God’s skeptics vs. God’s messengers
What’s it all about? In response to His rebuke of empty worship, the people attacked the character of God. The skeptics suggested that God was either negligent or unjust because, in their opinion, He tolerated sin and wickedness. The LORD responds to these accusations by revealing that He would send two messengers. The first would act as a herald preparing the way for the coming of the LORD. The second messenger would cleanse the people and establish pure worship.
So what? It is fairly common to hear people questioning or attacking the character of God. First, God’s very existence is called into question. Second, if He does exist, the skeptic declares that God lacks the power to combat evil. How we answer these objections reveals a great deal about our theology, and these beliefs, in turn, affect how we worship. Doctrine matters because it shapes every aspect of our lives, especially our private and public worship.
1. How were the people disrespecting God (2:17)?
2. How and why were the skeptics attacking God’s character (2:17)?
3. How does God respond to these accusations (3:1)?
4. Who is the coming messenger of the LORD (3:1)? (cf. Matthew 3:3; Mark 1:3; Luke 3:4; & John 1:23)
5. Who is the messenger of the covenant who will the cleanse the people and establish pure worship (3:1-4)? (cf. Matthew 21:12-13; Mark 11:15-18; Luke 19:45-47; & John 2:14-16)
6. Explain the extent and effects of God’s response (3:5).
We, too, are tempted to allow bad theology and godless doctrine affect our lives. These errors will be visible in our private and public worship. We must recognize that correct worship always begins with correct theology. How do your beliefs affect your worship (style, substance, etc.)?
Individual Study Questions – Scripture: Matthew 11:11-15; 17:10-13; Mark 9:9-13; Luke 1:13-17
1. According to Jesus, who was the promised messenger mentioned in Malachi 3:1 and 4:5 (Matthew 11:11-15)?
2. How do John the Baptist’s life and ministry provide evidence that Jesus is the promised Messiah (Matthew 17:9-13)?
3. How does the rejection of John the Baptist foreshadow the rejection and death of Jesus (Mark 9:9-13)?
4. Explain the significance of the angel Gabriel announcing that John the Baptist would fulfill Malachi’s prophecy about the coming of Elijah (Luke 1:13-17).
5. Reflect on the way God responded to the skepticism and accusations of Malachi’s audience. In what ways, if any, does John the Baptist’s ministry demonstrate the faithfulness of God?
You have wearied the LORD with your words. But you say, “How have we wearied him?” By saying, “Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the Lord, and he delights in them.” Or by asking, “Where is the God of justice?” 3:1“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. 2But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. 3 He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the LORD. 4Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the LORD as in the days of old and as in former years. 5“Then I will draw near to you for judgment. I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired worker in his wages, the widow and the fatherless, against those who thrust aside the sojourner, and do not fear me, says the LORD of hosts. (Malachi 2:17-3:5 ESV)