As the old saying goes, there are two sides to every coin. This saying generally is used to draw attention to the presence of varying perspectives. In any given situation, there are at least two varying perspectives or ways of seeing things.
Police have known this for many years. When they arrive on the scene of an accident, after making sure the scene is secured and any who are injured are being cared for, they begin interviewing witnesses. They don’t just ask for one perspective. One perspective usually is not the entire picture. When they get accounts from different perspectives, they are able to combine those perspectives and arrive at a better understanding of what occurred.
In Malachi 3:1-4, we have an occurrence—a prophecy given by Malachi to Israel. We can look at this prophecy from at least three perspectives. Looking at these differing perspectives will prove helpful so we might have a better understanding of the prophecy.
Perspective 1: The Original Recipients
Malachi reads as an indictment by God of His people because of a laundry list of issues. Those issues include: polluted offerings, corrupt priests, religious infidelity, and withholding temple offerings. At this point in the history of Israel, the people have been chosen, they have rebelled and been reconciled numerous times, they have been divided after the death of Solomon, warred with one another and many others, been sent into captivity, returned to the land, and now are at odds with God because of their rebellion. Things look rather bleak, but God still has a plan.
In the midst of these bleak circumstances, God drew their attention back to the promise of Messiah. God, through Malachi, said, “Behold, I send My Messenger, and He will prepare the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, suddenly will come to His temple, even the Messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight. Behold, He is coming.”
The language is clearly messianic. It evokes for God’s people the hope present in God’s plan. They believe the long-awaited Messiah will overthrow all oppression and reign from the Davidic throne forever. The Lord suddenly will be among His people in a way they never have experienced. What a message of hope for those looking forward to Messiah! This isn’t the only perspective to consider.
Perspective 2: After Christ but Before the Cross
God continued in Malachi and said, “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 launderer’s soap. He will sit as a refiner and a purifier of silver; He will purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer to the Lord an offering in righteousness.”
The Jews in Jesus’ day also were waiting for Messiah. Peter, James and John were in Christ’s inner circle, and they believed He was the Messiah, the Christ of Peter’s great confession. However, they were offended when Jesus began to speak about His death on the cross. Suffering didn’t fit their paradigm of Messiah. They wanted a military leader, a first century superman who would lead them to conquer their oppressors in Rome.
They loved the language of purification and refining but not the language of humility and suffering. Peter was so offended, he confronted Christ (as a representative of all the disciples) and was rebuked severely. Jesus is not required to fit our paradigm. This is a message of correction for those looking at Messiah, but there is one more perspective…
Perspective 3: After the Cross
In verse 4, God said, “Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasant to the Lord, as in the days of old, as in former years.” The offerings are pleasant to the Lord (God’s covenant name) after God’s Messenger comes, after the refiner’s fire and the launderer’s soap, after the purging (so the offering might be in righteousness).
When I was younger, I got into some trouble with the law in my small hometown. The infraction was nothing too serious, and time doesn’t permit a thorough discussion of the why, only the what. What happened was that I had to go to court and stand before the judge to account for my actions. As I stood there and listened to the charges read by the judge against me, I was ashamed because I was guilty. I had done those things, and I knew it was right for the judge to hold me accountable.
The judge asked, “Is there anyone here who would like to speak on this young man’s behalf?” Much to my surprise, the sheriff who ticketed me originally walked from the side of the courtroom, stood beside me and spoke on my behalf. He put his reputation on the line to protect me from punishment.
Christ has done so much more for us! Yes, He vouches for us before the Father and Judge of all things, but He also gave His life so we could be forgiven. His holiness becomes ours. His righteousness becomes ours. Because of Him, our offerings are pleasant to the Lord.
Those who wrote after the cross, resurrection, and ascension, the early church fathers, and all Christians since have experienced the eternal benefits of Messiah’s sacrifice. We understand that the Day of the Lord is still a future event. We also understand our only hope to endure the coming judgment is found in Christ! We may have the clearest perspective on this side of the cross, but let’s not discount the other perspectives.
For those who received the prophecy first, Malachi 3:1-4 is a message of future hope, an encouragement that God wasn’t done with His people yet. For those who walked with Messiah, Malachi 3:1-4 was a reflection of Messiah but one that was incomplete and needed correction. For those who walk after Messiah yet still with Him, Malachi 3:1-4 reminds us that our endurance, purification, righteousness and ability to stand before the Lord is wholly dependent on Messiah, the Christ.
Let’s place our hope in Christ, and take Messiah as He is rather than how we might want Him to be. Let’s remember we are wholly dependent on Jesus. Behold He is coming. Yes, He is here, and He is coming again!