The Book of Malachi - Part 2

This is the second and last instalment of our study of the Book of Malachi covering chapters 3 and 4. Malachi did not provide accurate timing when the book was written but we are sure that it happened after the Jews returned to Judah after their captivity in Babylon. We also know that he prophesied many years before Jesus was born. For some, they estimated he might have written his book sometime in 450 BC, shortly after Nehemiah's mission.

God's Messenger

Malachi prophesied not only the coming of the Messiah but also the Messenger who will prepare the way for Him.

Mal 3:1
1 "See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come," says the LORD Almighty.

Isaiah also prophesied the Messenger who shall prepare the way prior to the coming of Jesus Christ.

Isa 40:3
3 A voice of one calling: "In the desert prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God."

The Messenger is later identified as John the Baptist.

Matt 3:1-3
1 In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the Desert of Judea 2 and saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near." 3 This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah:
"A voice of one calling in the desert, 'Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.'"

We know that the prophecy about the Messenger was fulfilled through John the Baptist but there is more to understand with this prophecy.

First, notice who was speaking to Malachi when he wrote the prophecy--"See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. It is very clear, it was God who spoke to Malachi and it was God who was actually came in flesh through Jesus. Some people had difficulty understanding the fact that Jesus is God who came in the flesh. Isaiah also confirmed it saying, "In the desert prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God." It is a very straightforward statement but many still have doubts accepting Jesus as God.

The apostle John made it easier for all to understand about the Messenger of the Way and the Messiah, the Word:

John 1:1-14
1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning.
3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.
6 There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. 8 He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. 9 The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.
10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God.
14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

For those who are not very familiar with the New Testament, John the Apostle is not John the Baptist. Jesus Christ is the Messenger (Word) of the Covenant and John the Baptist was and will be the Messenger of the Way. We will learn more on John the Baptist below.

Wrong expectation

The main reason why those who had seen Jesus in the flesh, even among the experts of law (Books of Moses) were not convinced that Jesus was the Messiah is because they misunderstood the prophecies about the real mission of Jesus First Coming.

They thought that the Messiah should come to restore the Kingdom of Israel. They have expected no less than the immediate restoration of the divided houses of Israel and Judah as one kingdom and regain their lost glory and splendour like in the days of King David and Solomon. They wanted for so long to be free from the rule of the Roman Empire. They have expected this prophecy of Jeremiah to be fulfilled:

Jer 30:2-3
2 "This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: 'Write in a book all the words I have spoken to you. 3 The days are coming,' declares the LORD, 'when I will bring my people Israel and Judah back from captivity and restore them to the land I gave their forefathers to possess,' says the LORD."

They also expected the prophecy in Amos 9:11-15 to be fulfilled in the Messiah. There are so many other prophecies in the Bible about the coming of Jesus to rule as King of kings.

[Related: The Prophet Amos - Part 3]

While He was preaching in Galilee, His fame grew all over Judah and many believed Him. So they hailed His return to Jerusalem from Galilee treating Him as their new King of Israel.

John 12:13
13 They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting,
"Hosanna!" "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!" "Blessed is the King of Israel!"

Their shouts of joy and triumph turned to curses when they saw Jesus as a helpless prisoner standing beside Pontius Pilate, a high Roman official. They know by that time, He can not be a king of Israel, and somehow Jesus "failed" them as their liberator from Roman rule. They accused Jesus as an impostor so they shouted to Pilate to have Him crucified.

Luke 23:20-21
20 Wanting to release Jesus, Pilate appealed to them again. 21 But they kept shouting, "Crucify him! Crucify him!"

So Jesus was crucified, died and was buried. But forty days after Jesus Christ resurrected from the dead, the people somehow were slowly convinced that He was the Son of God and therefore regained their trust. And then they asked Him with eagerness about the same old expectation from their Messiah before He ascended to Heaven.

Acts 1:6
6 So when they met together, they asked him, "Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?"

However, Jesus did not give them a clear-cut answer. The restoration of the kingdom of Israel can not yet happen unless the gospel is preached first to the whole world so that many will be redeemed from sin. That was the purpose of His first coming--to be a sacrificial Lamb to wash away the sins of the world. The restoration will happen not in His first but after His Second Coming which is the Millennium.

