Imagine driving out to Western Maryland and seeing the backdrop of the Appalachian Mountains. The site is beautiful to see not just because the mountains but because this past weekend there was snow. The mountains are covered white, the trees seem to sparkle with ice-sickles. Looking from a distance one can see the far reaching scope of the mountains and it’s all beautiful to view.
However, if one were climbing up the mountain in the middle of the wooded hike there would not be as much to see. Indeed there would be snow covering the ground, but you’d be hiking in at least a foot of snow. The climb would be exhausting as you alternate between sweat from the hike and cold from the freezing temperatures. Reaching the top seems like too long of a journey and uncertainty if you’ll be able to reach it in time. The benefit of looking back from a distance is missing and you do not get to reap the reward because you are in the middle of the journey.
The OT is like climbing the mountain in hopes to reach the summit. The people of Israel have traveled a long and hard journey. They are uncertain if reaching the peak is possible. However, from time to time, the Prophets help us to step back and look not just in the present but backward and forward to reflect on the entire scope of what God is doing. The Prophets reveal God’s prophetic promises to reach down from heaven to pick us up and bring His people to where they need to go.
Today is the last message in the book of Malachi. The Prophet Malachi shares prophetic promises of God’s activity in the future. To some of the audience this message will be sweet music to inspire hope. However, to another group of people the message will be a severe reproof of judgment against stubborn disobedience against God.
EXAMINE Malachi 3-4 Title: Refining the Nations
God will purify His people with a refining fire (2:17- 3:4).
- purity is impossible (“who can endure the day of his coming and who can stand when he appears?”)
- purity occurs externally (“He will sit as a refiner and purifier… He will purify and refine them”)
“prepare” = means to clear or remove. The concept comes from custom of a monarch sending messengers ahead of a visiting king to inform local inhabitants of his coming in order for them to pave the way (remove all obstacles) for the king’s entrance.
A refiner’s fire does not destroy accidentally or arbitrarily like a forest or oven fire. Instead, a refiner’s fire burns with aim to separate impurities that ruin the value of an item and to retain the substance – of gold or silver. Therefore, this prophetic word is not just for warning but also of hope. Refining fire is needed. If God were a forest or oven fire then no one could endure. Also, if God were no fire at all then no one could endure. Only through God’s refining fire is the possibility for purity before God.
- Malachi’s people needed refined
- calling evil good (Mal 2:17)
- viewing God’s delayed justice as negligence rather than patience for repentance
- Romans 2:4-5 “do you presume on the riches of God’s kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.”
- 2Peter 3:9 “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”
- sorcery (Mal 3:5) 
- adultery (Mal 3:5)
- lying (Mal 3:5)
- oppress lowly (Mal 3:5)
- oppress widows & orphans (Mal 3:5)
- neglect compassion for sojourners (Mal 3:5)
- neglect fear of the Lord (Mal 3:5)
- neglect tithing and generosity to the Lord (Mal 3:8-10)
- People need refined today
- calling murder personal choice
- racial divide is not just a them problem but an us violence is not the solution but neither is silence… The body of Christ needs to speak up; it’s a time to let the light of the gospel shine and bring healing.
- sorcery: all religious and spiritual but lacking truth in God and love for people
- adultery: sex is America’s god
- oppressing lowly, widows, orphans, immigrants: Christians must have compassion of Christ
- neglect fear of Lord
- neglect generosity giving to Lord
John the Baptizer is viewed as fulfilling the preparatory messenger role (Mat 3:3; Mk 1:3; Lk 3:4; Jn 1:23) and as the Elijah-like prophet (Mat 11:10, 14; 17:10-13; Mk 9:11-13; Lk 1:16-17; 7:27). John called people to repentance (Mat 3:17). Jesus called people to repentance (Mat 4:17).
- Refining starts with repentance.
God will purify the world with a consuming fire (3:16 – 4:6).
God is paying attention and hears our words and sees what is in our hearts. In fact, these are recorded in a book of remembrance by God. This book is like a ledger or accounting where actions are recorded for the king to later reward or punish. Likewise, the book of Revelation tells us similarly:
Revelation 20:11-15; 21:22-27
11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them.12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done.13 And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done.14 Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire.15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
22 And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb.23 And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb.24 By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it,25 and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there.26 They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations.27 But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.
Is God like Santa?
Santa is the white-bearded man with bi-focals perched on his nose, carefully crafting a list and checking it twice; he’s gonna find out who’s naughty and nice. But God is different because He already knows all our naughty and undeserving of His grace. God is attentive to those who “esteem His name” as Father, Master, King. The distinction is the difference between good works and grace; good works think they don’t need grace, whereas grace does goods works in gratefulness that the bad has been forgiven.
- God will purify the world with a refining fire to spare those who “fear the Lord and esteemed His name” (3:16).
- They will be vindicated as God’s treasured possession (Mal 3:17).
- They will rise with healing… leaping like calves from the stall, treading down the ashes. (Mal 4:2)
- Every injustice in this world will be made right.
- God will purify the world with a consuming fire those who are wicked, arrogant, evildoers.
- These are people who think they have roots and branches, but they will be consumed (Mal 4:1).
“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers” (Mal 4:5-6)
Jesus’ coming will be like a rising sun.
- light where there was darkness
- sunrise begins with slow light then to a pouncing brightness flaming
- Jesus is light of world
Jesus’ coming will be healing leaping to joy
- justice over injustice
- family: fathers, mothers, children…
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
 Sorcery often lumped together with those who sacrificed children to pagan gods (2Chron 33:6; 2Kings 9:22).
 (cf. Ex 32:32; Dan 12:1; Esther 6:1; Ps 69:28; 139:16; Is 4:3; 65:6; Ez 13:9; Rev 3:5; 13:8; 17:8; 20:12, 15; 21:27).