THE KING IS COMING MALACHI 2:17-3:5
If you will take your Bibles and turn to the second chapter of Malachi and the last verse, verse 17. And I will be reading through verse 5 of chapter three. In this passage, the religious cynics were challenging God about his injustices and therefore have not taken right and wrong seriously as we have seen over the last couple of weeks and in the weeks ahead. So God responds to this challenge with the fact that judgment day is coming. I have outlined this passage: the rumbling against the Lord and the reasoning of the Lord. Let us look first at
THE RUMBLING AGAINST THE LORD – 2:17
This verse marks the fourth disputation or oracle of the book. Malachi used disputations to confront the situations in the life of Israel during his time. The people of Israel had doubted God’s love for them, the priest were not acting like priests by their behavior and belief, the people were failing in their marriages, and now they were challenging God’s justice.
Some of the people had become cynical about God’s handling of things. The prophets had predicted a glorious future for Israel. But here they were, back in the land for over 100 years after the captivity, and things were not all that glorious. Israel was still under foreign domination. She was not the center of the earth, with the nations flocking to Jerusalem with their wealth. The old folks were not sitting in the streets watching the children play securely. The land was not yielding abundant produce. Just a hundred years before, Zechariah had prophesied that all of these conditions would come about. But here they were, and none of his prophecies about the glory of Israel had materialized. They weren’t even close!
The rebuilt temple was a disappointment to many. It didn’t compare to the former glory of Solomon’s temple (Ezra 3:12-13).
Haggai (2:7-9) had prophesied that the latter glory of this temple would be greater than the former temple, but there was no evidence of that yet. And because of all these things many became skeptical with the things of God and began to challenge God about his love, care, and their devotion to Him.
So they asked a question that has been around a long time, “Why does the evil person prosper and the righteous suffer?” In fact, one of the oldest books in the Bible Job brings this question to mind. Job is described as a man who was “blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil” (Job 1:1). Also, the Bible says that he had ten children and was very wealthy and healthy. Yet, one day all of these things were taking away: his children, wealth, and health.
So some friends come to Job and say the reason for these things happening is because of sin in his life. There is no way that God would punish a man like this who has obeyed him and kept his commandments. So throughout the book you see Job and his friends arguing about this very subject of the righteous suffering and the unrighteous prospering.
There have been prophets like Jeremiah and Habakkuk questioning God’s order of things, especially that of the wicked being favored by God. Jeremiah wrote, “Righteous are you, O Lord, when I complain to you; yet I would plead my case before you. Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do all who are treacherous thrive?” (Jer. 12:1). Habakkuk wrote, “O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear? Or cry to you “Violence!” and you will not save? Why do you make me see iniquity, and why do you idly look at wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention arise. So the law is paralyzed, and justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the righteous; so justice goes forth perverted.” (Hab. 1:2-4).
You can even read the Psalms and fine similar complaints against the Lord. So that is what is happening in this verse. But there is a difference between Job, the prophets and the psalmists and those in Malachi’s day. All of the former kept their faith and trust in God’s ultimate righteousness. They believed God would right all wrongs. But the people in Malachi’s day had become unbelieving and many had lost all hope in God. Therefore, they didn’t think it mattered how they worshiped, served and lived because God was being unfair anyway.
Folks, I remind you that God does not get weary with our prayers and questions, but He will become weary with our sins. The Lord says in Isaiah, “You have burdened me with your sins; you have wearied me with your iniquities” (Is. 43:24). I believe it is easy to label this charge against the Lord when in our own day many who are evil seem to get away with everything and continue to prosper, especially those in politics, athletics, Hollywood, and those in immoral lifestyles or businesses.
Many of the people in Malachi’s day seeing the prosperity of the wicked and trials of the righteous thought that morals really don’t matter. Even today, people may think that there is no correlation between obedience and blessing in life, therefore I ought to live for the good time and all the good things I can get. There maybe even times when you pray and read God’s word and seek godly counsel about a situation, but instead of getting better the situation gets worse.
I encourage you if you have ever questioned God’s justice and we would all have to admit that at sometime we have, then hang in there. The judgment day is coming when God will right all wrongs, when the righteous will be rewarded and the wicked will be punished. So we have heard the rumbling against the Lord, in the following verses we will see
THE REASONINGS OF THE LORD – 3:1-5
God, in these verses, gives an answer to the problems of evil in the world. Here in these verses God promises to send His Messiah to judge the earth. In fact, I believe these verses give us a word of hope as well as a word of warning. So God answers there questions of injustice. He answers the question of why the wicked prosper and the righteous suffer. And he reminds them in these verses that He will right all wrong and punish all wickedness.
