Thursday, September 8, 2011

Malachi 2:17-3:5

When a train goes through a tunnel and it gets dark, you don’t throw away your ticket and jump off.

You sit still and trust the engineer. Corrie ten Boom

Though God take the sun out of heaven, yet we must have patience. George Herbert

One of the most perplexing questions that faces those who believe in God’s sovereignty is “Why doesn’t God act when he has all the power?” We sit back and watch as disasters occur, tsunamis crush cities, earthquakes devastate countries and tornados ravage the Midwest. Beyond these natural disasters, there are wicked men who rule around the world. Greedy corporate executives strip thousands of people of their pensions. Tyrants drop bombs on their own people. Pornography producers are some of the richest men in the world. The next door neighbor seems rich and happy, yet never attends church. Where is God in all this? Why does evil seem to triumph? Why do good men die unknown and wicked men die with a taxpayer funded funeral broadcast on T.V.?

When we begin our journey in Christ it can seem like the white hats always win and the black hats always lose. But as time stretches on we see evil triumph. Time can erode our confidence in God’s justice. Our brothers during Malachi’s time had the same problem. They had listened to Haggai and Zechariah’s great prophecies about the coming Kingdom of God, yet evil still seemed to be in control. In this section of Malachi God assures his people that he is good and has not left his throne. We would be wise to hear these ancient words from ever living God about the certainty of his judgment and the need for patience.

2:17 begins this fourth disputation. The focus in this debate on an Israel’s attitude towards God. Israel is wearying God with their words. What are these words? They are that God must either love evil or not exist. (2:17) There is no justice in Israel. Sin is rampant. Immorality reigns. So men begin to ask the question we all ask when the evil prospers, where is God? Most of us, even in our darkest moments, have never uttered the words in this chapter. But we may have thought them. The thought may have flitted through our mind, “Maybe God really isn’t in control.” The first statement in verse seventeen verges on blasphemy because it implies that God must love evil. The second statement is more veiled, but the idea is the same. “The God of justice is missing.” Despite the harshness of the statements, for the first time in Malachi we are dealing with a people who are actually concerned about righteousness. They ask these questions because they want to see righteousness in the land. However, they think God acts too slowly, so they assume he is absent or that he is a God who loves evil. If these men hold on to these views it could lead to hopelessness and eventually a falling away from the faith. But God is merciful. He gives these men assurance of his coming judgment/justice.

Malachi gives Israel the promise that God will suddenly come to his temple to judge (3:1) and purify his people, especially the priesthood. (3:2-3) When he does this Israel will once again be able to offer to the Lord a pleasant offering because she will be holy. (3:4) Finally God says that when he comes he will execute judgment upon all evil doers. (3:5) The word for judgment in 3:5 is the exact same word translated justice (NKJV) in 2:17. The justice Israel is looking for in 2:17 comes in 3:5. God is reminding those saying these things to be patient. Evil will be dealt with in God’s timing. God does not love evil nor is he absent. But he is patient, often much more patient than we are.

Malachi 3:1 is a prophecy of John the Baptist who is the messenger sent to prepare the way for the Lord. (Matthew 11:10 and Mark 1:2) This means that the prophecy in this section is primarily about the coming of Christ to purify and judge Israel.


• God does at times allow the wicked to prosper and sin to go unpunished. (2:17) It should not shock us when this occurs. He rarely judges quickly. For this we should be grateful because it gives men time to repent. But we also must not forget that God will not be patient forever. Men who flaunt their evil will be judged by God either in history or at the final judgment.

• God comes to his people with two purposes: purification and judgment. (3:3 & 5)These two things go hand in hand. Today God does not come visibly to his temple as he did when Christ appeared, but he still comes to us, especially in worship. Therefore two purposes of worship are to purify us of our sins and to judge those who refuse to repent.

• The phrase “who can stand” in 3:2 is a military term meaning that no one and nothing will be able to stand against God’s advance. This should be a source of great comfort to us. We see the number of people set in battle against God. We see the amount of money they have at their disposal. We see them sitting in places of power and we might be tempted to think that God’s hand will be stopped. Maybe God’s purposes can be thwarted. But Malachi reminds us this is not the case. The rank, wealth, and strength of men and nations are of little consequence to God. His purposes will stand.

• Only a pure people can offer a pleasing sacrifice to God. (3:2-5) Those who worship God must be clothed in the shed blood of Christ and must live a life of confession and repentance. Again this is why we confess our sins in worship and throughout the week. We cannot offer to God and acceptable sacrifice if we are not clean. Those who continue in sin, but still want to worship God, will find that he will come and be “against them.” They will be judged.

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Let the saints be joyful in glory, let them sing aloud on their beds, let the high praises of God be in their mouth, and a two edged sword in their hand, to execute vengeance on the nations, and punishments on the peoples; to bind the kings with chains and their nobles with fetters of iron. Psalm 149:5-8