Summary: Outward ceremony, shoddily performed, hardly compensates for a heart-not-right-with-God.
THE TWO MESSENGERS
The name Malachi means ‘My Messenger’ (see Malachi 1:1). The Book of Malachi is the response of the LORD to the Complaints of His people. Not that they were complaining directly To Him, as honest people might occasionally do (Job 21:7; Jeremiah 12:1). No, they were complaining About Him, amongst themselves. We hear the same today: ‘Why does the LORD let this happen?’ Or, more selfishly, ‘Why does the Lord let this happen To Me!’
Yet every time the LORD challenged His people, they in turn sought to deny their sin (Malachi 1:2; Malachi 2:13-14; Malachi 2:17; Malachi 3:7-8). Sad to say, they were only following the example of their wayward priests (Malachi 1:6-7). In such a situation all appearance of ‘religion’ becomes a sham, hypocrisy: play-acting. Outward ceremony, shoddily performed, hardly compensates for a heart-not-right-with-God (Malachi 1:8).
It is fair to say, that in Malachi’s days there was no longer the blatant idolatry that had led to the exile. Yet the people’s religion, like that of Laodicea (Revelation 3:15-16), was barely lukewarm. Blind, sick and lame animals were being offered as sacrifices to the LORD: ‘try offering them to your human leaders,’ mocked the LORD (Malachi 1:8). It is like children imagining that they are doing God a favour when they give last year’s Broken Toys as pre-Christmas gifts to the poor at harvest-time; or like adults sending their outdated, outmoded, thrown-out computers to far-away villages without first checking that they would be useful to people in places with neither the education - nor even the electricity – to be able to make practical use of them.
One of the God-wearying and impertinent questions of the people had been, as it is often today, ‘Where is the God of justice?’ (Malachi 2:17). We have the answer in today’s text (Malachi 3:1). Watch carefully, exhorts the LORD. First I will send my messenger (cf. John 1:6-8), who will prepare the way for the One whom you are seeking.
Notice that John the Baptist’s ministry is nothing without Jesus, and always points to Jesus. This is reflected in the song of his father, Zacharias (Luke 1:68-79). At the forefront of the old priest's mind was not first and foremost his own son, but the visitation of God to His people: a visitation which was about to occur in the Person of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Then, says the LORD, ‘the Messenger of the Covenant in whom you delight will suddenly come to His temple’ (Malachi 3:1). Jesus appeared in the Temple as a baby, without being noticed by many more than two people (Luke 2:22). Then Jesus appeared in the Temple as a boy of twelve: He astonished all, yet still remained unrecognized (Luke 2:47). But as a man He appeared once more, and announced, ‘You have made my Father’s house into a den of thieves’ (cf. John 2:16).
Yet Jesus came to establish a new covenant, and to make the once for all, final, and satisfactory sacrifice for the sins of His people (cf. Hebrews 9:28). This is the ultimate ‘righteous offering’ (cf. Malachi 3:3) to which all the sacrifices have always been pointing: the fulfillment of all the rites and ceremonies of the Old Testament era.