If you have ever wondered about the seeming injustices of life, you are not alone. However, God is still a just God and we should be careful not to impose our standard of justice upon him.
As we stated in the beginning, the oracle of Malachi can be broken down into six disputes.
Dispute 1 – questioned the love of God despite difficult or undesirable circumstances.
Though we may doubt God’s love when we go through difficult times, ultimately his love never fails. Since God IS love, it is impossible for him to NOT love. Our circumstances should not dictate our theology.
Dispute 2 – called out the Levites for not honoring God by living for him.
As spiritual leaders they were called to be examples, to be faithful to God’s commands and to lead the people in integrity. They failed by given God leftover offerings and finding their service a drudgery and a chore.
Dispute 3 – confronted the Israelite men for divorcing their wives.
Not only did they divorce their wives, but they were marrying foreign women – and then worshipping their idols. Basically, the men ignored their marriage covenant as well as the Mosaic covenant.
This morning we come to the fourth dispute:
Malachi 2:17–3:5 (CSB) — 17 You have wearied the Lord with your words. Yet you ask, “How have we wearied him?” When you say, “Everyone who does what is evil is good in the Lord’s sight, and he is delighted with them, or else where is the God of justice?” 1 “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. 2 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. 3 He will be like a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver. Then they will present offerings to the Lord in righteousness. 4 And the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will please the Lord as in days of old and years gone by. 5 “I will come to you in judgment, and I will be ready to witness against sorcerers and adulterers; against those who swear falsely; against those who oppress the hired worker, the widow, and the fatherless; and against those who deny justice to the resident alien. They do not fear me,” says the Lord of Armies.
The word wearied is an interesting one. The Bible says that God does not grow tired or weary:
Isaiah 40:28 (CSB) — 28 Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the whole earth. He never becomes faint or weary; there is no limit to his understanding.
That verse refers to the sustaining power of Yahweh. The bible teaches that God is omnipotent or all powerful.
The way the word is used here in Malachi is probably more along the lines of something that a parent feels when their child keeps doing the wrong thing, over and over and over again. Parents, have you ever felt weary from correcting your child over and over and over again? A loving parent does not give up, nor do they stop loving, but they can become weary. That is what God is saying.
And how have they wearied God? With their words.
“It’s not fair” is perhaps one of the phrases parents hear from their kids. I remember having many “discussions”, wearisome ones, with my boys about things not being fair or them trying to persuade me to change my mind about. Words can be exhausting, especially if they are word that are complaining about perceived injustice.
Malachi 2:17 (CSB) — You have wearied the Lord with your words. Yet you ask, “How have we wearied him?” When you say, “Everyone who does what is evil is good in the Lord’s sight, and he is delighted with them, or else where is the God of justice?”
Like small children complaining to their parents about the injustices of life, the Jews were leveling their complaint that God is not fair. But this is not unique to post exile Jews.
Jeremiah 12:1–2 (CSB) — 1 You will be righteous, Lord, even if I bring a case against you. Yet, I wish to contend with you: Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do all the treacherous live at ease? 2 You planted them, and they have taken root. They have grown and produced fruit. You are ever on their lips, but far from their conscience.
Jeremiah was a pre-exile profit. Malachi was a post-exile prophet. BEFORE being sent into exile, Jeremiah had the same question for God.
Psalm 82:1–4 (CSB) — 1 God stands in the divine assembly; he pronounces judgment among the gods: 2 “How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked? Selah 3 Provide justice for the needy and the fatherless; uphold the rights of the oppressed and the destitute. 4 Rescue the poor and needy; save them from the power of the wicked.”
Asaph, during the reign of King David, also asked this question.
I think that the justice of God is something that our society struggles with. We have an idea of justice and we impose that on God. If God does not meet OUR standard of justice then we perceive God to be unjust.
Of course, this almost always points towards the justice we want to see God exercise towards others! THOSE wicked people, THE ONES who oppress the poor and destitute. WE want mercy for us and justice for others, don’t we?
