Summary: The believers in Israels in Malachi's day needed to have their eyes opened to the compassion of God above them; the need of those around them; and the callousness within them.
Through-out this book, the prophet Malachi addresses the unbelieving people of Israel. But in our passage today, he turns to the few believers left in the nation. They were lamenting the lack of action on the part of God to bring judgment to unbelievers around them. They'd concluded God was unwilling to judge sin and had abandoned them. But Malachi reassures them God's love was on the way, as He spoke of a day when all wrongs will be made right - the day of the coming of the Messiah.
Now, in speaking of the Messiah's coming, the Old Testament prophets knew facts about His coming, but they didn't fully comprehend the time sequence about His coming. They didn't know there was going to be a first and second coming of the Messiah. So they'd speak of His suffering and in the same breath also speak of His eventual reign.
"Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of the Messiah and the glories that would follow." - 1 Peter 1:10-11 (NIV)
The Old Testament prophets saw the 1st and 2nd comings of Christ as one event. Kind of like a person seeing what looks to be one mountain peak, but there is another peak behind it with a valley in between.
We who live in this present age are positioned to recognize what the Old Testament prophets did not, that the Messiah would come twice.
While both comings of Christ are mentioned in this prophecy, it's His second coming, when all wrongs will be made right, that Malachi has in view, as he shares three truths about the coming of the Messiah.
1. The Preparation for His coming - v. 1
Malachi uses the word, "messenger" twice here; and we see the first coming of Christ mentioned with the second coming. First, John the Baptist is the Messenger spoken of. This refers to the first coming of Christ. Next, the Messenger is Jesus; a reference to the second coming.
Ironically, both are times of judgment. The first time Christ came, He took on Himself the judgment for the world's sin. The second time He comes, He will judge all who refused to accept His sacrifice for their sin. In this, we see the preparation that was needed before the coming these folks were looking for could take place - Christ had to be judged for mankind's sin, before He would judge mankind's sin. Christ had to first be nailed to a cross of judgment; before He would be seated on a throne of judgment. God has graciously provided the possibility of man's forgiveness, and now patiently provides opportunity for man's repentance. Before the justice of God could prevail in this world; God wanted to first see that
forgiveness was provided for this world.
There are many reasons why God might delay judgment. But the main reason is that He wants people to have a chance to escape judgment.
"The Lord does not delay and is not tardy or slow about what He promises, according to some people's conception of slowness, but He is long-suffering (extraordinarily patient) toward you, not desiring that any should perish, but that all should turn to repentance." - 2 Peter 3:9 (Amplified)
Just like there were those who needed to repent of waywardness; the folks Malachi addressed needed to repent of hardheartedness. Their eyes needed to be opened to the compassion of God above them; the need of those around them; and the callousness within them.
"There is something wrong when people are leaving the church to find God." - Paul Fritz (Professor, Trinity College)
There's another messenger tied to this passage. It's Malachi himself, whose name means, "My Messenger". That is who he was called to be and that is who God calls all His children to be.
". . . you will be my witnesses . . ." - Acts 1:8 (NIV)
2. The Purpose of His coming - vs. 2-4
When the Lord does come to exact judgment, He doesn't begin with those Malachi's audience thinks He should begin with. No, His focus is on the people of God (v. 3). His coming will be a time of refining and restoring, and His focus will be on those who belong to Him. The mention of the Levites (priests) in verse 3, reminds us of how we are told that God calls us to be His holy priests (1 Peter 2:5; 9) and how we will one day serve the Father forever as a kingdom of priests (Revelation 1:6; 5:10; 20:6). When Christ returns for His people, He will complete whatever is lacking in us, making us like Him, our Great High Priest, in everyway. Why? So we might worship God properly.