1–7 January 2017.
Over the last few weeks we have already heard other Minor Prophets talk about their hope for a coming Messiah, one who will come judge the people. Sometimes that sounded frightening because the prophets imagined the Messiah would be like a violent king coming to destroy Israel’s enemies. But here in Malachi we have a clearer idea about who this Messiah will be. The coming judge will not be a destroyer, but someone who will purify the people. These two ideas are very different.
Let me give you an example. If you were digging in the ground and found a lump of gold, it wouldn’t be pure. It would be a mix of rock and dirt with gold mixed in. But does that mean it’s worthless, and you should just throw it away? Of course not! Miners take those stones, put them into great fires, and burn off the impure parts until all that is left is pure gold. That’s what God promises the Israelites too: he will refine them like gold and silver, burning away their sin and making them pure.
This image of God’s judgement as purification is one we see all through the Bible. It’s one reason why so many Bible writers saw God’s judgement not as something to be afraid of, but as something wonderful! It burns away all the bad parts of our lives, and makes us pure.
This isn’t just a personal hope either, but one for all society. In 3:5 the coming judge pushes back against all those in society who destroy human relationships: cheaters, liars, bosses who treat their employees badly, and all those who proudly abuse the weak. In 3:14–15 we hear that those who do such terrible things think that this is the best way to succeed in life. But when the Messiah comes he will bring fairness and truth with him, and he will set things right.
So where is this Messiah? In ch 4, on the last page of the Old Testament, God’s word tells us: Look for the new Elijah who will prepare the way for the Lord! As we turn the page into the New Testament there we see this new Elijah, John the Baptist. He is preparing the way. For a thousand years, everything in the Old Testament has led up to this point, and now the time has come – to welcome our God and King, Jesus Christ.
Pastor Stephen Lakkis