And that is EXACTLY what this dispute is about.
Malachi 3:1–5 (CSB) — 1 “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. 2 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. 3 He will be like a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver. Then they will present offerings to the Lord in righteousness. 4 And the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will please the Lord as in days of old and years gone by. 5 “I will come to you in judgment, and I will be ready to witness against sorcerers and adulterers; against those who swear falsely; against those who oppress the hired worker, the widow, and the fatherless; and against those who deny justice to the resident alien. They do not fear me,” says the Lord of Armies.
God’s reply is that He will act as a judge and bring justice, but it will not be the ways the Jews hope for!
There are 2 messengers here. Most scholars attribute the first messenger to John the Baptist, which we will see reference to at the end of Malachi and in the gospels. Your Bible may have the second messenger to be the Messiah, Jesus. However, the timing of the second messenger is debated. Some view the second messenger to be Jesus when he comes to earth as we read in the gospels. This is certainly a viable option, and the messiah certainly did judge the nations, but not quite as the Jews would have expected.
“The Day” – refers to the Day of the Lord, which is a whole other topic that I am sure we will visit as we look at the other prophets. It is a day for judgement on the nations – including Israel. With reference to “the day” in verse 2, it is possible that this is also referring to the ultimate day of the Lord which is talked about in Revelation [check out the parallels to this passage at the end of chapter 6]
The messenger (malachi) that God will send is the promised Messiah. But that messenger will not simply wipe away the enemies of the Jews and re-establish them like they were under the rule of David.
The coming of the Messiah was what they were looking for here. How long until you keep your promise from Gen 3:15? God promised to re-establish the throne of David, and that has not happened. How long will we wait? They were looking for a physical king to establish and earthly kingdom to do away with their earthly enemies. And God’s delay in sending the Messiah was viewed as him favoring the wicked and neglecting his own.
The promises they clung to were part of their covenant history: Abrahamic, Mosaic, Davidic – all of these pointed to them ruling and being blessed. Yahweh made a statement that the Jews “delight in the covenant”. God declares to the people that he WILL send the Messiah, and the first group that the Messiah will judge will be the Jews!
The priests will be smelted. 😉 They will be tried to have all impurities removed from them so they can be pure and fit for service to God.
This shows the mercy and love of God that he would preserve them and not wipe them out completely. The refining process would no doubt be painful, but super beneficial.
Isaiah 48:9–11 (CSB) — 9 I will delay my anger for the sake of my name, and I will restrain myself for your benefit and for my praise, so that you will not be destroyed. 10 Look, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction. 11 I will act for my own sake, indeed, my own, for how can I be defiled? I will not give my glory to another.
However, if you remember, you and I are a nation of priests. We are a holy people. SO, if this judgement of refining is levied on the Levites, it is possible that it will also apply to you and me as priests of the new covenant.
1 Peter 1:6–7 (CSB) — 6 You rejoice in this, even though now for a short time, if necessary, you suffer grief in various trials 7 so that the proven character of your faith—more valuable than gold which, though perishable, is refined by fire—may result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
NOTE the timing if this refining fire – it prepares us for the day that Christ is revealed in the end…
The rest of the nation will be bleached. They will be scoured and cleansed, being forced to face their dirtiness and repent of it. It is interesting that this list of offenses is given regarding the Jews, not the pagan nations, and yet listen to the issues being judged:
· Liars (swear falsely)
· Those who oppress (rather than bless) the workers, widows and orphans
· Those who act in prejudice
God says that these people do not fear him. Which, if they are doing those things, is an obvious conclusion. IF we fear God we will worship him and not be involved in sorcery. IF we fear God we will be faithful to the covenant of marriage he established and not commit adultery. If we fear God we will act with fairness, we will seek the interest of those less fortunate and we would treat everyone as a special creation of God without prejudice.
Again, I think that we see the love and mercy of God in these verses.
WE ALL SIN and fall short of God’s standards and his glory:
Romans 3:23 (ESV) — for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
If you saw your name in that list of offenses, there is still hope. If you did not see yourself in that list of offenses, I can assure you that you and I are still offenders and I can also assure you that we still have hope.
