Malachi 3:1-4

See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight—indeed, 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; he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the descendants of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, until they present offerings to the Lord in righteousness. Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years. Malachi 3:1-4

Malachi tells us to expect a messenger to prepare the way for God to show up in a new, unique, and powerful way. This was a long held hope of Israel. But it was a hope with a lot of baggage. The expectation was that God would show up and magically make everything in the world better, and whoever was on God’s side (read, in every age: me and my tribe) was going to come out of it smelling like a rose with a sweet deal and a special place at the table.

He talks about purifying fire and cleansing soap. Specifically, this purification would be directed to the “descendants of Levi”, that is, the temple priests. Another big bag of expectations. The temple and its religious dance party would continue, business as usual, except without the self-dealing and corruption and sneaky idolatry which would be refined away. Once cleansed, the offerings of the people would again please God. Fat chance.

Let’s remember what Isaiah wrote in his first chapter:

What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the Lord; I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats. When you come to appear before me, who asked this from your hand? Trample my courts no more; bringing offerings is futile; incense is an abomination to me. New moon and sabbath and calling of convocation— I cannot endure solemn assemblies with iniquity. Your new moons and your appointed festivals my soul hates; they have become a burden to me, I am weary of bearing them. When you stretch out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood. (Isaiah 1:11-15)

Given all that, maybe God might never be interested in solemn ceremonies and the ritualistic sacrifice of animals. Listen to what Isaiah said next:

Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow. (Isaiah 1:16-17)

I wonder how surprised Malachi would be to learn the story of Jesus?

Let us pray: Dear Lord, as we continue our journey through Advent, this season of waiting, of preparation, of renewal, we pray that you continue to stir a holy restlessness in us. Enable us to reject and resist our own temptation to ignore the voices and the plight of the least, the lost, and the left out. Bring us to receiving Christmas from the bottom up. In Jesus’ name. Amen.




One Response to “Malachi 3:1-4”

  1. Dave Aemstrong Says:

    Pastor, your devotions are a blessing to me because that meet a need I have or challenge my old ways of thinking. Blessings upon you and your ministry and Merry Christmas to you and yours!

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