1. Read verse 1. What is the "day" referred to in this verse? (see also Malachi 3:2, 17-18) What will that day be like for the arrogant and evil doers? Why does the LORD specifically mention the "arrogant"? What does it mean that "every evil-doer will be stubble"?
2. Read verse 2. How will that day be different for those who revere God's name? What does "the sun of righteousness" refer to? Why is "healing" so important? What will life be like for those who are healed?
3. Read verse 3. What role will those who are healed play in God's judgment (see also Deuteronomy 7:1-2)? How might people misunderstand this verse? How can we understand it properly? (see also 1 Corinthians 13:8-12)
4. Read verse 4. In light of the whole passage, why does the LORD encourage the people to remember the law of Moses? (see also Matthew 5:17-20) How is this related to revering God's name?
5. Read verses 5-6. Who does God promise to send before "that great and dreadful day"? Who does "Elijah" refer to? (see Matthew 11:11-14) Why did God first send this servant (6)? In what sense do Christians share in Elijah's mission? (see also Mark 16:15-16)
"But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings. And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall."
Today we are studying the final chapter of the Old Testamnet, and next week we will begin studying the first book of the New Testament, the Gospel of Matthew. In the final chapter of Malachi, God gives his people the promise that a great and terrible day is surely coming. The purpose of this passage is to prepare the hearts of the people for that day. Like the Israelites of Malachi's day, we are also waiting for the day of the Lord's coming. Are you ready? Today, God wants to help us to prepare our hearts by repenting of our lukewarm hearts and apathy toward Him. Through this passage, God wants to plant his hope and vision in our hearts. May God help us to truly take this message to heart.
Part 1. Surely the Day is Coming (1-3)
In Malachi chapters 1-3, we saw how God directly challenged the compromise and apathy of his people. God's message to them was, "I have loved you." When my daughter first started talking, I said to her, "I love you." What did she say to me? She didn't say, "I love you, too." She said, "I know." This made me so happy. I was happy because my daughter knew how much I loved her. But how did God's children respond to his love? They said, "How have you loved us?" God's heart must have broken. His children didn't understand his love for them. In fact, they felt that God didn't care about them. They complained, "It is futile to serve God. What did we gain by carrying out his requirements and going about like mourners before the LORD Almighty? But now we call the arrogant blessed. Certainly the evildoers prosper, and even those who challenge God escape."
This misunderstanding of God's love and plan for their lives resulted in apathy. "If God doesn't care, why should I?" Their hearts had become lukewarm toward God. They still went to church, they still made sacrifices, and they still offered prayers. But their hearts were far from God, and in many ways they gave God only the bare minimum, and sometimes even less than that. Their life purpose was to love God with all their heart, mind, soul, and strength, but their love had grown cold like soup left out on the table too long.
In today's passage, we find God's answer to ther apathy. Let's read verse 1:
"Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and that day that is coming will set them on fire," says the LORD Almighty. "Not a root or a branch will be left to them."
This is God's answer to the complaint that evildoers prosper and the arrogant are blessed. God says that a day of judgment is surely coming in which all those people will be destroyed. Here, God compares the arrogant and the evildoers to stubble. When wheat is harvested, the stalks are cut from the ground. The part that is left in the ground is the stubble. This part is fruitless and worthless. It is only useful as fuel for fire, so it is gathered together and burned in a furnace.
Stubble is the Stubble is the stumps of grain and other stalks left in the ground when the crop is cut. The stubble is the worthless leftover part that needs to be removed and thrown out like garbage. So, it is collected into a big pile and burned up.
Why are they like this? Why is this there destiny? Isn't God love? Yes, God is love. But love must go two ways to work. The relationship is only established when love is both received and reciprocated. Only in this life, on this earth, do we have the opportunity to establish this relationship. This time we have today, before the day of the LORD, is the only time when we can establish a working relationship with God.
Look at verse 2:
But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings. And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall.
Here, God promises, "Surely the day is coming..." God says "surely" because he wants us to know with 100% confidence that this day is coming.
