Malachi 3:13–4:6 comment (0)
June 21, 2012
By Kenneth B.E. Roxburgh
Related Scripture: Malachi 3:13-4:6
Bible Studies for Life
Chair and Armstrong Professor of Religion, Samford University
What Is Your Decision?
Marva Dawn writes of worship as “a royal ‘waste’ of time” in which we immerse ourselves in thankful praise and loving adoration of a God who is worthy of honor and glory. She means this in a positive way, noting such worship only occurs as we put God first in our lives. Yet this was exactly the opposite of what was happening during the days of Malachi, when the people of Israel concluded that serving God was futile.
Serve God (3:13–15)
It would appear that Israel only thought of God in commercial terms and concluded there was no “profit in keeping His commandments.” Yet without committing ourselves to a daily journey with God, our lives have no true center of reference. We find ourselves at the mercy of the ways of the world, manipulated by the latest advertisement, with no steady direction and no sustaining purpose.
Malachi considers such a life to be characterized by “murmuring,” which is a word that is consistently used of the Israelites who wandered in the wilderness and missed out on entering into the land of promise. It wasn’t just that they were disgruntled and complained; they openly rebelled against God’s teaching. They did not listen but rather spoke openly against God. This is the danger of disobedience, which can begin as a careless attitude toward the Scriptures but can ultimately end in a life of wrongdoing.
Honor God (3:16–4:3)
The opposite of such attitudes and actions is to “fear the Lord.” This is a phrase that doesn’t mean to be frightened of God but rather to honor, reverence and obey Him. Isaiah 11 reminds us that the Messiah was a person who would know the presence of the “Spirit of the Lord upon Him ... the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord” (v. 2). The Book of Acts tells us that the mark of a growing church is that they “lived in the fear of the Lord” (Acts 9:31). Those who fear God are the people who prosper spiritually and seek the companionship of fellow believers as they “talk with each other.” Even in the midst of a disobedient people, Malachi believes that there will be a remnant of those who receive God’s rebuke and begin to encourage each other to renewed faith.
God promises the faithful that if they do not forsake Him, He will never forget them. Their names will be written in a “book of remembrance.” They belong to God in a special way, they are His “special treasure” and they are assured of His constant love and companionship. They will be warmed and healed by the rays of God’s presence. Malachi doesn’t just speak of the rays of the sun but of the Sun of Righteousness. They will be renewed in their spiritual strength, “leaping like calves released from the stall” and experiencing triumph over all their spiritual enemies.
Live by God’s Instruction (4:4–6)
Malachi ends his short book by reminding the people of Israel that the foundation of their spiritual lives must be that of listening and obeying God’s instructions. He calls them back to the statutes and ordinances of God’s law, which are unchanging in their relevance wherever and whenever we live.
The final two verses are brought as a word of encouragement that however bleak the future might appear, God’s promise always brings hope to our hearts. Malachi speaks of the promise of the coming of the prophet Elijah. Elijah still plays a role in Jewish thinking, especially around the Passover meal with a special cup called Elijah’s cup. At one point in the ceremony a child opens the door in expectation of Elijah’s coming to announce God’s deliverance of His people. In the New Testament this promise was seen as being fulfilled in the coming of John the Baptist, and yet we also have a famous incident when Jesus encountered Moses and Elijah on the Mount of Transfiguration. There, as they spoke of the saving work of God that would be accomplished through the cross of Calvary, the promises of the Old Testament came to fulfillment. It is in the hearts and lives of those who have found the ultimate fulfillment of hope through Christ that a life of obedience to God’s Word and His ways will also be seen.