Do not mistake the patience of God with sinners as either approval or indifference of their sin. God’s kindness and patience are meant to lead to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). In the book of Malachi, God has thus far spoken forcefully with His people about their dishonorable practices and apathetic worship. In the next disputation God has with His people, He corrected their faulty opinion of His justice. God makes it clear to Israel that He will bring perfect justice in due time.
Is God Just?
The people of Israel began to doubt God’s justice because of the evil they saw committed around them. There were two main groups who doubted God’s justice. One group accused God of delighting in those who commit evil. They said, “Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the Lord, and He delights in them.” The other group accused God of being indifferent and unconcerned about evil. They said, “Where is the God of justice?” Their challenges to God’s justice were wearying to God. The prophet Malachi said “you have wearied the Lord with your words.” In other words, He is tired of hearing their complaints and accusations. They failed to trust God and instead spoke evil about Him because He was not acting according to their wishes.
The Lord Is Coming
Where is the God of justice? He is coming. Before He arrived, however, He was going to send His messenger before Him to prepare the way of His arrival. The New Testament is clear that the fulfillment of the messenger was John the Baptist. John’s father said, “And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare His ways” (Luke 1:76). In Matthew 11:10-15, Jesus said that John the Baptist is the messenger: the Elijah to come (see also Mal 4:5 & Matt 17:13).
The messenger prepared the way of “the Messenger of the covenant” who is “the Lord whom you seek.” John the Baptist prepared the way for Jesus. Jesus is the Lord who came “suddenly to His temple.” Jesus is the long awaited Messiah who brought for us the “new covenant in His blood” (Mark 14:24). Notice that Malachi said that the Messiah is Lord and will come to “His temple”. Jesus is the Divine Son of God who entered into our world in human flesh (John 1:14). Here in Malachi we get a hint of the Trinity as the LORD (God the Father) will send the Lord (God the Son).
The Lord Will Judge
Where is the God of justice? He is coming suddenly and will dispense holy judgment. Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it. The God of justice is coming and “who can endure the day of His coming, and who can stand when He appears?” Everyone will give account for their actions good or bad. Specifically, Jesus will purify the righteous and punish the wicked.
Purify the Son of Levi
Jesus’ judgment upon the righteous is compared to a refiner’s fire and a fuller’s soap. Both examples speak of a purifying and cleansing effect. When precious metals such as gold and silver are placed in fire, the fire removes the impurities. (FYI, the melting point for gold is 1,943°F and silver is 1,763°F). What is left after the fire is a purified metal. A fuller was someone who cleaned garments with soap. The Lord uses these two examples to show that the Lord will come in judgment with His people to purify them for His good purposes. He will make them fit for His service. The result of the purification is to make His followers able to make pleasing offerings to the Lord.
Punish the Wicked
In verse 5, the judgment of the Lord upon the wicked will not be to purify them but to punish them. He will be a “swift witness against” them. What characterizes the people in this group is that they “do not fear Me.” These are the people who do not honor or worship the Lord. The sins mentioned in verse 5 speak of those who are known by their selfishness and self-centeredness.
Jesus came over 2,000 years ago and ushered in the Kingdom of God. Jesus came to rescue us from our sin, to grant us eternal life, and to be His witnesses in the world. Those who have genuine faith in Jesus are committed to loving others as Jesus loves them. God is just and “be assured, an evil person will not go unpunished” (Prov 11:21). As we rest in God’s perfect justice and await His Second Coming, let us commit to working for justice around us. Let us speak truthfully to one another. Let us care for widows and orphans. Let us help those who sojourn among us. Let us do all of it for the glory of God.