Populus Zion – Malachi 4:1-6

Click here for the reading: Malachi 4:1-6.

Malachi speaks to a people who, though they had seen the promises of God fulfilled when He brought them back from exile, had fallen back into the same sins of their fathers. What made it worse, however, was that they thought they were still serving God! How do we fall into a similar trap? In what ways do people believe that they are serving God when they are in fact sinning against Him? Why does Malachi point to the coming Day of the Lord as a warning against such hypocrisy? Compare the seven woes of Matthew 23 and the attitude of the Pharisees in Jesus’ own time.

The great Day of the Lord is coming when a burning sun of righteousness will arise. Those who are wicked will be consumed by the fire of that day, but those who are righteous will rejoice in its purifying heat. What is the Day of the Lord to which Malachi refers? Is it only one day, or is there more than one? Why is that Day a terror for the wicked, but a delight for the righteous? Consider passages like Revelation 6:12-17 and how people react to the coming of that Day.

Moses received the Law at Horeb from the Lord, and it is precisely this Law which Israel has forgotten yet again. Again and again, God reminds His people of the words given at Sinai as a way of calling them back from their sins. Why does Malachi remind them of this in the face of the coming Day of the Lord? How is repentance sometimes a call to return to something forgotten? How is repentance sometimes a call to do something new? How do passages like Matthew 3:1-12 help us understand what it means to repent?

The Lord promises to send Elijah before the great Day of the Lord comes, and Jesus clearly says that John the Baptist is the fulfillment of this prophecy in Matthew 17:10-13. The coming of Elijah serves as a final call to repentance after which no more will come. When and why did God strike Israel with a decree of destruction? Why should we take the warnings of God against sin seriously? At what point will it be too late to turn back? What can be learned from the example of Josiah and the judgment of God in 2 Kings 23?

The words of Malachi are especially appropriate in the season of Advent, since they look forward to the coming Day when God will act on behalf of His people. On that day the righteous will rejoice like a calf set loose from its pen, because the Lord keeps His promises. Why is this passage a fitting conclusion to the Old Testament? How does it inform our understanding of the New Testament as a whole? How does it teach us about the coming Last Day? In what ways does it resemble the words of Revelation 22?