Summary: In verses 1-4 we can see love from (1) The Coming Lord (Malachi 3:1-2)and from (2) The Purifying Lord (Malachi 3:3–4)
As much as people love seeing Christmas movies and Norman Rockwell-esque nostalgia, we tend to find out that the life that we have now never seems to live up to that ideal. For those who have lived long enough, they tend to say that life has always been hard, and those depictions were always just ideals. Yet, are those ideals then something to just amuse ourselves or ideals to be desired?
In Malachi 3, even though the people of God had returned to the Promised Land and the temple had been rebuilt, many were distressed at the apparent failure of the prophetic promises of restored prosperity, international prominence, and wealth (Haggai 2; Zech. 1:16ff.; 2:1–13; 8:1–9:17). Instead, Israel was experiencing only continued social and political oppression and economic privation (Neh. 1:3; 9:36ff.; Mal. 3:10ff.). Still worse, it had been promised that God would return to Jerusalem and to his temple, which he would again inhabit with his own glorious presence (e.g., Zech. 1:16ff.; 2:4ff., 10–13; 8:3–8; 9:9–17). Haggai 2:9 promised that the rebuilt temple would be filled with an even greater measure of glory than Solomon’s. But far from enjoying such radiant glory, the temple of Malachi’s day was devoid of any visible manifestation of God. Yet it would not always be so, for Malachi promised, “the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple” (Mal. 3:1). Simeon witnessed at least a partial fulfillment of this prophecy when he encountered in the temple the infant Jesus, who had come “for glory to your people Israel” (Luke 2:32). The NT unfolds further fulfillment, for only the glory of God in the person of Jesus Christ would be this greater glory (Luke 2:29–32; John 1:14; 2 Cor. 4:6) (Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 1777). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.).
When our homes and Christmas gatherings fail to materialize the idealized love based life that we either once had or envision, what do we do? We are tempted to have a grander gathering, buy more expensive gifts or make greater promises. "The Gift of Love" in the coming of Christ reminds us that it is Him and Him alone that will bring glory to our lives and those to whom we care about. When we consider the promise and fulfillment of His coming we see how His glory can restore what the failure of human effort can never achieve.
In Malachi 3:1-4 we see the Father's "Gift of Love" in the promise of His Son through a series of predictions (i.e., announcements regarding the future). In verses 1-4 we can see love from (1) The Coming Lord (Malachi 3:1-2)and from (2) The Purifying Lord (Malachi 3:3–4)
First, we see love from:
(1) The Coming Lord (Malachi 3:1–2)
Malachi 3:1-2 [3:1]"Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner's fire and like fullers' soap. (ESV)
The beginning of verse one is a call of attention, with the word: Behold is literally ‘Behold me’. God is saying:' Here I am, about to send my messenger’. In the end no one will avoid confrontation with God, and it is of his love and His goodness that warning of that event is given (Baldwin, J. G. (1972). Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi: An Introduction and Commentary (Vol. 28, p. 264). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.)
It was a custom of the Near Eastern kings to send messengers before them to remove obstacles to their visit. Employing a wordplay on the name of Malachi, (“the LORD’s messenger”), the Lord Himself announced He was sending one who would “prepare the way before Me.” That he would "prepare the way before Me" establishes a significant identification between the First and Second persons of the Trinity. Christ came to the temple, first as a baby to be dedicated, then at least yearly for the festivals. Most notably he came the last week of his life (Alden, R. L. (1986). Malachi. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Daniel and the Minor Prophets (Vol. 7, p. 719). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.).
That He would "suddenly come to his temple " points to unexpected coming of Christ. The skeptics in Malachi 2 had asked, “Where is the God of judgment?” The Lord” (Yahweh) is about to come, the God of judgment whom the skeptics were seeking. The announcement of Jesus' birth and the commencement of his ministry some thirty years after his birth were both unexpected. The Lord who would suddenly come to his temple is further identified as “the messenger of the covenant.” This is the only place where this title is employed. Apparently this “messenger of the covenant” is the same as “the angel of Yahweh” who appears throughout the Old Testament as a visible manifestation of God (cf. Heb 9:15). The “covenant” would be that New Covenant announced by Jesus and ratified by his shed blood (3:1b). (Smith, J. E. (1994). The Minor Prophets (Mal 3:1). Joplin, MO: College Press.).