Malachi Lesson Eight – The Day of the Lord

“For indeed, the day is coming, burning like a furnace, when all the arrogant and everyone who commits wickedness will become stubble. The coming day will consume them,” says the Lord of Hosts, “not leaving them root or branches. But for you who fear My name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings, and you will go out and playfully jump like calves from the stall. You will trample the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day I am preparing,” says the Lord of Hosts. “Remember the instruction of Moses My servant, the statutes and ordinances I commanded him at Horeb for all Israel. Look, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome Day of the Lord comes. 6 And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers. Otherwise, I will come and strike the land with a curse.” (HCSB)

With this lesson, we’ll bring the study of Malachi to a close. There is both judgment and hope contained in this passage, with a final encouragement that those who hold fast to the Lord will be blessed.

Verse 1

The imagery here is referring to the day of judgment when all will be judged. There are two possible eternal paths for each person.

  • Hell for the unrighteous and unrepentant.
    • They will become like stubble – a reference to chaff that is discarded in the harvest process. Chaff is also easily burned.
    • Burning like a furnace. Those who are “discarded” during the harvest process will face a fire that will torment and consume them. 
    • Joel 2:1-3 – Blow the horn in Zion; sound the alarm on My holy mountain! Let all the residents of the land tremble, for the Day of the Lord is coming; in fact, it is near— a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and dense overcast, like the dawn spreading over the mountains; a great and strong people appears, such as never existed in ages past and never will again in all the generations to come. A fire destroys  in front of them, and behind them a flame devours. The land in front of them is like the Garden of Eden, but behind them, it is like a desert wasteland; there is no escape from them. 
    • They will have no hope, no future, no brighter day.
    • There will be no escape for those who live in disobedience to Yahweh.
    • Jesus warns that we shouldn’t fear the death of our body but what happens next.
    • We don’t know everything about hell, but there are some things we do know.
      • It is a real place.
      • It is a place of separation from God and all that is good.
      • It is a place of just punishment.
      • It is a place where there is memory.
      • It is a place of hopelessness. 

Verses 2-3

The first verse highlighted the judgment on the wicked. Here in the following two verses, we see what will happen to those that fear the Lord. 

  • The sun will rise over them. There are two interpretations of this illustration, and both are correct.
    • In the ancient Near East, it was common to describe the sun as the wings of a bird, as well as the healing that came with the protection found under the wings of a bird.
      • Psalm 84:11 For the Lord God is a sun and shield. The Lord gives grace and glory; He does not withhold the good from those who live with integrity.
      • Psalm 104:1-3 My soul, praise Yahweh! Lord my God, You are very great; You are clothed with majesty and splendor. He wraps Himself in light as if it were a robe, spreading out the sky like a canopy, laying the beams of His palace on the waters above, making the clouds His chariot, walking on the wings of the wind.
    • A reference to the return of Jesus, the Son.
      • Isaiah 60:19-21 The sun will no longer be your light by day, and the brightness of the moon will not shine on you; but the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your splendor. 20 Your sun will no longer set, and your moon will not fade; for the Lord will be your everlasting light, and the days of your sorrow will be over. 21 Then all your people will be righteous; they will possess the land forever; they are the branch I planted, the work of My hands, so that I may be glorified.
  • They will have unbridled joy. This illustration points ahead to a time when there will be no more sickness, no more darkness, no more sorrow, no more death, no more persecution, and no more sin.

Those who once were persecuted now find themselves in the favored position. I think it is important not to misunderstand the phrase “trample the wicked” as depicting the righteousness stepping on the wicked in an arrogant or self-righteous manner. Instead, it is the reversal of fortunes. Those who once physically and emotionally trampled on the righteous are now the ones who are trampled on in judgment from an infinitely holy God. Those who fear the Lord are given a place of honor for eternity, while those who rejected the Lord are given a place of condemnation.

Verse 4

Now Malachi refers Israel back to the law of Moses. However, this is the only instance in the Old Testament that a person or group of people are called to remember God’s law. It was often used in prayers for God to remember the person petitioning God in prayer. It was also used by God as a command to remember, but those cases didn’t involve the law. There are several points to consider regarding the phrase “remember the instruction” and “Horeb.”