Confusion with timing of Malachi's prophecy

Those teachers of the Law did not fully understand the timing of Malachi's prophecy and therefore came up with wrong expectations. Between the first and second verses of Malachi 3 is a two thousand years gap. Take note of Mal 3:2-4

Mal 3:2-4
2 But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner's fire or a launderer's soap. 3 He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the LORD will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness, 4 and the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will be acceptable to the LORD, as in days gone by, as in former years.

God is now speaking about the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. He came as a harmless Lamb almost two thousand years ago but He will come as the King of kings, a destroying fire soon! During that time, He will burn the enemies and burn the earth with His fury. For God, those two thousand years can be like a short two days only (2 Pet 3:8).

However, in both occasions, John the Baptist prepared the Way when He first came and again when He comes again. Who was John the Baptist?

John the Baptist is Elijah to come again

Jesus revealed that John the Baptist, his "physical" cousin was actually Elijah the prophet.

Matt 17:11-13
11 Jesus replied, "To be sure, Elijah comes and will restore all things. 12 But I tell you, Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but have done to him everything they wished. In the same way the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands." 13 Then the disciples understood that he was talking to them about John the Baptist.

That was the first of the two occasions that Elijah prepared and will prepare the Way of the Lord. The second time is before the Second Coming or the Day of the Lord mentioned in Mal 3:2 which is declared again Mal 4:5--

Mal 4:5
5 "See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes.

In the last days, Elijah or John the Baptist indeed will come again to confirm the covenant. He will also have Moses to assist him. They will be called the Two Witnesses of the Book of Revelation and the Two Olive Trees of the Book of Zechariah. Read the related articles on the Two Witnesses: The Book of Zechariah - Part 3 and Is the Gay Pride Ever Mentioned in the Bible?

Robbing God

The Book of Malachi is the favourite reference of Sunday sermons and Bible studies in regards to tithing. The Jews became relaxed not only in their burnt offerings but also in giving tithes. Tithe means the tenth, the giving of the ten percent of one's produce or income.

Mal 3:8-12
8 "Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. "But you ask, 'How do we rob you?'
"In tithes and offerings. 9 You are under a curse — the whole nation of you — because you are robbing me. 10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the LORD Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it. 11 I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not cast their fruit," says the LORD Almighty. 12 "Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land," says the LORD Almighty.

The Old Testament Law of Moses had fixed the gift to God to ten percent (10%) of everything (Lev 27:30-32). However, in the New Testament, we are not governed anymore by the old law carved in stone but the new law of love, the more perfect law carved in the heart. That's why we can not find the word "tithe" in the New Testament. What we can find instead about giving is a poor widow who gave, not the tenth, a half of what she possessed but everything she had to live on. She was guided by her love for God and not by the Law. And God accepted it. I am sure she will be very rich in heaven.

Luke 21:1-4
21:1 As he looked up, Jesus saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury . 2 He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. 3 "I tell you the truth," he said, "this poor widow has put in more than all the others. 4 All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on."

Our giving is the simplest measure of one's faith in God. Giving away our money is one of the most difficult tasks to do as a Christian but once we have considered money as a slave and not a master, and coupled with our faith in God, it should be easier to give. I sometimes struggle with it. The Jews had a very tough struggle with it as well but the challenge of God to test us on the tithe giving is rewarded by a very great blessing.

The Second Coming and the Two Witnesses

Chapter 4 gives the final important reminders to the Israelites about the great Day of the Lord. God, the Lord Jesus Christ will come as a destroying fire. He also exhorted them to remember Moses' decrees and laws and then finally warned of Elijah's coming as one of the signs before His return.

Mal 4:1-6
1 "Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and that day that is coming will set them on fire," says the LORD Almighty. "Not a root or a branch will be left to them. 2 But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings. And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall. 3 Then you will trample down the wicked; they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day when I do these things," says the LORD Almighty.
4 "Remember the law of my servant Moses, the decrees and laws I gave him at Horeb for all Israel.
5 "See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes. 6 He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse."

The question is, will we be able to recognize Moses and Elijah when they come again? Peter, James, and John recognized the two when they appeared with Jesus during His transfiguration (Matt 17:1-4). And yet there were thousands and hundreds of years separating their generations. I believe that the Holy Spirit will reveal the two to those who believe just as it was revealed to the three apostles. But to those who are lost, they will not recognize them, in fact persecute and kill them as prophesied in Rev 11:9-10.

The Book of Malachi, although very short, provides support and confirms the other prophecies of the other prophets particularly about the Last Days.

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