Beginning the Journey (for new Christians).
1, 2, and 3 John
1 & 2 Thessalonians
1 & 2 Timothy
2 Peter, Jude
7 Last Words of Christ
Acts 1-12: The Early Church
Christ Powered Life (Rom 5-8)
Conquering Lamb of Revelation
David, Life of
Glorious Kingdom, The
Early Church: Acts1-12
Holy Spirit, Disciple's Guide
Jesus and the Kingdom
Lamb of God
Listening for God's Voice
Names of God
Names of Jesus
Rebuild & Renew: Post-Exilic Books
Sermon on the Mount
Songs of Ascent (Ps 120-135)
Thursday, Third Week of Advent
Bernardino Mei, 'Christ Cleansing the Temple' (c. 1655), oil on canvas, 41"x 55.5", J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles.
Read in the Bible: Malachi 3:1-4
There is a tendency at Christmas to fawn over the cuteness of the Christ Child and the beauty of the moment. To talk about peace on earth and goodwill to men. And that is all good.
But the truth is, the birth of Jesus brings about a major confrontation. Herod recognizes his own peril immediately and tries to kill the Child. Satan realizes the hazard to his power and tries to corrupt Jesus. And the Jewish leaders became aware that Jesus threatened their cozy compromise with power, and thus conclude that he has to be killed.
Yesterday, we read that the Child in the manger is the Lord of All Creation. Today's reading reminds us that Jesus comes with demands upon us and our way of life.
The prophet Malachi tells us that two messengers will come.
"'See, I will send my messenger,136 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." (Malachi 3:1)
- The messenger who prepares the way, and
- The messenger of the covenant.
straight in the wilderness a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be raised up,
every mountain and hill made low;
the rough ground shall become level,
the rugged places a plain." (Isaiah 40:3b-4)
What a clear image of major road work to prepare the King's highway -- straightening the curves, as well as cutting and filling so that the road might be level and easy to travel upon. Major roadwork -- that's what's ahead for us would-be disciples on this journey with Jesus. And preparing our hearts for the king begins with repentance.
The second messenger Malachi points to is the messenger of the covenant.
"Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will
come to his temple;
the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire,139 will come,'
says the LORD Almighty." (Malachi 3:1b)
When I read this verse my mind goes to the bass recitative in Handel's "Messiah," followed by the bass aria and chorus putting these powerful verses to music, with the question:
"Who shall stand when he appeareth? ....
For He is like a Refiner's Fire."
Malachi 3:1 tell us that the Lord whom the people claim to be seeking will suddenly140 come to his temple. When I was in the U.S. Army, we often had advance notice of company inspections so we could get ready for them. But woe to us if the officer entered the barracks suddenly, without warning and we were unprepared! This passage says the Lord is coming "suddenly."
Malachi 3:1b is an important Messianic prophecy that seems to have been fulfilled when Jesus comes to the temple following his Triumphal Entry (Mark 11:15-18).
In what sense is Jesus the "messenger of the covenant"? In Malachi as in New Testament times -- and our time -- the people have broken God's covenant with them, counting it as nothing. Now the Messenger of the Covenant comes suddenly to call them to account. John the Baptist calls for repentance. Jesus comes proclaiming, "The time is come. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe the gospel" (Mark 1:15). Repentance is John's message. Repentance is Jesus' message. Dear friends, without repentance there is no forgiveness, no grace. Repentance is the first step to restoration.
When we understand the real meaning of the Christmas event, Emmanuel, God with us, we will either bow in repentance and faith before the King, or seek to justify our own sins, and ultimately silence him. There is no middle ground. We say we desire or delight in him (in the words of Malachi 3:1). Our actions will demonstrate if this is actually true.
"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." (Malachi 3:2)
His judgment will be swift and thorough. A refiner's fire uses bellows to heat it super-hot, hot enough to melt metallic ores. Fuller's soap is a caustic alkali designed to loosen and remove dirt.141
Also available in book formats: PDF, Kindle, and paperback.
Who can "abide" (KJV) or "endure" (NIV, NRSV, ESV) such judgment? Who can stand when he comes? No one. Rather we must kneel and let him do his refining work in us. The process may well be painful, but the fruit will be sweet. The writer of Hebrews exhorts us:
"For the moment all discipline seems painful
rather than pleasant,
but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness
to those who have been trained by it." (Hebrews 12:11)
Do your refining work in us, O Lord!
Lord, when we stand before you in your holiness and justice, we are guilty and unworthy of your love. But somehow you do love us after all. You love us so much you are willing to die a shameful and horrible death for us. And now you offer friendship and fellowship. Lord, we repent. Help us to walk with you in true friendship, and cleanse us as we go. In your holy name, we pray. Amen.
Q19. (Malachi 3:1-4). Why is the suddenness of Christ's
coming so fearful? How were these verses fulfilled in Jesus' day. How will they
be fulfilled at his coming?
 "My messenger" in verse 1 is malʾākî, transliterated, "Malachi." However, the prophet isn't speaking of himself, but a future messenger of Yahweh, "who will prepare the way before me."
 "Prepare" is the Piel stem of pānâ, "turn." However, in the Piel stem means, "get rid of, clear up." Here and in Isaiah 40:3; 57:14; 62:10 with the noun "way, road" (derek) it means, "clear (the way)" ( Holladay, Hebrew Lexicon, p. 293). In verse 1a there is a wordplay: pannû ("clear") with pânîym (literally, "before my face").
 Matthew 11:10; Malachi 4:5; Luke 1:76; Matthew 11:14; 17:10-13; Matthew 3:1-3; John 1:23.
 The phrase "whom you desire" (NIV), "in whom you delight" (ESV, NRSV, KJV) uses the adjective ḥāpēṣ, "delighting in, having pleasure in," from ḥāpēṣ, "take delight in, feel great favor towards" (Leon J. Wood, TWOT #712a).
 Pitʾōm means "suddenly, surprisingly." Of the 25 uses of this word in the prophets and writings only once does it refer to a pleasant event. Elsewhere it is connected with disaster or judgment (Victor P. Hamilton, TWOT #1859a).
 "Refiner" in verse 3a is uses the verb ṣārap, "smelt, refine, test" (TWOT #1972).
In-depth Bible study books
You can purchase one of Dr. Wilson's complete Bible studies in PDF, Kindle, or paperback format.
- 28 Advent Scriptures
- 1, 2, and 3 John
- 1 Peter
- 2 Peter & Jude
- 1 & 2 Thessalonians
- 1 & 2 Timothy
- 1 Corinthians
- 2 Corinthians
- Apostle Paul
- Abraham, Faith of
- Christ Powered Life (Romans 5-8)
- Christmas Incarnation
- Colossians and Philemon
- Conquering Lamb of Revelation
- David, Life of
- Early Church: Acts 1-12
- Glorious Kingdom, The
- Grace: Favor for the Undeserving
- Great Prayers of the Bible
- Holy Spirit, Disciple's Guide
- Jacob, Life of
- Jesus and the Kingdom of God
- JesusWalk: Beginning the Journey
- John's Gospel
- Lamb of God
- Listening for God's Voice
- Lord's Supper
- Luke's Gospel
- Moses the Reluctant Leader
- Names and Titles of God
- Names and Titles of Jesus
- Rebuild & Renew: Post-Exilic Books
- Resurrection and Easter Faith
- Sermon on the Mount
- Seven Last Words of Christ
- Songs of Ascent (Ps 120-134)