Malachi 3 - Outline of Malachi (Book Notes menu page)
A Foreview of Two Messengers (3:1-6) -
1. Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me:
and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple,
even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in:
behold, he shall come, saith the LORD of hosts.
2 But who may abide the day of his coming?
and who shall stand when he appeareth?
for he [is] like a refiner's fire, and like fullers' soap:
3 And he shall sit [as] a refiner and purifier of silver:
and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver,
that they may offer unto the LORD an offering in righteousness.
4 Then shall the offering of Judah and Jerusalem be pleasant unto the LORD,
as in the days of old, and as in former years.
5 And I will come near to you to judgment;
and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers,
and against the adulterers, and against false swearers,
and against those that oppress
the hireling in [his] wages, the widow, and the fatherless,
and that turn aside the stranger [from his right],
and fear not me, saith the LORD of hosts.
6 For I [am] the LORD, I change not;
therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.
In answer to Israel's unspoken question of unbelief: "Where is the God of judgment?" (2:17b),
the LORD directs their attention to two future messengers (3:1):
  1. My messenger... he shall prepare the way before Me.
    This messenger is sent from God, as the forerunner of the second messenger. The first portion, of this verse, is quoted in the three synoptic Gospels, as applying to John the Baptist (Mat 11:9,10; Mark 1:2; Luk 7:27). The Gospel of John also identifies John the Baptist as this messenger, by quoting a similar prophecy (Isa 40:3; Joh 1:23). John the Baptist clearly understood his role as the forerunner of the Messiah (Joh 1:15,19-36).
         His purpose was to "prepare the way..." The word 'prepare' {HB=panah, turn, turn back, turn around} refers not to removing rocks from the road or improving the pavement, but rather to re-orienting the path in the right direction. John would call the nation to turn back from sin and idolatry, to the LORD and His ways (Luk 1:76). This is also the meaning of the word 'repent.' John preached repentance (Mat 3:1-3).
  2. The messenger of the covenant... Me... the Lord whom ye seek... whom ye delight in...
    This messenger is not sent but 'comes.' He is identified as the LORD ('Me'), as the Lord {HB=Adonai, one with authority} for whose Kingdom Israel hopes (Psa 110:1-3; Isa 9:6,7), the one in whom the nation delights {ie., takes pleasure}. He is Israel's 'glory' (Luk 2:29-32).
         He is called "the messenger of the covenant." The word 'messenger' {HB=malak} is often translated 'angel.' This Person made Himself known at key points in the preparation of His covenant people (eg., Gen 48:15,16; Ex 23:20; Isa 63:9; Hos 12:3-5; Acts 7:38). In these and other OT passages, 'the Angel of the LORD' refers to a pre-incarnate manifestation of God the Son. When He came in the flesh, it was to fulfill the old and to establish the new covenant with those who would believe (Jer 31:31-33; Mat 5:17; 26:28; Heb 12:24; 13:20,21). This 'messenger of the covenant' is the Lord Jesus Christ, Israel's Messiah.
the Lord whom ye seek... whom ye delight in... shall suddenly come to his temple...
Israel has long been yearning for the promised Messiah, who will re-establish the Davidic Kingdom, and free them from Gentile dominion. The questions, which the Jewish leaders asked John, indicated that they were watching for the Messiah (Joh 1:19-23). Yet, they did not recognize the One to whom John pointed, because Jesus did not fit their pre-conceptions. (However, a small, Spirit taught remnant, who knew God's Word, knew Him. eg., v.16; Luk 2:25-38)
     Therefore, at His first coming, the leaders were surprised when the Messiah appeared and, contrary to all expectation, took action to cleanse His Temple (Joh 2:13-17; Mat 21:12,13). In doing so, He provided a prophetic foreview of His second coming, which is in view in the latter half of Mal 3:1 and the next few verses. Though rejected by the nation at His first appearing, their Messiah paid the price of their redemption, through His one sufficient sacrifice, thereby providing the means by which sin will be put away when He appears the second time (Heb 9:24-28).
behold, he shall come, saith the LORD of hosts.
The second coming of Israel's long awaited Messiah, in fulfillment of God's promises, is absolutely certain, for the LORD has spoken it.
However, at that time also, His coming will be sudden and different than expected.
But who may abide the day of His coming?... for He is like a refiner's fire... (Mal 4:1; Luk 3:16,17)
At His second coming, Christ will not only cleanse the temple, but He will also purge His people of sin (Eze 22:18-22; Dan 12:10; Zech 13:9).
  • He shall purify the sons of Levi... that they may offer... in righteousness... pleasant unto the LORD...
    In Malachi's day, the LORD had no pleasure in the priests and their polluted sacrifices (Mal 1:6,7,10; 2:1-4). The Messiah will purify the priests, enabling them to offer pure sacrifices, that are pleasing to the LORD, in behalf of the people of Judah and Jerusalem (Mal 1:11; Jer 33:18-22).
  • I will come near to you in judgment... against...
