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Malachi 7

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Malachi 7.

Malachi was the messenger of יהוה, “My messenger” is what his name means [P] – and he had a heavy message from יהוה to deliver to His people. In fact this was the last message from יהוה to His people before He was silent for some 400 years! This is His final word to them! The message was heavy, it was a burden, an oracle. In fact there are several oracles in Malachi. [P] The first wasn’t so heavy, [P] it was the message that יהוה loved them, [P] what made it heavy was the people’s response – they questioned that love. Here is יהוה all the time holding out His hands to His people but they do not respond to His love. He showers His love upon them, treating them favourably in contrast to Edom; yet the spiritual leaders, the priests [P], profane His Name and His sanctuary, offer worthless offerings – they are religious but their heart is not in it. The second oracle was against them. The priests were meant to preserve the knowledge of יהוה, but they were leading people astray, making them stumble. They corrupted the covenant. There is a lot of emphasis on covenant in Malachi. Covenant is based on loyalty – on חֶ֫סֶד, loyal covenant loving-kindness. But יהוה found the opposite. The priests had led the people, and they had followed them – the third oracle is against the people [P]. They profaned the covenant – they dealt treacherously – with their own brothers, with their wives and with יהוה Himself. They were unfaithful. Despite יהוה’s constant love, patience and dealing with them over the years. Despite His tough love in exiling them and then restoring them – still they went astray in their hearts. Here they are in a sorry state! What more could יהוה do?! Scripture is silent for 400 years – they hear nothing from יהוה! It is as if He has given up on them. But what was that first oracle? I have loved you! It says in (1 Corinthians 13:8) that love never fails. יהוה had a plan! Here is יהוה about to shut His mouth for 400 years – but He leaves them with hope! He hasn’t given up on them – He tells them what He is going to do. Malachi was “My messenger” but יהוה says that He will send another, “Behold I am going to send My messenger”. This is the message of the fourth oracle [P]. Let us read it, picking it up in: [Malachi 2:17-3:5 You have wearied יהוה with your words. Yet you say, “How have we wearied Him?” In that you say, “Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of יהוה, and He delights in them,” or, “Where is the God of justice?” “Behold, I am going to send My messenger, and he will clear the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple; and the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, He is coming,” says יהוה of armies. “But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. “He will sit as a smelter and purifier of silver, and He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, so that they may present to יהוה offerings in righteousness. “Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to יהוה as in the days of old and as in former years. “Then I will draw near to you for judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers and against the adulterers and against those who swear falsely, and against those who oppress the wage earner in his wages, the widow and the orphan, and those who turn aside the alien and do not fear Me,” says יהוה of armies.] So let’s have a reminder of what the situation was: [P] you recall last time that the repeated accusation was of dealing treacherously: [P] against their brothers, their wives and against God. They rent the covenants they had made. יהוה said: “You have wearied me with your words.” He was fed up! I have had enough of your words, your answering back! Let’s have a look at what they said: [P] יהוה said [Malachi 1:2 “I have loved you,” (But they said): “How have You loved us?”] יהוה said that they had despised His Name in [Malachi 1:6 But you say, ‘How have we despised Your name?’] יהוה said: [Malachi 1:7 “You are presenting defiled food upon My altar. But you say, ‘How have we defiled You?’ (they said): ‘The table of יהוה is to be despised.’] [Malachi 1:13 “You also say, ‘My, how tiresome it is!’] יהוה refused to accept their offerings: [Malachi 2:14 “Yet you say, ‘For what reason?’] יהוה tells them to return to Him [Malachi 3:7 “But you say, ‘How shall we return?’] יהוה accused them of robbing Him [Malachi 3:8 But you say, ‘How have we robbed You?’] יהוה said they had spoken against Him [Malachi 3:13 Yet you say, ‘What have we spoken against You?’] Now He says: “You have wearied יהוה with your words. I think I’d be getting weary too! In fact I would have lost it with them long since! Forever answering back! Making out that there was nothing wrong. They were implying that יהוה was lying because they kept denying what He was saying to them. There was plenty of speaking to יהוה but precious little listening to Him. Do we weary יהוה with our prayers? Forever asking of Him but never listening to what He says. And even now they don’t stop – when יהוה says He is tired of their answering back, what do they do? You’ve got it! They answer back: “Yet you say, “How have we wearied Him?”” יהוה had had enough! Patiently He pointed out what was wrong but they took no notice other than to defend themselves and protest that they had done nothing wrong. But even although He is fed up with their answering back, with infinite patience יהוה answers their question: He told them how their words wearied him: they said: “Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of יהוה, and He delights in them”. They call good “evil” and evil “good”. [P] It sounds a bit extreme, doesn’t it? But I work with people who think that it is a sin to have too much salt on your food, or to eat gluten, or saturated fat or whatever – but the Bible says that He has given us all things freely to enjoy. The