Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Dec 30 2019 - Malachi 2:10-3:5 – The messenger of the covenant

The Lord's temple had been desecrated by the insincere worship of a sinful people. Their lack of wholehearted devotion to the Lord was evident in the way that many had taken foreign wives, women who worshiped other gods. Others had divorced their wives – a reflection of the way in which Israel had cast aside their love for the Lord who had redeemed them and made them his own and had chased after other gods. Not only have they broken their covenant with God, they are also showing little concern for one another (2:10). They exploit those who work for them, refusing to pay them a decent wage. They show little concern for widows and orphans and treat immigrants with contempt (3:5). They may "flood the Lord's altar with [their] tears" (2:13), but their worship is unacceptable to him (compare Isaiah 58:6-9).

It is against the background of this sorry picture that we get the wonderful verses, well known from Handel's Messiah:

"Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come," says the LORD Almighty. But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? (3:1b-2a).

The Lord declares that he is going to come to his temple in judgment. He will come as the messenger of the covenant; he comes to read the riot act, or at least to remind his people of their covenant obligations. Who will be able to stand before him when he appears?

But he does not come to destroy; he comes to refine and purify. God remains faithful to his covenant promises and purposes even though his people have been unfaithful. Listen to how these verses continue:

Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the LORD will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness, and the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will be acceptable to the LORD, as in days gone by, as in former years. (3:2b-4)

His will come in judgment on those who have acted wickedly (see v. 5), but he comes also to create for himself a purified people, a people who will serve and worship him from the heart.

Surely Jesus had this Scripture in mind when, the week before his death, he came to the temple and threw out all who were turning it into a place of exploitation and personal gain. He is the Lord who has come to his temple. He came in judgment on those who had turned their backs on God's covenant and his calling. But he came also to purify a people who would be his very own.

He came to bring judgment upon the temple and upon the corrupted worship of those who claimed to be leaders of God's people. But, strangely, tragically and yet wonderfully, that judgment fell upon him. "Destroy this temple", he said, "and I will raise it up again in three days." The judgment of God fell on the Lord Jesus as he hung in agony upon the cross. By his resurrection he becomes the author of life. The risen Christ by his outpoured Spirit is creating a holy people for his own possession, a people redeemed through the blood of the new covenant. We "belong to him in body and spirit" (2:15) and his purpose is that we should be his "godly offspring" – a people who reflect his own image.

Lord Jesus, you have made us a temple for your dwelling through the presence and power of your Spirit. Help us to remember that you live within us. By your presence and power keep us from turning again to the idols that have fascinated us in the past, keep us from desecrating your temple. May our love for you be reflected in love for others and selfless compassion for those in need.

Peter Misselbrook