Bible Focus: Malachi
"See, I am going to send my messenger, and he will clear the way before me. Then the Lord you seek will suddenly come to his temple, the Messenger of the covenant you delight in--see, he is coming," says the LORD of Armies. But who can endure the day of his coming? And who will be able to stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner's fire and like launderer's bleach.Malachi 3:1-2 CSB
“Dad, I didn’t mean to!”
“Well, you didn’t mean not to.”
When my kids were young, that particular verbal exchange happened frequently between me and them. Like most parents, my wife and I often talked to our kids about behaviors that we wanted them to change. But even when they agreed with us, their behavior was slow to change. Like most kids, they found it too easy to forget the expectations of their parents.
Naturally, when we would confront them about a lack of change in their behavior, they would usually become defensive. They would claim ignorance or insist that they had good intentions. I would often point out that good intentions alone weren’t enough. We would then address the consequences of their behavior and clarify our expectations again. But that cycle would inevitably repeat, and I would feel like we were back where we started.
Looking back, I wish I had been more patient. Eventually our kids started showing maturity. They started to spend less time defending their mistakes and began admitting when they were wrong. I was proud to see them develop their own habits of responsible behavior. They showed that they were genuinely trying to follow our instructions and honor us as their parents.
In the same way, if we really know God, we’ll want to learn from him and obey him. Our progress may be slow, but we’ll keep learning how to turn from our sin and follow God’s ways. But if we continually ignore or excuse our sin, and we continually show ignorance of God’s ways, then at some point we’ll have to ask whether we really know God at all.
After seventy years of Babylonian exile, many Jews returned to Judea. The once-desolate city of Jerusalem began to take shape and show life. Sacrifices were once again offered by the Jewish priests. Houses were repaired and inhabited. The temple of God was rebuilt. Jerusalem’s walls and gates were restored.
Malachi was one of the prophets that God used to speak to the Jewish people during this time. Through Malachi, God called into question whether the people actually knew him and trusted him.
"I have loved you," says the LORD. Yet you ask, "How have you loved us?"Malachi 1:2a, 2:17a, 3:7b, 3:8a, 3:13 CSB
You have wearied the LORD with your words. Yet you ask, "How have we wearied him?"
"Return to me, and I will return to you," says the LORD of Armies. Yet you ask, "How can we return?"
"Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing me!" "How do we rob you?" you ask.
"Your words against me are harsh," says the LORD. Yet you ask, "What have we spoken against you?"
Apparently, some Jews were barely going through the motions of worshipping God. They didn’t bother to realize that God had generously blessed them. Priests were sacrificing offerings to God that were disgraceful. Some men were marrying women who worshipped idols, while other men were breaking their marriages to faithful wives. Some were withholding their tithe from the temple. And some people were saying it didn’t matter whether they obeyed God or not.
In response, God said he would send a messenger to prepare the way for God himself to come to his temple. He said that the Lord would come, purify his faithful ones, and judge those who had forsaken him. Fortunately, God’s message through Malachi did not fall solely on deaf ears. Some of the people listened and talked with each other about being faithful to God.
At that time those who feared the LORD spoke to one another. The LORD took notice and listened. So a book of remembrance was written before him for those who feared the LORD and had high regard for his name. "They will be mine," says the LORD of Armies, "my own possession on the day I am preparing. I will have compassion on them as a man has compassion on his son who serves him. So you will again see the difference between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him.Malachi 3:16-18 CSB
Here’s the good news. The Lord Jesus came to his temple and proclaimed that he was one with God the Father. Jesus said that all who trusted in him would serve him, and that he would give them eternal life. If we have believed in Jesus, we’ll keep serving him as our Lord. We’ll be ready to see him when we die–or when he comes again.
Featured image from JingXiang Gao on Unsplash.
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