7 December 2012

Malachi 3:1-6

"But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears?" (v. 3)


Malachi in Hebrew, means messenger and so it might well be that the title of this book of the Bible comes from this opening verse in chapter 3 and that the author(s) identify with this messenger. So who is Malachi? We know very little about him. Scholars suggest that this book was probably written after the exile but before Nehemiah, so maybe around 440 years before Christ.

The book itself gives us some clues to Malachi's concerns. He seems to have a deep love for the temple (the centre for Jewish worship) and was disappointed by the character of the priests who served the temple. (He also is very clear about the (im)morality of divorce.)

In this section of Malachi's prophecy we are told that a messenger is being sent to prepare the way of the Lord who will suddenly come to the temple. On arrival the Lord will purify and refine the priests and then will draw near to all the people of God and offer judgement upon them. In other words - this passage is for the leaders of the people of God and for the people themselves. And in the context of this study - this is a message to the Church.

It is often easy for the Church to declare judgement on the rest of the world. The Church can effortlessly condemn nations and people for acts of aggression, hurt and greed. Yet this passage is a reminder to the Church - this is asking first the leaders and then the whole church to take a good look at themselves and to see where they might be left wanting.

But let's not make the mistake that we can single out individuals whom we believe have not 'behaved'. Instead, why do we not ask questions about what the Church as a whole has done or not done. Where is the Church silent when it should be shouting? Where are we shouting when we should be silent? What good has the Church not done?

To Ponder

  • If you belong to a church, how have you involved yourself in 'doing good'? Have you actively worked against injustice?
  • How might a whole church community use Advent to refine and purify themselves?
  • When God comes to your local church to judge, what will God find?

Bible notes author

The Revd Simon Sutcliffe

Simon Sutcliffe is an ordained minister in the Methodist Church currently working part time as the tutor for evangelism and church growth at Queen's Foundation, Birmingham and part time as a pioneer minister with Venture FX establishing new forms of Christian community in the Chester and Stoke-on-Trent District. Simon has four children who help to keep him grounded and in a constant cycle of tidying up(!), and is deeply disappointed that none of them support Bradford City..