Advent: Malachi 2:17-3:5

God’s Advent Answer About His Justice

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Advent is the time of year where we remember the coming of Jesus, the eternal Son of God. 

With Jesus’ advent comes the breaking in of the Kingdom of God to reclaim all that belongs to God, the restoring of creation from the curse of sin, and God saving anyone who will repent/believe in Jesus. NOTE: Believing is repentance in action and repentance is believing in action. The Bible uses these words synonymously.  

Advent causes us to remember and look forward in preparation for the Lord’s second advent. 

Let’s do just that in Malachi 2:17-3:5. 

SET THE CONTEXT

Our Scripture for today, as well as Malachi 1:2-3 and 4:5, are all quoted and preached from by: 

Jesus (Matthew 11:10-14 – he quotes Malachi 3:1 and Malachi 4:5)

Mark (Mark 1:2)

Luke (Luke 1:17 and 7:27)

Paul (Romans 9:13 from Malachi 1:2-3). 

Summary of Malachi:

“Malachi wrote to the Jewish people who had been restored to their land after exile in Babylon. The temple had been rebuilt, thanks to the faithful preaching of Haggai and Zechariah. Worship at the temple may have recommenced  (depending on when Malachi exactly wrote), thanks to Ezra’s teaching. And Jerusalem’s walls may have been rebuilt, thanks to Nehemiah’s effective leadership. The Jewish nation’s external circumstances looked good. Still, true worship had not been restored. So, God inspired Malachi to write this short book.” – Mark Dever, The Message of the Old Testament, p. 927

Through Malachi, God raises 6 disputes with his people about true worship. 

  1. 1:2-5 – How the people regard God.  
  2. 1:6-2:9 – How the priests are allowing the people’s inferior sacrifices.
  3. 2:10-16 – How the people treat their marriages due to their spiritual adultery.
  4. 2:17-3:6 – How the people treat each other because they are living in sin. 
  5. 3:7-12 – How the people are not honoring God in their giving and the priests are silent.
  6. 3:13-4:3 – How the people regard God.
    1. Disputes 1 and 6: Note: How people regard God are the bookends of the other dispute and thus the source of the sin. How we see and respond to God affects everything. When we don’t regard God first we have the recipe for bad things. 
      1. The people question God’s love for them in spite of his election. 1:2-5
      2. The people believe it is useless to serve God. God reminds them the Lord sees and takes note and will reward the righteous. 3:13-4:3
    2. Disputes 2 and 5: Note: The connection between disputes 2 and 5 regard priests and their teaching. IMPORTANT: For people in the Kingdom of God, there is no distinction between priest and people because Jesus makes all his people priests and thus responsible for their individual and corporate worship. 
      1. God charges the people with despising his name by offering defiled/less than sacrifices and warning the people that their job is to guard the knowledge of God. 1:6-2:9
      2. God charges the people with robbing him by not bringing the full 10th in their offering. 3:7-12
    3. Disputes 3 and 4: The connection between 3 and 4 is the poison fruit of their disregard for God. They are not worshiping God rightly and thus their homes and corporate relationships are broken. Then, they blame God for not being just to punish the sinful worship of folks outside of the faith whose lives seem to be going well. 
      1. God no longer honors their supposed repentant weeping because it is not real, and God knows it’s not real because their broken homes are stemming from their spiritual adultery against God. 2:10-16
      2. God is wearied with their “words” in how they accuse him of being delighted with people of other faiths when they sin and not giving out justice to them immediately. 2:17-3:6
        1. They believe they’ve been “good” and that those “other unbelieving people” are skating by, yet they’ve ignored their own sins. 
      3. Our question: How does God respond to the accusation of being unjust by allowing sin from others and, in their estimation, being delighted in their sin?
      4. God’s answer: God is going to send One who will do justice but it won’t be immediate and it won’t be just like they thought it would because God is patient with outsiders not wanting them to perish while disciplining those who know better. 

INTERPRETIVE SIDE NOTE: In the Old Testament there is an immediate historical meaning and application. 

There are also patterns and types that point us to the gospel. 

AND there is how the New Testament uses a Scripture from the Old Testament to point out gospel riches and fulfilled promises. 

Sometimes you have one, two, or all of these in one scripture.

These interpretive realities give depth and nuance to how we interpret Old Testament Scripture. 

THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA WILL HELP YOU ALL READ THE OLD TESTAMENT WITH ALL THIS NUANCE. 

Today, we have given you some of the historical meaning, and Jesus himself preached from our text, so we need to consider how Jesus taught the text through the lens of advent. 

God’s Advent Answer About His Justice

We have 3 initial large observations then we’ll have 4 nitty gritty gospel observations. 

