In the last three weeks, we have looked at a prophecy by Moses (1400s BC), another by David (900s BC), and a third by Ezekiel (500s BC). Today we move to one of the last OT prophecies of the coming of Christ, Malachi 3, which was written in the 400s BC. It reads:
1 See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight -- indeed, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts. 2 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; 3 he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the descendants of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, until they present offerings to the LORD in righteousness. Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the LORD as in the days of old and as in former years.
Before the Lord comes to judge his people, a forerunner will come. This is the "messenger." Interestingly, messenger in Hebrew is 'malakh.' Malachi actually means "my messenger," or "my angel." And who is this messenger? We read more about him in chapter 4:
1 See, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble; the day that comes shall burn them up, says the LORD of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. 2 But for you who revere my name the sun of righteousness shall rise, with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall. 3 And you shall tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet, on the day when I act, says the LORD of hosts. 4 Remember the teaching of my servant Moses, the statutes and ordinances that I commanded him at Horeb for all Israel. 5 Lo, I will send you the prophet Elijah before the great and terrible day of the LORD comes. 6 He will turn the hearts of parents to their children and the hearts of children to their parents, so that I will not come and strike the land with a curse.
This figure is called "Elijah." Now Elijah had left this earth in the 800s BC. John the Baptist was not literally Elijah, and he knew it (John 1:21), as did Jesus. Jesus said he was Elijah if you can accept it. In other words, he was not literally Elijah. In Matthew 11:14, 17:12, Jesus identifies John with the forerunner promises in Malachi 3-4. He came in the spirit of Elijah. And what was that spirit like?
John challenged kings (Herod Agrippa!), just as Elijah did not hesitate to speak the truth to Ahab. Although each had a following, each ministered in lonely places. They dressed alike, with garments of hair and leather belts. And each preached a message of judgment.
If you compare Luke 3 and Matthew 3 to Malachi 3 and 4, the resemblances will not escape you. John came to announce judgment day for the Jewish nation. And he came to prepare the way for the Christ. How? Firstly, by turning the hearts of the fathers to those of the children -- preaching reconciliation on the human level as a prerequisite for reconciliation on the divine level. After all, how can we love God if we cannot love our fellow man (1 John 4:20)? John was quite specific in his call for repentance on the relational level (Luke 3). Secondly, by calling people back to God's law. Horeb is another name for Sinai, where Moses received the law from the Lord (Exodus 20ff). All the prophets called people back the law, including and Elijah and John. John the Baptist was in fact the last of the Old Testament prophets.
The final verses of the OT insists that turning our hearts back to God and also turning hearts to one another on the family level was an urgent necessity. Without this, Christ could not come into the lives of those who claimed to seek truth. In this way, John, the forerunner, prepared the way for the Lord.
But back to chapter 3 of Malachi. The Elijah figure came first, to be sure. And then -- the Lord himself!
We are the visited planet. God has come and lived among us, and we have seen his glory.
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