Psalm 103:6–13 (CSB) — 6 The Lord executes acts of righteousness and justice for all the oppressed. 7 He revealed his ways to Moses, his deeds to the people of Israel. 8 The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in faithful love. 9 He will not always accuse us or be angry forever. 10 He has not dealt with us as our sins deserve or repaid us according to our iniquities. 11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his faithful love toward those who fear him. 12 As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. 13 As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him.
John, the disciple whom Jesus loved, understood the washing or bleaching power of the forgiveness of God:
1 John 1:9 (CSB) — 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse [purify] us from all unrighteousness.
Even if we find our lives stained from sin, we can be cleansed and made spotless because of the sacrifice of Jesus.
That brings us to our past question, “What is the purpose of the refining?” It is to remove impurity, not to destroy the person. The goal of laundering is to get rid of stains and not to throw away the garment.
The work of the Messiah, Jesus, is purify us from sin. Not to destroy, but to renew. When we read about Jesus relationship to the church, to believers, it is a marriage covenant – like the one the Jews were neglecting in Dispute #3!
Ephesians 5:25–27 (ESV) — 25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.
IF the post-exile Israel understood the real covenant that God made with them – that they would be the bride of the Messiah! – they probably would not doubting God’s love, giving defective sacrifices, breaking THEIR covenants nor questioning God’s justice.
The INITIAL dispute was regarding whether or not God still loved Israel. The resounding answer is YES. And even in this passage which is calling for justice and judgement on the people of God, there is love evidenced.
God WILL keep his promise and send the Messiah. God WILL enact justice on all mankind. So, why the delay
Why do we live in times when it appears as though the ungodly prosper and the godly struggle? Why do we still live in a society where the poor and needy are oppressed and taken advantage of?
Why has God delayed sending his justice?
2 Peter 3:9 (CSB) — The Lord does not delay his promise, as some understand delay, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance.
Because in his love and mercy he has delayed so more people could repent. To repent is to turn from doing wrong and do what is right. God says he will do that with the priests in this passage and implies that it will happen for the rest of Israel as well. It also includes you and me today – as the Gentiles, grafted into the family of God through Jesus.
Have you believed that God is unjust? Repent. God is just and God will judge both the righteous and the wicked.
Have you believed that God favors those that are evil? If so, it is only that he loved us when we were still his enemies and sent Jesus to die for us. Other than that, God favors those that seek him in humility and strive to live for him.
It appears God is telling the people to stop trying to do HIS job and to focus on their lives. Don’t focus on what you perceive God is doing or not doing, because you cannot know for sure apart from direct revelation like the prophets experienced. Instead, focus on being faithful people of the promise, living in a way that represents God in this world. Make sure YOU are living a life of justice, mercy and humility.
I think the prophet Micah sums up this section of verses for us quite well:
Micah 6:1–8 (CSB) — 1 Now listen to what the Lord is saying: Rise, plead your case before the mountains, and let the hills hear your complaint. 2 Listen to the Lord’s lawsuit, you mountains and enduring foundations of the earth, because the Lord has a case against his people, and he will argue it against Israel. 3 My people, what have I done to you, or how have I wearied you? Testify against me! 4 Indeed, I brought you up from the land of Egypt and redeemed you from that place of slavery. I sent Moses, Aaron, and Miriam ahead of you. 5 My people, remember what King Balak of Moab proposed, what Balaam son of Beor answered him, and what happened from the Acacia Grove to Gilgal so that you may acknowledge the Lord’s righteous acts. 6 What should I bring before the Lord when I come to bow before God on high? Should I come before him with burnt offerings, with year-old calves? 7 Would the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams or with ten thousand streams of oil? Should I give my firstborn for my transgression, the offspring of my body for my own sin? 8 Mankind, he has told each of you what is good and what it is the Lord requires of you: to act justly, to love faithfulness, and to walk humbly with your God.