great crime of society is to burn too much carbon! Yet those same people have no qualms about the murder of a defenceless unborn child – they call that murder “good” – it is protecting the rights of the mother! They consider it good to defend the rights of the individual – their right to marry someone of the same sex – but the Bible calls homosexuality an abomination. We have redefined righteousness – what is evil, we call good! But not in the church, surely! Have you never heard: “God loves you, His grace covers all. He delights in you. He will not judge sin”? Just as they were saying: “Where is the God of justice?” [P] - they were denying the judgement of God! Many churches today deny that God acts in judgement. An earthquake strikes Christchurch – no one regards it as the hand of God. From this very pulpit it was denied that it was the judgement of God. “God doesn’t judge”! He is loving, kind. That is true – but if there is no judge then there is no justice! You can do what you like and get away with it. But Abraham said [Genesis 18:25 “Far be it from You to do such a thing, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous and the wicked are treated alike. Far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth deal justly?”] The world says that God does not see, does not care, does not know, does not intervene, does not exist – you can do what you like with impunity. But, they are totally and tragically mistaken! יהוה is sick and tired of those who perpetuate this lie - who keep talking of God's grace and love in a wrong way that denies Him being a God of wrath and justice. Endless words, but they are false! יהוה is weary of them! So that is the situation in Israel: no loyalty, arrogantly back-chatting God, having their own definition of what is right and wrong, and burying their heads in the sand regarding the justice of God. The nation was in a terrible state spiritually. יהוה was weary of them – what was God going to do?! [P] He was going to send His Messenger! [P] My Messenger! – in Hebrew “מַלְאָכִ֔” That is יהוה’s solution! Further on in Malachi it predicts the coming of Elijah [Malachi 4:5 “Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of יהוה.] He would [Malachi 4:6 “turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, so that I will not come and smite the land with a curse.”] So the Jews were looking for the coming of Elijah. To this very day, at Passover, they leave an empty seat at the table in case he comes. You see it in the New Testament – there was an expectancy – they were looking for Elijah to come – and many thought that Jesus was he. The scribes taught (correctly, because that is what Scripture said) that Elijah had to come before the Messiah [Matthew 17:10-13 And His disciples asked Him, “Why then do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?” And He answered and said, “Elijah is coming and will restore all things; (Jesus endorsed the scribes interpretation) but I say to you that Elijah already came, and they did not recognize him, but did to him whatever they wished. So also the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands.” Then the disciples understood that He had spoken to them about John the Baptist.] John the Baptist was Elijah, the messenger of יהוה! But the messenger isn’t the solution – He is just the herald. My Messenger is a prophet announcing יהוה’s message – but the message He announces is the coming of יהוה Himself! [P] The messenger is a herald, one who prepares the way. “the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple” He is coming! Remember Jesus suddenly appearing in the temple in (John 2:14ff) and throwing out those selling and changing money? The solution is the coming of Jesus! Hallelujah! He is the only solution to the sorry state of His people. He is the “Messenger of the covenant” – Jesus came and established a new covenant: [Matthew 26:28 for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins.] He “is coming” to the temple, the “one you delight in is coming”; “who can endure the day of His coming?” – three times He tells us that Jesus is coming. And come He did! And come He will! But before He comes, the messenger will clear the way, prepare the way. [P] It says in [Isaiah 40:3 A voice is calling, “Clear the way for יהוה in the wilderness; make smooth in the desert a highway for our God.] Both this passage and these verses in Malachi are quoted in the New Testament as referring to John the Baptist. Look at [Mark 1:1-3 The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As it is written in Isaiah the prophet: “Behold, I send My messenger ahead of You, Who will prepare Your way; (but that is not quoting Isaiah! That is quoting Malachi 3. He goes on to quote Isaiah:) The voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make ready the way of יהוה, Make His paths straight.’ ”] So Mark joins these two prophecies together – they are both talking about one who makes the way ready/prepares the way/clears the way – they are both talking about the Messenger of יהוה and Mark equates him with John the Baptist. Jesus, speaking about John the Baptist, who they’d gone out into the wilderness to see, said: [Matthew 11:10 “This is the one about whom it is written, ‘Behold, I send My messenger ahead of You, Who will prepare Your way before You.’ He quoted this prophecy in Malachi as referring to John the Baptist. Jesus said that Elijah is John the Baptist – not the actual man but He came in the spirit of Elijah. Prophesying John’s birth, the angel Gabriel said [Luke 1:17 “It is he who will go as a forerunner before Him (that is the Messiah) in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers back to the children, (quoting Malachi 4) and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous, so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”] John’s role was to make a people prepared for the LORD, to prepare the way – he is alluding to this prophecy in Malachi. How did He prepare the way? – by turning their hearts – John, like Elijah sought to turn the people back to God – remember Elijah at Mount Carmel – demonstrating to apostate Israel that יהוה is God, praying fire down from heaven? This is what he prayed: [1 Kings 18:37 “Answer me, O יהוה, answer me, that this people may know that You, O יהוה, are God, and that You have turned their heart back again.”] Turning hearts – John’s message was one of repentance! – of turning around. [Mark 1:4 John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.] It was the same message, the same spirit as Elijah. Jesus said: [Matthew 11:13-14 “For all the prophets and the Law prophesied until John. (Malachi was the last prophet, the next after him was John and that was the end of the Law and the era of the Law and the prophets; John heralded the new order) “And if you are willing to accept it, John himself is Elijah who was to come.] – prophesied by Malachi. Jesus said Elijah who is to come, is John. Israel hears nothing for four hundred years; when the silence is finally broken, it is broken by My messenger – John the Baptist heralding the way, clearing the way before Me, before יהוה Himself! 400 years later יהוה picks up exactly where He left off! The beginning of the Gospel picks up right where the OT ended. 400 year break and total continuity! This book is no mere collection of independent human writers written hundreds of years apart. Old Testament and New tie in perfectly together. So Israel was expecting the messenger, seeking the Lord’s coming – and the Lord whom they seek came – but they didn’t recognize Him. You see they had this preconceived view of how His coming would be – as can we. Everything would be fine when Messiah came. But His coming would not be like they thought. “But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears?” They thought the Messiah would put all to rights, and so He would – but not in the way they conceived. The day of the LORD, [P] the day of יהוה, the day of His coming is not going to be as they imagined. They may delight in Him but it will be an awesome and terrible day! A day of judgement! A day of fire! A day of יהוה's wrath, when He consumes all that is unclean and evil! Joel said: [Joel 1:15 Alas for the day! For the day of יהוה is near, and it will come as destruction from the Almighty. ] Amos said: [Amos 5:18 Alas, you who are longing for the day of יהוה, for what purpose will the day of יהוה be to you? It will be darkness and not light;] Nahum said: [Nahum 1:6 Who can stand before His indignation? Who can endure the burning of His anger? His wrath is poured out like fire and the rocks are broken up by Him.] יהוה's coming is associated with FIRE! A fire that consumes the dross, the chaff, what is worthless, purifying, leaving what is of value). When יהוה comes there will be a great and deep cleansing, a removing of all evil and filth. It will be such a drastic cleansing that who will be able to stand it?! יהוה is HOLY! Who of us can endure His presence?! Who can stand?! He was coming to purify! The priesthood was hopelessly corrupt and had failed in their Divine calling – we saw that in the second oracle – they needed serious purifying: [P]He will purify the sons of Levi, so that they may present to יהוה offerings in righteousness”. And so He would come as a cleanser and a refiner. Malachi uses two images: one of a fuller and the other a refiner of metal. Now I married a Fuller – and fullers are very concerned with cleanliness. [P] Back along in history, Eddie’s ancestors would have been launderers by trade – that is what a fuller is. They clean the dirty linen. And the priesthood needed cleaning up. But that is not what they thought – they thought that they were OK. When John the Baptist preached telling people to clean up their act, to repent – the Pharisees didn’t respond – they thought that they were already clean. They did not recognize the Messiah – they could not stand Him. They could not endure the day of His coming. They didn’t want the status quo changed, He was a threat to them and their comfortable system that they had set up – so they killed Him. They could not abide the cleaning process. But when the Levites are purified: “Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to יהוה as” it used to be back in the past. The second picture appears several times in Scripture – that of refining metal. [P] The way metal was refined was to heat it up in a crucible – all the impurities (the dross) would float to the top when the metal melted and were scooped off, leaving the pure metal behind. So the image is off God turning the heat up – putting his people through the fire of judgement, trial and adversity; removing the dross and leaving behind that which is pure. We see this process taking place in Ezekiel 22 where they were solely dross – it didn’t matter how much he turned up the heat – only worthless metal remained. God tests the quality through fire [Zechariah 13:9 “And I will bring the third part through the fire, refine them as silver is refined, and test them as gold is tested.] – you see the same idea in 1 Corinthians 3 where the wood, hay and stubble is consumed but the gold and precious stones remain. God seeks to remove from His people all wickedness and sin so that they can endure His holy presence. Note that purification comes from removing the evil from the good, not taking the good away from the evil. The tares are taken out leaving the wheat. Always it is the evil taken out, not the good that is removed as in a rapture before the heat comes on. Purity and holiness go together. The smelter sits by the his crucible – someone once said that the refiner knows when the process is complete when he sees his image reflected in the molten metal - I don’t know if that is true but it is a nice idea. יהוה is coming to RESTORE – bring things back to their former condition, when true worship from the heart was offered by His people. There was a time when