Apathy or Piety | Lessons from Malachi | William J. Stewart
The latter part of Malachi 3 introduced the idea of judgment. The names of those who were faithful to God were recorded in a book (3:16). When judgement came, they would be His jewels (3:17a) and would be spared (3:17b), for God discerns between the righteous and the wicked (3:18). The focus on judgement continues into the final chapter of Malachi.
Malachi 4 begins…
…behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, and all the proud, yes, all who do wickedly will be stubble. And the day which is coming shall burn them up, says the LORD of hosts, that will leave them neither root nor branch.
This kind of language is consistently used of the judgment of God, whether it be temporal judgments against nations or the final judgment of all. In either case, it will not be well with those who do not do the will of God. They are described as stubble thrown into an oven—they will be utterly destroyed before the Lord; there will be nothing to salvage.
In Malachi 3:2, the question was asked:
Who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears?
The answer was given in 3:16-18—those who fear God, who meditate on His name, who are righteous and serve the Lord. Now, in 4:2-3, the prophet has more to say about these people. The coming of judgment is never good for the wicked, but to the righteous, the One who burned up the stubble of the wicked is the Sun of Righteousness; He brings healing and prosperity. It is not uncommon for the righteous to be an object of ridicule for the wicked. There are numerous times in the Scripture where we see God’s people being mistreated, even put to death by those who exalted evil. In fact, it had been said, “…those who do wickedness are raised up; they even tempt God and go free.” That is, until the Lord comes in judgment. Then His people are raised up and the wicked are brought low. The prophet says to the righteous
You shall trample the wicked, for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day that I do this.
What a great picture! When the Lord comes, the prosperity of the wicked is brought to nothing and the adversity of the righteous is no more. Further, the prosperity of the righteous excels, and the adversity of the wicked is such that they are reduced to dust.
As we have said, the type of language used in this text is true of any judgment, whether it be a temporal judgment or the final judgment. So, what judgment does the prophet have in mind? The close of this chapter helps us know the answer.
Malachi calls upon his readers to remember the Law of Moses (v 4). If God’s people are to stand when times of judgment come, it is essential for them to remain focused on the will of God. For Malachi’s audience, that would be the Law of Moses, for they were all Jews subject to the Law. Remember the Law, with the statutes and judgments—and obey.
Verses 5-6 are prophetic. They speak of Elijah coming before the great and dreadful day of the LORD. Of course Elijah had been taken up into heaven about 425 years before the time of Malachi. In Luke 1:17, the angel Gabriel cited Malachi 4:5-6, revealing that John the Baptist would be Elijah to come. He would come in the spirit and power of Elijah, turning the hearts of the people to the Messiah who was to come (see Malachi 3:1).
Malachi’s prophecy called upon the first century Jews to be ready for the coming of the Messiah. If they were attentive to the Law & the prophets, then they would be receptive towards the Messiah. If they continued in wickedness and defiance before God, they would fall before the Lord.
The same is true for all people in any generation. We must choose to serve the Lord faithfully or fall before Him in judgment. What will you choose?