Malachi does remind them that what has been promised is going to happen. The Messiah they have been looking for now for 100 years will come to His temple. But they need to be ready for Him. He asks them in verse 2, “Who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears?” Folks, it is easy to say that it will be great when the Messiah comes. But how many of them would be caught off guard because of the way they were living. I wonder, today, how many people who call themselves believers are not prepared for the coming of Christ because of their personal lives not being right with God. We need to be prepared for the coming of Christ.
So God in a very loving way prepared the people of Malachi’s day for the coming of Jesus. He could have easily not warned them of the events in the near future and surprised them. But God told them that the promised Messiah would come and they needed to be prepared for it. Even today, God has warned us that Jesus is coming back in judgment and we need to turn from our sins and turn to Christ. So let us look at the message God gave the people of Israel and draw application from it.
In verse 1, I want point out that three individuals stand out in this verse. The first individual mentioned by the pronoun I is no other that the God himself because he says the Lord of hosts. So God the Father reminds them of his future plans in the sending the Messiah.
The second individual I want to bring to your attention is “my messenger.” This individual has been recommended by some as Malachi or an angel. But I believe the prophet Isaiah gives us some insight to who this person is in Isaiah 40:3, “A voice cries, “in the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” We know from the gospels that this was a prophecy about John the Baptist. Mark 1:2-3 says “as it is written in Isaiah: Behold, I send my messenger before you face, who will prepare your way, the voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘prepare the way of the Lord make his paths straight.’ Even John’s father said, “And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins” (Luke 1:76-77).
Later in the book of Malachi, he wrote, “Behold, I will send Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes” (4:5). In Mark 9, after the transfiguration, Peter, James and John asked Jesus, “Why do the scribes say that first Elijah must come.” And he said to them, “Elijah does come first to restore all things. . . But I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did to him whatever they pleased, as it is written of him” (Mark 9:11-13).
So John the Baptist ministry was a ministry of preparation for the coming Messiah. The imagery of preparing the way before the Lord came from the custom of clearing the road and preparing a town for the visit of the king. Before the king traveled, he sent out messengers who proclaimed his coming. They didn’t have road crews back then to keep the highways in good shape. So when the townspeople heard that the king was coming, they would go out and fill in the ruts and potholes, and clear away rocks and debris. They got everything ready for the coming of their king.
John even tells us himself that this was his ministry. In fact, Mark says, “John appeared baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. . .And he preached saying, ‘After me comes he who is mightier than I, the straps of whose sandals I am unworthy to stoop down and untie. I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.’” (Mark 1:4-5, 7-8).
God in His grace does not come upon us unannounced. If He did, He would often find our lives in shambles. We get sloppy about sin. There are potholes and ruts, with rocks strewn all over the place. So He graciously sends His messenger to proclaim, “The Lord is coming! Get ready! Fill in the potholes of sin! Clear out the rocks of self-centeredness and pride. Repent and bring forth fruit in keeping with repentance” (see Matt. 3:2, 8). Although I am a far, far lesser voice than John the Baptist or Elijah, I hope that you will listen when I tell you, “Prepare yourself! Get ready! The King is coming!” As 1 John 3:3 tells us, “Everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.” (Steven Cole)
The final individual is described as “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.” First, he is noted by the term Lord. This term is not something that Malachi would use for Elijah or John the Baptist, but for someone greater. Second, the temple is referred to as something as His possession. So we must ask who does the Temple belong to or who is its owner. Therefore, the I (Jehovah) and me (Messiah) are used interchangeably. So the messenger of the covenant is none other than the Son of God, Jesus Christ.
So the people were asking where this God of justice is. When is he coming? We have been looking for him now for quite some time but our situation is no better. And God in verse 1 says this God of justice is coming. In fact, he is going to come suddenly. But you need to ask, “Who can endure the day of his coming and who can stand when he appears?” Because as we will see in a moment, he is coming to clean up the house of Israel and he will punish the wicked. So if you really seek him, then you need to be prepared for him.
