absolutely, and it happens every day all over the world, but every one of those people will eventually die. Should we pray for physical healing? Yes, we should, with the expectation that God is big and powerful and sovereign enough to heal miraculously. What if I prayed for healing, but the person wasn’t healed; does that mean I didn’t have enough faith? No, there is not a guarantee of physical healing in this life, and all humans are still affected by the curse of sin, which includes sickness and death. Does He heal non-Christians? Yes, which shows that He is not a cosmic genie, dependent upon our prayers and/or faith for healing to occur.

Malachi 3:17

Malachi 3:17…”On the day when I act, says the Lord Almighty, they will be my treasured possession. I will spare them.” The saints are God’s jewels; they are dear to him. He will preserve them as his jewels, when all else is burned up. Those who now know the Lord as their Master, will be preserved and protected by Him from His own wrath. It is our duty to serve God with the disposition of children; and he will not have his children trained up in idleness; they must do him service from a principle of love. God will be most glorified in us, when we are most satisfied in Him (~ John Piper).

Malachi 3:15

Malachi 3:15…”Certainly evildoers prosper, and even when they put God to the test, they get away with it.” On the surface, it often appears as though God is not just. Why does it seem like the worst people in this life prosper? Our experiences have shown us that the guilty seem to go unpunished, and are sometimes better off than those who seek to do good. We need to view things through God’s lens though. He is perfectly just, and all accounts will be brought into proper balance one day. Be thankful that he hasn’t given you all the vain earthly things you desire, because they are fool’s gold. Remember that ‘it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God (Matthew 19:24).’

For the Christian, we have much to celebrate everyday because we are not getting what we deserve (eternal punishment). With this eternal perspective, we can be freed to serve the Lord with joyful hearts, knowing that he’s blessed us in the heavenly realms, regardless of our earthly circumstances. Getting our minds and hearts lined up properly in a vertical manner (repentance and faith in Christ) will inevitably allow us to have healthy relationships horizontally (with other people) because we’ll see ourselves rightly; we are sinners saved by grace, and God has blessed us graciously despite our unbelief, pride and selfishness.

Malachi 3:3

Malachi 3:3…”He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver.” He is Jesus, and this is what he is doing right now. For those who belong to him, this is absolutely true, and will be our experience. We are very valuable to Him, like a precious metal. He is patiently sitting, at the right hand of the Father, using just the right amount of heat and pressure, to conform us to His character. Slowly and sometimes painfully, we are being refined and purified. There is not a part of us untouched by this refinement and purification from sin, and the One doing the work knows us better than we know ourselves. He will bring us to glory, and the process will be complete.

Malachi 2:17

Malachi 2:17…”You have wearied the Lord with your words.‘How have we wearied him?’ you ask. By saying, ‘All who do evil are good in the eyes of the Lord, and he is pleased with them’ or ‘Where is the God of justice?’” In our impatience and selfishness, we think God’s timeline is the same as ours. But, we know that He is abundantly patient:

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. ~ 2 Peter 3:9

He is perfectly just, and will not let one sin go unpunished. We need to leave room for His justice to play out, and not be quick to exercise our own. Our pride is deceptive, and when we act like God, attempting to sit on His throne, we miss the eternal perspective laid out in Malachi. We need to submit to Him, and trust His perfect sovereignty.

Malachi 2:10

Malachi 2:10…”Do we not all have one Father? Did not one God create us? Why do we profane the covenant of our ancestors by being unfaithful to one another?” God’s plan of salvation has always included a people living together, displaying His glory. The mark of His people, which should differentiate them from the world, is holiness. This was true of Israel, and is the point of this verse. When God’s people struggle with unity, it comes from unbelief, pride, and selfishness. We need to remind ourselves of the gospel, and actively pursue faith, humility, and selflessness. A right understanding of our deep need for Jesus because of our sin and God’s holiness will inevitably breed unity and peace in our church. Where there is a right view of sin, there will be unity. Where Jesus is highly esteemed, there will be love flowing out of humility. Where there is humility, there will be holiness, as we run to Jesus in repentance and faith increasingly.

Malachi 1:8

Malachi 1:8…”‘When you offer blind animals for sacrifice, is that not wrong? When you sacrifice lame or diseased animals, is that not wrong? Try offering them to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you?’ says the Lord Almighty.” God’s people have always been saved by grace alone, through faith in Christ alone, so the sacrifices were not for that purpose. As it is today, God wants our heart, and He wants all of it. The Old Testament sacrifices were God’s plan for a particular people to be set apart from the world in the way they lived. His church today is to be that way, growing in holiness. The Lord’s problem with Israel in this verse, is that they were holding back their best for themselves. We are no different, and it is mainly our time that we keep as “our own” today. Our time does not belong to us though, and when we make an idol of it, we rob God of what rightfully belongs to Him as our Creator and Lord. Our priorities are exposed when we treat our work time, or TV time, or hobby time as if they were more important than time with God and His people. The way you spent your time in this life will be scrutinized by the Lord when you die, and those who are in Christ will have a harvest to show the Lord. They will be rewarded with eternal life. For those who do not produce fruit, there will be eternal punishment:

The axe has been laid to the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. ~ Matthew 3:10

Malachi 1:4-5

Malachi 1:4-5…”But this is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘They may build, but I will demolish. They will be called the Wicked Land, a people always under the wrath of the Lord. You will see it with your own eyes and say, Great is the Lord – even beyond the borders of Israel!'” Why is the Lord great if He destroys and demolishes those whom He made in His own image? Because He is both holy and just. If God were only holy, and not just, He would not punish sin; but, because his justice is every bit as perfect and consistent as His holiness, no sin goes unpunished. His greatness also includes His grace and mercy though, and in Christ this is how He can punish every sin and yet save some. Jesus is the answer to the riddle of the Old Testament, found in Exodus 34:6-7:

The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.How can God both punish every sin and maintain love to thousands? One word, Jesus.