Malachi 4 – The Sun of Righteousness
A. The final resolution.
1. (1) Resolution of the wicked.
“For behold, the day is coming,
Burning like an oven,
And all the proud, yes, all who do wickedly will be stubble.
And the day which is coming shall burn them up,”
Says the LORD of hosts,
“That will leave them neither root nor branch.”
a. The day is coming: Discouraged by the apparent prosperity of the wicked and uselessness of serving the LORD, God’s people needed to be reminded that the day is coming. God still has eternity to right all wrongs and reward all goodness.
b. Burning like an oven: God promised a fire for His people (Malachi 3:2-3) and here He promised a fire for the wicked. But there is a big difference between the refining fire applied to God’s people and the burning fire against the ungodly.
c. All who do wickedly will be stubble: The wicked will not be able to stand against God’s judgment. Stubble is the unusable part of the grain and lasts only moments if it is thrown into a fire.
d. Leave them neither root nor branch: In that coming day, the wicked will have no hope of sprouting up again to life. As long as a root remains there is hope, but hope is gone for these because the judgment of eternity is final.
2. (2-3) Resolution of the righteous.
“But to you who fear My name
The Sun of Righteousness shall arise
With healing in His wings;
And you shall go out
And grow fat like stall-fed calves.
You shall trample the wicked,
For they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet
On the day that I do this,”
Says the LORD of hosts.
a. But to you who fear My name: In the previous verse God promised a judgment of fire for the proud, but God also said that those who fear My name will be saved.
b. The Sun of Righteousness shall arise: From the time of early Christians like Justin Martyr to today, Christians have regarded the Sun of Righteousness as a reference to Jesus.
i. In many passages God is related to a planet or star (Psalm 84:11, Isaiah 60:19, Revelation 22:16, Numbers 24:17). Here, the Messiah is not only a Sun but also the Sun of Righteousness who brings healing.
ii. “He went under a cloud in his passion, and brake forth again in his resurrection. From heaven he daily darts forth his beams of righteousness, and showers down all spiritual blessings in heavenly privileges.” (Trapp)
c. With healing in His wings: The wings of the sun are the rays or sunbeams it sends out. They bring healing, joy, and wholeness. When the Sun of Righteousness shines, we need no other light or warmth. Imagine trying to light a candle on a sunny day to help out the sun! That makes as much sense as trying to “improve” the work of Jesus for us with our own righteousness.
d. You shall trample the wicked: When God’s people see the final resolution of all things they will be so happy they will jump about like stall-fed calves set free from the pen. As they jump about with joy, the wicked are trampled beneath their feet.
i. “Understand the figure. The calf in the stall is shut up, tied up with a halter at night, but when the sun rises the calf goes forth to the pasture; the young bullock is set free. So the child of God may be in bondage. The recollection of past sins and present unbelief may halter him up and keep him in the stall, but when the Lord reveals himself he is set free.” (Spurgeon)
ii. We can see a glorious progression in those who look upon the risen Sun of Righteousness and receive the healing in His wings:
· They shall go out – they will be free and enjoy their liberty.
· They shall grow fat – growing strong and prosperous in the LORD.
· They shall trample the wicked – enjoying the LORD’s victory in their lives.
B. The concluding words of the Old Testament.
1. (4) Remember the Law of Moses.
“Remember the Law of Moses, My servant,
Which I commanded him in Horeb for all Israel,
With the statutes and judgments.”
a. Remember the Law of Moses: In these last few prophetic words of the Old Testament, Malachi warns Israel to remember the Law because God’s prophetic voice would be silent for some 400 years. We never need to despair when God seems silent, because what He has already said is rich enough – if we will only remember.
b. With the statutes and judgments: The last few words of the Old Testament are a call back to the law, because under the old covenant man related with God on the basis of the law. Thank God for the new covenant – for the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ (John 1:17).
2. (5-6) Elijah will come.
“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet
Before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD.
And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,
And the hearts of the children to their fathers,
Lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.”
a. I will send you Elijah the prophet: In this unique promise, God assured His people that He would send Elijah to Israel again before the great and dreadful day of the LORD.
i. This was fulfilled in John the Baptist in a figurative sense (Matthew 11:14, Mark 9:11-13, Luke 1:17). Yet because this Elijah comes before the coming of the great and dreadful day, we know that the Elijah prophecy is only completely fulfilled before the second coming of Jesus. Matthew 17:11-12 and Revelation 11:3-12 speak of this future fulfillment, when God will either send Elijah back to the earth on this special errand or send someone uniquely empowered in the spirit and office of Elijah.
ii. In anticipation of this, Jewish homes set a place at the table for Elijah at Passover, just in case he might come on that night to announce the news that Messiah has come. The empty chair and the cup that is filled but is never drunk are a testimony to their anticipation of Elijah’s coming.
b. Elijah the prophet: The promise regards Elijah because he ministered in a time of crisis in Israel, when the nation was far from God, and a time that immediately preceded a terrible judgment.
i. It is significant that in these closing words of the Old Testament, God refers to both Moses and Elijah. They both met God at Mount Sinai (also known as Horeb, Exodus 3:1 and 1 Kings 19:8-18). They also both met Jesus at the Mount of Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-5). They are probably the two witnesses of Revelation 11.
c. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children: This promise speaks of more than the reconciliation of families. When God turns the hearts of the children to their fathers, it also has in mind turning to the God of their fathers; to the faith of the patriarchs.
d. Lest I come and strike the earth with a curse: The Old Testament ends with the threat of a curse, but also with the expectation of a new dawning of the Sun of Righteousness.
i. This ending of the book of Malachi bothered the ancient Jews. “The Masorites, who have given us most of the copies of the Hebrew Old Testament we have.… were so bothered by this that they repeated the next-to-the-last verse of Malachi after the last verse. Similarly, the Septuagint reverses the last two verses so the Old Testament ends, not with a curse, but with a blessing.” (Boice)
ii. The end of the New Testament recognizes the rising of the Sun of Righteousness: The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all! (Revelation 22:21)