“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.” (Malachi 3:1)
For more than five hundred years, Israel had been looking for the coming of the Messiah, the son of David. The prophecy in Isaiah 40 about a person going before to prepare the way of the Lord had been made about four hundred years before. It would not be fulfilled for at least a hundred fifty more years, but the Jews would have recognized Malachi’s prophecy as referring to the same events.
“But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner's fire, and like fullers' soap: And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the LORD an offering in righteousness.” (Malachi 3:2-3)
When Messiah came he would set a standard even higher than the standard the Law required, and the Jews had not even kept that standard. In Matthew 5:20, Jesus warned, “For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.” He then provided examples showing that the attitude could be sin even without the physical action even though the Law could not judge the attitudes of the heart. Malachi was making it clear that Israel was not prepared for Christ’s coming at the time.
When the Lord comes back at the end of the tribulation period, Israel will have gone through much more severe suffering than they were going through at the time, and will finally turn wholly to the Lord. Even the wicked attitudes will have been forsaken so that they can offer their sacrifices in complete righteousness.
“Then shall the offering of Judah and Jerusalem be pleasant unto the LORD, as in the days of old, and as in former years. And I will come near to you to judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against false swearers, and against those that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow, and the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger from his right, and fear not me, saith the LORD of hosts. For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.” (Malachi 3:4-6)
While he was here the first time, Jesus stood strongly against the sins listed here, but when he comes again, as the ruling king, will rule with a rod of iron, severely punishing all forms of sin. Things will approach what they were like in the Garden of Eden, as God originally made them, because he has not changed, nor have his intentions.
“Even from the days of your fathers ye are gone away from mine ordinances, and have not kept them. Return unto me, and I will return unto you, saith the LORD of hosts.
But ye said, Wherein shall we return?
Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me.
But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee?
In tithes and offerings. Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation.” (Malachi 3:7-9)
Israel had agreed to God’s covenant as God described it verbally. While Moses was still on the mountain to get a written copy, the Jews had decided to make a golden calf to worship instead. From that time forward there had been almost continual violations of their agreement. Every time they played innocent , pretending they didn’t know what they had done and asking what he wanted them to do, much like a man I know who is messing around on his wife does her.
On part of the agreement was to give the tithes and offerings as a demonstration of their appreciation for his blessings and of their faith that he would supply enough to meet their needs. Leviticus 27:30 declares, “And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land, or of the fruit of the tree, is the LORD'S: it is holy unto the LORD.” In withholding those tithes and offerings, they were keeping back what was rightfully God’s, robbing him. God was quite specific what they needed to do.
“Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.
And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the LORD of hosts. And all nations shall call you blessed: for ye shall be a delightsome land, saith the LORD of hosts.” (Malachi 3:10-12)
If they would just trust God enough to obey them, he would keep the promise he had made, to supply abundantly for them. Leviticus 26:3-promised, “If ye walk in my statutes, and keep my commandments, and do them; Then I will give you rain in due season, and the land shall yield her increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit. And your threshing shall reach unto the vintage, and the vintage shall reach unto the sowing time: and ye shall eat your bread to the full, and dwell in your land safely.”
By simply putting God ahead of getting all the things the Greeks around them had, the \Jews could reach a point where they were no longer struggling just to survive. They were impoverishing themselves in their efforts to be like the Greeks. Sadly, many Christians today are doing the same thing.
“Your words have been stout against me, saith the LORD.
Yet ye say, What have we spoken so much against thee?
Ye have said, It is vain to serve God: and what profit is it that we have kept his ordinance, and that we have walked mournfully before the LORD of hosts? And now we call the proud happy; yea, they that work wickedness are set up; yea, they that tempt God are even delivered.” (Malachi 3:13-15)
In their rebellion against God, Israel had taken a strong stand against his demands by constantly complaining that serving the Lord didn’t pay very well, and that all their efforts to serve God weren’t paying off. They were setting those who ignored God’s rules as the examples to be emulated, even protecting them for their sin. It much like what we see commonly in America today, with so called Christians supporting gay rights, abortion, and the lifestyles of our politicians and celebrities, in many cases trying to copy them..
Most “Christians” today are equally unprepared for the Lord’s return. Most are too busy building a career or enjoying their hobbies to take time to even attend church once a week, and those who do seldom take God’s commands very seriously. Serving God would interfere with their other activities.
We don’t know when we may be taken through an accident or illness, and the Lord deliberately didn’t tell us when he would come because he knew how many would wait till the last moment if they knew when he was coming. God just told us to keep serving him till he comes.