Elijah in view

MALACHI -Fifteenth and final in a series

Assurance of salvation is promised to the servants of the Lord in the third chapter of Malachi; now in this final chapter, we see what is in store for the unrighteousness.
Malachi 4:1 For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the LORD of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch.

Judgment Day brings total annihilation of the wicked and the prideful. We expect to see criminals judged, but God states that the proud, as well, will be sentenced to death. Those who lived apart from God will meet a common fate in the unquenchable fire (Mat 3:12). There is no remnant here, no branch, no root.

Malachi 4:2 But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall.
Like calves in the stall, God's friends can look forward to days of protection and loving care.

Who said that Malachi was not poetic? It was noted in the second post that he lived in the decline of Hebrew poetry, yet we see in this and other verses that poetry lived in and through Malachi.

Malachi 4:3 And ye shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I shall do this, saith the LORD of hosts.
This Sun with lovely wings has feet of steel hardened in a fiery furnace, and he will trample down our enemies. We who follow in his steps will walk upon their ashes. His victory is ours.

An exhortation to the faithful:
Malachi 4:4 Remember ye the law of Moses my servant, which I commanded unto him in Horeb for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments.
By obeying the Law the Jews could do valiantly even with no prophet throughout the 400 years that loomed ahead before the Messiah would come.

Malachi 4:5-6 Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.

Much has been written about these last verses of Malachi by theologians over the ages.

Some say they reference John the Baptist who came in the power and spirit of Elijah (Luke 1:17); that Malachi is warning the Jews to look for that one who would cry out for the people to repent, for he would prepare the way for the Messiah.

Some say the language would be more accurately translated that the heart of the fathers would turn to God along with the children and vice versa, meaning that the Baptist's call would be inclusive for each member of the nation, young and old. Each would need to repent, no matter their station or child's heart.

Others state that these final verses refer to Elijah himself who will appear again on the earth before the second coming of Jesus (Rev 11:3), which will be the "great and dreadful day" of the Lord. Yet, if that Final Day is in view, why would God threaten that, should there be no repentance, then He will smite the earth with a curse? Isn't Judgment Day that time when God assuredly does destroy the earth?

This is the argument against such an interpretation, and those making it point out that Malachi was trying to warn the Jews they could escape the doom of Jerusalem that would follow the rejection of Christ by the Hebrews. In AD 70, the temple was burned, the city was razed, and more than one million people were killed.

Yet, it is rejoined that up to the 1600s and the time of the Reformers, the language of the passage was accepted as a reference to Elijah himself, and was not associated with John the Baptist.

After all, John was already referenced in Malachi 3:1— "Behold I will send my messenger"… Is there a need to repeat that promise? No, we should see a reference to the second coming, not to the first.

Of course, repeating a Bible promise is not uncommon. So, do these verses point to John and the first coming of Christ, or to the Second Coming and Elijah, who did not die but was taken up from the earth in a whirlwind (2 Ki 2:11)?

We know that a final time of repentance is prophesied for the Jews (Zech 12:10) and they will be received by God, restored to their roots (Rom 11:15). This is why some state the the proper interpretation of these verses is that the fathers are the Jews and the children are the Christians, who are united as brothers in the final days.

Yet Malachi seems to be saying that such repentance by the Jews would prevent God from cursing the earth, and we know that he finally does destroy it.

Could we say that the final destruction by fire is not a curse but a cleansing? This seems to stretch the truth; after all, judgment is no different from being cursed by God.

Thus, we would need to see that, in fact, when Elijah appears at the end of time, before the great and dreadful day of the Lord, though some repent, fathers to or with children, not all do, and like Sodom, on balance there are not enough repentant to spare the earth, which is the plain language of Scripture (Rev 11:10).

In other words, God through Malachi reveals there is hope for the repentant, yet knowing an end is in view when Elijah prophesies with the second witness. Likewise, Isaiah did not expect to succeed when told to call Israel to repentance (Is 6:8-11).

Many will not admit this interpretation, since a literal reading seems too far fetched. Can we really believe that Elijah and Enoch, who also did not die but was taken up (Gen 5:24), will actually preach in Jerusalem for 1,260 days, then be killed by the Beast, then after three and a half days rise and ascend to heaven? Improbable.

So there we have a summary of the historic commentaries over the centuries, many written before the reestablishment of Israel in the 20th century.