  1. Jesus is the answer to the accusation of the people. 
    1. God answers but he does so as is best not when it’s convenient for the questioner. He tells them what he’s going to do, but it’s not going to happen immediately. 
      1. As we walk through advent season seeking the Lord together, understand that God answers the kingdom-shaped prayers of his people in the time that is good for them and good for his glory in working redemptive history. 
  2. Jesus preaches from Malachi 3:1 and Malachi 4:5 on the occasion of John the Baptist sending his disciples to ask Jesus one more time if he is the One. 
    1. Matthew 11:10-14
    2. Jesus preaches from Malachi to comfort John and assure him that HE is the Christ. 
    3. Jesus also preaches from Malachi to remind John that the hardship he’s enduring is full of redemptive and glorious weight and that he gets to share in that weight with Jesus, so he should not be hurt when Jesus does not deliver him from prison as he will not be delivered by the Father from the cross.  
      1. John gets to live a difficult parable of redemptive suffering but his faith is bolstered by Jesus telling him this in preparation. 
      2. John was created to be the Elijah who prepared the way for Messiah Jesus. 
  3. As Jesus preaches from Malachi, he gives the ultimate gospel interpretation of Malachi’s four predictions (verses 1, 2, 3, 5). 
    1. Jesus is letting everyone who will hear know that God has fulfilled his word in himself as the answer to God’s justice. 

Four gospel predictions:

  1. The Lord is sending his messenger. V. 1
    1. This is John the Baptist. 
    2. God is going to announce his redemptive work. 
      1. God always sends word of his work. 
      2. God speaks. God communicates. 
      3. God prepares for his work among his people. 
        1. This demands his people be waiting and ready to hear and obey his word.  
  2. The Lord they are seeking (YHWH) will suddenly come to his temple, and he will be THE Messenger of the Lord. V. 2
    1. This Messenger is distinct from the one who announces the coming of THE Messenger. 
    2. This Messenger is the one who enters “his temple”, so this Messenger is human AND divine. 
    3. He is the God/Man. 
      1. Who might that be?
      2. Jesus!
        1. Jesus, in applying Malachi 2:17-3:5, is telling us that he is the God of the Old Testament. 
        2. That Jesus presents himself as the fulfillment of God’s word all through the gospels is astounding. 
        3. This is bold because it puts him in a position, as C.S. Lewis famously noted as being a liar, insane, or truly Lord!
    4. This Messenger, Jesus, is the one who will bring the justice they are looking for. We’ll see how he does that in verse 3. 
    5. This Messenger’s day, Jesus’ day, is not what they think it might be. Jesus’ coming is a refinement as well as salvation
      1. Jesus’ coming revealed the hypocrisy of the spiritual elite and God’s rejection of them. 
      2. Jesus’ coming revealed God’s heart for the lowly, humble, and repentant sinner.  
        1. The questioners thought they were better than the unbelieving sinners while ignoring their false worship and lists of unsavory fruit of their false worship. 
        2. Jesus came to save AND uncover false worship as well. 
  3. The Lord will purify the sons of Levi. V. 3
    1. Jesus in his coming brings purification for Levi. 
      1. Jesus is the one who will satisfy the righteousness of God by entering the temple with his own blood. 
        1. How will God do justice? 
        2. He won’t just let sin walk. 
        3. He will pay for it himself so that the unjust may call on the Lord and be saved from his sin. 
        4. God does justice by paying for sin himself and at the same time gives mercy to those who come to him for salvation. 
      2. Jesus will also continue his work of purification by not only satisfying God’s righteousness for sin, but he will also practically purify sinners by refining them and causing them to love righteousness and hate sin. 
        1. The bible calls this sanctification. 
    2. But who is Levi? 
      1. Levi is the line of priests. 
        1. But is that all that the Bible says about God’s priests?
      2. We can’t just leave this with Levi and his priesthood because we have Matthew through Revelation that claims to fulfill what was written in Genesis to Malachi. 
      3. Who are the priests of the Lord according to the Bible?
        1. 1 Peter 2:9 (ESV) But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
        2. Anyone in Christ is a priest of the Lord!
          1. So, Malachi 2 does not apply to church leaders. 
        3. The priesthood is not equivalent to church leadership. 
        4. The priesthood is equivalent to all those who believe in Jesus. 
        5. Ephesians 4:11-16 then applies across the board to the whole church!
        6. So, Jesus’ coming as the one who will purify Levi opens up the heavens for the blessing of all the people of God!
        7. As a result…
      4. Our offerings of worship are pleasing to the Lord because they come from all of his people who have been made just and offer worship that comes from justified and holy lives as priests of God.
  4. The Lord will come near for judgment. V. 5 
    1. Jesus’ purifying work does not excuse those who call on his name and yet continue to live in the practices of the nations who don’t know God. 
    2. All through Malachi, God is calling his people to righteousness precisely because his justice applied to us in grace demands we live like we’ve been justified. 

Application

  1. Let advent remind us of Jesus’ coming and work that offers salvation and makes a kingdom of priests.
  2. Let advent cause us to live like priests in all of Jesus’ gifting as we look forward to his return and being prepared to meet him. 
  3. Let advent cause us to pursue holiness in the fear of God and love of each other. 
  4. Let advent cause us to sing in worship that is pleasing to God. 

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