We have reached the very end of the Old Testament. There were to be 400 dark, difficult and violent years before the New Testament would burst into life and light with the arrival of Jesus. Malachi seems to refer to this with a phrase we recognise from a Christmas carol: the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. Change the spelling slightly and we get ‘the son of righteousness…’ What a glorious thought!
Before that day, however, God says there will be blazing fires of punishment as His anger is directed at ‘the arrogant and evildoers’. Although the believers are spared, we should never be complacent. Malachi urges the people to remember the law of my servant Moses, the statutes and rules that I commanded him at Horeb for all Israel. Keeping God’s word uppermost in our thoughts and hearts is the best way we can keep our lives on track. We’ve already witnessed some of the ways the people’s complacency manifested itself, answering back to God because they were so convinced that they were doing everything right. Even when we turn up for church every week, unless we are looking into God’s word regularly and searching our hearts in response, we are in danger of developing faulty ideas and wandering away from the truth.
Verse 5 sends a beacon of hope into the coming generations. Behold I will send you Elijah the prophet. To this day, Jews look for the return of Elijah as a sign that the Messiah is imminent – they even leave an empty chair for him at the Passover feast. They have sadly missed what Jesus said of John the Baptist, that he was ‘the Elijah who was to come’ (Matt. 11:14). It has to be noted that John himself denied being Elijah (John 1:21) but we mustn’t think this is a contradiction. After all, he has just said he is not the Christ, either. What he was keen to distance himself from was the religious opinion of the day that Elijah would be the star of the show. John, however, was humble enough to understand that he served as a forerunner and not the main event. He was always careful that people shouldn’t look at him but somehow through him, to see Jesus whom he pointed to.