It is also interesting to note that if John the Baptist is not in view, then why did Jesus permit the reference? (Mat 17:11-12) Was he not encouraging a view of Scripture as symbolic rather than literal, a dangerous thing? Yet, he knew that the human mind is capable of understanding a reference in a symbolic way while accepting it as literal as well. The Bible draws us into seeing both the first and second coming of Christ.

We have arrived at the end of a Bible study on Malachi for Today's Christian. How do you view his final prophecy? Is the Second Coming in view? Maranatha! (1 Cor 16:22). Come Lord Jesus.

Weary in well doing, or worse

MALACHI -Fourteenth in a series

Is there ever any excuse for a Christian to feel worn out and resentful of or impatient with the Lord? The Jews under Malachi's frown felt they had that right.

Malachi 3:13-14 Your words have been stout against me, saith the LORD. Yet ye say, What have we spoken so much against thee? Ye have said, It is vain to serve God: and what profit is it that we have kept his ordinance, and that we have walked mournfully before the LORD of hosts?
Some commentators state that their failure to tithe or to bring offerings (keeping his ordinance) reflected their inner feelings that such obedience did not pay. It was a wasted effort, never rewarded or noted by God. So why do it?

It may be that they had worldly —not godly— sorrow (2 Cor 7:10); yes, they walked mournfully (vs 14) but in their hearts they had not truly repented of any sin.

The deeper problem was that these unrepentant Jews had lost confidence in the God of their fathers, who explained himself in their Scriptures. Since the Temple services were not exemplary, nothing seemed true; God was not real to them.

But for any who embrace the Bible, there is no cause to grow weary in well doing (Gal 6:9). Though the days of trials are long, we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us, yet there is often a need to rebuke the devil. Our discouragements are not from the trials but from our sinking hearts. We must be determined to keep our trust in God— whether we live or die (Phil 1:21), when we are disciplined (Heb 12:6), when we are persecuted for our faith (Mat 5:10), when our faith is tested (Jas 1:12), when we cannot see our way and feel forsaken (2 Cor 5:7), when we are purged to bear more fruit (Jhn 15:2), and to learn compassion (2 Cor 1:4).

Now, in verse 15, Malachi reemerges as the speaker as in Mal 2:10 (see post 10), confirming the testimony of the Lord who has accused Israel of faithlessness.
Malachi 3:15 And now we call the proud happy; yea, they that work wickedness are set up; yea, they that tempt God are even delivered.

Some of those in his hearing became ashamed and repentant, and sought out like-minded believers:
Malachi 3:16 Then they that feared the LORD spake often one to another: and the LORD hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon his name.

There are varying interpretations of vs 16. For example, Dr. Thomas Constable* views the "book of remembrance" as a covenant renewal document bearing the signatures of the faithful:

Upon hearing the Lord's rebuke through His prophet, some of Malachi's hearers who genuinely feared the Lord got together. Evidently they discussed Malachi's message and agreed among themselves that they needed to repent. They even wrote down their commitment on a scroll. (ref)

Matthew Henry* states:

A book of remembrance was written before him. Not that the Eternal Mind needs to be reminded of things by books and writings, but it is an expression after the manner of men, intimating that their pious affections and performances are kept in remembrance as punctually and particularly as if they were written in a book, as if journals were kept of all their conferences. Great kings had books of remembrance written, and read before them, in which were entered all the services done them, when, and by whom (as Esther 2:23). God, in like manner, remembers the services of his people, that, in the review of them, he may say, Well done; enter thou into the joy of thy Lord... Never was any good word spoken of God, or for God, from an honest heart, but it was registered, that it might be recompensed in the resurrection of the just, and in no wise lose its reward. (ref)

John Calvin* states similarly:

He shows by the issue itself why a book of remembrance was written— that God in due time would again undertake to defend and cherish his Church. Though then for a time many troubles were to be sustained by the godly, yet the Prophet shows that they did not in vain serve God; for facts would at length prove that their obedience has not been overlooked. But the two things which he mentions ought to be noticed; for a book of remembrance is first written before God, and then God executes what is written in the book. When therefore we seem to serve God in vain, let us know that the obedience we render to him will come to an account, and that he is a just Judge, though he may not immediately stretch forth his hand to us… (ref)

I have included these special notes from historic commentaries to encourage any who may be weary.

