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Malachi chapter 3

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What does Malachi chapter 3 mean?

Malachi's prophecy takes the form of a wave, which flows back and forth through several topics. Chapter and verse divisions don't make this clear. Malachi, meaning "My Messenger," delivers three main lessons, each divided into two halves. The halves are mirrored around a central point, so the prophet's ideas cycle through similar themes, forwards and backwards. Unlike other prophets, Malachi speaks in the form of a dialogue. For almost every accusation, Israel responds with doubt and apathy.

Malachi's first message, to Israel's priests, ended in Malachi 2:9. The second message, scolding Israel for her unfaithfulness, began in Malachi 2:10 and runs through Malachi 3:6. The criticism of this particular lesson comes in two parts. First, Israel is marrying those who worship other gods (Malachi 2:11). Second, the men of Israel are divorcing their Jewish wives in order to marry these pagan women (Malachi 2:14). This, God described as an act of spiritual violence, condemned in the strongest terms (Malachi 2:16). That condemnation ends the first half of Malachi's second message.

Chapter 2 verse 17 began the second half of Malachi's second message. There, Israel delivers an arrogant, dangerous set of spiritual criticisms of God. Specifically, the claims that God allows the wicked to prosper, and that He is not demonstrating His justice on earth (Malachi 2:17). This is an unwise attack on God. At the very least, each person should recognize their own sin and wickedness (Romans 3:10). Asking God to judge means asking to be judged.

Chapter 3, then, begins with God's promise to do exactly what Israel is—hypocritically—asking for. God will send a messenger to proclaim the imminent arrival of the Messiah (Malachi 3:1). And, one day, that Promised One will rule with all of God's power. This, however, will be a day of judgment and division. God's holiness and judgment is described in terms of fire and potent chemicals (Malachi 3:2). The second message of Malachi's prophecy ends with a stinging rebuke of Israel: the only reason they have not been annihilated is the unchanging faithfulness of God (Malachi 3:6).

Verse 7 begins the final message delivered to Israel by Malachi. Here, God accuses the people of "robbing" Him by withholding His required tithes and offerings (Malachi 3:8). God's covenant with Israel included both blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience. Israel complains about their sad state, but fails to see that this is exactly what God promised them in return for unfaithfulness.

The end of Malachi chapter 3 takes a somewhat more hopeful tone. At least some of the priests and people of Israel were still faithful. They responded to Malachi's message as God intended. As a result, God makes a promise to remember their faithfulness (Malachi 3:16). Chapter 4, which is very short, transitions into a contrast of the fates of the righteous and the wicked. In context, these are those who follow God, with those who do not, respectively.

This last lesson from Malachi is an appeal for Israel to return to her former faithfulness. God's judgment is coming, sooner or later.
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