Summary: Exposition of Malachi 4
People can be very forgetful about important things.
The great British preacher Charles Spurgeon once wrote: A man goes into an inn, and as soon as he sits down he begins to order…his dinner, his bed…He stays at the inn for some time. By and by, the bill comes due, and it takes him by surprise. "I never thought of that—[paying for all this!]" "Why," says the landlord, "here is a man who is either a born fool or else [a thief]! Never thought of reckoning--never thought of settling with me!"
Spurgeon goes on to say that this is how many people live---enjoying life, living day to day---with hardly ever a thought about the coming day of reckoning with the Lord described in
Hebrews 9:27 And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment…
And yet it is so easy to get so busy thinking about, worrying about, working on so many other things that we don’t spend much time thinking about God’s day of reckoning that comes closer with every moment we live. This is why chapters such as Malachi 4 are so important. The people of Malachi’s day were in danger of forgetting God’s judgment. “Where is the God of justice?” they ask in Mal. 2:17, and “What good does it do us to serve the Lord?” in Mal. 3:14-15. God doesn’t really keep score; obeying His Word is a waste of time; live and let live. These Jews were a lot like many of us today who have forgotten the reality of God’s judgment.
And so Malachi ends his prophecy with a reminder, both for the people of his day and for us today—specifically 3 things to remember about God’s judgment---3 truths that can help you keep your hope up, can reinforce the importance of your obedience, and can show us how to truly be prepared to face God’s judgment. 3 Things to Remember about God’s judgment:
1. GOD WILL PUNISH THE WICKED AND REWARD THE RIGHTEOUS. (v. 1-3)
In his classic book, Robinson Crusoe Daniel Defoe writes that when Robinson Crusoe’s good man Friday asked him, "Why doesn’t God destroy the devil?" Robinson Crusoe gave him the right answer, the only answer, the great answer. He said, "God will destroy him."
Have you ever been tempted to doubt that? We see people in politics, in business, at work, or on the news who seem to do quiet well even though they do wicked, evil things. Somebody might say I can’t believe they got away with that. But do they? Malachi tells us in no uncertain terms ultimately, nobody gets away with anything.
He begins in vs. 1 with the fate of the wicked. For there is a day coming… A specific day, a day as real and certain as today, when God will punish the wicked and reward the righteous.
…burning like an oven…Malachi uses fire to describe the judgment of the wicked. He pictures the wicked as stubble= straw, chaff, grass. Like grass, the wicked will be burned up in the fiery furnace of God’s wrath and judgment ...leaving neither root nor branch…= no life left in them. The image here is of utter destruction, with no hope of survival or restoration. God’s judgment will deal finally and decisively with all of His enemies.
But you must be careful: Malachi is not painting a picture of hell here. Some try to use these verses to teach that hell is not forever, that condemned souls are destroyed, or annihilated (thus the doctrine of annihilationism). But Jesus describes hell more vividly in the NT story of the rich man and Lazarus, in which He makes it clear souls in hell suffer forever.
On the other hand, vs. 2-3 give us a snapshot of the fortune of those who …fear My Name…= the righteous. Their destiny is not to have the heat turned up, but for the beautiful
Dawn of a New Day…the Sun of Righteousness that rises with healing in His wings. It’s not hard to see this SUN as the SON, and the beautiful place described as heaven. But the point Malachi is making is not necessarily about what heaven will be like, so much as it is that the righteous will find peace, joy given by God. He describes them as frolicking like newborn calves, running and leaping for joy, trampling the ashes of the wicked whom God has judged. God will shine the Light of His goodness and blessing on those who fear Him. They will experience His perfect peace, His fullness of joy, because they belong to Him.
Does it pay to serve God? Does God really punish the wicked and reward the righteous? Malachi says He does. Do you believe that? If you do, it will affect how you see the world, and how you live your life.