Living here on this earth, it seems that there is no difference between those who serve God and those who don't. Both those who serve God and those who don't get sick; both groups deal with the same kinds of problems. In fact, it often seems that those who serve God are worse off than those who don't because they seek God's kingdom rather than success in this world. But God's promise is that there is surely a day coming when he will make a distinction between those who serve him and those who don't.
What will that day be like? Verse 1 tells us what that day will be like for those who do not belong to God. That day "will burn like a furnace." A furnace is a place of exceptionally hot fire. In a furnace, anything combustible will be turned to ashes, and anything that can melt will be liquidated. In the furnace, everything loses its original form; everything is destroyed.
Who will experience this furnace? Verse 1 says, "All the arrogant and every evil dower will be stubble, and that day that is coming will set them on fire." Here, stubble is an agricultural term. In the days of Malachi, when it was time to reap a wheat harvest, the stocks of wheat were cut from the ground, leaving the bottom parts of the wheat stocks sticking out of the ground. This is the stubble. The stubble has no value, so it was gathered together and turned into fuel for the furnace. The stubble was destroyed because it had no value.
God likens the arrogant and every evil doer to stubble. He says that on the day of his judgment, these people will be destroyed like stubble thrown into the fire.
What does this mean? It means that they will lose everything. God says, "Not a root or a branch will be left to them."
In this world, people live their lives as if God doesn't exist and as if they will be able to enjoy their lives here on earth forever. They work hard to establish themselves in this world, taking root and branching out. They take root in this world in order to establish a place for themselves in a job or among the people they know. They branch out, gaining things in this world. They gain all of these things as if they will enjoy them forever. They are arrogant because they believe that they can make it on their own; they do not think they need God; they do not revere God. On top of this, they do evil. They follow their sinful nature. In God's eyes, this is offensive. Yet, God does not judge them right away. God gives them time to come back to their sense. Yet God will not do so forever. He promises that a day is coming when all those who reject God and live their lives arrogantly doing what is evil will face judgment. That will be a terrible day for them. They will be totally destroyed and nothing will be left to them. All of the things they worked so hard for in this world will be totally destroyed.
When we hear this message, it should cause the fear of God to fill our hearts. We should fear God because he is the Judge and the day of his judgment is surely coming. On that day, we do not want to be counted among the arrogant and the evil doers.
These days, people don't want to hear this truth. They don't want to believe in God's judgment. But like it or not, God is just. God is fair. He will give to each person according to what he has done. Those who live arrogantly and do what is evil deserve to be consumed in the fiery furnace on the dreadful day of the Lord. This is the truth that comes from God and which we should accept, but it is not less true even though you reject it.
Now that we've seen what that day will be like for the arrogant and the evil doers, let's see what that day will be like for those who revere God's name.Second. The sun of righteousness (verses 2-3)
Look at verse 2: But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings. And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall.
As terrible as that day will be for the arrogant and the evil doers, that day will be the opposite experience for those who revere God's name. For them, that day will be like the dawning of a new day--a day full of beauty and joy. Our lives living in this sinful world is like a life lived in the darkness of night. There are so many limitations. We are blind and disabled because of our sins. We cannot function as God created us to function. We cannot enjoy life as God created us to enjoy life. We are living under the curse of sin. But on that day, the cursed night of sin will come to an end. In that day, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings.
Here, the "sun of righteousness" refers to the chief characteristic of life from that day on--it will be characterized by righteousness. Righteousness means perfect harmony with God. Sin will no longer darken our lives and separate us from God. How will we be able to live as righteous children of God? It is because we will be healed. The sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings. I don't know why the sun is described as having wings, but what is clear is that this day will be a day of healing. Living in this fallen world, we don't realize how sin-sick we really are. We compare ourselves to other sick people and think we are normal. But from God's point of view, we are terribly sick. Our way of thinking is sick; our way of feeling is sick. Do you remember the last time you were really sick? What were you able to do? How did you feel? Now, do you remember going to bed feeling sick only to wake up the next morning feeling much better? That is just a small hint of what the day that is coming will be like for God's servants. In that day, we will wake up and find our souls healed of the sickness of sin. It will be like a new birth; a new life.
