“For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble. The day that is coming shall set them ablaze, says the LORD of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall. And you shall tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet, on the day when I act, says the LORD of hosts.
“Remember the law of my servant Moses, the statutes and rules that I commanded him at Horeb for all Israel.
“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.” (Malachi 3:1-2-4:1-6 ESV)
We stand here at the end of the Old Testament writings and I’m dumbfounded. Not necessarily surprised, but I’m still without words.
The Jews, at this point, have returned to the Promised Land from their exile in Babylon. The temple and walls of Jerusalem have been rebuilt. They are beginning to see some stability again—at least from a human perspective. And yet, after all of the Divine discipline, Israel is falling back into the same sins that destroyed the nation and sent them off into captivity in the first place. God is again sending prophets to instruct and warn against forsaking His covenantal love for lesser things. Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi spoke out against these sins.
Malachi’s role is unique since he is the prophet to close out the Old Testament canon. As you read the text, especially chapters 3 and 4, you see him beginning to turn the corner toward the New Covenant. And in doing this, what are we to take from this? Primarily, I believe we are to see, that while the Law was a critical link in God’s redemptive plan, we are to remember it was not the end-all solution just a foreshadowing of the good things that were yet to come (Hebrews 10:1).
And this is obvious. The children of Israel still had hearts of stone that were forever running around on their Divine lover. So, Malachi points to the coming Day of the Lord and the messenger, coming in the spirit of Elijah, who would prepare for that day. The Lord will come to His temple … he is like a refiner’s fire, like fuller’s soap. Malachi warned his generation to prepare for the one who would pave the way for the coming Messiah. Repentance and seeking after God were the appropriate response of the day as they waited for the coming of the Lord.
What also strikes me is Malachi’s short phrase “and who can stand when he [Messiah] appears?” I would not be able to stand and neither would you. None of us can look on His holiness. And our hearts are no different than those found in the prophet’s audience. Left to ourselves, we continue on our hell-bound pursuit of only what tickles our fancy. All of us are dependent on God’s grace and mercy to do something more than just show us the high bar that we keep missing. The desperateness of our hearts requires a miracle working Savior.
As we close the cover on the Old Testament, two things are taking place for those who are being awakened to God’s glory. First there is a whimper … “who can stand when he appears?” We believe that all we can do is to slink back into our hole and wait for the end. Then we hear the unbelievable, almost too-good-to-be-true, message that the Lord will be crushed for us. Messiah comes not only as Judge, but also as the One who will be judged and condemned so that many will be made righteous.
"You're rich in love, and You're slow to anger. Your name is great, and Your heart is kind. For all Your goodness I will keep on singing; Ten thousand reasons for my heart to find. Bless the Lord, O my soul, O my soul. Worship His holy name. Sing like never before, O my soul. I'll worship Your holy name." (Taken from “10,000 Reasons” by Matt Redman.)