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THE MESSENGER OF THE COVENANT WILL COME

Malachi 2:17-3:12
Key Verse: 3:1

Thank God for helping us to realize anew who we are in Christ Jesus. Each one in Christ Jesus is a priest, the messenger of the LORD Almighty, whose lips ought to preserve knowledge (of God) and from whose mouth men should seek instruction (certainly for salvation). With this clear identity, may we grow as Bible teachers and bear the priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel of God for the salvation of souls, and have a clear direction to raise godly families that can raise godly offspring in this generation. In today’s passage, we see that the coming of the Messiah is progressively approaching. This passage excellently shows who the Messiah is and what he is going to do, and God’s eager desire to bless his people even with material abundance.

First, the messenger of the covenant will come (2:17-3:5). Look at 2:17. “You have wearied the LORD with your words. ‘How have we wearied him?’ you ask. By saying, ‘All who do evil are good in the eyes of the LORD, and he is pleased with them’ or ‘Where is the God of justice?’” When the Israelites saw the corrupted society without eyes of faith, they spoke concerning the LORD with twisted, sarcastic words. They accused God of accepting evil and approving sin. The prophet Habakkuk complained to God, saying, “How long must I cry out to you, ‘Violence!’ but you do not save? Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrong?” (1:2). A Psalmist also said, “I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong. They are free from the burdens common to man; they are not plagued by human ills” (73:3-5). In our times people often raise questions, “Where is the God of justice? If God exists, why does he not judge the evil?”

Then how does God answer? God’s answer is fundamental and profound, revealing his plan that has been promised from the very beginning of man’s fall. Look at 3:1. “‘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.” The LORD said, “See”, “Behold.” This calls the attention. Here “my messenger” refers to John the Baptist, the forerunner of the Messiah. Mark 1:1-2 reads, “The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God. It is written…‘I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way.’” And in Matthew 11:10 and Luke 7:27 Jesus himself quoted these words in Malachi 3:1 and said concerning John the Baptist, “This is the one about whom it is written: ‘I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.’”

And in 3:1b “the Lord you are seeking” and “the messenger of the covenant” refer to Jesus. Jesus is the Lord as also written in the Gospels, and Jesus is the messenger of the covenant, more specifically, of new covenant. Regarding the new covenant, it is very clearly written in Jeremiah 31:31-34, “‘The time is coming,’ declares the LORD, ‘when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,’ declares the LORD, ‘This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,’ declares the LORD. ‘I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people...For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.’” This messenger of the new covenant is the desired of all nations. Haggai 2:7 says, “I will shake all nations, and the desired of all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory.” All people of all nations desire him, for he is the very one of whom Simeon said to Sovereign Lord in Luke 2:30-31, “For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people.” It is also as a hymn song (O Come, O Come Emmanuel) says, “O come, Desire of nations; bind All peoples in one heart and mind…”

“The Lord will suddenly come to his Temple” (Ezek 43:1-5; Zec 8:3). Even though Jesus entered the Temple many times in Jerusalem during his earthly ministry, this sudden coming prophesied here does not seem to be yet fulfilled. It will occur when he returns to set up His Messianic kingdom. We need to know that in the Old Testament the references to the Lord’s first and second coming overlap.

Then what will the Lord sought and desired do? Look at verses 2 and 3a. “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. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver.” Here his work of purifying or cleansing and refining is mentioned with triple emphasis. He will be like a refiner’s fire or launderer’s soap; he will sit as a refiner and purifier; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then how would he purify? Hebrews 1:3b says, “After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.” Here certainly he provided purification for sins through his death and resurrection. 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 says, “…that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised from the third day according to the Scriptures.” He died for our sins, shedding his blood to purify us from all sin (1 John 1:17). Hebrews 9:13-14 says, “The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our conscience from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!” Nothing can cleanse and purify us inwardly. But the blood of Jesus purifies our hearts and cleanses our conscience. For this, he died on the cross, pouring out his blood. So before his crucifixion he said to his disciples at the last supper, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you” (Lk 22:20). And according to Titus 2:14, our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own.

