Judgment Begins at God’s House: A Theology of Malachi (Part 2)

Read Part 1.

House Visit

The people blame their problems on God’s lack of interest in their well-being (1:2; 2:17; 3:13-15). On their part, they profess to seek and delight in him (3:1).21 They even challenge God to make his presence known among them (2:17). In response, God announces a “house visit” (3:1-5). First, God will send his “messenger” to “prepare the way before [him]” (3:1), whom he later identifies as “Elijah the prophet” (4:5).22 Then the Lord himself will “suddenly come to his temple, even the Messenger of the covenant.”23 Furthermore, the prophet identifies this visitation as the “Day of the Lord” (3:1; 4:1, 5), a period of eschatological intrusion into human history.24 There are strong reasons for interpreting this visitation as the coming of Jesus the Messiah,25 which will prove to be a blessing for the righteous (3:3-4, 17; 4:2) but a curse for the wicked (3:5; 4:1, 3).26 This imminent divine visitation calls for serious self-examination: “but who can endure the day of his coming? And who can stand when he appears?” (3:2).

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Judgment Begins at God’s House: A Theology of Malachi (Part 1)

Several decades have passed since the temple was rebuilt and the worship of Yahweh restored under the preaching of Haggai and Zechariah.1 The promised King, however, had not yet come (Zech. 9:9), nor had God’s promised glory filled the temple (Hag. 2:6-9). As a result, true worship devolved into dead religion. From Israel’s perspective, God exists solely to grant his people health and material prosperity as a merited blessing. When the people do not get what they want when they want it, cynicism and ungodliness begin to smother the life out of their religion.2 Into such spiritual decadence God sends Malachi3 with a solemn warning.4 Using a series of rhetorical ques­tions,5 the Lord identifies the sinful attitudes and lawless behavior of his people. Then he admonishes them to prepare for a divine visitation. Such visitation will result in judgment for the wicked and salvation for the righteous. True religion will once again be restored.

Dead Religion

A prevailing dead “orthodoxy” prompts God’s warning. The character­istics of this lifeless religion include faulty theology, defective worship, cove­nantal infidelity, ungodly living, and tight-fisted unbelief.

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