The book of Malachi is the very last book of our Old Testament. It’s a rather short book, only four chapters, and yet thoroughly substantive in content. God and His perpetual covenant faithfulness is thrown into the spotlight, and is contrasted with the perpetual unfaithfulness of His people. God was actually wearied by His people! He grew weary of the corruption of the priesthood, their neglect of His Law, marriages to nonbelievers, selfish superficial worship and robbing God of His tithe.
Our passage also highlights another wearing point from the Israelites; namely, their harsh, cold, cynical hearts aimed at God. They actually accuse Him of injustice and ask quite arrogantly, “Where is the God of justice?” (Malachi 2:17 ESV).
We cannot ever fully grasp the audacity of such a claim to the Holy One of Israel, but we can be redirected to God’s words to Job, an ultimate reminder to keep our mouths shut if we seek to accuse God: “Shall a faultfinder contend with the Almighty? He who argues with God, let him answer it … Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me. Will you even put me in the wrong? Will you condemn me that you may be in the right? (Job 40:2; 41:7-8 ESV).
Between Job and Malachi what we learn is that for those who accuse God and “place Him on trial” so to speak, they will one day be summoned to stand before Him, but it is not God who will be on trial for His faithfulness. My friends on that day, it will be you. And if we do not flee and run to Christ our King in utter repentance of heart and life, we shall be hopeless.
Israel, in her arrogant pride, should have taken responsibility. But for her lack of ownership for her sins, God said, “I’m coming for you. I’m going to take care of you myself.” The sense of impending judgment is given in Malachi 3:2, “who can endure the day of His coming, and, who can stand when He appears?” (ESV) However, had God not first moved in changing the hearts of His people, there would not be a single human soul found in heaven apart from Christ.
God has to work in us – and that He accomplishes by His glorious Holy Spirit. God has to fix us like an old car. Now I don’t know much about the actual repairing of cars, but I know enough that if my vehicle won’t start, the solution is not going to be to wash my car for a third time. Something internal needs to be adjusted, needs to be recalibrated, perhaps even replaced. Such internal work is precisely what God is promising to do in His people. It is always only the mysterious work of the Holy Spirit which can take ordinary God-accusing people and transform them so that “Christ’s invisible presence is [their] chief joy and happiness” as Protestant Reformer John Calvin noted.
God presents the image of a refiner’s fire in the passage to describe His work. Christ will come and His work in Israel will be like that of fire. A fire that burns away all the dross and trash that can’t stand the heat. A fire that purifies that which is precious from the corruption that lingers. Notice that it is not the people’s strength which purifies them. It is only the work of God who purifies them so that they will be able to “bring offerings in righteousness to the LORD” (Malachi 3:3 ESV).
When was the last time you really took some time just between yourself and the Lord to think about your spiritual growth or lack thereof?
When was the last time you thought about the ways you could work on growing as a Christians, and the ways you need to change? Because how you’re living is not honoring God and you’re wasting the precious time God has given to you. We’re all guilty of this because we see God as a want as opposed to a need.
Christ must be your perpetual source of transformation by His Word and Spirit. Apart from Him – your needs and wants will always be backwards. God never promised that this transformation was going to be comfortable, but He promises that it’ll be worth it. Will you join me in praying to God to refine us, and transform us for His glory alone? May our worship be “pleasing to the Lord” (Malachi 3:4 ESV).
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