Judah's religious observance was pleasing to יהוה because they were holy – because it came from pure hearts. This state will be restored at יהוה's coming – but it will require the fire of His judgement to burn up what is worthless, what is sham, what has the religious appearance but not the fruit of holiness. [Isaiah 1:25 “I will also turn My hand against you, and will smelt away your dross as with lye (that is that fuller’s soap) and will remove all your alloy.] An alloy is a mixture – God was going to remove the mixture, the idolatry, the mixing with other religions. And He was going to do it through judgement. Verse 5 says “Then I will draw near to you for judgment; and I will be a swift witness against” them. They had denied יהוה’s judgement; “Where is the God of justice?” they said in (2:17). Well they would experience it. יהוה would execute judgement! [P] It would be against: “sorcerers, adulterers (remember those who broke covenant with the wives of their youth?); against those who swear falsely and those who oppress the wage earner in his wages, the widow and the orphan, and those who turn aside the alien (remember the dealing treacherously with their brother?) and do not fear Me (and recall those dealing treacherously with יהוה?). All this יהוה Himself would testify against and judge. So there is the prophecy – is it true? [P] It’s God’s Word! Do you believe it? The messenger would come – check. He would prepare the way of the Lord – check. The Lord would come to the temple – check. But did He purify the priesthood? No, they put Him to death. Yes, Jesus “purified a people for His own possession zealous for good works” (Titus 2:14) – but from the Gentiles. Undoubtedly He is refining us – but not the sons of Levi. It was the chief priest who played a major role in having Jesus crucified, they condemned Him and delivered Jesus over to the Romans. Matthew 26:59 Now the chief priests and the whole Council kept trying to obtain false testimony against Jesus, so that they might put Him to death. Matthew 26:65-68 Then the high priest tore his robes and said, “He has blasphemed! What further need do we have of witnesses? Behold, you have now heard the blasphemy; what do you think?” They answered, “He deserves death!”] Hardly a purified priesthood! The prophecy said that He would refine them with fire, come near for judgement. Did Jesus execute judgement? [John 12:47 I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world.] We see Jesus exercising mercy and forgiveness – to the woman caught in the act of adultery, He said: [John 8:11 “I do not condemn (judge) you, either. Go. From now on sin no more.”]. John the Baptist had said Matthew 3:12 “His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clear His threshing floor; and He will gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”] But we don’t see Jesus exercising that judgment. So is the prophecy false?! Are the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem pleasing to יהוה as they used to be? No! Has the Word of God failed? Is the prophecy of Jesus’ coming inaccurate? We have to face up to this – the integrity of God’s Word, of יהוה Himself is at stake! Did יהוה make an inaccurate prediction? Did Jesus fail to do what He was meant to do? The key is in a verse that we have already read: [Matthew 17:10-13 And His disciples “, “Why then do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?” And He answered and said, “Elijah is coming and will restore all things; but I say to you that Elijah already came, and they did not recognize him, but did to him whatever they wished.] You notice that Jesus said that “Elijah is coming”, and “will restore” – it is in the future, it hasn’t happened yet. [P] But John died back in chapter 14 – “Elijah already came”; “they did to him” – that happened in the past! [P] So there are two comings of Elijah, just as there are two comings of the One for whom he prepared the way. John came in the spirit of Elijah, Elijah appeared at the transfiguration; but there is more of the prophecy yet to be fulfilled! Elijah will come prior to Jesus’ return – I think that he is one of the two witnesses prophesied in Revelation 11. So the prophecy is only half fulfilled. It is true! [P] It is still relevant for us today because it has not been completed yet. Jesus will complete it when He returns. He will come as judge: [Acts 17:31 because He (that is God) has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead (that is Jesus).] Look the men of Noah’s day had ample warning that judgement was coming – it’s just that they chose to ignore 120 years of preaching. We have had far more time, far more prophecies and the same consistent message that Jesus is going to return. That judgement is coming. We are fools to ignore the warning. Jesus will return when Israel is seeking Him – at the moment they are not, but there is coming a day when they will [Hosea 3:5 Afterward the sons of Israel will return and seek יהוה their God and David their king (that is Jesus); and they will come trembling to יהוה and to His goodness in the last days.] Jesus said: [Matthew 23:39 “For I say to you, from now on you will not see Me until you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ ”] Then He will come. No longer will He be an object of derision, but they will delight in Him, the One they delight in will come. Hallelujah! Maranatha! All will be restored! [P] יהוה’s plan, as originally intended, will come to pass. He and His will do not change – something that we will consider next time. What is to be our response? This is what Peter said in the earliest days of the church, and I will leave you with his words: [P] [Acts 3:19-21 “Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; and that He may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you, whom heaven must receive until the period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time.] [P]

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