When a train goes through a tunnel and it gets dark, you don’t throw away your ticket and jump off.
You sit still and trust the engineer. Corrie ten Boom
Though God take the sun out of heaven, yet we must have patience. George Herbert
One of the most perplexing questions facing those who believe in God’s sovereignty is “Why doesn’t God act when he has all the power?” We sit back and watch as disasters occur, tsunamis crush cities, earthquakes devastate countries and tornados ravage the Midwest. Beyond these natural disasters, there are wicked men who rule around the world. Greedy corporate executives strip thousands of people of their pensions. Tyrants drop bombs on their own people. Pornography producers are some of the richest men in the world. The next door neighbor seems rich and happy, yet never attends church. Where is God in all this? Why does evil seem to triumph? Why do good men die unknown and wicked men die with a taxpayer funded funeral broadcast on T.V.?
When we begin our journey in Christ it can seem like the white hats always win and the black hats always lose. But as time stretches on we see evil triumph. Time can erode our confidence in God’s justice. Our brothers during Malachi’s time had the same problem. They had listened to Haggai and Zechariah’s great prophecies about the coming Kingdom of God, yet evil still seemed to be in control. In this section of Malachi God assures his people that he is good and has not left his throne. We would be wise to hear these ancient words from the ever living God about the certainty of his judgment and the need for patience.
2:17 begins the fourth disputation/debate in Malachi. The focus in this debate is on Israel’s attitude towards God. Israel is wearying God with their words. What are these words? They are that God must either love evil or not exist. (2:17) There is no justice in Israel. Sin is rampant. Immorality reigns. So men begin to ask the question we all ask when the evil prospers, where is God? Most of us, even in our darkest moments, have never uttered the words in this chapter. But we have thought them. The first statement in verse seventeen verges on blasphemy because it implies that God must love evil. The the second statement is more subtle, but the idea is the same: “The God of justice is missing.” Despite the harshness of the statements, for the first time in Malachi we are dealing with a people who are actually concerned about righteousness. They want to see righteousness in the land. However, because God acts too slowly they assume he is absent or he loves evil. If these men hold on to these views it could lead to hopelessness and falling away from the faith. But God is merciful. He gives these men assurance of his coming judgment/justice.
Malachi gives Israel the promise that God will suddenly come to his temple to judge (3:1) and purify his people, especially the priesthood. (3:2-3) When he does this Israel will once again be able to offer to the Lord a pleasant offering because she will be holy. (3:4) God says that when he comes he will execute judgment upon all evil doers. (3:5) The word for judgment in 3:5 is the exact same word translated justice (NKJV) in 2:17. The justice Israel is looking for in 2:17 comes in 3:5. God is reminding those who think he is too slow to be patient. Evil will be dealt with his timing. God does not love evil nor is he absent. But he is patient, often much more patient than we are.
Malachi 3:1 is a prophecy of John the Baptist who is the messenger sent to prepare the way for the Lord. (Matthew 11:10 and Mark 1:2) This means that the prophecy in this section is primarily about the Christ coming to purify and judge Israel.