  • Horeb was another name for Mt Sinai, and it has a strong connection with Yahweh’s covenant with Israel, which Moses received. 
  • It would cause Israel to fear God.
  • It would cause them to honor His name.
  • Israel was always called to remember God’s commands. Numbers 15:38-40 – 38 Speak to the Israelites and tell them that throughout their generations they are to make tassels for the corners of their garments, and put a blue cord on the tassel at each corner. 39 These will serve as tassels for you to look at, so that you may remember all the Lord’s commands and obey them and not become unfaithful by following your own heart  and your own eyes. 40 This way you will remember and obey all My commands and be holy to your God.
  • Malachi was calling Israel to live a lifestyle that was directed by the application of God’s Word and not by human wisdom, ambition, or cultural norms.

Verse 5

Not only does Horeb have a connection with Moses in the previous verse, but here there is a connection between Horeb and the prophet Elijah.

  • Exodus 3:1 – Meanwhile, Moses was shepherding the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian. He led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God.
  • 1 Kings 19:8 – So he got up, ate, and drank. Then on the strength from that food, he walked 40 days and 40 nights to Horeb, the mountain of God.

It is also the location where Israel pleaded to “not to continue to hear the voice of the LORD our God or see this great fire any longer, so that we will not die!” (Deuteronomy 18:16). This plea is the reason Moses told the people, “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers. You must listen to him.” (Deuteronomy 18:15). The overwhelming position on this last verse is that Moses is pointing far into the future and identifying the Messiah. At the very least, it points to the succession of prophetic covenant mediators, of which Elijah is considered the greatest symbol.

Verse 6

The “Day of the LORD” referenced in verse five points not only to judgment but also to the ministry that must occur before that day.

Joel 2:28-31 – After this I will pour out My Spirit on all humanity; then your sons and your daughters will prophesy, your old men will have dreams, and your young men will see visions. 29 I will even pour out My Spirit on the male and female slaves in those days. 30 I will display wonders in the heavens and on the earth: blood, fire, and columns of smoke.31 The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the great and awe-inspiring Day of the Lord comes.

The prophet Joel is pointing to a future period of revival before Jesus’ return.

There is also an implied reference to Messiah with Moses and Elijah, which we read about in the transfiguration account. Luke 9:29-31 – As He was praying, the appearance of His face changed,  and His clothes became dazzling white. 30 Suddenly, two men were talking with Him—Moses and Elijah. 31 They appeared in glory and were speaking of His death, which He was about to accomplish in Jerusalem. 

When we look at these last three verses of Malachi in conjunction with the transfiguration account, there are a couple of points we need to remember.

  • Moses was a prophetic servant.
    • He was an agent of deliverance for Israel and their bondage in Egypt.
    • He “officiated” the marriage covenant between Yahweh and Israel when the Mosaic covenant was instituted.
    • He brought God’s instructions to Israel and taught them that these instructions were to shape their relationship to Yahweh.
  • Elijah was the classic model of a prophet of repentance.
    • He was God’s prophetic messenger. 
    • He announced a new divine intervention and called for people to repent.
    • Those who failed to heed the words he spoke on behalf of Yahweh would be held accountable.
    • Jesus was the suffering servant.
      • He was the agent of deliverance for all mankind.
      • His blood instituted the New Covenant.
      • He called for people to repent.
      • He taught what was contained in Scripture, i.e., The Sermon on the Mount.
      • Those who don’t submit to His lordship will be held accountable on the day of judgment.

The “curse” that will come is eternal separation from God. It will be final and irrevocable.

As we close this book, we see a picture where Malachi draws a contrast between those whose actions display obedience to God and those whose actions are disobedient to God. There are two eternal destinations here.

  • It will be a day of blessing for those who have submitted to the lordship of Jesus Christ.
  • It will be a day of pain and suffering for those who have rejected Jesus Christ.

Applications

  • The foremost question to ask yourself is, “am I follower of Jesus?” If the answer is no, then the day of judgment will be the start of eternal torment. If the answer is yes, then the day of judgment will be the start of eternal joy. We will all answer that question as we stand before the throne of Jesus. Submit your life and serve Him here and now.
  • For those who are followers of Jesus, do you share your faith with the understanding that the lost around you are on the path to eternal torment? Is there an urgency in your evangelism? If not, pray for courage and opportunities to share your faith.
  • If you once were a faithful follower of Jesus but have fallen away, repent and return. That is one of the overarching themes of Malachi. God is patiently waiting for the rebellious to return. However, there will be judgment for those who fail to come back.

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