    Note that the "He", of vs.1b-3, is also the "I", of vs.1,5,6. This one Judge is both God and Man (Eze 34:20-22; Joh 5:22-30; Heb 10:30-31).
    He will expeditiously judge guilty individuals. The list of offenders is representative, and reflects offenses identified in the previous chapter.
    • the sorcerers...- Occult practitioners, in bed with false religions (2:11).
    • the adulterers...- Those engaged in physical and/or spiritual adultery (2:10-16).
    • false swearers {liars}...- Those who declare evil as good (2:17).
    • those that oppress... (2:13)
Thus, in answer to their unspoken question of unbelief, "Where is the God of judgment?" (2:17b), the LORD assures them that He will thoroughly judge their sin, in His time and way.
For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.
Because the LORD is faithful to the everlasting covenant that He made with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, He will purge Israel, but He will not completely destroy them, as He has done (and will do) with some other nations (Mal 1:2,3; Psa 105:7-10; Num 23:19; Jer 46:27,28; Lam 3:22,23; Rom 11:29).
But in spite of His love and faithfulness to them, Israel was not faithful to the LORD.
A Rebuke for Defrauding the LORD (vs.7-12) -
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?
...Return unto me, and I will return unto you, saith the LORD of hosts...- (Deu 30:1-4; Zech 1:3)
'Return' {HB=shub, go back}. The LORD's oft repeated call to His people was echoed in John the Baptist's message of repentance.
But ye say, Wherein shall we return? - (Here is the nation's sixth cynical question of unbelief.)
They did not acknowledge moving away from Him. They were religiously performing the temple rituals. How far could they be from Him? Yet, they had a form of godliness, without God's power (2Tim 3:5). Their lips honored the LORD, but their hearts were far from Him (Isa 29:13,14; Mat 15:7-9).
     Note that this call to repentance is directed toward professing believers in Israel. In a similar way, the Lord calls to Christians who drift away from Him. Five of the seven churches addressed in His letters to the seven churches, are called to repent (Rev 2:5,16,21-22; 3:3,19). The two exceptions are the church under severe persecution at Smyrna, and the church which was faithful to the Lord and His Word, at Philadelphia. The sense is that these two groups represent a tiny minority, who, recognizing their poverty and weakness, cling to the Lord and His promises.
     Am I in need of returning to my 'first love'? Rev 2:4,5
     A man's heart can often be tested by his wallet. Mat 6:19-21
8 Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me.
But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee?
In tithes and offerings.
9 Ye [are] cursed with a curse:
for ye have robbed me, [even] this whole nation.
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].
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.
12 And all nations shall call you blessed:
for ye shall be a delightsome land, saith the LORD of hosts.
Wherein have we robbed thee? - (This is the seventh cynical question of unbelief.)
They had not stolen treasure from the temple. Yet, they had 'defrauded' God of that which belonged to Him. The word 'rob' {HB=qaba, rob, spoil, defraud} occurs four times in v.8,9.
In tithes and offerings.
  • Tithes {HB=ma'aser, lit., 'from ten'} represented a tenth of income.
    However, Israel was commanded to bring their 'first fruits' (Deu 18:4) plus more than one tithe...
  • Offerings {HB=terumah}, v.8 -
    Although the word 'offer' or 'offering' occurs several times in Malachi ch. 1-3, this is the only occurrence of this Hebrew word in Malachi. Whereas the other offerings were prescribed by the Law, this appears to refer to free will offerings, from thankful hearts. (See the use of this word in Ex 25:2; Deu 12:11, where "the heave offering of your hand" is a voluntary expression of thanksgiving, distinct from the commanded offerings.)
    The NT does not command Christians to bring a tithe, for we are not under the Law, but under Grace. While we are not under legal constraints to give, under Grace we have so much more for which to be thankful. Christian giving consists entirely of free will offerings.
    We ought to follow the example of the early church (eg., in 2Cor 8:1-9). They gave...
    Ye are cursed... for ye have robbed Me...
    When the hearts of Israel were full of worship for the LORD, they brought more than enough for the work, and the LORD blessed them (Ex 35:29; 36:3-7; 2Chr 31:10).
         When their hearts were far from Him, the gifts which they brought grudgingly, dishonored Him (Mal 1:14). Therefore, He withheld His blessing, and caused their land to be unproductive. Deu 28:15-19; Hag 1:6-11
    bring ye all the tithes into the store house...
    The 'store house' for tithes was the Temple, in which there were rooms for storing the provision for the priests and Levites (Neh 10:38; 12:44,47). Around the time that Malachi wrote, Nehemiah addressed Israel's neglect in this area (Neh 13:4-13).
         In the NT, believers are not to lay up treasures on earth. Church buildings are not meant to be repositories of wealth. Rather, our willing offerings are to further the task with which Christ commissioned us, namely the proclamation of the Gospel to all nations. Mat 6:33; 28:18-20; 2Cor 9:6-8
    ...and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts...
