The test

The prophet Malachi is believed to have delivered the last message from God to his people before their Messiah was born. Malachi’s book is filled with numerous rhetorical questions that were meant to convey the doubt that existed in the Jews’ hearts. The topic that was most important to them at that time was the coming of their Messiah or Saviour. Malachi spoke of this when he said, “Ye have wearied the LORD with your words. Yet ye say, Wherein have we wearied him? When ye say, Every one that doeth evil is good in the sight of the LORD, and he delighteth in them; or, Where is the God of judgment?” (Malachi 2:17). God’s response reiterated the purpose of his Messiah’s mission, to fulfill the covenant he made with King David. He said, “Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the LORD, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the LORD of hosts” (Malachi 3:1).

We know now that the messenger referred to in Malachi 3:1 was John the Baptist. His ministry preceded Jesus’ and made a way for the concept of repentance to be better understood. John’s announcement of Jesus’ arrival is recorded in John 1:29 where it says, “The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” The idea that sins could be removed completely was new to believers. Even though the Jews knew that their sins could be forgiven, they didn’t expect God to wipe them away to the point that there was no record that they had ever been committed. Jesus’ ability to purify those that believed in him was beyond the Jews wildest imaginations. Malachi fortold of Jesus, “For he is like a refiner’s fire, and like fullers’ sope: and he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the LORD an offering in righteousness” (Malachi 3:2-3).

Malachi’s twofold message of purification and judgment was somewhat like a good news, bad news scenario. Although the Messiah would purify God’s people, he was also coming to judge them (Malachi 3:5). God said, “Even from the days of your fathers ye are gone away from my ordinances, and have not kept them” (Malachi 3:7). One of the arguments God’s people made was that it was useless to keep God’s commandments because there was no reward for their good behavior (Malachi 3:14). God proposed a test to show whether or not he was faithful to his commandments. He said, “Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in my house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it” (Malachi 3:10). God had been faithful to his people, but there was little evidence that anyone had ever taken him up on his promise to bless his people. God’s final statement about his Messiah’s entrance into the world can be found in Malachi 3:18 where it says, “Then shall ye return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not.”

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