You may wonder, “How can the Lord’s coming be sudden when it has been announced by His messenger?” Let me answer with an illustration. Some of you recall when Mount St. Helens blew its top in 1980. Geologists knew that something was brewing.
They could see the bulge on the side of the mountain and they could measure the increasingly threatening tremors. They warned the local residents to get out of there.
But did they leave? Some did, but others didn’t. There was one old man named Harry Truman who had lived there for decades. When the newscasters interviewed him, he said that the mountain had been there for centuries. He didn’t believe that it would blow up, so he wasn’t going to move. But suddenly, one morning the mountain exploded. Harry Truman and others like him who had ignored the warnings perished. Destruction came on them suddenly.
You are hearing me say now, “The Lord is coming back suddenly to judge the earth. None who ignore this warning will escape!” Do you say to yourself, “Yeah, sure! I know that Jesus is coming, but He hasn’t come for almost 2,000 years. There’s no sense getting all worked up about it. I’ve got time before I need to repent.” But remember, “The Lord of glory always comes as a thief in the night to those who sleep in their sins” (Schmieder, cited by
C. F. Keil, Commentary on the Old Testament, Minor Prophets [Eerdmans], p. 458).
Notice in verses 2-5, that there is a difference in judgment. The Bible speaks of the two comings of Jesus Christ. We know that Scripture is clear when it says that Jesus came the first time to seek and to save that which is lost by offering himself as a sacrifice for sin. John 3:17 says, “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” Jesus said, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).
But we also know from Scripture that Jesus is coming back a second time for judgment. Paul wrote in 2 Thessalonians 1:8, “in flaming fire, inflicting vengenance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.” So we can see clearly from the Word of God that there are two comings of Christ: one to salvation and the other to judgment. One is a process of purifying and the other is for destruction. Let us look at these two in this passage.
First, let us see that Christ coming is one of purifying and not destruction. Notice at the end of verse 2, “he is like a refiner’s fire and like fuller soap.” Just from this statement he is coming to purify, not destroy. I think what is being implied is that you and I need refining. We were created in the image of God, but that image has been seriously marred by the sin of our first parents. As a result, you and I are born in iniquity that is we have sinful nature. And the Bible says that we are so messed up that we cannot do anything about by ourselves. We need someone to help us and God sent his son to be our present help. So we must believe in Christ and when we do he will refine us through the work of the Holy Spirit and the Word.
God says, “He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver. The Oriental silversmith would heat the silver until the impurities, the dross, bubbled to the surface. He would keep skimming it off until he could see his face clearly reflected in it. Well, God does the same thing with those that he saves. He purifies us. In fact, this process of purifying is sometimes painful. The Lord uses the fire of affliction to produce purity in the lives of His people because he desires to see His image reflected in us.
Listen to Hebrews 12:3-11, “Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?
“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
Nor be weary when reproved by him.
For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
And chastises every son whom he receives.”
It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
So Jesus is going to purify believers so that they can offer an acceptable worship to the Lord. Because the worship being offered in Malachi’s day was not acceptable.
The other coming of Christ is one of judgment. These people wanted God to judge Israel’s pagan neighbors, but they refused to judge their own sins. God gives a representative list of sins, each of which was a breaking of His law and a cause for judgment. “Sorcerers” refers to those who use any sort of occult practices. “Adulterers,” of course, refers to those who are unfaithful to their marriage vows. “Those who swear falsely” covers everything from bending the truth in our personal relationships to perjury under oath in court. “Those who oppress the wage earner, the widow, and the orphan” and “those who turn aside the alien” refer to the wealthy and powerful who take advantage of those weaker than they are. At the bottom of all of these sins is, they do not fear God.
As we conclude, this morning, I want to say that it is most important to know which group you belong to. One group is being refined and purified by the grace of God while the other group is being prepared for judgment. So how can know which group you belong to? How do you get into the first group rather than the later group? First, you must believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. And that his death on the cross is enough to save you from your sins. If you are trusting in yourself or anything besides the finished work of the cross, then you are not a part of the group being refined and purified for heaven.
The second thing is to make sure that God has changed your heart. In other words, there should be evidence of fruit in you life because God’s grace has transformed you. You are submitting to the Lord, striving to be holy and offering sacrifices of praise out of the gratitude of your heart. Folks, if there is no fruit, then there is no salvation.