This is often a text used during Advent in churches following the lectionary who prepare for Jesus’ coming around Christmas. As I read this, I pictured John the Baptist preparing the way for Jesus’ ministry. People hearing Malachi’s message would surely imagine Jesus in a different way.
The people first hearing Malachi’s words were far from faithful. They had started to believe that God didn’t care about them anymore. Their sin was total indifference to God, ignoring the covenant relationship that had existed for generations. The intimate relationship God craves with his children was non-existent in those days. Do we see that kind of intimacy today?
The identity of the “messenger of the covenant” is not given directly. This is the only time in the Old Testament where God refers to himself like this. For people who don’t believe God is present anymore or that the covenant has expired, such a prophecy would be quite surprising. We know better. God has never been absent.
In the New Testament, Jesus cautioned his disciples, “I say to you what I say to everyone: Watch for him!” (Mark 13:37) Jesus also used the parable of the ten bridesmaids in Matthew 25 to remind us to be ready for his return.
Paul, too, wanted the believers to be ready for Christ’s return. Afterall, we have been equipped. In 1 Corinthians 1:7-8, Paul writes, “Now you have every spiritual gift you need as you eagerly wait for the return of our Lord Jesus Christ. He will keep you strong to the end so that you will be free from all blame on the day when our Lord Jesus Christ returns.” Here we see our secret weapon. The Holy Spirit will help us stay on course.
Malachi’s questions still apply for us today. “But who will be able to endure it when he comes? Who will be able to stand and face him when he appears?” If Jesus were to come back today, would you be ready to face him? Are you ready to endure all that will happen that day? I just felt a little shiver of excitement course through me at the thought of Jesus’ return.
When we are secure in our faith and allegiance to God, judgment day seems less frightening. The destruction will be horrible and real for those who have not chosen to have a relationship with God. God’s judgment is his justice. (I learned it’s the same word in Hebrew, “mispat.”)
This passage speaks of a refining fire. We know we’re not perfect. But through this purification process, God will save us and deliver us from our faults. Perhaps at least some of the hardships of life are given for our good. How do you respond to that?
Let’s pray. Father, I can hardly fathom what facing judgment day apart from you would be like. I am so thankful that I have found you and am growing closer to you every day. Thank you for each refining moment you have had me endure thus far. I am a better person because of the trials I have gone through. Guide me in helping others see you are the answer they are seeking. In Jesus’ name. Amen.