The passage describes how we will feel like this: "And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall." A calf released from the stall is so happy that it must run and leap and jump. It is so happy because is is free. On that day, our joy will be like this because we will finally be truly free.
As we see what this day will be like, and how different it will be for the two groups of people mentioned in this passage, our humanistic ways of thought are challenged. These days, the humanistic thought that no one is worthy of God's judgment is one of the main stumbling blocks for people to be saved. Looking at the world around us, our humanistic mind tells us that it is not fair that God judges the world. While the people of Malachi's day complained that God was too slow in bringing judgment on the wicked, people today hesitate to call anyone wicked. Humanists say that people cannot be blamed for what they do, and even though people do what is evil it isn't that bad.
But from God's point of view, things look diffrent. Not only so, but things will look different to everyone on that day. In particular, those who revere God's name will be healed on that day and will be able to understand God's justice. They will acknowledge that God's judgments are right. Verse 3 says, "Then you will trample down the wicked; they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day when I do these things," says the LORD Almighty." A humanistic mind cannot understand this, but a restored mind that understands God's holiness and righteousness will acknowedge that God's judgments are right. We must, therefore, repent of humanistic thinking and take the message of the coming day of the Lord seriously. Before God's judgment comes, we must warn people to repent and save themselves from destruction. We must turn them to Jesus Christ and the salvation that is found through faith in him.
Part 2. Remember the law of my servant Moses (4-6)
Knowing that the day of the Lord is coming, what should we do? How can we get ourselves ready? The Bible passage gives us a clue.
Look at verse 4: "Remember the law of my servant Moses, the decrees and laws I gave him at Horeb for all Israel."
As mentioned already, Malachi is the last book of the Old Testament. Today, we have not only the Old Testament, but the New Testament as well, so we might think that the law of Moses is not relevent to our lives any more. But this is not true. God's words remain true and relevant forever. Do you want to be ready on the day of the Lord? Then you must revere God's name, and what does it practically mean to revere God's name? It means to obey God's word. In the law of Moses, we find the standard for how we should live our lives here on earth.
When you go on a trip somwhere you have not been before, you carefully plan out the way to go. If you don't follow the directions, you will get lost and end up somewhere else. Likewise, we must follow the instructions God gave us through Moses. These instructios are our practical guidance as we journey toward the day of the LORD that is coming.
Do you remember the law of Moses? This law includes the Ten Commandments, as well as many other decrees.
Lately, I've been trying to get my life better organized. I started writing down what I had to do. As I wrote down the things I had to do, I found that the things I thought I had to do came from varous sources, such as my responsibilities for my school studies, or family, or even the ministry. Yet even as I did these things, I could not find confidence that I was doing what I should. As I prepared this message, I realized that above all of the things I think I need to do, the things that I truly need to do have already been written down for me by God through his servant Moses. I realized that each and every day I need to remember, and even memorize, the law of Moses so that I can have God's righteous standard for my life.
Now that we know what we should do before that day comes, let's look at what God is doing before that day comes.
Look at verses 5-6: 5 "See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes. 6 He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse."
God promised that he would send the prophet Elijah before the great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. Elijah's job would be to prepare people for that day. God fulfilled this prophesy by sending John the Baptist in the spirit and power of Elijah to prepare the people for Jesus' coming into the world. How would he prepare the way? He would "turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to thier fathers." The mission to turn the hearts of fathers and children toward each other represents the restoration of the proper relationships and order of things. If children do not love and honor their fathers, something is serously wrong. If fahters do not love and cherish their children, something is wrong. Similarly, if we do not love our Father in heaven, something is wrong. In order to prepare us for the day of the Lord, God sends his servants to turn our hearts back to God. God also sends us to do the same for others.
In conclusion, we have this promise to God: the day of the Lord is surely coming. That day will be great and terrible. On that day, every person on earth will be sorted into one of two categories, and the consequences will be drastically different depending on whether or not we are ready when that day comes. In light of this, may God bless us to remember the law of God and turn our hearts to God fully.