What does Malachi 3:1 mean?
ESV: “Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts.
NIV: I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,' says the LORD Almighty.
NASB: Behold, I am sending My messenger, and he will clear a way before Me. And the Lord, whom you are seeking, will suddenly come to His temple; and the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, He is coming,' says the Lord of armies.
CSB: "See, I am going to send my messenger, and he will clear the way before me. Then the Lord you seek will suddenly come to his temple, the Messenger of the covenant you delight in--see, he is coming," says the Lord of Armies.
NLT: Look! I am sending my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. Then the Lord you are seeking will suddenly come to his Temple. The messenger of the covenant, whom you look for so eagerly, is surely coming,' says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.
KJV: Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the LORD of hosts.
NKJV: “Behold, I send My messenger, And he will prepare the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, Will suddenly come to His temple, Even the Messenger of the covenant, In whom you delight. Behold, He is coming,” Says the Lord of hosts.
Verse Commentary:
In Malachi 2:17, Israel throws an arrogant, ignorant accusation at God. This claim is so common, and so vapid, that God Himself is described as "wearied" by it. Specifically, Israel has complained that those who do evil seem to be blessed by God, and then asked "Where is the God of justice?" Israel is comparing themselves to the world, and criticizing God for not dealing more harshly with those they see as sinners.

Given all that the book of Malachi describes, this is an unwise attitude. The priests of Israel have been disobedient (Malachi 1:6–7). The people have been unfaithful (Malachi 2:10–11). And yet, they have the nerve to ask—sarcastically, it seems—where the "God of justice" is. The upcoming verses will show God's response: brace yourselves, because you're going to get what you wished for. Asking God to judge means asking to be judged, as His judgment applies to all people at all times.

This verse specifically promises a messenger, echoing the prophecy of Isaiah 40:3. Jesus will confirm this prediction's fulfillment in the person of John the Baptist (Matthew 11:7–10). Malachi's prophecy is the last word from God given to Israel for four centuries, with John the Baptist being the next prophetic figure to emerge.

Separately, this verse predicts the return of the Lord to His temple. This is not the same person, time, or event as the messenger who "prepares the way," as mentioned in the first part of this verse. This prediction echoes passages such as Ezekiel 43:1–5 and Zechariah 8:3. As such, it is a prediction of the end times.

Notice that Malachi includes two remarks which almost certainly are meant to be sarcastic. God is referred to as one "in whom you delight," and "whom you seek." Given the apathy and disobedience of Israel, this is hardly a compliment. More likely, it's a mocking response to Israel's snide question posed in Malachi 2:17.

Verse Context:
Malachi 2:17—3:6 presents a dangerous accusation from Israel against God, and His sobering response. Israel accuses God of letting the wicked prosper and for not enacting enough justice in the world. God's reply reminds Israel, and us, that the first sin we need to be aware of is our own. God promises to send a messenger, preparing the way for Him. God also predicts the day when He will ''draw near'' for judgment. This uses metaphors including fire and powerful cleaning substances. In short, judgment is coming—to everyone.
Chapter Summary:
The final message, completed in chapter 4, is an appeal for God's chosen people to return. God would prefer to see them redeemed, than to be destroyed, when the end finally comes. This passage includes God's promise to send a messenger heralding the Messiah. And, that the Promised One will someday rule and conquer the wicked. In the meantime, Israel must stop ''robbing'' Him by withholding His tithes and offerings. Only God's unchanging nature has kept Israel from destruction. At the same time, God will remember those who have been faithful during these faithless times.
Chapter Context:
Malachi's first message, to the priests, ended in chapter 2. The prophecy then shifts to accuse Israel of unfaithfulness across chapter 2 and the beginning of chapter 3. The final message covers the last half of chapter 3 and all of the short fourth chapter. This last warning is centered on Israel's failure to pay God His tithes and offerings, as well as a promise to send Messiah to judge all sin.
Book Summary:
Malachi is the last message of prophecy given to Israel prior to 400 years of silence. Israel has rebuilt the temple, following the invasions of Babylon, but they are still under foreign oppression. Israel's spiritual condition, however, is dire. Hosea depicted Israel as prone to failure, but repentant. Later, Ezekiel exposed Israel's blatant disobedience. By the time of Malachi, Israel has passed into numbness and apathy. Unlike other Old Testament prophets, Malachi takes the form of a dialogue, where Israel responds to accusations as if unaware that they've occurred. The next prophetic voice from God would not come until the ministry of John the Baptist.
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