The Messenger of the Covenant

MALACHI -Twelfth in a series

Malachi 3:1 Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the LORD of hosts.
We read of two messengers, the first who prepares the way of the second. The first is a reference to John the Baptist, as delineated in the New Testament. (Mat 11:14; Mark 9:13; Luke 1:17) The second is "the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in."

To reflect on this, we might ask, which covenant? Three covenants were referred to in Malachi 2: First, the one pledged to Phineas, a Levite whose devotion refrained God's hand of judgment (Mal 2:8); second, the covenant of God with the nation of Israel (Mal 2:10); and third, the marriage covenant of man and wife (Mal 2:14).

Certainly, the covenant characterized by a messenger and a forerunner would refer to the one that God made with Israel, initiated with Abraham (Gen 17:4), continued with Isaac (Gen 17:9), then with Jacob (Ex 2:24); that was testified in circumcision (Gen 17:10) and then through law keeping (Ex 19:5; Ex 34:27-28), with many promised blessings (Lev 26:3-12), yet ensured by mercy even when Israel failed to live up to their side of the arrangement. (Lev 26:45; Mal 3:6)

Next we could ask: How should we understand the phrase, "whom ye delight in"? Who delighted in this messenger? The priests and Levites? Yet they did not uphold the Levite covenant nor their own marriage covenants, so why would they delight in this messenger of the covenant between Israel and the Lord?

Was he, the coming Messiah, their delight because of their expectation that he would vindicate and honor Israel when he came? Would he not deliver his chosen people from enemy occupation, and exalt them to rule with him in his new kingdom that they read about in Isaiah? (Isa 25:8-9)

Malachi puts an end to their delusions of grandeur.
Malachi 3:2, 3 But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner's fire, and like fullers' soap:
And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the LORD an offering in righteousness.

When Christ would come suddenly to his temple, the very temple the priests were desecrating by their ruinous ways, he would teach Truth that would make men uncomfortable. Those who were led to repent, purified, could then reflect his likeness, and their offerings would be accepted. The Son of Man would teach and command a higher way than the priests enforced.

Malachi 3:4 Then shall the offering of Judah and Jerusalem be pleasant unto the LORD, as in the days of old, and as in former years.
If there were true repentance, the worship services could be as in some former times when there was peace and fellowship between the Lord and his people. However, as we know, this did not occur. The Temple rulers did not repent but instead called for Christ's crucifixion. But after his death and resurrection, many priests did commit their hearts to Christ. (Acts 6:7)

There is an aspect of prophecy that does not state what the future holds, but how it might be, if certain conditions are met. God already knows which course will come to light.

Malachi 3:5 And I will come near to you to judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against false swearers, and against those that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow, and the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger from his right, and fear not me, saith the LORD of hosts.

It's true, Jesus rebuked the Pharisees and made pointed statements, for example, And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your sons cast them out? therefore shall they be your judges. But if I with the finger of God cast out devils, no doubt the kingdom of God is come upon you. (Luke 11:19-20)

This passage might be applied to Christ as a swift witness against the sorcerers.

Yet, on balance, Christ's words preserved for us in the Gospels are gracious and wonderful (Luke 4:22) much more than words of fierce accusation. The one caught in adultery was told to go and sin no more rather being condemned to hell (John 8:7-11); the teaching about ignoring the stranger, for example, is within a parable (Luke 10:33-36), not directed to specific wrongdoers.

In view of this, Malachi 3:6 makes perfect sense: For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.

God's laws never change: sorcery, adultery, false swearing, oppression of the vulnerable, discounting the stranger, and lack of fear of God are warned against from generation to generation. God's nature cannot change either. He is long suffering toward us, not wanting any to perish (John 3:16; 2 Pet 3:9).

The messenger of the covenant is calling. Today if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts. (Ps 95:7-8; Heb 3:7-8; Heb 3:15; Heb 4:7)