4. Resistence to Yahweh, 2:17-4:3

iii] A word to those who fear Yahweh's name

Malachi's prophecy initially deals with the superficial worship of the religious elite, along with the general disobedience of the people. He then focuses on the people's self-deceit, 2:17-3:5, their selfishness, 3:6-12, and their self-sufficiency, 3:13-4:3. In each of these units, Malachi defines the problem and then presents a promise. In our passage for study, 3:13-4:3, the problem is defined in terms of the people's claim that their independence, their self-sufficiency, is the way to success, 3:13-15. The promise is defined in terms of future blessing, of the dawning of a new age when the "sun of righteousness" comes. The promise of divine blessing is for those who repent, 3:16, but for those who do not repent, only judgement is promised, 4:1.


It is important for the preacher to note that Malachi, as with most of the Old Testament prophets, directs his words to Israel. The problem of self-sufficiency is a faith problem, not a secular problem. It is very easy to move our perspective from the church to our secular society and expose sin there, whereas the prophet's perspective is fixed squarely on the community of faith.

The issue of self-sufficiency, or in more practical terms, the application of good pragmatics for successful living in our personal lives and in the administration of our church, is one of those subtle temptations that so easily trips us up. Good pragmatic is not an evil in itself, in fact, a person who ignores pragmatic solutions to life's problems is rightly defined as someone who is so heavenly minded that they are of no earthly use. Yet, a problem does develop when our pragmatics contradict the Word. The success that comes with the application of an effective pragmatic often covers the alternative direction offered by the Word.

Examples of this problem are not far from any of us, but I give the following example to illustrate the issue. The Anglican church in the diocese of Sydney, Australia, has had to face the problem of declining numbers. This is a problem facing most of the mainline denominations throughout the Western world. Some years ago, the administration sought to implement a mission strategy to reverse this decline with a growth target of 10% over ten years by means of the multiplication of socially targeted congregations able to bridge the gap between the churched and the unchurched, ie. by implementing a Church Growth strategy. There was some success in terms of bums on seats, but what is more important is whether the programme was neutral, or as some suspect, opposed to God's Word. If God's Word reveals that the business of building the kingdom of God is by means of the proclamation (communication) of the gospel (based on the assumption that "the gospel is the power of God unto salvation"), rather than by managed and marketed group dynamics (a view which ignores the fact that the kingdom is built "'not by power, not by might, but by my Spirit' says the Lord God Almighty"), then the adoption of this secular growth-pragmatic is likely to be growing weeds rather than wheat.


"have said" pres. perf. - said some time ago, but effective in the present.

"harsh" - perverse, cynical, arrogant


"futile" - useless, vanity, emptiness.

"gain" - What benefit do we derive from serving the Lord? Grammatically implying a negative answer.

"carrying out his requirements" - keeping the covenant. The specific sense is cultic, but a general observance of the Law is intended.

"going about like mourners" - in the dark, darkened. Applying the piety expected of a religious Jew.


"we" - "We ourselves" NEB. We, all of the people.

"call" - deem. Regard so from now on.

"arrogant" - Those who are insolent toward God, the wicked. The people of Israel now regard them as the blessed ones.

"evildoers" part. - those who do evil

"prosper" - will be built.

"challenge" - test. cf. v10 where the people are encouraged to "test" the Lord, but there it is to test his promise rather than test his patience, as here.


"feared" - Here of a response of reverence toward the Lord, best understood in the terms of an act of repentance by a remnant of the people.

"scroll of remembrance" - The sense is that this book already exists and that the names of the remnant are being added (metaphorically, of course), cf. Rev.20:12-15. On the other hand, the book may serve to illustrate the fact that God does take note of what goes on in his world and that he records it, as it were, for future action.


"treasured possession" - property. A technical term referring to the Lord's redeemed elect, his own special property, his peculiar people.

"in the day when I make" - NIV, an accusative of time, although better, an accusative of the object, "the day that I will create." As in the "day of the Lord", the day of God's acting.

"I will spare them" - have compassion on. Probably an allusion to the Exodus and the delivering of Israel at the passing-over of the angel of death.


"will see" - become apparent. Some commentators suggest "turn about" or "change ones opinion", following the LXX.

"again" adv. - In the sense that the Lord has constantly made a distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who rely on his covenantal grace and those who reject it.


"the day" - The day of the Lord. Commentators argue over what "day" is intended, ether Jesus' first coming or his second coming. Yet, the day refers to any day, any coming of the Lord in judgment, and there have been, and will be, many such days, eg. the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, of Jerusalem by the Babylonians and later the Romans in 70AD., Armageddon at the end of time. The prophetic perspective provides levels of fulfilment - a word to the present that reflects the past and images the future.

"stubble" - stubble, straw, chaff.

"set them on fire" - devour, scorch. Consume them

"not a root or a branch will be left" - annihilated.


"but" - then, but. Adversative is best.

"sun of righteousness" - NIV opts for a genitive relationship, following the LXX. Different genitive interpretations are possible, eg. a genitive of working, the sun that produces righteousness. Verhoff suggests that "sun" is an accusative of condition explaining the "righteousness". In the day of the Lord, righteousness will shine out like the sun, a blessing of warming brilliance. The "righteousness" is either "the righteous one", ie. the messiah, or "the gift of righteousness", ie. the gift of the essential quality (covenantal relationship [right status before God], rather than ethical probity) necessary for the remnant to stand in the last day. So, in the last day, righteousness will shine on the remnant, radiating them, and as a consequence, saving them.

"healing" - peace, healing. Describing rejuvenation, recovery, renewal. The consequence of righteousness radiating the remnant is "healing". Physical healing is obviously part of the image, but the redemption/salvation of the people through the removal of their sin and the imputation of a status of righteousness, is at the heart of the image. The task of the messiah to heal and the suffering servant saves/heals his people through his vicarious suffering, Isa.53:5.

"wings" - This metaphor probably aligns with the rays of the sun and may image protection, as with the wings of a bird, or more probably, it images blessing, as with the wings/folds of a cloak where money is carried.

"leap like calves" - An image of freedom


"trample down" - tread down as in a wine press. Exercise dominion over the nations and judge them. In the day of the Lord there will be a great reversal of things, the oppressed will reign.

"ashes" - dust. Again indicating the annihilation of the wicked


Malachi Introduction


[Pumpkin Cottage]