He not only purifies us but also refines us. Daniel 11:35 says, “Some of the wise will stumble, so that they may be refined, purified and made spotless until the time of the end…” And Daniel 12:10, “Many will be purified, made spotless and refined, but the wicked will continue to be wicked.” So purifying and refining can be understood as the same. Yet we can go further according to the expression, “a refiner’s fire” and “refine them like gold and silver.” His refining work is excellently expressed in 1 Peter 1:7, “These (all kinds of trials) have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed.” They say that gold ore is burned in the fire of 1600 degree (in Celsius) to get 0.001% of gold (10g out of 1 ton). But he refines us so that faith which is of greater worth than gold may be produced in us and our faith be proved genuine to his praise and glory and honour. Job 23:10 says, “But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold.” And Christ Jesus said to the church in Laodicea in Revelation 3:18, “I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich…” He will refine us in faith when we are ready to pay any price so that our faith may be like gold refined in the fire. We thank God for his purifying and refining work. We thank God that M. Hannah passed RPN board exam last week. At the beginning of this year we wondered how she could deliver a baby, complete all her courses including practical nursing course, and pass the board exam. Now all these have been completed. A healthy and handsome baby named Jonathan was born, all the courses, finished, and the board exam, passed. Thank God for refining her in faith. May God continue to refine H & M (Hannah and Moses) in faith so that their faith may shine more than H & M. May the Lord refine each of us in faith so that our faith be like refined gold. May we come to him for his purifying and refining, especially at the time of trial!

In verses 3b-4, “Then the LORD will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness, and the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will be acceptable to the LORD, as in days gone by, as in former years.” We can understand this when we think of apostle Paul who carried out his priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel of God to the Gentiles so that the Gentiles might become an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit (Rom 15:16).

He comes to purify and refine his people repentant. But he comes to judge unrepentant sinners. Verse 5 says, “So I will come near to you for judgment. I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud labourers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive aliens of justice, but do not fear me,’ says the LORD Almighty.” Seven kinds of sinners are mentioned here, probably to indicate covering all sinners. He will testify against them so that they may have an opportunity to repent. But if they do not repent, they cannot escape his judgment. Indeed God is the God of justice.

Second, return to me and I will return to you (3:6-12). Look at verse 6. “I the LORD do not change. So you, O descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed.” This is God’s unchanging hope for his people based on his unconditional love and faithfulness to his promises. So he says in verse 7, “Ever since the time of your forefathers you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you,’ says the LORD Almighty.” “Return to me and I will return to you” is the key message of the Old Testament, can be so even of the whole Bible. Zechariah 1:3 says, “Therefore tell the people: This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘return to me,’ declares the LORD Almighty, ‘and I will return to you,’ says the LORD Almighty.” In this verse “LORD Almighty” is mentioned three times to stress the message, “Return to me and I will return to you.” In the New Testament Jesus’ first message is, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.”

Human beings seem to have many complicated problems, but the simple solution to any problem is “return to God.” It is because when we return to God, he can resolve any problem, big or small. He wants us to return to him as we are. Of course returning to God involves recognizing one’s sins and so humbling oneself. When we return to God, his promise is amazing, “I will return to you.” God is the Creator and he is bigger than the whole universe, so certainly bigger than the whole world. But he will return to us, when we return to him. His returning is more than the heaven coming to us. When he returns to us, every blessing is there in him. As he returns to us, we can possess him, God the LORD Almighty. We are reminded of Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son. When he came home with a resolution, his father welcomed him unconditionally and restored him to the sonship with every blessing in the restored love relationship. Jesus said in John 14:23, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” James 4:8 says, “Come near to God and he will come near to you.”

When God says, “Return to me and I will return to you,” they ask, “How are we to return?”, though the answer is obvious. God, in his answer, exemplifies one practical way. In verses 8 and 9, “Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. But you ask, ‘How do we rob you?’ ‘In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse—the whole nation of you—because you are robbing me.’” In these verses the word “rob” is written four times. Robbing is more than stealing. It is forcibly taking what belongs to others. Usually a stronger one robs a weaker one. So the LORD asks, “Will a man rob God?” Man is made out of the dust of the ground, and indeed is nothing but dust and ashes as Abraham confessed in his prayer for Sodom (Ge 19:27). But God is the LORD Almighty, certainly more powerful than the army of the whole world. So it is totally impossible for a man to rob God. But God says, “Yet you rob me…you are robbing me.” Although one does not intend to rob God, it turns out robbing God when he or she does not offer tithe to God. It is because all belong to him. He says, “You are under a curse—the whole nation of you—because you are robbing me.” Offering tithe is an expression of one’s faith in God who is the Possessor of all things and Provider of everything for his people. Indeed all we have belong to him including our very life. He gives us strength to work. When we think, “I offer a tenth out of what is mine to him, then it is not easy and we can get trouble and even have a sense of loss. However, when we think, “I give a tenth of what is God’s to him and he allows us to use nine tenth of what is his according to our needs, then we know that our God is so generous and gracious and be thankful to him. The idea that I offer a tithe out of what is mine is a robber’s mentality. It is easy for you and me to live with a robber’s mentality. I think that is why God himself used the word “rob” repeatedly so that we may realize our robber’s mentality. Our robber’s mentality should be changed.

