Malachi 3:1–5, 8–10, 16–18comment (0)
August 23, 2007
By Jay T. Robertson
Related Scripture: Malachi 3:1–5, 8–10, 16–18
Assistant Professor, School of Christian Studies, University of Mobile WORSHIP APPROPRIATELY
Malachi 3:1–5, 8–10, 16–18
These prophecies were originally for the second or third generation of people in Judah after the return from the Babylonian captivity. The temple was functioning; the city was rebuilt; and people had become perfunctory in their worship and their lifestyles. Malachi’s message was essentially one of accusation: as God’s messenger, he charged them with violations of the covenant and gave specific examples. But he also looked ahead to a time of wonderful blessing.
Worship With Righteousness (1–5)
Malachi 3:1 is quoted in the New Testament (Matt. 11:10; Mark 1:2; Luke 7:27). They all refer it to John the Baptist. The New Testament, therefore, settles the identity of the one called “my messenger.” He is the forerunner of the Lord, John, the son of Zechariah and Elizabeth. The Lord who then follows is none other than Jesus Christ.
The phrase “the Lord you seek” is interesting. Even in their sin, the people longed for deliverance through the Messiah. But Malachi asked, “But who can endure the day of His coming?” The coming Messiah would bring judgment, vindication for the righteous but condemnation for the wicked. Like most of the Old Testament prophets, Malachi, in his picture of Christ, mingled His first and second comings. So while the birth and earthly ministry are in view in verse 1, we already have the returning Judge in verse 2.
Christ’s judgment at the Second Coming is likened to two purifying agents: fire for metals and soap for clothing. Just as these remove impurities, he will purify the latter-day Levites so that they will gleam and endure like gold and silver. As a result of that process, God will have an approved and accepted priesthood to carry out the sacred ministry in a right spirit. Verse 4 does not mean that descendants of Levi and Aaron will function in any New Testament temple. Rather it is symbolic of a cleansed and sanctified church. Peter (1 Pet. 2:5, 9) and John (Rev. 1:6; 5:10; 20:6) described Christians as priests.
Those who will worship God in righteousness must not practice sorcery or adultery. They must not lie or cheat their employees out of their wages. They must not oppress the defenseless. God cares about how His people treat others. A person who is indifferent to injustice should not pretend to worship God.
Worship With Tithes (8–10)
The Lord specifically called His people to repent of their failure to tithe. The problem was not just with the priests; it was with the whole nation. The children of Israel had been taught — from the example of Abraham with Melchizedek, from the example of Jacob, from the explicit teaching of Deuteronomy — to give annually one-tenth of their property or produce to support the Levites and priests. Here in Malachi, the Lord promised the people that if they would be obedient in this matter, he would “pour out a blessing for you without measure.”
The entire world belonged to God, and His people were supposed to acknowledge His ownership through their giving and their trust in His continual provision. Their sacrifices and tithes were what God used to teach them to worship Him with their whole selves. Worship required more than singing songs or memorizing a Psalm on the way to the temple. It required everything. So it is for us today. Christians should give God their best and their all as an act of worship.
Worship With Fear (16–18)
Throughout the Bible, we are instructed to fear the Lord. Fearing the Lord means having an ultimate regard for Him. It means keeping our eye on Him and giving our allegiance to Him, because a day will come when the Lord will divide all humans according to whether they have revered the Lord. This true reverence is an indispensable part of our worship of God. It shows itself through our repentance from sin and through the short-circuiting of fears that have controlled our lives in the past. Christians worship God with fear, not with disrespect, distrust or arrogance. We must fear God and keep the eyes of our hearts fixed on Him and His promises.
Assistant Professor, School of Christian Studies, University of Mobile