    If the nation would trust and obey the LORD's Word, He would demonstrate {prove} His faithfulness by... (v.10-12)
    • blessing them abundantly, beyond measure. Lev 26:9,10
    • rebuking the devourer (any enemy, whether locusts or armies, that would consume that which was rightfully theirs). Joel 1:4; 2:3-10,20-27
    • causing all nations to regard the land of Israel as blessed, and as a delight to the LORD.
      Israel will enjoy this favored position, during the Messiah's Millennial Kingdom. Isa 61:9; 62:1-9; Zeph 3:19,20

  • A Contrast between apostate Israel and the believing Remnant (vs.13-18) -
    13. Your words have been stout against me, saith the LORD.
    Yet ye say, What have we spoken [so much] against thee?
    14 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?
    15 And now we call the proud happy;
    yea, they that work wickedness are set up;
    yea, [they that] tempt God are even delivered.
    What have we spoken [so much] against thee? -
    (This is the eighth and last of the cynical questions of unbelief recorded by Malachi, in 1:2; 1:6; 1:7; 2:14; 2:17a; 3:7; 3:8; 3:13.)
         How could the LORD accuse them of stout {HB=chazaq, strong, hardened} words against Him? Did the LORD not hear them reciting prayers and singing hymns... even in a mournful minor key?
         Again, the LORD patiently reveals the content of their hearts.
    Ye have said...
    • It is vain {emptiness, a deception} to serve God (v.14; 1:13)
      ...What profit {gain to ourselves}... - (What good does it do me...?)
      • ...that we have kept His ordinance {observed His obligations}
      • ...that we have walked {conducted our lives} mournfully {lit., in blackness}... (Isa 58:3-4,6-8; Zeph 1:12)
        As they saw it, they were living under the restrictions of a meaningless artificial system which robbed their lives of joy.
        They did not believe God's promises of future blessing (as in v.10-12).
    • We call the proud happy...
      ...they that work wickedness are set up {ie., established, built up}... Mal 2:17
      ...they that test God {ie., put Him to the test by their sin} are delivered {ie., escape from trouble}. Job 21:7-15; Psa 10:3,4
      As they saw it, godless men were to be envied, for their lives seemed happy and trouble free.
      This is the perspective of fleshly, unbelieving hearts.
      Those, who know the LORD, perceive a reality that is beyond what meets the eye. Psa 73:1-28
    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.
    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.
    18 Then shall ye return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked,
    between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not.
    Then they that feared the LORD spake often one to another {ie., each to his friend, companion, confidant}...
    While most of the nation remained in unbelief, there has always been a believing remnant (Rom 9:25-29).
    Such believers frequently met for mutual encouragement and prayer. (eg., Psa 119:63; Dan 2:17,18; 1The 5:11; Heb 3:13; 10:24,25)
    ...the LORD hearkened {ie., inclined His ears} and heard {HB=shama}.
    He knows them that are His. Psa 33:18; 139:4; 2Tim 2:19
    ...a book of remembrance... for them that feared the LORD... and that thought {or, reckoned} upon His name.
    Not only does He know and remember those who revere and trust Him, but He also keeps record of their sorrows and service for His name sake (Isa 26:3,8; Psa 56:8; Neh 13:14,22,31; Heb 6:10). The Lord will not forget thoughts and actions which honor Him. Such things flow from the hearts of those who belong to Him. They are the characteristics of those who are already saved, rather than merit by which to earn salvation. This 'book of remembrance' is not 'The Book of Life' (Rev 20:12,15). Yet, those whose names are recorded in the Book of Life, will produce spiritual fruit that is worthy of reward (1Cor 3:11-15; Rev 22:12).
    ... in the day when I make up my jewels...
    That day is 'the Day of the LORD' when He will come to judge the nations, and purge and purify His people (Mal 3:2; 4:1).
    • ...they shall be mine... my jewels...
      The word 'jewels' {HB=cegullah, precious personal possession} is translated "peculiar treasure" in Ex 19:5,6 (its first occurrence). In that day, the believing remnant will finally fulfill the LORD's purpose for Israel (Deu 7:6; 14:2; 26:18,19; Psa 135:4). Also see Jer 31:33; Zech 13:9; Titus 2:13,14; 1Pet 2:9
    • ...I shall spare them a man spareth his own dear son... (contrast Mal 1:6)
      In that day of judgment upon the wicked, He will have compassion and mercy for His own people, the believing remnant, His peculiar treasure. Isa 26:20,21
    • shall return, and discern {HB=ra'ah, see} between the righteous and the wicked...
      The believing remnant will come back to their land, and will observe as the LORD separates those who serve {HB='abad, serve, worship} God from those who 'serve Him not.' Only God can truly discern who worships Him in spirit and in truth (Joh 4:23,24).
      At His first coming, the Messiah, 'the Son of Man,' described this separation (which will occur at His second coming), in the parable of the wheat and the tares. (See Mat 13:24-30,36-43.)

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