Look at verse 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.’” What is the whole tithe? Of course it is the tenth of every income. Leviticus 27:30 says, “A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the LORD; it is holy to the LORD,” and 27:32, “The entire tithe of the herd and flock—every tenth animal that passes under the shepherd’s rod—will be holy to the LORD.” Yet it is best understood in what Jesus said in Matthew 23:23, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practices the latter, without neglecting the former,” and in Luke 11:42, “Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all kinds of garden herbs, but you neglected justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone.” Offering the whole tithe is to be the expression of one’s heart devotion giving his or her precious things to him. Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Mt 6:21; Lk 12:34). It is right to say that unless one’s pocketbook repents, one’s repentance cannot be true. In other words, unless one’s wallet returns to God, the person cannot truly return to God. It is related to how to honour God practically written in chapter 1. It is said that giving a tithe is a seed of faith. It is a vaccine to heal the virus of greed for money. It is the way to guard one’s heart from love of money and materialism.

God commands his people to bring the whole tithe, not because he needs such materials but because he really wants to bless his people abundantly. When he says, “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house,” that can be the end. God as the owner of all things does not need to say anymore. But he has to say more: “‘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.” In the Bible God never said, “Test me” except here saying, “Test me in this.” Rather, God tests man, as Job said, “…when he has tested me, I will come forth as a gold” (23:10). At one time in history, the floodgates of the heavens were opened for flood judgment (Ge 7:11). Now God wants to throw open the floodgates of heaven for a flood of blessing, to pour out his so much blessing upon his people. And his promise goes further, “‘I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not cast their fruit,’ says the LORD Almighty.” And then in verse 12, “‘Then all nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,’ says the LORD Almighty.” These promises of God for those who bring the whole tithe to God are meaningfully written in Malachi, presumably indicating that he wants to outpour such blessing upon his people in Christ Jesus in the generations to come.

This promise of God has been proven true in history. When Christians with absolute tithing increased in a nation, the nation was blessed and became rich. It is true in each individual Christian’s life. A Christian who gives a whole tithe to God has no material problem at all, lacking nothing in any life situation. In such an attitude material blessing is a matter of time. God can pour out his much blessing upon us as long as we bears his blessing.

In Guatemala there is a city named Almolonga with the population of 20,000. 30 years ago there were no Christians at all. The people served an idol named Maximon and became very violent. Most of men were alcoholic and frequently fought. In that small city there were 4 jails and 36 bars. But in that city Pastor Mariano Riscaiché preached the gospel fasting 3 or 4 days a week. On one occasion six men attacked him, tying his hands behind his back. They knocked his front teeth out, then one man shoved a gun in his mouth. Pastor Mariano prayed for God to protect him. Then he heard the sound of gun triggering, “click…click…click”, but he was okay, for the gun did not fire. The Lord’s presence was there and he was completely protected. Bewildered by this divine intervention, his attackers ran away. After this so many people accepted the gospel and now 98% of the population became Christians. All 4 jails closed, with the last jail closing in 1989! It was remodeled and called “The Hall of Honour,” now it’s a place for celebrating weddings, receptions, and community events. Bars are gone. The land became a delightful land. Vegetables such as cabbage, cauliflowers, carrots, celery, leek, potatoes, radishes thrive on that land producing 2 or 3 times more than on other lands. Agronomists from the U.S.A. visited Almolonga to test their scientific principles to produce better crops. But it could be explained scientifically. For the land is a delightful land and God has blessed the labour of the farmers of Almolonga who give to God what belongs to him out of their absolute faith in him. When we offer the whole tithe to God acknowledging that all we have belong to him, he can make our land delightful and our life abundant. He is eager to bless his people with flood blessing.

In this study we thank God for his promise of sending the Lord, the messenger of the covenant, who indeed came and fulfilled the covenant. He is the desired of all people of all nations. He purifies his people and refines them to be his holy people in this world. May we come to him at each time and be purified and refined to have gold-like faith and solely live by faith under his blessing.

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