Malachi 3:17 And they shall be mine, saith the LORD of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him.
In what manner will the Lord spare those who serve him? In what day will he make up his jewels?

Malachi 3:18 Then shall ye return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not.
To whom is it spoken Then shall ye return, … Who will return and where is the place of return?

Briefly, the righteous will return, that is, come around to a time yet future, and in that day will see that God has rewarded in kind the proud doer and the humble believer. And in a further day hidden in eternity, the ones who sought to be God's servants will become jewels in his treasure box, pleasurable to behold, spared from Judgment.

*Thomas Constable is Sr. Professor Emeritus of Bible Exposition Dallas (Texas) Theological Seminary; *Matthew Henry was a 17th century Presbyterian minister in Great Britain; *John Calvin was 16th century French theologian and pastor of the Reformation era.

Fully engaged in worship

MALACHI -Thirteenth in a series

Malachi 3:7 Even from the days of your fathers ye are gone away from mine ordinances, and have not kept them. Return unto me, and I will return unto you, saith the LORD of hosts. But ye said, Wherein shall we return?
Our sins of omission and commission are in plain view to the Lord, yet we often don't know what they are until the Lord sends us a prophet. Today this normally means reading or hearing God's Word.

Malachi 3:8 Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings.
We understand what a tithe is. As for offerings there were "several classes of dues to God" according to Albert Barnes, a 19th century minister and theologian. He notes five: (ref)
1. The first fruits
Commanded by Moses in Deuteronomy (Deut 26:2-11), the gathering of the first fruits at harvest to set before the altar was in remembrance of the mighty acts of God in 1) choosing Israel from among all the nations, 2) delivering her from slavery, 3) bringing her out of Egypt by miracles, and 4) giving her a land rich with produce.
2. The annual half-shekel
Described in Exodus (Ex 30:13-15), this amount was due from men rich or poor, but not from Levites, women, minors or old men. Its purpose was for atonement for all Israel and its use would be to maintain the temple or the services there. (See Mat 17:24-27)
3. The offerings made for the tabernacle
Freewill offerings were given by the people when items and materials were needed to build or to restore the place of worship (Ex 25:2-3; 35:5 et al; Ezra 8:25 ), as requested by the leaders of those whose hearts were willing.
4. Tithes of their own tithes
The priests would lift or "heave" a tithe of the tithes received from the people, a vertical motion acknowledging that the Lord of heaven had given them their sustenance, and rejoicing in it. This heave offering was not set aside for burning, but was enjoyed as food by the priests and their families. (ref; Num 19:26-32)
5. Of the portions of the sacrifice which accrued to the priests
A heave offering would be for the priest who sprinkled the blood of the sacrifice of the peace offering (Lev 7:14-21)

Very specific instructions were given to the Hebrews for worship practices. The tithes and offerings required study, understanding, actions, devotion, desire, faithfulness and time. These are required of each Christian who worships today as well.

Malachi 3:9 Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation.
In Malachi's time, Judah had been back in the land only about a century but the promised curses had been enforced already: …if thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe to do all his commandments and his statutes which I command thee this day… curses shall come... (Deut 28:15-19)

Malachi 3:10 Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.
From this verse, it seems there was not sufficient giving to sustain the priests and Levites, nor were services conducted based upon the full participation of the worshippers. This verse is frequently misapplied by TV evangelists or certain pastors, that their devotees will become rich in proportion to their giving. Properly understood, its application today is that those who wholeheartedly worship the Lord and help to sustain the church that is his Bride, do experience the abundant life in Christ (John 10:10) who also warned that the rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. (Mat 19:23)

Malachi 3:11 And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the LORD of hosts.
Ancient Israel was promised divine protection for obedience to the Law. Many who see the national disasters today in the USA believe that it is God's judgment for national sin, and this would include lack of respect and honor for the church. Yet, believers do find that they are under divine protection as they obey God's Word; if we will consider our blessings, we will find God has been faithful. The Lord is mindful of his own.

Malachi 3:12 And all nations shall call you blessed: for ye shall be a delightsome land, saith the LORD of hosts.
While the Western world upheld biblical truth, great prosperity was enjoyed; yet today we see the governments throwing away the advantages with both hands. In the long run, God blesses the obedient and casts out those who hate his law.

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